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Hear Steve Vai put his bonkers steampunk triple-neck through its paces on Teeth of the Hydra

Steve Vai
(Image credit: Larry DiMarzio)

Steve Vai’s utterly insane Hydra triple-neck is one of the most talked-about electric guitars in recent memory, but while we’ve seen closeups of the build, we’ve yet to hear it in action – until now, as the madcap electric’s namesake track, Teeth of the Hydra, has finally reared its head and showcased the instrument’s one-of-a-kind specs.

Teeth of the Hydra conjures the kind of nightmarish sonic landscapes that characterized Passion & Warfare’s moodier moments – except this time, they’re all coming from one instrument.

There are hard-panned harp flourishes and piezo strums, seven-string bombast and even a fretless bass solo, all with Vai’s liquid fretboard theatrics tying the monstrous composition together.

For the uninitiated, the Hydra is a triple-neck beast that comprises seven- and 12-string guitars, a four-string, 3/4 scale length bass guitar and 13 harp strings, plus single-coil, humbucking, piezo, MIDI and sustainer pickups, floating and hardtail tremolo bridges, phase splitters, half-fretless necks and plenty more besides.

Teeth of the Hydra appears on Vai’s new album, Inviolate, which is out today (January 28), and finds the virtuoso pushing his playing into new arenas – the tracklisting includes one-handed fretboard masterclass Knappsack and Little Pretty, which was recorded on a Gretsch hollowbody.

Vai discusses Teeth of the Hydra and the guitar behind it in the latest issue of Guitar World.

“It sat in the studio for a year,” he says of the formidable instrument. “I’d walk past it and go, ‘One of these days, you’re mine. I know what I’m going to do. We’re going to do it together.’”

They certainly did: the resultant track was recorded entirely on the Hydra, bar keyboards and percussion samples.

“The goal was to have a piece of music that doesn’t sound like it’s being performed on a novelty instrument, or that it’s a disjunctive melody,” Vai explains.

“When you see how I performed this piece, it’s so entertaining, because I had to negotiate the left-hand pull-offs so that the melody sounds uninterrupted – like a real melody. It was crazy, but I did slowly, a section at a time. It took two months.”

For more on Inviolate and Vai’s latest endeavors, pick up a copy of the latest issue of Guitar World from Magazines Direct.

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Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as the best part of 20 years performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.