“I was faking it!” Steve Vai reveals couldn’t actually play his notorious heart-shaped triple-neck guitar… at first

Ashamed that he couldn’t play his iconic multi-neck Ibanez, Vai made it his mission to learn to play the damned thing.

Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music via Getty Images

When you purchase through affiliate links on Guitar.com, you may contribute to our site through commissions. Learn more

Guitar hero Steve Vai has recently revealed that even he can be humbled by a guitar every now and then – especially if that guitar happens to have three necks and a heart-shaped body.

Vai might be one of the greatest virtuosos in the history of guitar, but speaking to SOAL Night Live – The Musical Talk Show, Vai admitted that when he got his notorious triple-necked heart Ibanez custom guitar for use with David Lee Roth, he couldn’t actually play the guitar – and ended up miming with it on DLR’s Just Like Paradise video.

“My fascination with multi-neck guitars started with Jimmy Page, obviously,” he recalls. “Through the years, my fascination grew, and I was fortunate enough to have a company like Ibanez… I started to design various triple-necks.” [as transcribed by Ultimate Guitar]

For the Just Like Paradise video, Vai decided he wanted to play a guitar equally as extravagant as Roth himself. “[I started] thinking, ‘okay, this is David Lee Roth, I want to do something over the top’,” he explains. “So I thought, ‘big, giant heart-shaped guitar with necks sticking all out… totally campy [and] ridiculous’.”

However, unlike legendary dual-neck tapper Michael Angelo Batio, when Vai’s “oddball mental meanderings” were made a reality, he found it quite the challenge to play. “We used it as a prop for the video, but then I felt a little guilty, because I can’t do this [mimics tapping two guitar necks simultaneously],” he jokes. “Michael Angelo can do it. I don’t know how he does that stuff, but I was faking it.”

But ultimately the instrument did inspire Vai to learn to make the best of it.

“I started to feel a little guilty that I had this instrument, but I didn’t do anything really musical with it,” Vai reveals. He made it his goal to conquer the three-necked white whale. “So, I started to put the screws to it around The Ultra Zone [1999], and that’s when I recorded the song Fever Dream. There’s a couple of live clips of me performing it with that heart guitar.”

With the knowledge learned from mastering the heart guitar, Vai has since developed another multi-necked monster, the Hydra guitar, in collaboration with Ibanez. Designed to be as playable as possible, the Hydra comes with with two half-fretless necks (12-string and 4-string) and one 7-string neck. He explains that the goal of a multi-neck should always be that it can “carry” an entire piece of music. “I could immediately see how I’d have to navigate it,” he continues.

To showcase the guitar in action, Vai released an accompanying track to mark the guitar’s release. Teeth of the Hydra is a titanic guitar track. The video shows Vai in action, hands confidently flying between each neck like some kind of riff wizard. While the multi-neck guitar stumped him back in the day, Vai has truly mastered the art now.

Related Brands

Related Tags


The world’s leading authority and resource for all things guitar.

© 2024 Guitar.com is part of NME Networks.