What Delay Pedal Does Steve Vai Use?

Of all the great shredding guitarists out there, Steve Vai is one of the most well-known for many reasons. Sure, his skills speak for themselves, but his guitar tone and use of effects are also part of the reason that he’s so popular and influential, and most importantly, sounds so good. 

So what pedals does Steve Vai use to craft his signature tone? Specifically, what delay pedal does Steve Vai use? Vai has used a number of delay pedals in his career. These include the Boss DD-7 (of which he used two at once into two different amps), a TC Electronic G System, and an Axe-FX unit as well. Currently, he is using the Axe-FX unit in most cases. 

So who is Steve Vai and what makes his guitar playing so special? What are the differences between Vai’s delay pedals, and what makes each special? What other gear has Steve Vai been known for using? Read on to find out what delay pedal Steve Vai uses and more!

Who is Steve Vai?

Steve Vai - "For The Love Of God"

Steve Vai is a guitarist, songwriter, singer, and producer known for multiple projects.

 Originally gaining notoriety for playing guitar in Frank Zappa’s band (after being a transcriptionist for Zappa for a number of years), Vai went on to tour and record with a number of very popular bands such as Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne, and David Lee Roth, as well as embarking upon a successful solo career in which he released eight albums. 

Vai’s awesome tone and sharp guitar-playing skills have made him a great guitarist to emulate for decades. Vai is mostly known as an extremely skilled shredder, but his expert use of equipment, namely effects, is also a huge part of why his guitar sounds so great!

What delay pedal does Steve Vai use?

Perfect Guitar Pedal Order with Steve Vai

If you’re looking to emulate Vai’s sound, copying his delay pedal is a good place to start. Sometimes using it sparingly to add some depth and warmth to solos and licks, while sometimes using it as a full-on delay, you can hear plenty of this effect in Vai’s records as well as his live shows. 

Vai has used a number of delay pedals in his day. Originally, he could be seen using two Boss DD-7 digital delays with their signals split between two amps. This would allow him to blend delay sounds and pinpoint the exact sound he wanted more easily.

Later, Vai moved on to more streamlined effects setups, using the TC Electronic G System, and since has gone fully digital with the Axe-FX unit even later than that. These digital units make things easier and save a ton of space, as you can have a multitude of effects on one pedal.

Although some don’t prefer the digital sound of these effects and like to go analog instead. I’d recommend trying one of these out before you purchase. 

What other gear is Steve Vai known for?

Steve Vai's Wild Guitar Collection | Interview

Steve Vai is known for using many different pieces of gear over the course of his long and storied career. From guitars to amps to effects pedals, Vai has carefully created a unique signature sound with the perfect mix of equipment. 

As far as guitars are concerned, Vai really only uses one these days and has for a while. That guitar would be the Ibanez JEM, the signature guitar he designed himself.

Easily recognizable because of the monkey grip handle in the body as well as the beautiful flowery inlays on the neck, Vai’s guitar is designed to be moved around quickly, able to shred on all parts of the neck and execute the most advanced riffs, solos, and techniques. 

When it comes to amps, Vai has used a number of different setups. On his records, he’s used a wide variety of amps. Meanwhile, live, he usually plays through different setups, all with multiple amps. The Carvin Legacy 3 was, if any, Vai’s main amp for much of his career. 

As far as effects pedals, there is a number Steve uses (or used, before switching to the Axe-FX unit). For overdrive, he uses the Ibanez Jemini that he designed himself with Ibanez. For his phaser, he’s been known to use an MXR phase 90. Finally, his wah pedal is the Morley Bad Horsie II pedal. 

Wrap up!

Steve Vai’s guitar playing is famous and quite influential for a reason. Simply enough, it sounds good. His skill combined with his use of effects make his tone and playing sharp and sonically diverse. One of the main effects he uses to achieve this is his delay pedal. To emulate Steve Vai, you’ll need to choose the right one. 

For his early career, use two Boss DD-7 digital delays through two separate amps. To sound more like Steve in his later work, a TC Electronic G system or Axe-FX Unit would work better. 

Andrew Bell

I don't think I'll ever stick to one instrument - but the great thing about life is you don't have to.

Andrew Bell has 90 posts and counting. See all posts by Andrew Bell