Music News

Professor Joe Satriani’s Class Is in Session

With the release of his 1987 sophomore album, Surfing with the Alien, Joe Satriani effectively established himself as a guitar icon. Aside from his obvious command of proficiency and flashy technique, Satriani was able to rise above the niche visibility of the guitar-shredder ghetto on the strength of the lyricism and other-worldliness in his playing, as well as his apparent fondness for whimsy, imagination, and science fiction themes.

His latest record is called Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock, and Satriani is, indeed, once again a professor of guitar lessons — thanks to the Internet.

Before getting under way as a recording artist, Satriani spent years giving guitar lessons to a group of young students that included a well-documented roster of players who went on to forge careers in their own right. Steve Vai, Metallica's Kirk Hammett, Exodus' Rick Hunolt, Testament's Alex Skolnick, Primus' Larry Lalonde, and Charlie Hunter — all on the cutting edge of a new movement while still in high school — took lessons from Satriani during that time.

"When the young Kirk Hammett was walking in the door," recalls Satriani, "I thought, 'This is the future.' It was very exciting for me to see that in these young players."

But Satriani's tenure as a teacher drew to a close as his own career began to pick up steam. The last lesson Satriani was able to give, he explains, was to Hammett in January 1988, just as Hammett was about to begin recording . . . And Justice for All. In August, however, Satriani returned to teaching when he completed his first lessons for the instructional site, which now regularly hosts Satriani's SatchZone member-only Webcasts.

"For a student to be able to log on at 10:42 in the evening is a big plus for the whole family dynamic," he says. "When I was teaching, I could see the parents really stressing out trying to deal with lessons that always happened in the afternoon, which is crunch-time for a family."

For Satriani, the Internet enables more colorful content than the traditional instruction-vid setup.

"Instead of the camera pointing at a musician sitting on a folding chair with a boring backdrop saying, 'Put your fingers here,'" says Satriani, "we've got guitarist Dave Martone, who, in a very humorous attitude, starts to interview me. We then go to a video clip in HD, and there's tabulature and manuscripts animated at the bottom of the screen."

Latest album title aside, Satriani insists that lessons should be fun, and has no problem with the recent Guitar Hero phenomenon.

"I think it's great," he says. "It's really a special moment in time that video games are playing actual recorded music. Five years ago, it was all about carjacking and blowing things up and killing people and avoiding zombies and flesh-eating monsters and first-person shooter games. That stuff is pretty fucking horrible. Now, people are trying to be in time and with the phrase of actual music by real musicians. What could be better than that!"

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Saby Reyes-Kulkarni