Polyphia Reveals Recording Secrets and Technique for Steve Vai

Polyphia Reveals Recording Secrets and Technique for Steve Vai

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Layering with Synths and Guitars
    • Percussive and Clean Combinations
    • Using Goofy Ass Synths for Unique Sounds
    • Side Chaining Techniques
  3. Creating Unique Guitar Tones
    • Using Archetype Tim Henson
    • The Importance of a Basic Dry Tone
    • Experimenting with Different Plugins
  4. Harmonizing Guitar Parts
    • Lazy Approach: Vocoder and Midi Control
    • Creating Backup Singers Effect
    • Scott's Approach to Harmonies
  5. Influences and Role Models
    • Steve Vai's Influence
    • His Impact on Behavior and Attitude
    • The Transformation in Music Production
  6. Recording Techniques and Gear
    • Using Pod Farm and XFX
    • Initial Struggles and Discoveries
    • The Evolution of Sound Design Skills
  7. Collaborations and Producers on Genesis
    • Working with Rodney Jerkins
    • Collaboration with Loophile and Brass Tracks
    • The Soulful Influence on the Album
  8. Separating the Art from the Artist
    • Appreciating Kanye West's Music
    • Distinguishing Personal Beliefs
    • Other Influences like Mike Dean and Lewis Grant
  9. Signature Techniques and Playing Style
    • Unique Guitar Flourishes
    • Using Flutter Technique
    • Incorporating Unexpected Notes
  10. Fun Practices and Inside Jokes
    • Clay's Bass Solo Interrupted
    • Tattoo Regrets and Advice

Layering with Synths and Guitars

When it comes to creating unique and captivating sounds, I love to experiment with combining synths and guitars. One of my favorite techniques is layering percussive and clean elements. By taking the guitar part and adding a percussive and clean synth, the resulting combination adds depth and interest to the overall sound.

To achieve this hybrid sound, I take the exact guitar notes and play them on quirky synths like those found in rage beats, Hyper pop, and video game sounds. To make the two elements work harmoniously, I use side chaining plugins. By linking the synths and guitar in a group and then applying a glue compressor, they trigger each other, creating a fascinating hybrid sound. Depending on which element has the dominant transient, they will alternate and Create a captivating Blend.

While I enjoy experimenting with unique sounds, I still appreciate the essence of the guitar. I often use the archetype Tim Henson to track everything. This clean and basic dry tone allows me to hear if a composition sounds cool without any enhancements. If it sounds great on this simple tone, then it will undoubtedly sound incredible with additional effects and presets.

The beauty of using plugins and digital effects is that they offer endless possibilities. Once I have a solid foundation with a sick tone, I can then explore different presets and effects to find what sounds coolest for the track. It's a process of trial and error, but with the right plugins and experimentation, I can create truly unique and captivating guitar tones.

Harmonizing Guitar Parts

To add depth and richness to my guitar compositions, harmonies play a vital role. There are two approaches that I frequently use to harmonize guitar parts, depending on the desired effect.

As a self-proclaimed lazy musician, I often opt for vocoding to create harmonies. Using plugins like the multi-voicer, I can MIDI control the guitar and select complex or simple Chord progressions. This technique results in lush and angelic harmonies that add an ethereal quality to the track. You can hear the beautiful vocoded guitar part at the beginning of our song "Genesis."

Another technique I employ is creating backup singers' effect by duplicating the main guitar part into a new lane and pitching it up. I then spread out the pitched-up part, creating a wide stereo image. The main guitar remains in the center, while the high octave backup harmonies are spread wide on each side, giving the illusion of backup singers. This method adds a dynamic and immersive feel to the composition.

Scott, my counterpart in Polyphia, has his own approach to harmonies. He often uses contrasting techniques, such as hitting the left-HAND muting technique to achieve a similar sound. While our techniques may differ, they ultimately result in the same destination, creating captivating and harmonically rich guitar compositions.

Influences and Role Models

As musicians, We Are constantly influenced and inspired by other artists who have left a significant impact on our craft. One such role model for me is the legendary Steve Vai. Not only has he influenced my playing style, but he has also had a profound impact on my behavior and attitude.

When I first met Steve at NAMM in 2020, I was struck by his genuine kindness and how he treated everyone as if they were the most important person in the room. Speaking with him and observing his character made me reflect on my own behavior. I realized that I wanted to emulate his kindness, patience, and wisdom. Every day, I strive to be less of an "ass" and more like Steve.

Steve's influence goes beyond his character; it extends to his music and innovative guitar playing. His mastery of the instrument and his ability to convey emotions through his guitar solos are awe-inspiring. He has challenged conventional norms and pushed the boundaries of guitar playing, leaving a lasting impact on the world of music.

I often ponder, "What would Steve do?" when faced with decisions in our musical Journey. He serves as a constant reminder to remain humble, kind, and passionate about our craft. Steve has truly become an incredible role model for me and has Shaped both my personal and musical development.

Recording Techniques and Gear

Throughout our musical journey, we have honed our recording techniques and explored different gear options to capture the perfect sound. One of the key lessons we've learned is the importance of starting with a basic dry tone.

Archetype Tim Henson has been instrumental in our recording process. We track everything using this preset, as it represents a clean and neutral tone. If a composition sounds incredible with this basic tone, then we know it will sound phenomenal when enhanced with other effects and presets.

Our approach to gear has evolved over time. Initially, we relied on Pod Farm and XFX for our guitar tones. However, we encountered initial struggles in getting the desired sound. We realized that using presets offered by these plugins yielded better results than trying to tweak and customize the settings ourselves. This opened our eyes to the power of presets and how they can save time and effort while still delivering exceptional sounds.

As we delved deeper into sound design and music production, we developed a more comprehensive understanding of guitar tones. We discovered that creating unique tones became easier after gaining knowledge of sound design principles. This newfound understanding allowed us to experiment more confidently and produce guitar tones that exceeded our expectations.

Collaborations and Producers on Genesis

Our album "Genesis" was born out of collaborations with talented producers who left their mark on the tracks. Three producers, in particular, contributed their unique styles and skills to bring the album to life: Rodney Jerkins, Loophile, and Brass Tracks.

Rodney Jerkins is a renowned producer known for his work on songs like "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child. Our collaboration with Rodney began when he reached out to me on Instagram in 2019. We met at his Studio in Hidden Hills, where we started crafting the main gospel progression for "Genesis." Rodney's piano skills and soulful approach to production added depth and authenticity to the album.

Loophile brought his own flavor to the album, with beautiful chord progressions and soulful influences. His expertise in creating lush and captivating harmonies elevated the tracks to another level. The collaboration with Loophile allowed us to explore new musical territories and experiment with different Sonic textures.

Brass Tracks, the Grammy-winning producer behind Harry Styles' hit "Watermelon Sugar," also contributed to the album. Their talent for stacking horns and creating harmonies added a heavenly quality to the music. The result was a Fusion of soulful, angelic sounds that fit seamlessly into the overall aesthetic of "Genesis."

These collaborations enriched the album, bringing diverse influences and skills to the table. Each producer's unique style contributed to the creation of a truly remarkable musical experience.

Separating the Art from the Artist

One of the artists who has had a significant impact on our music is Kanye West. While his personal beliefs and statements may be controversial, we firmly believe in separating the art from the artist.

Kanye's music, particularly albums like "Graduation," has played a vital role in shaping our musical styles and aspirations. We can appreciate and admire the artistry, creativity, and innovation present in his music, regardless of personal opinions.

It is essential to distinguish between an artist's personal life and their artistic contributions. The music created by an artist stands on its own, independent of any controversies or personal beliefs. Enjoying an artist's music does not mean endorsing their views or actions. As musicians, we have been influenced by a wide range of artists, and Kanye West is undeniably one of them.

We also draw inspiration from other influential figures in the music industry, such as Mike Dean. His contributions as a producer and musician have left an indelible mark on our music. Lewis Grant, known for his work in the emotional heap genre, has also influenced our sound and creative approach.

By appreciating the artistry of these individuals while acknowledging their flaws as humans, we can embrace the inspiration they provide while maintaining our own values and beliefs.

Signature Techniques and Playing Style

Within our music, there are specific signature techniques and playing styles that contribute to our unique sound. These techniques add depth, complexity, and an extra layer of intricacy to our compositions.

One technique that I often employ is the use of unexpected notes. Instead of simply bending a note, I prefer to hit it around a particular area on the guitar neck or bridge. This creates a distinctive sound that subverts expectations and adds an element of surprise to the music.

Another technique that has become synonymous with our style is the flutter technique. This technique involves rapidly hitting the strings with our right hand, creating a quick and percussive sound. We often incorporate this technique in our compositions to add a dynamic and energetic Flair.

Additionally, we utilize unique guitar flourishes to embellish our music. These flourishes include techniques like slides, vibratos, and tasteful embellishments that enhance the overall musicality of our compositions.

Our playing style is a constant evolution, and we Continue to explore new techniques and incorporate them into our music. By pushing the boundaries of conventional guitar playing, we strive to create fresh and innovative sounds that captivate listeners.

Fun Practices and Inside Jokes

Even as musicians, we have our fair share of fun and lighthearted moments. During rehearsals, we often playfully interrupt Clay's bass solo to keep the atmosphere light and enjoyable. It's amusing to watch him get frustrated and focused during his solo, while we intentionally disrupt the tempo and flow.

Another fun aspect of our journey has been the tattoo regrets and lessons learned. We now advise against getting tattoos of anyone's face on your body. When we were younger, the idea seemed appealing, but as we grew older, we realized the risks and complications involved. It's essential to think carefully before committing to permanent body art.


  • Layering synths and guitars creates unique and captivating sounds
  • Archetype Tim Henson is the go-to preset for recording everything
  • Vocoder and MIDI control for harmonies and backup parts
  • Steve Vai's influence extends beyond music to behavior and attitude
  • Pod Farm and XFX initially faced challenges but taught us the power of presets
  • Collaborations with Rodney Jerkins, Loophile, and Brass Tracks enriched "Genesis"
  • Appreciating Kanye West's music while separating the art from the artist
  • Signature techniques include unexpected notes, flutter technique, and guitar flourishes
  • Interrupting Clay's bass solo for lighthearted moments during rehearsals
  • Tattoo regrets and the importance of careful consideration


Q: How did the collaboration with Rodney Jerkins come about? A: Rodney Jerkins reached out to me on Instagram in 2019, and we started collaborating on the main gospel progression for "Genesis." It was an incredible experience working with such a renowned producer.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of harmonizing guitar parts? A: The most challenging part is creating harmonies that blend seamlessly with the main guitar part. It requires precise timing and careful arrangement to ensure the harmonies enhance the composition.

Q: Are there any other artists besides Kanye West who influenced your music? A: Absolutely! We draw inspiration from a variety of artists. Notable influences include Mike Dean and Lewis Grant, who have contributed to our musical style and creative approach.

Q: How do you create your unique guitar tones? A: We usually start with a basic dry tone using Archetype Tim Henson. Once we have a solid foundation, we experiment with different presets and effects to find the perfect sound for each track.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians? A: Keep pushing boundaries, be open to experimenting with different techniques and sounds, and always stay true to your musical vision. Continual growth and exploration are vital for any artist.

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