Song Spotlight: Steve Vai – Building The Church

Sometimes it is best to just let the music do the talking. This is definitely the case with Steve Vai’s extraordinary instrumental Building The Church. It is the opening track to his 2005 album Real Illusions: Reflections.


Steve Vai has long been known for his out of this world guitar skills. He is also a musician who continues to hone his craft. Like a fine wine he improves with age. For the Real Illusions: Reflections album he gathered an equally skilled group of musicians to support him. The roster included Billy Sheehan on bass and Jeremy Colson on drums. How many bassists can keep up with Steve Vai? Not many, Sheehan is Vai’s equal on the bass and the two make a perfect team.

Steve Vai has amassed an impressive back catalog of solo albums. Throughout his career he has written some standout tracks including his signature song, For The Love Of God, the thunderous Bad Horsie and the incredibly dynamic and emotional Tender Surrender. I would rank Building The Church as one of his all time best songs.

The song from start to finish is exceptional. It is an absolute shredfest, but the song has plenty of melodic guitar moments throughout. There are a few moments that really stand out for me.

The song hits the ground running with an extremely impressive two-handed tapping lick. Wow, that really gets your attention! This lick is repeated and expanded about halfway through the song.


At the 1:09 mark there is a cool motif that the band revisits a few times during the course of the song. The shredding stops and Vai plays an incredibly cool series of sustains notes. These sections give the song a few places to breathe.

At the 2:38 mark Vai’s rhythm guitars drop out. Billy Sheehan holds down the rhythm on bass and Vai just lights up the fretboard. When the shredfest is over he launches back into the eye opening two-handed tapping lick from the song’s introduction.

Building The Church showcases Vai’s strengths as a guitarist and songwriter. It is a song full of dynamics and emotion that takes the listener on a musical journey.  As the album’s opener it sets the table for one of Steve Vai’s best albums.

Troy T.


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