Steve Vai's JEMs:
Ibanez Triple Neck Guitars

JEM Heart Guitars


Guitar #1 (note vine inlaled fretboard
Picture 2
- rear of guitar
Picture 3
-maple fretboard, w feather
Picture 4 - maple fretboard, w feather


Guitar #2 - note knob positions
Picture 2 - rear of guitar

Designed in-between DLR's Eat Em and Smile & Skyscraper albums and built by Mace Bailey of Hoshino USA in bensalem, PA. This guitar was always a silly idea to me, however some find it to be very cool. I guess the weak follow up album Skyscraper made me think that the supergroup lost focus somewhere and this seemed to validate that point. I still think playing the vertical neck with the wrong hands makes no sense at all. Allegedly this guitar was a bear to tune, play and was simply for show only. It briefly appeared on the "Just Like Paradise" video. I saw a heart-shaped body blank in Joe Despagni's LI shop circa '88, however this was obviously a homemade clone of sorts

During the Skyscraper and Whitesnake tours Vai used this guitar live. I've seen a few bootlegs from these tours and can desribe this. With DLR Vai played it during "Just Like Paradise". Vai used the upper standard neck for the entire song, as if playing the upper neck of a double neck. Then for the solo he added heavy delay, and Vai faked playing the vertical neck as seen in the video with his right hand on the right neck while the left hand played the notes on the standard neck. During the Whitesnake tour Vai used this for the first part of his solo. There he mostly played the upper standard neck, then did some tapping with the vertical neck. He crosed his arms, with his left hand on the vertical fretboard playing a simple trill while he tapped notes with his right hand on the upper standard neck. The feather ornament was not present on the guitar when used in Whitesnake. Thankfully retired.

Mace Bailey, the Ibanez luthier responsible for this creation writes in:

The 2 heart-shape guitars were also built by me in Bensalem PA. I don't know what Despagni had to do with it as I didn't ever speak to him except at a NAMM show once. #1 was basically thrown together in a week! I had the little drawing that you have reproduced in your site, to go by as a start. Then I had to figure out how to scale it up to life size. My first concern was weight and transport problems. Well the body is two halves, (you can see the seam in photos) they were held together with hardware store bolts & wing-nuts. Each half is basswood-hollowed out as much as possible except near the neck joint area. The thing had to function so the electronics were simple.ie..on/off buttons, 1 volume etc.. there was a quick disconnect clip between the halfs as the jack was on the two neck side. It took me about 4 days to do drawings/wood-cutting/finish sanding etc..then Leon Reddell.,(who was working with me at Hoshino at the time) spent his week end painting it. On Monday I sanded/buffed out the beast and started to assemble it. We had no cases to ship it to California in, so I boxed it up with as much padding, (foam/bubble perk cardboard etc..) as I could. We shipped it out with many hopes that UPS would not fuck it up, and it would arrive in time for the video shoot. That was my main pressure, HE NEEDS THIS FOR A SHOOT IN PROGRESS! so I was harried to say the least during construction. I almost lost a finger during the routing of the bodies, but that's another story. Hope that clears that up.

Vai's comments

"I got the idea to play a guitar like that years ago and I always wanted to build it. Then I heard Michael Angelo was doing it. I haven't heard him yet but I hear he is very proficient on it and does come really wonderful things. It figures a shmoe like me would come along and take all the wind out of what he's doing. But I've got to come clean with everybody. I'm not the first one doing it. I can barely do it at all." (GFPM - 6/88)

"I'm not playing it [on the Just Like Paradise video]. The guitar arrived halfway through making the video. It was the first time I played it. I designed it a while ago. Ibanez built it in a few weeks which is ridiculous. It works great and it's very comfortable. It's not very heavy and it's fun to play. I just happened to use it." (GFPM - 6/88)

"One neck is going to be a 12-string. I want to explore with my right hand playing under the neck. I might turn it over. It's very hard. It's like starting all over. I've got some cool things that i started to work out where I tune the 12-string to a chord, let that ring, play a rhythm part on the one hand and start to tap our a melody on the other hand. I'll have a triple output on it so I can use three different amps." (GFPM - 6/88)

"With Whitesnake I fingered both necks live - I forget for which song. I had this little device made that would mute the strings at the nut to avoid unwanted open strings sounding." (The Guitarist - 5/95)

"The little mascot thing on the guitar was actually made for a hat that I ended up taking off and putting some feathers on and nailing it to the guitar - just to give it some character so it didn't just look like a big red heart." (The Guitarist - 5/95)

Update 6/2001 - This guitar was raffled to raise money for the Make A Noise Foundation (a nonprofit charity founded by Steve Vai & Richard Pike). Entrants all over the world bought tickets at $2 each for their chance to win Steve's Heart. The raffle raised nearly $10000 for MANF, and we thank everybody who participated! 7 other random winners won bottles of Fire Garden Honey farmed by the Vai family & bees. The lucky winner of was Eddie Andersson of Orebro, Sweden!


JEM "Tripleneck" Guitar


View Picture 2
- body closeup

This is one Ibanez' more impressive custom creations. This tripleneck actually has a purpose and can be played without being dyslexic. Notice the 12-string on top and the Edge tremolo for the middle neck. It has dual humbuckers for each neck. How cool would it be to have a 12-string JEM. This is a true beauty. Simon writes in that this guitar has an alder body and the bottom neck is fretless. The lower neck has painted white frets to visualize proper intonation.

If you read Vai's comments about the heart shaped guitar, you will realize that this triple neck is more realistic of a guitar for him to play. It seems to address the issue of him having severe difficulty with the vertical neck. This guitar has the 12-string addition he wanted too. Basically the ridiculous heart shaped guitar was abandoned for this one!

Jono writes in: It was designed to play the Sex and Religion tour so that Steve could play "Earth Dwellers Return" on the fretless (bottom Neck) then without changing guitar could go straight into "Here And Now". It proved too valuable and WAY too Fragile to make touring an option thus when he played England on this tour he used a normal White JEM (now there's a surprise!!)

Mace Bailey, the Ibanez luthier responsible for this creation writes in:

Also, my first technical note: The white triple-neck I made for Steve... The eye-in-pyramid graphic is a holographic eyeball that I inlayed into the body. When holding the guitar in playing position, it looks up at you! ... After Steve asked me if I could do this I said "Well ah, let me think about that and I will let you know" So then I had to shit myself and figure this out. Memory saved me and I went down to Hollywood blvd. and searched the tourist shops my a pair of holographic-eyeball glasses that I saw. Well I found three pair that I thought might work and cut a few up and the rest is history. Cool huh? - Take care Mace

Vai's comments

"I wanted to take it on the Sex and Religion tour but it was just too expensive to cart around - too fragile." (The Guitarist - 5/95)

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