Monday, October 1, 2007

Turning technique on it's head

Music rule # 347: Never wear wrestling shoes to a general admission concert.

Other than giving Washington-area podiatrists a huge influx of patients,
the Steve Vai and Zack Wiesinger show at the Birchmere last night was killin'!

They had us all standing on tippy toe, and by George, it was so awesome, we couldn't sit down!

(I think Steve Vai is getting bribed to do this by the foot doctors in the area...He even took a picture of his foot-very interesting with the conspiracy theory- with is new iPhone while onstage. And just WHERE did he come up with the dough for an expensive gizmo like THAT??)

But seriously, folks...I learned a great deal by watching these cats jam.

In the confines of my teaching studio, the world of music can mistakenly appear cut, dried, and small sometimes. And you've probably heard me explain how there's a finite amount of techniques.


Steve and Zack showed me differently last night.

Jimminy Christmas, I didn't know there were so many different ways to make a guitar sing, growl, howl, and sound like band practice at Area 51.

I saw once that Steve said that he sat in his practice room one day, set the guitar on the floor, and spent hours seeing how many different sounds he could get out of it.

Last night, he proved that he really DID do that! Sometimes hitting the guitar to make the notes ring, or shaking it behind his back, or ripping some good old fashioned shred, it sounded alien.

Opening off the show was "Guitar" Zack Wiesinger. Introduced as "The 20 year old guitar virtuoso, at 6' 2", who has fallen off more stages than we can count...Guitar Zack!" And here comes this guy who shares both the name AND haircut of my younger brother. I call it "The mile high hair." In fact, Guitar Zack even had a song that went: My Hair is perfect, it has seven sides. Cool beans.

Zack entertained the packed house with his guitarmanship, stage presence, sense of humor, and dynamics.

Yeah yeah, I've gone on about dynamics, but Zack really showed me how to use 'em. Thanks, Zack, for such a great demonstration! Ripping it up till it looked like his hands would bleed, he then would drop it off to a whisper, then groove off to something cool. Also making skilled use of the tone and volume controls on his strat, he presented the audience with a tremendous range of tones, sounds, and cool noises. (And just with a guitar and an amp! Simple usually, and especially so on a stage that Steve Vai would be playing in in a half hour!)

Steve came on, and succeeded in converting the entire venue to his brand of rock 'n roll religion. Looking like a psychedelic voodoo priest complete with a light up guitar, Steve was Steve, and boy, was he Steve. Talk about effortless playing, and some darn cool sounds. And who ever said the Whammy bar was just for decoration? Everyone half expected a little green man to hatch out of his guitar during some of this sonic excursions.

Both of the axemen showcased that Sunday evening thumbed their noses at the traditional boundaries and limits of "normal" technique. They truly spoke with their guitars.

Technique sure looked funny stood on it's head in the corner, it's face all red and upside-down like.

Way to go, guys!

I'm gonna have to try this....

By the way, check out Zack's site at
And Steve's at


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

It's really great to read your articles! Always surprisingly inspiring. Great writing style.

Anonymous said...

lol, man i totally felt the same way after I saw those two also. It was the first time for me to see steve vai play, and it was unbelievable to see just how in tune and how wizard-like he was with his music. I also thought Zack was entertaining, impressive, and genuine at the same time too. Your article stirred up a whole bunch of feelings of awe and jealousness I had when I saw those two perform