I thought I’d write a review about Steve Vai’s masterclass that I’ve attended in Bucharest on June 24, 2013. Probably every masterclass with Steve is different depending on the size of the venue or the number of participants, but I will talk about my personal experience.

The venue was Tribute club and there were probably around 50 participants. The ticket for the masterclass was 300 RON and with 100 RON more you could get a ticket for the next day’s show as well. You could also win an Ibanez RG series guitar in a lucky draw at the end of the masterclass.

Even though the price might seem high for Romania, the masterclass with Steve is different than other guitar masterclasses you see on the internet. He doesn’t talk about picking technique, finger exercises, arpeggios, or other technical things that you could easily find on the internet. Instead, he touched on subjects such as entering the state of inspiration, developing a musical idea, publishing, finding your own ways to express complex feelings, things that for me seemed to be a great value.

Not to mention the fact that you could bring your guitar and jam with Steve, a thing that I wished for since I started playing Steve’s songs (although in my dreams it was a live concert, but hey! It’s an opportunity as well, isn’t it?).

How It Happened

We needed to show up around 4 o’clock, an hour before the masterclass begun. The rules seemed to be pretty strict, no mobile phones and no cameras, they told us we are going to be searched, although they allowed us to enter with the mobile phones without using them.

We were told to bring our guitars if you wanted to participate at the jam session, so I wrote my name on the case of my guitar and took it with me. Me and my dad found a place to sit, and waited for the event to begin.

Steve came in, he introduced himself for those who didn’t know him (I doubt that there was anybody who came at the event without knowing what it’s about). He told us “the agenda”: first he is going to talk on some subjects, then we could engage in discussions by asking questions, then the jam session, then the lucky draw and finally the autograph and photo session.

Teachings of Steve

Here’s a short summary of Steve’s talk: Each of us is capable of doing something better or different than the rest of the world. Our mission is to identify what that thing is, what we enjoy doing, and once we find it we should nurture that passion.

When you do something that you enjoy, you’ll put far more work, dedication and time into developing your passion and you’ll be more successful than doing anything else.

Another important thing that we should develop, says Steve, is the ability to focus on an action, to try to get rid of all the running thoughts from our mind that make us inefficient.

There were many more specific topics that he covered, but these were the most important ones. He then played one more song for us and then the questions followed.

I asked the first question: “How do you get from a musical idea of a couple of seconds to a full-length song?”. He gave us a couple of examples of how to play with the idea and develop it, it is pretty hard to explain in words.

I didn’t expect superficial questions to come such as “What speakers do you use?” or “Do you have other passions where you put the same dedication as in playing guitar?”. I thought it was a guitar masterclass and the people who came there weren’t interested in Steve the beekeeper, but in Steve the musician.

Starting from a question regarding his fasting before recording “For the Love of God” he touched on the subject of spirituality. He told us what God means to him, what his relationship with God is, and how that relationship influenced him and his music.

Another interesting subject, that came from a question as well, was about the musical industry, how to protect your intellectual property, how to obtain copyright, why you should do that early in your career, how he did it, and what he learned from Frank Zappa.

Playing with Steve

After Steve’s talk, the awaited jam session followed. He asked us who would like to participate. I got emotional and shy and hesitated a bit but then I told myself that if I don’t raise my hand now, I would regret forever, so I forced myself and I raised it. We took our guitars and queued near the stage.

The backing track was a loop from “Building the Church”. Each of us came on to the stage, played a solo for a couple of measures, then Steve played for a couple of measures, and finally both played.

Before stepping on the stage I had a lot of interesting musical ideas that I would play over the backing track, but when I got there my mind was completely empty and I got a bit scared. In a couple of seconds though, I managed to pull of some interesting phrases, and the duel was good too, we were able to build a small musical relationship. I don’t remember playing a wrong note :)

When we finished playing, Steve told me “Really good! You should keep on playing!”. After that I tried to see if he said that to any of the other guys after me and I don’t think he did. When I came off the stage I really felt sincere applause. I got praised by Cristi Gram and Nicu Patoi, two of the best guitarists of Romania, I hope they weren’t just polite…

I felt great, even if I wasn’t able to prove myself like I would have liked.


After the jam session, the winner of the Ibanez guitar was drawn and the masterclass was over. It felt a bit short, it was announced to be around 3 hours and it only lasted for 2.

I am very happy that I had the opportunity to attend and to fulfill a part of my dream. For the fans of autographs I’ll post my JS1200 headstock signature and my Jemini pedal.

Thank you Steve for such a great day, for an unforgettable moment and for words of wisdom that will guide me through life, no matter what.