Steve Vai injured himself and needed surgery after holding a difficult chord and ”meditating on” it for 20 minutes

Steve Vai
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

In what might be the most literal example of the term sustaining an injury, Steve Vai has injured his hand while fretting a difficult guitar chord and holding it for 20 minutes.

Vai says he was ”meditating on” the chord when time got away from him, and after taking his hand off the fingerboard he discovered he had developed trigger finger. The US maestro was speaking to Tyler Wilson of Music Is Win for season 2 of its Guitar Villains YouTube show, when he revealed his musical misadventure.

It all started with the acoustic guitar and some experimentation. After all, what is Steve Vai if not a frontiersman for new techniques and sounds?

“It is a lot harder to play the acoustic guitar than I thought,“ said Vai. “There is nothing virtuosic in it. But that’s how I screwed up my hand. I was doing this fun thing and I had to put my thumb in this really weird position, and I had to kind of hold this chord, really for a long time. I was meditating on it. And I knew it was a hard position, and I kept on sitting there and playing it and playing it.“

According to Vai, 20 minutes pass, long enough to have sprained the tendons and developed trigger finger so severe that he needed surgery to correct it. Mild cases typically involve a splint. But Vai says the operation was a success. He's just going to have to wait it out before he can start fretting chords again.

”They did the operation, and they cut in there, and the guy is fooling around with everything in there and it’s really bizarre, but it’s all fine. It was something very simple that they can fix. But I won’t be able to play for a while.”

Nonetheless, he has a lot of music in works. In the interview, he spoke about stripping everything back for a minimalist acoustic album, and he has also revealed plans for an album of eight-string material. This enforced lay-off, however, might give Vai a chance to use his practice technique that you can do without a guitar.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.