Steve Vai recalls Whitesnake’s Slip of the Tongue, dubs it the first rock record to have “seven-string guitar throughout the whole thing”

Steve Vai
(Image credit: Frans Schellekens/Redferns)

Nowadays in heavy music, seven-string electric guitars are seemingly almost as common as their more traditional six-string counterparts.

But back in 1989 most people had never heard of such a thing – that is, until after Steve Vai played one on Whitesnake’s Slip of the Tongue, his first and only album with the David Coverdale-led band.

And in a new interview with Whitesnake TV for the 30th anniversary of the album, Vai reflected on that monumental guitar moment.

"Something very interesting about that record is that's when I got the first seven-string guitar,” he said. “With Ibanez, I had the Jem and then I asked them to make a Jem with a seventh string.”

Vai continued, "Little did I know this subculture that it was going to create. That was another one of those just simply innocent things where I didn't set out to – you know, I wasn't sitting, going, 'This is gonna change the world. ‘Cause I'm gonna make a lot of money, this is gonna be great!'

"I just thought, ‘Wow, it would be really cool to have a seventh string, you know, tune it down.' And they said, 'Okay.' I mean, the conversation lasted, like, a minute. 

"And they made me this guitar and I got it and I took the first prototype and I recorded the whole Whitesnake [album] – not one song I didn't use it [on].

“So that record if you listen, that’s the first rock record that has a seven-string guitar throughout the whole thing. A little bit of trivia for ya.”

Finally, Vai made reference to the metal players like Korn’s Munky and Head that would soon take his Ibanez Universe idea into new and heavier realms.

“Later on obviously I knew that there was going to be these new young players that were going to come along and really make a difference with that guitar,” Vai said. “And they did.”

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.