|Satriani was inspired to play guitar at age 14 after learning of the death of Jimi Hendrix. He reportedly heard the news during a football training session, where he immediately confronted his coach and announced that he was quitting to become a guitarist.
In 1974, Satriani studied music with jazz guitarist Billy Bauer and with reclusive jazz pianist Lennie Tristano. The technically demanding Tristano greatly influenced Satriani's playing. Satriani also began teaching guitar, with his most notable student at the time being fellow Long Island native Steve Vai.
In 1978 Satriani moved to Berkeley, California to pursue a music career. Not long after his arrival he resumed teaching. His most notable California students included Kirk Hammett (Metallica), David Bryson (Counting Crows), Kevin Cadogan (Third Eye Blind), Larry LaLonde (Primus, Possessed), Alex Skolnick (Testament), Rick Hunolt (Exodus), Phil Kettner (Lääz Rockit), Geoff Tyson, and Charlie Hunter.
When his friend and former student Steve Vai gained fame playing with David Lee Roth in 1986, Vai raved about Satriani in several interviews with guitar magazines. In 1987, Satriani's second album Surfing with the Alien produced popular radio hits and was the first all-instrumental release to chart so highly in many years. In 1988 Satriani also toured Australia and New Zealand with Simon Doull in support of his suffering cricket career. That same year, he helped produce the EP The Eyes of Horror for the death metal band Possessed.
In 1989, Satriani released the album Flying in a Blue Dream. The album sold well, particularly in Texas. "One Big Rush" was featured on the soundtrack to the Cameron Crowe movie Say Anything. "The Forgotten Part II" was featured on a Labatt Blue commercial in Canada in 1993. "Big Bad Moon", one of Satriani's few songs to feature his vocals, was a minor hit in late 1989.
In 1992, Satriani released The Extremist, his most critically acclaimed and commercially successful album to date. Radio stations across the country were quick to pick up on "Summer Song", while "Cryin'", "Friends" and the title track were regional hits.
In late 1993, Satriani joined Deep Purple as a short-term replacement for departed guitarist Ritchie Blackmore during the band's Japanese tour. The concerts were such a success that Satriani was asked to join the band permanently, but he declined, having just signed a multi-album solo deal with Sony, so Steve Morse took the guitarist slot in Deep Purple.
In 1996, he formed G3, a concert tour featuring three instrumental rock guitarists -- originally Satriani, Vai, and Eric Johnson. The G3 tour has continued periodically since its inaugural version, where Satriani and Vai are returning members, featured with a floating third member, including among others Eric Johnson, Yngwie Malmsteen, John Petrucci, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Robert Fripp, Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker, Adrian Legg and Paul Gilbert.
In 1998 Satriani recorded and released Crystal Planet, which went back to a sound more reminiscent of his late '80s work. Planet was followed up with Engines of Creation, one of his more experimental works featuring the 'Electronica' genre of music. During the subsequent tour, a pair of shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco were recorded in December 2000 and released as Live in San Francisco, a two-disc live album and DVD.
Over the next several years, Satriani regularly recorded and released new music, including Strange Beautiful Music in 2002 and Is There Love in Space? in 2004.
In 2006 Satriani recorded and released Super Colossal and Satriani Live!, another two-disc live album and DVD recorded May 3, 2006 at the Grove in Anaheim, CA.
On August 7, 2007 Epic/Legacy Recordings re-released Surfing with the Alien to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its release. This was a two-disc set that includes a remastered album and a DVD of a previously never-before-seen live show filmed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1988.
Satriani's newest album, titled Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock, was released on April 1, 2008.
It was revealed on May 29, 2008 that Satriani is involved in a new hard rock project with former Van Halen members Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith.
The band, which will feature Hagar on vocals, Satriani on guitar, Anthony on bass and Smith on drums, is currently tentatively called "Chickenfoot" and is currenty writing material and getting ready for the recording of their debut album which will start in the summer.