Steve Vai swaps Ibanez for Gretsch in new single Little Pretty, and reveals bonkers triple-neck Hydra guitar

Steve Vai
(Image credit: Larry DiMarzio)

A day after announcing the title, tracklist and release date of his new album, Inviolate, Steve Vai has now unleashed the record’s third single, Little Pretty.

Unusually for Vai, who is rarely seen playing anything other than a variation of his Ibanez signature guitars, Little Pretty was almost exclusively recorded using a Gretsch hollowbody, with the electric guitar icon taking advantage of the six-string’s moody tones for the track’s equally dark riffs.

As it turns out, Vai’s temporary defection to the ranks of Gretsch has been a long time coming, with Vai himself explaining, “It’s on the wall with all the other guitars, and I’d always just look at it and go, ‘One day I’m going to play you.’”

Little Pretty is the third track to be taken from Inviolate, following the release of Knappsack – which Vai shredded using only one hand after undergoing trigger finger surgery – and Candle Power, which debuted an innovative “joint shifting” technique.

Inviolate will be released via Favored Nations/Mascot Label Group on January 28.

Of Inviolate, Vai offered, “It’s very ‘Vai’, whatever that means. Someone else might be better than me at explaining what that is. But it’s just very honest music.

“Because a lot of my records,” he continued, “they’re long and there’s a lot of concepts and playing around with stories. This one has none of that.

“This is nine pretty dense all-instrumental compositions that I wanted to capture and record so I could get out there and play them live for people.”

Vai also went on to tease the arrival of Inviolate’s opener, Teeth of the Hydra, for which he teamed up with guitar maker Hoshino to create a one-of-a-kind custom guitar, dubbed the Hydra. 

Though we’ve yet to hear it, it looks to be one beastly axe. It features one body, two headstocks and three necks, which accommodate seven- and 12-string guitars, a four-string bass with a half-fretless neck, and a boatload of pickup options, including a sustainer, humbuckers, single coils and a piezo.

Steve Vai

(Image credit: Larry DiMarzio)

“The interesting thing about the song and the guitar is that it all came at the same time,” Vai added. “It was one of those 'inviolate' inspirations – boom!

“An inviolate inspiration is one that comes to you completely pure. It appears almost in its completeness, and there’s a recognition of it as being right for you – perfectly right for you. There’s no excuses in it. 

“There's no fantasy in it. There's just a recognition of ‘yes.’ And then you capture that in a way that’s authentic to your unique creativity. Hopefully, that’s what I’ve done with this record.”

Inviolate shares a name with Vai’s sprawling US tour, which was announced earlier this month. The 54-date stint around the country will commence January 27 in Las Vegas and conclude April 4 in Lose Angeles.

For tickets, visit Steve Vai's website.

  • Inviolate is available to preorder now via Favored Nations/Mascot Label Group ahead of its January 28 release.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a 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.