Steve Vai names his "greatest accomplishment on the guitar"

Steve Vai performs at the Las Noches del Botanico festival in Madrid, Spain on July 18, 2022
(Image credit: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images)

Electric guitar hero Steve Vai recently sat down with Guitar Player (opens in new tab) for a chat about the five tracks that have defined his career. 

Tender Surrender was present on this list, as was, of course, For the Love of God, the dazzling, melodic shred-fest Vai famously recorded underneath a wooden pyramid (opens in new tab) while in the middle of a 10-day fast. 

Neither of those tracks, however, were cited by Vai as his "greatest accomplishment on the guitar," a distinction he in turn awarded to And We Are One, a tune from his 2016 album, Modern Primitive.

“I would go on record to say that I think the solo on this [And We Are One] is perhaps my greatest accomplishment on the guitar," Vai told Guitar Player (opens in new tab). "That would be because of its phrasing, its neatness and its beauty. I don’t feel pretentious saying that, because I’m speaking within my capacities.

“So if I say something is profoundly, deeply moving and beautiful to me, that’s to me, you know? There may be others that feel that way, but it’s important that an artist invests their intimacy into their music, because it carries their DNA in it.

“This is what people want: They want you, your unique creativity," Vai continued. "They don’t want you to sound like somebody else. They can smell fake a mile away.

“With this song, I told myself, ‘You’re going to record a solo here, where every riff is going to be unique for you. It can’t be anything you’ve done before, and it has to be innovative.’ In that one song, there is more phrasing and melodic intimacy than anything I’ve ever recorded. That’s why this song is so important to me.

“There is really a lot going on in my playing that might not be apparent to someone who isn’t watching me play this. Not that that is important in itself, of course. What is important is that when the listener hears it, they feel something.”

Interestingly, Vai's top five list did not contain Teeth of the Hydra, a track from his 2022 album, Inviolate, that sees the virtuoso wrangle an insane triple-neck guitar (named the Hydra) that he commissioned from Ibanez. 

Teeth of the Hydra and the guitar its named after have, however, both featured prominently in Vai's ongoing run of Inviolate tour dates.

For tickets and more info on the Inviolate shows, visit Vai's website (opens in new tab).

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Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player (opens in new tab). Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder (opens in new tab) and Unrecorded (opens in new tab). Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.