Steve Vai has just announced his new signature Ibanez guitar called the PIA (Ibanez PIA3761). As Vai explains, he sees the PIA as an evolution over the popular Ibanez JEM.
In this quick post, I just wanted to go through the basic features of the Ibanez PIA to give you an idea of what has changed from the Ibanez JEM (and also to help me decide whether I want to get one or not!).
If you’re interested in learning more about Steve Vai and his gear, check out my Ultimate Guide to Steve Vai here. The guide covers his gear, tone, effects and more. Also, check out 7 Tips to Playing Like Steve Vai here for some more advice on Vai’s style.
At first glance, the Ibanez PIA looks pretty similar to the classic Ibanez JEM design with a few key changes.
Why Ibanez PIA? Steve Vai’s wife’s name is Pia. Although at the start of the announcement video (shown below), the words “Paradise In Art” appear. But the name was clearly inspired by his wife.
The Monkey Grip is Gone
In the below photo, you can also see that the outer edge of the alder body has a smooth bevel, which stands out when compared to the harder edges of the Ibanez JEM.
The monkey grip hole is gone and replaced with two holes in the style of flower petals or the Ying and Yang symbol. These petal shapes are used throughout the rest of the guitar and you can see them in the laser cut pickups.
The contours (front and back) are smoother than the Ibanez JEM and will be interesting to see whether it makes a difference to comfort while playing.
Ibanez PIA Blossom Inlay
The classic Tree of Life inlay has some subtle changes that I didn’t even notice until Vai pointed them out. You can see the petal shapes from the grip holes used throughout the inlay in the below photo.
Luminlay dot inlays are used on the side dots which are glow-in-the-dark fluorescent.
As you might expect, the Ibanez PIA uses a five-piece Maple/Walnut neck with a rosewood fretboard. The frets are Jumbo Stainless Steel with Ibanez Prestige fret-end treatment.
Magnetic Back Plate
A simple feature change that will make a lot of guitarists and guitar techs happy is the magnetic back plate.
Instead of having six screws hold the back plate down, magnets are used to keep it in position. Simply grab the back plate with the petal shaped holes and remove it.
This is such a simple idea that has been used in other non-guitar products for a long time and it’s one of those things that make you say “why hasn’t anybody else done this!”.
Hopefully, more guitar manufacturers will notice this feature and add it to their guitars. If you’re worried about the magnets not holding the back plate in position, they’ll be fine. I have something very similar in a non-guitar product and they work really well.
Carbon Fiber Whammy Bar
It should be no surprise that the Ibanez PIA uses an Ibanez Edge Tremolo bridge in gold finish.
The whammy bar is made out of carbon fiber, so while it looks chunky in the below photo, it’s super-lightweight. If you haven’t held a carbon fiber whammy bar before, the difference in weight may surprise you.
In these photos, you can also see the slight change in the knobs used for the volume and tone. The top edge has a smooth bevel and a pearl cap. The volume knob is lower down on the guitar body compared to the Ibanez JEM, so if you use violining technique, you may notice the slight change.
The volume knob has also been modified to use a capacitor to remove some low end when you drop the volume and keep a crisp tone. It’s a push-pull knob, so you can choose to activate the high pass function or not depending on what you’re playing.
DiMarzio UtoPIA Pickups
The Ibanez JEM uses new DiMarzio UtoPIA pickups in H-S-H configuration.
The pickup covers have been laser cut with a floral pattern that matches the PIA Blossom inlay and the petal-shaped grip holes. If you’ve seen Vai’s “Woody” guitar, you will have seen a similar effect on those pickups (which I think looks great).
I love that Vai is experimenting with this style of pickup covers, but the downside is that they will fill up with dust and gunk pretty quickly. So if you buy one of these guitars, get used to cleaning the pickups out every time you replace your strings.
Notice that behind the gold pickup covers you can see a white surface with more floral designs. The color of the pickups changes to match the color of the guitar as shown below.
Ibanez PIA Color Options
The Ibanez PIA will be available in four colors: Stallion White (as shown above), Envy Green, Panther Pink, and Sun Dew Gold.
If you’ve seen any classic Ibanez JEMs, you should know what to expect from these color options.
Here’s the Envy Green option. Notice the multi-colored PIA Blossom inlay.
Here’s the Panther Pink Ibanez PIA. You can see that the pickups are in matching pink underneath the gold casing. The volume and tone knobs also have a matching pink cap.
Here’s the Sun Dew Gold color option with matching colored volume and tone knobs.
Here are the four color options of the Ibanez PIA.
Now that I’ve walked through all of the main features of the Ibanez PIA, here’s the video where Steve Vai explains the inspiration and development of the guitar:
I’m looking forward to seeing the Ibanez PIA in person and if I’m lucky enough to get my hands on one, I’ll be writing a detailed review. At an RRP of $4666 USD, it’s way out of my budget at the moment, but I can always hope (hit me up, Ibanez!).
As the Ibanez PIA has only just been announced, more details will likely come soon. I will update this post as more details become available. Subscribe to updates here to stay up to date with more guides, lessons, reviews and more.
Check out my Ultimate Guide to Steve Vai here to learn more about his gear, tone, and effects.