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Influential guitarist uses mind as primary 'instrument'

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Even when he's playing on stage, guitarist Joe Satriani somehow manages to make his 10 fingers sound like a one-man guitar orchestra.

Satriani, one of the world's most famous and influential guitarists, has just released a live new album and DVD, "Live In San Francisco" (Epic). The discs are guaranteed to leave many guitar players - not to mention air-guitar players - knotting their fingers trying to replicate his all-instrumental concert pieces.

But the fleet-fingered virtuoso has some advice for musicians in their bedrooms and garages: Don't give up on music if you're struggling to play the guitar at its highest level.

"There is something I learned from my high school music-theory teacher," says Satriani during a recent telephone interview. "He said to me, 'you may find one day that you're not going to be a great guitarist, so you might want to work on the musician in your head.' "

The budding guitarist was taught to compose music on pieces of paper without using a guitar, piano, or drums.

"The music really comes from the inside, and if you can't get your fingers to do it, it doesn't matter, you can write for somebody else."

Learning that the mind is the most amazing musical instrument of all was a lesson the guitarist says he took to heart, and to this day he often composes with just a metronome, pen, and paper.

Satriani's prodigious guitar skills as a teenager didn't lead to his big break after he completed high school in Long Island, N.Y. Instead it was Steve Vai, a teen guitarist, whom Satriani had taught in his bedroom. Vai grabbed fame by the collar after impressing Frank Zappa with a demo tape.

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