Why do you have a passion for guitar? Odds are that you didn’t just see a guitar and want to play it. You probably heard someone playing one: a relative, a friend, at a show, on the radio, or on TV. Before you’ve started playing, it doesn’t take too much to excite you! Just seeing someone strum a couple of chords can blow your mind.
How do you keep that inspiration coming once you’re more experienced, though? How do you get surprised when you’re only coming across things you’ve already learned yourself? You have to seek out people who are far above your skill level. That’s what I’m going to help with in this blog – if any of these players sound interesting, your challenge is to look them up and listen to them as much as you can; find something they’ve done with guitar that you’ve never heard before!
These five aren’t listed in any particular order of who’s “best”, or my favourite:
Let’s start off strong. If you haven’t already heard of Andy, you’re going to be blown away when you look him up: try searching “Andy McKee Drifting” on YouTube.
Andy takes inspiration from players like Don Ross and Michael Hedges, blending percussive technique and open tunings to play a whole band’s worth of parts as a solo performance. One hand plays rhythm, the other plays lead, and both work together to get percussion going underneath by slapping the guitar. Somehow he still manages to fire of harmonics on top, too.
A one-man band without any of the novelty usually associated with the term. No tricks, just a whole bundle of skill and thought. Andy’s even opened for prog metal legends, and was asked by Prince to join his band for a tour. This is one seriously talented guy and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not checking him out.
Paco de Lucia
Sadly, Paco de Lucia (born Francisco Gustavo Sánchez Gomes) passed away earlier this year, in February. He’s left behind a valuable contribution to music. Besides many studio recordings, there are hundreds of live videos; his influence is so far-reaching that even Eric Clapton has commented on his creativity.
De Lucia is known as one of the greatest flamenco players of all time, and certainly one of the most inventive. His collaborations with other players, such as Al DiMeola, have resulted in interesting fusions of Jazz and Andalusian music in ways that hadn’t been considered before.
If you’re curious about flamenco and its fiery rhythms, Paco de Lucia is the player to look at.
Andrew Winton is an award winning singer-songwriter from Australia. What makes him interesting is that unlike most singer-songwriters he doesn’t just strum chords – he plays slide. He *really* plays slide.
Some of the licks he plays on his lapsteel are reminiscent of Eddie Van Halen’s tapping. But without any tapping! Slide alone might be a new experience for you, but combining complex slide phrases with singing and some serious chops is definitely something you don’t see everyday – even if you’re into slide already.
He also uses some interesting foot percussion that’s worth looking into if you want to add more rhythm when you play solo.
So far, this list’s focused on modern players pushing new styles and combinations of techniques. However, the other end of the spectrum can be just as inspirational. You just do not get any more authentic than Robert Johnson. When people play the Blues, they’re copying him – he is pretty much the stick by which Blues players are measured.
Heard the story about the man who went down to the crossroads to sell his soul, in return for playing prowess? That story’s about this guy.
To say he’s the real deal is a disrespectful understatement. Every guitarist needs to look him up, as soon as possible if you aren’t already familiar.
Sungha Jung is a Korean guitarist with over 2 million subscribers on YouTube. People obviously like him!
My recommendation is of this player not so much about technique, or even writing style. His technique is typical fingerstyle playing and most of his recordings are covers.
What does he do that’s unique, then? It’s the choice of what he covers that stands out. He isn’t just covering guitar music. His channel includes covers of things like film soundtracks, TV show intros and other unexpected pieces.
Besides appealing to fans of those movies, shows and videogames, the pieces work really well. Sungha has also covered pop music by artists like Adele; the trick there being that he doesn’t sing, he plays the vocal parts on guitar too!
If you want to try your hand at arranging pop pieces for solo guitar, it really helps to understand these kinds of pieces at a more basic level first. Guitarist Academy’s main site offers a number of resources that can help you get started.