Ernie Ball String Theory is a web series that explores the sonic origins of some of music’s most innovative guitar players. In this episode, legendary guitarist Steve Lukather of Toto discusses his obsession with playing guitar, his drive as a musician, and his contributions to some of the world’s most notable records. Find out the top six things we learned…

1. Dream crazy.

SL: “Everybody said, ‘You have a billion in one chance of making it and my answer to that was always, ‘I’m going to be that guy.’ My dad asked me that when I was nine. I told him what I wanted to do and he said that was a crazy dream and asked ‘What if it doesn’t happen?’ And I go, ‘There’s no way it’s not going to happen.'”

2. In the wise words of Frank Zappa: “Shut Up N’ Play Yer Guitar.”

SL: “Those are the only moments — when I’m on stage for the two hours or whatever it is — that life just stops and I’m just focusing on [my guitar] and the music and getting that across. You disappear in it. It’s the greatest thing in the world to be able to have something to express yourself besides your mouth… Which usual gets everyone in trouble anyway. Shut up and play the guitar. I believe Mr. Zappa said it best.”

3. He has relied on Super Slinky since the 1970s.

SL: “I just remember the pink pack my whole life. I’d do odd jobs so I could afford a new set of strings. There was a local music store called Valley Music and I used to ride my Schwinn Stingray and throw down for a couple of picks and a new set of strings to put on my shitty, thrifty drug store guitar.”

4. He played bass on Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

SL: “David Foster turned me on to Quincy Jones when I was 23-years-old. I was working with David a lot at that time and Quincy was putting his album together The Dude. I played all of the guitar on that and he took a shine to me. He said he was doing Michael [Jackson’s] next record and he wanted me on it. I was thrilled. I played bass on that too. Nobody knows that.”

5. Never become complacent.

SL: “Every day I’m motivated. I have a guitar plugged into an amp and I practice every morning. I get up, take my kid to school, grab coffee, place is quiet, I have my dog, and I just practice. It’s like meditation… I want to learn. The days of trying to be the fastest guy in the West are so far behind me. There’s little kids that play better than me. But I try to refine, find a new note, and find a new thing.”

6. The guitar is an ingrained part of his identity.

SL: “The guitar has been the greatest thing. Having the gift to hold [a guitar] and make a living doing this, and express myself as a human being through it… I don’t know what I’d do without this thing. That’s really the truth.”

Strings

Steve Lukather relies on Ernie Ball Super Slinky Paradigm electric guitar strings for his signature sound. Steve also has his iconic signature Ernie Ball Music Man Luke guitar collection which has been a staple instrument line since the very beginning.

String Theory

Check out similar String Theory films from Ernie Ball featuring artists such as Mac DemarcoRobin Finck of Nine Inch Nails, Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World, Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, Daron Malakian of System of a Down, and Kurt Vile.

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