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Why (and How) We Should Learn Joe Satriani's Guitar Habits

(Image credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Joe Satriani is my favorite living guitar player, so this edition of my “Habits of…” series was a very fun one to create. Satriani’s very specific category of guitar playing has few masters and many students. The standout gurus consist of, but are not limited to, Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert, Guthrie Govan and, of course, Satriani himself.

This style has expanded on virtually every standard guitar technique and produced numerous new ones. These include legato, two-handed tapping and arpeggio tapping, volume swells, artificial harmonics and extreme whammy bar effects, among others.

As we examine Satriani’s guitar habits, it is easy to hear how his sound differs from a vast majority of other players. One of his trademark compositional traits is to implement the pitch axis theory, which he applies with a variety of harmonic modes. During fast passages, Satriani favors a legato technique (achieved primarily through hammer-ons and pull-offs) that yields smooth, flowing runs.

He subscribes to the three-note-per-string approach when executing his scale runs, which is a vital aspect of his liquid-smooth licks. While Satriani didn’t invent techniques such as legato or tapping, he certainly paved the way for their evolution, which is an important aspect of this modern virtuosic style—evolution.

Be sure to check out the video below for a deep dive into Satch’s guitar habits, and sign up for my Modern Rock Guitar Techniques course to grow your arsenal of guitar tricks and approaches.

Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win. His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.