Watch the Develop Your Tone online guitar lesson by Steve Vai from Alien Guitar Secrets: Passion & Warfare

There are so many ways that you can find out about the academics of playing the instrument. Matter of fact, TrueFire has a tremendous amount of some of the most amazingly educational videos from some of the greatest guitar players in the world that can really dig down deep into certain techniques, in many areas better than I can!

When I was young and honing my skills, the most fascinating thing about playing the instrument was not being able to do something, working on it, and then being able to do it. So, one of the things that I tell beginners or anybody that's developing their technique, is that your most important tool is your ability to listen.

Listening (without judging, criticizing, or labeling) is how you develop your tone. Your tone is in your fingers and in your head. It's the process of listening to how you want to sound and hearing things from the outside world that are inspiring in the way people play. The sound of the notes should be at the forefront of any technical development that you make.

So when you're first starting out, and I even do this now, listen carefully and experiment to find the tone that you want. When hitting a note, experiment with every way you can use the pick. There's great variety, and it's wonderful that it's at your command to create a melody, dynamic, or phrasing, any way you want. There's no right or wrong way, there's only what you prefer. This is where your ability to visualize (the second step), comes into play. As you're trying to find that tone, imagine how you want it to sound and critique if it's actually what you want.