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Interview: Martin Taylor and Tommy Emmanuel: Duo de Swing

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Interview: Martin Taylor and Tommy Emmanuel: Duo de Swing


Tommy Emmanuel

Martin, you also snuck some originals onto the album.

Taylor: I only write music when I have to—when I have a project. Some people I know write something everyday. I don't, because I find if I do that I just have all this music driving around in my head making me crazy [laughs]. It's very difficult to work on new things when you are on the road, because you’re just keeping that together and constantly moving. The most important thing is doing the gig and doing the gig well. If I'm at home, then I can kind of think of new things. This summer I'm not touring, so I'm going to spend quite a bit of time coming up with some original music. A lot of the original music I write isn't for solo guitar. I had a group called Spirit of Django, and I wrote a lot of music for that. I wrote an orchestral suite, which was performed recently with Britain Symphonia. I like to hear it played in a band setting, with other people playing it. I'm thinking of writing some more things for solo guitar for me to play, though.

It must be a great feeling, knowing you're contributing to the solo-guitar repertoire.

Taylor: Yeah, it is. We recorded one of my tunes, "True," on the album, and a lot of guitar players play that now—particularly in Asia. It's just the melody that has seemed to really catch on there. It's been used in Japan on a couple of TV things, as well.

Emmanuel: There's no greater high in life than playing your own music—it's like the ultimate drug. I really, really love playing my own songs and putting it out there. On the other hand, when I find a song I really like—for instance, "Wonderful Baby"—I find a nice key to play it in where the melody would sound flowing, with some nice, juicy chords underneath. I really enjoy putting those arrangements together. I try to keep it simple and smooth and try to find ways of surprising the listener, y'know?

Martin Taylor's Gear

Guitars
Peerless Martin Taylor Maestro

Strings, Picks, and Accessories
Elixir Nickel Roundwound Nanoweb .012.052 sets, David Grisman Dawg mandolin picks

Tommy Emmanuel's Gear

Guitars
Maton EBG808, David Taylor OM-size acousitc, Godin 5th Avenue, Martin 0-17, Martin D-28

Strings
Martin .012.054 sets

You're both pretty active with guitar education these days. Martin, how did your online lessons come about?

Taylor: I was asked to do it, really. I had no interest at all in teaching, because I wouldn't know what to teach—I wasn't taught myself! But a lot of guitarists ask for lessons. The guy who was my guitar mentor was a guy named Ike Issacs, and he was a very good teacher. Although I didn't have lessons with him, I used to hang out with him and we did some gigs together. He said when you get older you will feel like teaching, and it'd be a good thing if you do because by then you will have acquired so much more knowledge and you will need to share it.

As time went on, when I was home from touring, I thought about all the players who had asked for lessons. Instead of just sitting here while not touring, I thought I could do that. So often I was hearing guitar players that actually played well, but I thought I could make them play that better by suggesting some things to them. I started doing mentoring sessions about two or three times a year. I used to hire a studio and had a number of students who used to come. Essentially, I became a guitar psychologist, because I was working with their minds more than their guitar playing. That really interested me. It was just the way they were looking at things—it was just the wrong way or they hadn't even noticed certain things.

I had been doing that for about a year or so when I was in Italy doing a gig and ran into Jimmy Bruno while he was on vacation. He started telling me about the guitar school he had with ArtistWorks and how David Butler had mentioned to him that he would be very interested in me starting an online school. My immediate reaction was "No." It was too much and I wouldn't have the time to do it. But we set up a phone conversation with David and we got talking about it and I decided to give it a try. My biggest concern was not having the time. There were a few scary moments when I was on tour and was trying to keep up with video submissions, but as time has gone by now—almost three years—I've figured out how to do it, and I pretty well keep on top of everything. If I'm at home, I film at my studio at home, and on the road I have a little camera and my laptop. The first thing was coming up with a curriculum. I had to get together with David and understand what's involved when you want to learn to play the guitar. I spent a lot of time with David figuring out what guitar players want to know from me. He heaped a lot of things out, and from that I came up with a method. I had already written a method book with David Mead. I thought I could base things around that—well I had to, because that's what I do. So, we got together and filmed all the material and took it from there. The great thing is, as I started to do it, I found out I really enjoy teaching.

Tommy, how about you—what's your take on teaching?

Emmanuel: I think it's important to learn stuff correctly. Young people are learning at such an incredible rate now because they have everything in front of them. I still recommend people don't use tab. You need to recognize it and tell that the song is in E and then goes to C# minor, y'know? They have to train their ear. I still encourage young people especially to do that. There's no greater pleasure than teaching someone something that blows their mind.

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