Knowing the Standard

May 13, 2006 · Print This Article

For any inventor, it is essential to understand what the “standard” currently is, in order to improve upon it. The “state of the art” is usually a product of countless hours, years and work from many people. Learning to play the guitar is no different. So many guitar players have stepped on the shoulders of those that came before them, to help them develop their technique and musicality. Once you see or hear something, it’s generally much easier to duplicate than if you attempted the same feat without hearing someone else do it.

In today’s world of digital technology, we have a great advantage over the players from the past. We can find CD’s and/or DVD’s of almost any player we could ever want to see. Here’s a list of what I consider to be essential listening for guitar players. These folks set the standard for excellence, and being exposed to their music makes us better players just be hearing the capabilities of the instrument. The list is by no means exhaustive, but I just wanted to share some musicians who helped turn the light on inside my musical brain.

Tommy Emmanuel – When I saw Tommy for the first time, my entire world view about the guitar changed. He plays with strong melody and groove, incredibly fast, highly melodic, and demonstrates certain techniques such as artificial harmonics at the highest level. Tommy expands what is capable of being accomplished on the guitar. His albums such as Only, Endless Road and CGP Live One are wonderful, but seeing him live is really essential. To that end, the Concert Live at Sheldon Hall and instructional DVD Up Close are wonderful opportunities to see Tommy play.

Barry Flanagan from the group Hapa – Barry is a master of tone and style. His sound is Hawaiian, but easily recognizable. Hapa’s albums are all great listens, and they have a DVD put out by PBS Hawaii.

Chris Thile – Chris Thile is primarily a mandolin player (not guitarist) in the group Nickel Creek. His musical ideas are always interesting and tasteful. Chris is one of those child phenoms who could play beyond fast at a very young age, but as an adult, his musical ideas are fresh and innovative.

John Williams – In today’s world of classical guitar, there is a monster player around every corner. Clean, fast, musical, all of the above. John’s playing, however, continues to be a consistent resource in excellence. His versions of Barrios on the album “From the Jungles of Paraguay” is breathtaking.

Jake Shimabukuro – For all you ukulele fans, there is no ignoring that Jake sets the standard for ukulele virtuosity.

The list of musicians goes on and on, but the principle is simple: the path to achieving and exceeding the standard of excellence requires first understanding the current state of the art.


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