Sunday morning music


This morning I’m obliged to the anonymous blogger at 357 Magnum for introducing me to something rich and strange.  It’s guitarist Steve Vai‘s newly designed Ibanez “guitar”.  He calls it The Hydra, borrowing the name from antiquity.  The steampunk-themed instrument looks weird, but he makes it sing.

MusicRadar says of the Hydra:

This one-of-a-kind instrument is ambitious even by Steve Vai’s standards and five years in the making.

The Hydra is a many faceted creature with two-headstocks, three-necks that host 7 and 12-string guitars; a 4-string ¾ scale length bass; 13 sympathetic harp strings; half-fretless necks; single-coil, humbucking, piezo, MIDI and sustainer pickups; floating and hardtail tremolo bridges and phase splitters.

“I feel this instrument has the potential to be historical,” notes Vai. “It’s unique in various ways and its construction is inspired. And there’s a song that was written on it that honours the potential of the instrument.”

. . .

Ibanez Artist Relations Manager Mike Orrigo says, ” ‘The Hydra’, as Mr Vai has appropriately dubbed it, started off as a concept that Steve approached Ibanez with several years ago. While it was understood then that the task to turn Steve’s vision into reality would be a tremendous undertaking, we were undeterred by the challenge.

“Fuelled by Steve’s inspiration, our team of designers, engineers, and luthiers worked tirelessly together in order to create a truly one-of-a-kind instrument, remaining as true to the initial vision as possible.”

From most guitarists and performers, I’d regard The Hydra as just a gimmick:  but when you’re at the level of Steve Vai, it’s definitely something to be taken seriously.  Here’s his opening track with the instrument, titled “Teeth of the Hydra”, from his latest album “Inviolate“.

It’s used on other tracks of the album as well.  I wonder how long it took him to develop the playing technique needed to take advantage of all those features?



  1. My first concert was David Lee Roth during his "Skyscraper" tour back in '88. Vai had that red guitar with multiple necks that looked like a cancerous tumor that someone had excised from Godzilla. Phenomenal musician.

  2. A couple of questions…. there being no guitar strap, how does he hold it up? ….attached to his belt? …or waist? Also, I wonder who came up with that decidedly steampunk design?

  3. A lot of Gen X was introduced to Steve Vai through David Lee Roth, as Maniac noted. His song 'Yankee Rose' was one of MTV's first breakout rock videos in the hair band era. It was the first rock song to outguitar Edward Van Halen.

    I remember when he popularized the 7 string guitar (also with Ibanez). It was outside the price range of most of us at the time, being about 1700 bucks in 1990 dollars.

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