Joe Satriani talked with Ted Drozdowski about the way he practice guitar nowadays.
“I don’t [have a practice regimen], but there are three phases in the life of Joe and his guitar. I play every day, unless I’m forced not to – like if I’m on a 23-hour flight plan to do a gig, or maybe I’ve done too much playing and I need to take three days off or something like that.
“But in general, I’m playing every day for at least an hour, and if I’m writing, sometimes I’m playing 8 to 9 hours a day. And it’s very specific. I might play one song over and over again, to try to figure it out.
“If it’s a particular song that’s got something difficult about it, I might play it on one guitar through one rig, 45 minutes on, 2 hours off, 45 minutes on, 2 hours off… just to become completely familiar with the technique, which maybe at the composing level is so fresh that it’s awkward.
“I create a routine where I get rid of all that awkwardness so I can feel comfortable enough to be expressive with it. Then I think the last phase would be, if I know I’m gonna be going on tour, I’ll play what I think our set is gonna be once or twice a day for the next six weeks. Every day, all I do is address which guitars I’m bringing, which pedals, which amps, and how I’m gonna play the songs from top to bottom. It seems excessive.”
“Yeah. And I want to explore as many different ways of playing something that I can. That seems to really help me, because I must say, with the advent of G3 back in ’96, I learned again firsthand that some players don’t have the same issues that I have about playing.
“Playing next to Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, or John Petrucci is incredibly rewarding, but it’s also frightening. They have talents in areas that I don’t, and I marvel at that.
“So that’s where I learned to do this extensive preparation. Not because I’m gonna hit the stage and do exactly what I practiced – it’s quite the opposite. I’m preparing myself for variation. Even if it’s a song I know like crazy, like ‘Surfing With the Alien,’ half the time I’ll play it without a wah-wah pedal, just so I’m not concentrating on the envelope of the wah-wah.
“And I’m thinking, ‘I’ve played this for 30 years, but maybe I could play this phrase over there, instead of over there.’ And I will continually do that. I’ll play the melody on a different set of strings.
“I’ll play a different solo. I’ll see if I can still make the song work with variations of fingering, picking style. I’ll use a different thickness pick, maybe a guitar without a whammy bar – just change it up to see if I can gain new insights into what the song has to offer.
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