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Meet 15 of the best players in the international fingerstyle guitar community, as they demonstrate their techniques, playing styles, and signature tunes.
Guitarist Teja Gerken has been deeply involved with the contemporary fingerstyle guitar scene for more than 20 years. As a performer, he has shared the stage with many of the genre’s finest players, including John Renbourn, Alex de Grassi, Peter Finger, Tony McManus, Preston Reed, Kaki King, Andy McKee, as well as his mentors, Duck Baker and Peppino D’Agostino.
Teja’s two CDs of solo fingerstyle tunes, On My Way and Postcards, have received international acclaim, and his compositions have been featured in Acoustic Guitar, Germany’s Akustik Gitarre, and Backbeat Books’ Play Acoustic. As a former senior editor at Acoustic Guitar magazine, Teja has written extensively about guitars and guitarists, often focusing on coverage of fingerstyle and classical guitar, including interviews with icons such as Leo Kottke, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Pierre Bensusan, Sergio Assad, Roland Dyens, David Tanenbaum, and dozens more. Teja has long been an active participant in the San Francisco Bay Area’s vibrant acoustic music scene and hosts a long-running series of acoustic guitar showcases in a variety of venues, from cafés to larger stages. Teja has extensive experience teaching private students, and he has taught workshops at guitar stores, California’s Healdsburg Guitar Festival, and New York’s Acoustic Sessions. Teja is co-founder and producer of PegheadNation. tejagerken.com
Ed Gerhard teaches his arrangement of “The Water is Wide” in dropped-D tuning, stressing the importance of supporting the melody and giving pointers for effectively building a dynamic arrangement. With Notation/Tab
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Since releasing his debut album Night Birds in 1987, Ed Gerhard has been at the forefront of American fingerstyle guitar. Playing both standard and lap-style slide guitar, Ed is a master of tone and subtle beauty, as heard on both his original compositions and arrangements of other pieces. In this workshop Ed plays and teaches his version of the traditional folk tune “The Water Is Wide,” stressing the importance of supporting the melody and giving pointers for effectively building a dynamic arrangement. His demonstrations of his custom Breedlove guitars (a Revival series dreadnought and Weissenborn-style guitar) include performances of “Rye Whiskey Mash” and Rowland Salley’s “Killing the Blues.” Includes complete transcription of “The Water Is Wide”
Originally influenced by Doc Watson, John Renbourn, and Leo Kottke while learning to play guitar in his native Italy, Peppino D’Agostino has become one of the most original and virtuosic players on the fingerstyle scene. He is known for his percussive playing, keen sense of melody, and the incorporation of classical elements in his repertoire and technique. In this workshop, Peppino plays a long-time favorite composition, “Mediterranean Spark,” and demonstrates a few of its key sections. He also plays a new piece dedicated to classical guitarist Sérgio Assad and talks about his Seagull Signature CW QII guitar. Includes complete transcription of “Mediterranean Spark”
Australian guitarist Adam Miller excels at playing funky grooves and improvisation, aided by the remarkable independence of his picking-hand thumb and fingers. First inspired by Tommy Emmanuel, Adam is also influenced by Charlie Hunter and John Mayer, and the result is a highly original style. In this workshop, Adam plays his original composition “Parker,” shows you how to play the main theme, and demonstrates his approach to improvising a single-note melody over a repetitive bass line. He also demonstrates his Jeff Traugott guitar, a 00 built with a German spruce top and Indian rosewood back and sides. Includes notation/tab of the main theme of “Parker” and improvised examples
Eric Skye is best known for his fingerstyle jazz arrangements, as demonstrated on his CD A Different Kind of Blue, which re-creates Miles Davis’ classic album Kind of Blue in a solo acoustic guitar context. In this workshop, Eric plays and teaches his composition “Happy Cake.” Played in DGDGBE tuning, “Happy Cake” is based on a jazz-blues structure and makes use of rich-sounding open bass notes, artificial harmonics, and extended single-note explorations. He also talks about the development of his OO-Skye Santa Cruz Guitar Co. signature model guitar. Includes complete transcription of “Happy Cake”
Mary Flower is one of the most respected contemporary practitioners of Piedmont-style blues fingerpicking. A three-time finalist at the Walnut Valley International Fingerstyle Guitar Championship, Mary has won numerous awards and released ten CDs. In this workshop, she plays and teaches her original composition “Ruckus Rag,” a 12-bar blues in dropped-D tuning, played with a steady bass line and some occasional harmonic surprises. She also demonstrates her Fraulini Angelina guitar, built by luthier Todd Cambio and based on a 1920s Oscar Schmidt 12-fret, ladder-braced guitar. Includes complete transcription of “Ruckus Rag”
Tony McManus is one of the greatest Celtic guitarists of all time, equally adept at fingerstyle and flatpicking, and an astonishingly diverse fingerstyle guitarist. His repertoire includes Irish airs, Scottish reels, French and Spanish Celtic tunes, classical pieces, and even the occasional jazz tune. In this workshop, Tony plays his arrangement of the traditional song “Shallow Brown” (in CGCGCD tuning) then takes it apart, showing you how he combines an arpeggiated chord accompaniment with the melody. He also shows you how to play some of his signature ornaments, including an exercise for working on triplets, and demonstrates both his PRS signature model (playing an excerpt from J.S. Bach’s “Chaconne”) and Linda Manzer Sitar-Guitar, which gets its sitar-like buzzing tone from a unique bridge made of movable flat bone blocks. Includes notation/tab with melody and chords for “Shallow Brown” as well as triplet exercises
British-born Richard Smith is one of the finest contemporary exponents of the thumbpicking style developed by Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed. While his hot fingerpicking won him the 2001 National Fingerstyle Guitar contest, his musical versatility extends to Gypsy jazz, Bach, and the Beatles. In this workshop, Richard plays and teaches his arrangement of the Merle Travis classic “Nine Pound Hammer,” which includes some Chet Atkins-style flourishes. He also demonstrates his signature model Kirk Sand acoustic-electric nylon-string guitar with an arrangement of Jerry Reed’s “East Wind.” Includes notation/tablature of “Nine Pound Hammer” with variations
Acclaimed fingerstyle jazz guitarist Sean McGowan is known for his virtuosic and complex solo guitar arrangements of jazz and popular songs. He is also a dedicated educator, and is the Guitar Program Director at the University of Colorado Denver. In this workshop, Sean teaches his approach to comping on a jazz-blues progression in the key of C, offering ideas and suggestions for chords, transitions, independent bass lines, and rhythmic approaches for effective comping. He demonstrates his Brad Nickerson Solstice archtop guitar on a couple of tunes from his recording of songs from the musical My Fair Lady. Includes notation/tab for five different ways to play a jazz/blues progression
Paul Asbell is one of the most versatile fingerstyle guitarists around, with solid roots in the blues and jazz, having played with blues legends Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, and Lightnin’ Hopkins, as well as the jazz group Kilimanjaro. In this workshop Paul plays and teaches his arrangement of the early jazz standard “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home,” which combines jazz-style chord-melody playing with Travis-picking techniques and syncopated rhythmic ideas. He demonstrates his Julius Borges OM with a performance of his original tune “Bound for Adamant.” Includes complete transcription of “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home”
Tim Sparks is one of the most creative forces in contemporary fingerstyle guitar. His recordings included original material, traditional Jewish music, country-blues guitar, and even the Nutcracker Suite. His album Chasin’ the Boogie includes originals and arrangements of American traditional and pop songs, including the jazzy reharmonization of “Wayfaring Stranger” he teaches in this workshop. Tim’s arrangement in dropped-D tuning is underpinned by a steady Travis-style alternating bass and his reharmonization includes extended chord voicings as well as improvised single-note lines. To demonstrate his custom 2004 Hoffman guitar Tim plays “Chasin’ the Boogie,” an original based in the country-blues fingerpicking tradition. Includes complete transcription of “Wayfaring Stranger”
Ever since bursting onto the acoustic guitar scene in the early 2000s, Portland, Oregon, guitarist Jamie Stillway has been a fixture at guitar festivals and camps. Her original style is heavily influenced by early jazz and ragtime. In this workshop, Jamie plays and teaches her original “Analysis Paralysis,” a jazzy tune in standard tuning based on a simple Em–B7 progression. She also talks about her “FDA” approach to learning the fingerboard, an alternative to the popular “CAGED” system. To demonstrate her Stevens O-BW guitar, a 12-fret size 0 guitar with an Engelmann spruce top and Tasmanian blackwood back and sides, Jamie plays “Home: Part 2,” a medium-tempo original with a distinctive melody. Includes complete transcription of “Analysis Paralysis”
Since first appearing on the roots music scene as a member of Vassar Clements’ band in the 1970s, Mike Dowling has impressed and delighted audiences with his engaging and versatile approach to fingerstyle guitar. In this workshop, Mike plays and teaches his arrangement of Mississippi John Hurt’s “Let the Mermaids Flirt with Me,” which he converted into an open-D tuning slide guitar piece. Built on rock-solid Travis picking, Mike’s arrangement combines the tune’s melody with full-sounding open-string chords. He also talks about his two touring guitars: his signature model National, which is based on a 1930s El Trovador, and a brass-body National ResoRocket N. Includes complete transcription of “Let the Mermaids Flirt with Me”
Muriel Anderson’s career as a fingerstyle guitarist has a remarkably wide scope. She won the 1989 Walnut Valley fingerstyle guitar championship, has released more than a dozen CDs, and is comfortable in styles ranging from classical to contemporary. Muriel is also one of the most accomplished and popular advocates of the harp guitar, and her long-running All Star Guitar Night concert series features many of the world’s finest guitarists. In this workshop, she performs and teaches her tune “Two Shores,” which makes use of an advanced method of playing artificial harmonics to create a huge, ringing, harp-like sound. Muriel explains the basic technique, and shows you how she uses it in “Two Shores.” She also demonstrates her Doolin harp guitar on “A Baker’s Dozen,” an original harp-guitar piece in 13/8 time. Includes complete transcription of “Two Shores”
In this workshop, Advanced Fingerstyle Workshop host Teja Gerken teaches his own composition, “Seven Years,” a four-part piece in D minor. “Seven Years” combines standard fingerstyle techniques with some two-handed tapping and harmonic slaps. Teja explains the two-handed tapping technique and shows you some of the intricacies of the standard fingerstyle sections. Includes complete transcription of “Seven Years”
It’s difficult to imagine the contemporary fingerstyle guitar landscape without Mark Hanson, As a performer, Mark’s recorded works include four solo CDs, albums with duet partner Doug Smith and the Acoustic Guitar Summit, as well as tracks on numerous compilations, including the 2005 Grammy-winning Pink Guitar. Mark, a former editor at Frets magazine, founded his own company Accent on Music in 1985, publishing a highly influential line of fingerstyle instruction and transcription books, and he hosts the Accent on Music Guitar Seminar series in Portland, Oregon. In this workshop, Mark plays and teaches his original composition “Parasol Spin,” a deft combination of bossa nova and blues styles in standard tuning. Includes complete transcription of “Parasol Spin”
Check out these tunes and artists featured in Advanced Fingerstyle Workshop.