Steve Vai recalls the time an A&R rep told him to ditch the pinch harmonics because they sound “like a dying whale”

Steve Vai
(Image credit: Mariano Regidor/Redferns via Getty)

In his own words – and, indeed, in the minds of just about every guitar fan who has ever heard him play – pinch harmonics are an integral part of Steve Vai’s sound. In a technical arsenal that somehow manages to make room for just about every fretboard acrobatic under the sun, the humble harmonic squeal often takes center stage.

Indeed, no-one armed with such knowledge would ever think about asking Vai to remove said six-string embellishment from his tonal repertoire – it would be akin to asking Eddie Van Halen to stop two-hand tapping.

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Matt Owen
Senior Staff Writer,

Matt is a Senior Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.