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Who is Joe Satriani?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2014
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Joe Satriani, nicknamed Satch or Saint Joe, was born in New York in 1956. He is a world-renowned instrumental rock guitarist, not only famous for his many instrumental albums, but also for his skill as a teacher. Some of his students include the guitarists for bands like Counting Crows, Metallica, Primus, and Third Eye Blind. In addition to producing numerous instrumental albums and touring as a solo artist, Joe Satriani has also toured with Mick Jagger and Deep Purple, and contributed guitar tracks for many recorded rock albums, including work with Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, Crowded House, and the Yardbirds. His work is familiar to many and receives the praise of numerous critics.

For someone considered “one of the best” in the rock guitar field, Joe Satriani got a late start. He didn’t begin playing guitar until he was 14, preferring football to music. However, when he heard of Jimi Hendrix’ death, he felt he should aim his energies at learning to play the guitar, and this decision, helped by an untapped gift for music, resulted in the fame he holds today as a virtual master of rock guitar.

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Within four years of learning the guitar, and studying with jazz guitarists like Billy Bauer, Joe Satriani was already teaching the instrument too. In 1978, Satriani moved to Berkeley to both pursue his career as a musician and to continue teaching. He didn’t receive the kind of name recognition he holds today until one of his first students, Steve Vai, who was touring with David Lee Roth, gave several interviews praising his former teacher.

In that same year, 1986, Joe Satriani produced his first album, Not of This Earth. Eleven more solo albums followed, many of them Grammy nominated. In total he’s received thirteen Grammy nominations without ever winning the coveted award. Satriani’s recognition, especially among musicians, as one of the world’s best rock guitarists has also earned him several prominent endorsement contracts. Ibanez® arguably one of the most famous producers of electric guitars, created a signature line called the JS series, which Satriani endorses and uses almost exclusively.

Satriani’s instrumental music can be called a blend of heavy metal, and jazz/rock fusion. His incredible technical mastery of the instrument is matched by predominant themes in his solo albums, which very much echo the themes of other heavy metal bands. Many of his album titles contain references to space and science fiction, not uncommon especially among rock albums of the 1970s and 1980s. Satriani is best appreciated by listening to his solo work. His solo work at present is the following:

  • Not of This Earth
  • Surfing with The Alien
  • Flying in a Blue Dream
  • The Extremist
  • Time Machine
  • Joe Satriani
  • Crystal Planet
  • Engines of Creation
  • Strange Beautiful Music
  • Is There Love in Space?
  • Super Colossal
  • Professor Satchafunkilus and The Musterion of Rock

Satriani is recognized for his commitment to youth. He joined the nonprofit foundation Little Kids Rock in 2006, which focuses on offering music lessons to kids in public schools in the US and obtaining free instruments for kids interested in learning. Joe Satriani takes a very active role in this organization, and has even spent time delivering instruments to kids. In this work he is joined by former student and colleague, Steve Vai.

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