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JOE SATRIANI - Real Guitar Hero - Guide to The World's Best Guitarists

Updated on July 5, 2011

Known as Saint Joe by his fans and simply as "Satch" to his friends, Joe Satriani is perhaps the most prominent instrumental guitarist in the world today. No other instrumental rock guitarist has played with so many different people, had so many Billboard hits, or sold anywhere near as many albums. And with good reason: Satriani's masterful presence on the guitar, using every single technique you could possibly think of and then taking it two steps further, result in a variety of sounds it's hard to believe come from a single guitar. Two-handed tapping, volume swells, harmonics, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and lots of whammy bar effects are all standard fare at a Satch concert. Yet through it all he manages to bring out a memorable melody…

Guitarist Joe Satriani

Back In The Day

One legend has it that Satriani was so shook up by the news that Jimi Hendrix had died that he walked off the football practice—having decided to take up guitar from then on—but Satriani himself has never confirmed this. What he has said is that he grew up in Long Island, NY, and started playing guitar at age 14, eventually ending up with a cover band known as Tarsis. Although they would play anything for a steady paycheck, they specialized in Led Zeppelin—thus the Jimmy Page influence that can be heard in his playing. A third influence that can be seen in the incredible technical virtuosity of Joe's playing is Jeff Beck, the English guitarist that was such a seminal part of the British Invasion in the sixties.

Joe Satriani-Surfing With The Alien

Around the same time, he took lessons from pianist Lenny Tristano, whom he says had a great influence on his approach to music and playing guitar. And if a teacher is known by his students, Satriani is in good stead: he counts among his pupils guitar great Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett of Metallica, Marty Friedman from Megadeth, and the jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter. After moving to San Francisco, he released his first self-titled EP in 1984 and a full-length album a year later, but success didn't really come until Surfing With The Alien in 1987. With the release of Flying in a Blue Dream in 1989 Satriani cemented his position as the most successful instrumental guitarist in the modern era, with Alien having gone platinum and all of the next three albums (Blue Dream, The Extremist, and Time Machine) going gold in the U.S.

Joe Satriani - Summer Song (Live 2006)

Get your Guitar Sounding Like Joe's

Trying to figure out which equipment was used for which Satriani song is no easy task—the man has more toys than all of the Pitt-Jolie children put together.

For most of his career, however, Joe has favored Ibanez guitars with DiMarzio pickups. Before 1993 it was with DiMarzio PAF pros, and after '93 it was DiMarzio Freds, which means that his most well-known song, "Summer Song," would have been recorded using the PAF pros.

The guitar he was seen most often playing during the late 80's and early 90's was dubbed "Black Dog," an Ibanez with an Edge tremolo system and different pot locations than current JS models.

Satriani has shown a little more variety in his choice of amplifiers, going for a 6100 LM Marshall amp, a Peavey 5150, a Cornford amp, and a Mesa Boogie Mark IIC+ for the song "Flying in a Blue Dream," before finally settling on his Peavey JSX model after 2001. And that's without even going into all the pedals: Vox wah, Dunlop Cry Baby, Boss pedals galore, all kinds of octave pedals including an Electro-Harmonix Polyphonic Octave Generator

Joe Satriani - Always with me, always with you

A large part of Joe's mojo, though, is his use of modal theory in playing technique. Much of modern music is based on keys, and most players limit themselves greatly by sticking to the pentatonic minor notes, or if they're feeling particularly adventurous, to the major and minor scale notes. Satriani's understanding and application of modal theory gives him a unique sound among instrumentalists, as heard in songs like "Not of This Earth," which incorporates the Lydian, Aeolian, and Mixolydian modes But most of all it's his conviction that technique must bow to the heart in matters of playing that brings out songs that tug at your heartstrings like "Always With Me, Always With You."

Signature Guitar Equipment

Joe Satriani doesn't have to look far to find a piece of equipment with his name on it these days. Ibanez has a whole Joe Satriani signature series of guitars including the JSBDG, JS20S, JS20th, JS1600, JS1200, JS1000, and JS100, each of which is modelled after a guitar Satriani actually used.

Peavey's JSX Joe Satriani signature actually started out as a prototype and became the JSX series in 2004, winning the 2005 NAMM music & sound award. It has since been joined by the 412 Cabinet, the 212 combo, and most recently the JSX(R) Mini Colossal.

But wait, there's more! Satch also has his own series of picks, the JS Signature Picks; his own JS Signature guitar straps featuring artwork by Joe himself; and a Vox series of JS signature pedals, the first offering of which was the "Satchurator" distortion pedal.

In the works for later in 2009 are the "Time Machine," pedal and the "Big Bad Wah." So remember, all you need to play like Joe is a few thousand dollars, more spare time than you've ever had in your life, and a ruthless practice ethic that will drive you to spend upwards of eight hours a day shredding away. Rock on!

If you're interested in Music Talent, check out Got Music for the latest up and coming YouTube music stars!


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    • Chubbychuppa profile image


      7 years ago

      Satriani inspired me to take up the electric guitar, after all these years, he's still as awesome! :) Really enjoyed reading your hub! :)

    • profile image

      genei newme 

      8 years ago

      he is aristmy favorites guit

    • Nick B profile image

      Nick B 

      9 years ago from Normandy, France

      Um, there's a ten minute version of Always with me, always with you on YouTube - what about updating this hub with that version, otherwise - BRILLIANT.

    • Julie-Ann Amos profile imageAUTHOR

      Julie-Ann Amos 

      9 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK

      Thanks - more guitarists to folow soon!

    • acidjazzguitarist profile image


      9 years ago from Atlanta/Savannah

      Satriani is one of my favorites and a big influence. This is a great hub you have created here.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley Marks 

      9 years ago from California

      I picked Satriani number five on my list of 10 best rock guitarists ever. It terms of technique nobody is better, except perhaps Steve Vai. However, for that certain "something" in phrasing I think several others are better. Fantastic hub!!!

    • profile image

      Andy Smith 

      9 years ago

      I love his work on PiL's "Album", especially "Ease" which has the best non-Hendrix solo I've ever heard!

    • Julie-Ann Amos profile imageAUTHOR

      Julie-Ann Amos 

      9 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK

      No - sorry! Maybe you should write a hub on him! Thanks for the file!

    • affiliater profile image

      Shankar Pandiath 

      9 years ago from India

      fan-tas-tic.......great pieces...yeah....i like joe perry as's somethin for ya.... hope it comes thru........

      Do you have any stomu yamashta, by any chance ?


    • Julie-Ann Amos profile imageAUTHOR

      Julie-Ann Amos 

      9 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK

      Thanks funride. I believe Joe Perry is next - they're written in many cases but need to sort out the video etc. There's a load more to come!

    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 

      9 years ago from Portugal

      It is great to go through your collection of great guitar players. Satriani is perhaps my favorite one since I was about 14 or 15 years old (even though I have others who are at the same level). Thumbs up ;)


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