Steve Vai held a guitar chord for so long he had to undergo surgery

Steve Vai
(Image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Steve Vai has revealed he “won't be able to play for a while” following his recent trigger finger surgery, which he attributes to holding a tricky chord for too long.

In a new interview with the Guitar Villains podcast – hosted by Music is Win's Tyler Larson – Vai explains how he sustained his hand injury in the first place.

“I was doing this fun thing, and I had to put my thumb in this really weird position," he says.

“And I had to kind of hold this chord really for a long time – I was meditating on it. And I knew it was a hard position, and I just kept sitting there and playing it and playing and playing, and 20 minutes later, I'd kind of come out, and I [felt pain in my hand]. 

“So I kind of sprained this, and then, all of a sudden, I developed trigger finger… My wife said, 'Don't show anybody,' 'cause they did that operation and they cut in there, and the guy's fooling around with everything in there, and it's really bizarre. 

“But it's all fine – it's something very simple that they can fix. But I won't be able to play for a while.”

The actual, finger-busting chord Vai was playing remains a mystery, however. When Larson asks Vai whether it was an F#add9, Vai quips, “No, it was more like a D…molished chord!”

Last month, Vai revealed to The Cassius Morris Show that he was working on an all-acoustic album with vocals, as well as a song he's written using only one hand.

“Before [the trigger finger surgery] happened, my shoulder was screwed up and I couldn't use this [picking] hand, so I was playing with one hand. So I did a little song with one hand, [and] I'm gonna work on trying to get that out.”

In the same interview, the virtuoso shared details of several other projects in the works.

“The other project I'm working on that I'm very excited about is I'm recording a bunch of my orchestra music,” he explains. “I've got about four hours of orchestra music that I've had performed and I've had recorded, but I wasn't really crazy with the recordings. 

“I've released Sound Theories Vol. I & II. And now, with this music, once it's recorded, I'll have enough, I think, probably up to 'Vol. VI' – I'll have 'III', 'IV', 'V', 'VI' [and] maybe 'VII'. I'm really excited about that.”

Last year, Vai also revealed he was planning an entire album of 8-string instrumental guitar, promising “the heaviest stuff I could possibly dream of”.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Sam Roche

Sam was Staff Writer at from 2019 to 2023, and also created content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.