For starters, I refer to classic 80’s movie Crossroads, in which the climax of the entire film is a guitar duel with Steve Vai.

Honestly, if your immortal soul relies on you winning a guitar duel with Steve Vai just save yourself the ten minutes and find the best suntan lotion you can. Vai combines outer worldly technical chops with very savvy showmanship. Guitar wizards can give very dry concerts, but there is nothing dull about Vai.

Armed with a musical education from Berklee, and guitar lessons from Joe Satriani, Vai found himself allied with Frank Zappa. After stops in several bands (like Racer X with Paul Gilbert, replacing Yngwie Malmsteen in Alcatrazz and Public Image Ltd) he found himself in David Lee Roth’s band which immediately went double platinum. After stops in Whitesnake and Alice Cooper he was ready for a solo career.

He blew the bloody doors off with “For the Love of God” a classic song that he played so intensely on that his fingertips bled.

The rest of his solo career went rather well, and eventually he co-founded the G3 tour, a tour that features three master rock guitarists in concert together. It is the very height of musicianship for the instrument.

Vai is more than a speed player, he often dips into a unique fusion sound. Decades of players have imitated his playing, from his tremelo dives, to his use of the Lydian mode, to his signature Ibanez guitar. He has the admiration (or fear) of his peers, and deserves a place on any list of guitarists, regardless of genre.