The percussive fingerstyle master who inspired Andy McKee and Kaki King returns to his roots with a mind-blowing new album.
One of the most influential solo guitarists of the last two decades, Preston Reed has wowed audiences the world over with his percussive, fretting-hand-over-the-top-of-the-neck technique and directly informed such contemporary acoustic players as Kaki King (who studied with Reed at the Swannanoa Gathering music camp before her debut album) and Andy McKee. Tunes like “Ladies’ Night,” “Tractor Pull,” “Metal,” and “Blasting Cap” are required YouTube viewings, and you really can’t discuss today’s fingerstyle guitar scene without including Reed.
A New York state native, Reed spent many years in the fertile Minneapolis guitar scene before settling in Scotland in 2000. But before achieving acclaim with his notoriously percussive style, Reed honed his craft as a fairly traditional fingerpicker, putting out five albums (starting with 1979’s Acoustic Guitar) before debuting his now-famous techniques on the MCA Records release Instrument Landing in 1989. But while being signed to a major-label meant a growing mainstream audience, it also made Reed feel like he’d lost control over his work. After 1992’s Border Towns, he set out on his own again, independently releasing Metal—the album that would define him as a solo guitar force to be reckoned with—in 1995.
In the decade that followed, Reed was highly visible: He toured relentlessly, represented Ovation guitars at NAMM shows and clinics (for many years his axe of choice was a custom Adamas Longneck model), released an instructional video (The Guitar of Preston Reed: Expanding the Realm of Acoustic Playing from Homespun Tapes), and appeared in many magazine ads.
The last few years have seen Reed touring less in the U.S. and more in the rest of the world (in 2013 alone, his itinerary included China, Mexico, South Africa, France, and Poland). He expanded his shows to include a range of guitars, including electrics, classicals, and 12-strings, and his 2007 album, Spirit, even featured straight-ahead solo tunes played with a distinct jazz vibe on an electric archtop.
But now Reed has returned to the style he’s best known for—and with a vengeance. His latest album, In Here out There, highlights new compositions and a few old favorites that demonstrate a high level of maturity and confidence. Put simply, Reed has never sounded better.
Rather than trying to break new ground, In Here out There seems like a continuation of what you’re best known for doing.
It really is. The new ground I broke was really with the two previous albums. It was high time for me to get back to playing acoustic, because it had been 12 years since I’d made an all-acoustic record with my integrative percussion guitar playing being the main thing.
Did you re-record some of your earlier tunes mostly to make them available again, or did you want to add some new twists?
I have a long-term agenda of getting my stuff back from a major label that basically put albums I’d written, produced, and performed into a vault. I’ve tried to get them back, but they won’t—because major labels just never do that. The next best thing was to just re-record them.
Another agenda is pushing forward with my integrative percussion guitar playing. There are some new compositions, like “Border Reivers,” which is in 5/8 time—it’s the first time I’d ever played in 5/8. And then there’s “Moonlight Race,” which is in 7/8. I think seven is just about my favorite time signature to play in. And then there is “Delayed Train,” which is sort of a remake of a tune called “Train,” but using digital delay, which somehow really enhances it.
What tunings are you using?
I’m still playing the tunings I’ve pretty much always used. On the baritone guitar, the tuning I use a lot is Bb F C F F C [Ed. note: The same tuning on a standard-scale guitar would be a whole-step higher: C G D G G D.]. That tuning really works well for my style, because it’s really a power chord with a IV on the bottom, so it becomes really easy to write tunes where the tune is in the key of the power chord, and then you can develop it by suddenly showing the big IV sound with the bottom end.
A variation of it that I use a lot is Bb F C F G C, where you’re tuning the second string up. Then there’s a beautiful tuning that “Far Horizon” and other tunes of mine are in, and that’s where you take the tuning I just told you about, but you drop the low string down one half-step to B.
What are your main guitars now?
They’re made by Mark Bailey at Bailey Guitars in the U.K. I met him when I first came to Scotland and played at the Kirkmichael International Guitar Festival. He lived nearby all those years, and three years ago it was just time to retire the Ovation. It was becoming unreliable—the electronics were getting old—but there were things about it that I really liked. So I went to him and said, “If I gave you a design for an acoustic guitar, would you build it?” He said “sure,” so I brought him all the dimensions and the characteristics that I loved about the Ovation.
Which parts of the Ovation design did you want to retain?
The neck and the way it balanced, and I wanted the body to sort of taper so that I could keep it close to me in the places that I wanted it to be. The result is this wonderful guitar I’m playing now, which is the prototype for the Preston Reed Signature Baritone. I also wanted to get a normal guitar, so he built me a standard-sized jumbo using the same kind of design specifications, but a little bit smaller. I used both of them on the album, and I tour with both of them. They have very different characteristics: The jumbo is great for playing funky tunes—it has a very punchy midrange, and I love it for tunes like “Funkin’ at the Junction.” The baritone is kind of a gentler, more beautiful-sounding guitar. But sometimes you don’t want so much emotion—you want more aggressive punch.
What’s the scale of the baritone?
It’s 28.35 inches.
What woods do the two new Bailey guitars use?
The baritone has a cedar top and mahogany back and sides. The jumbo has a spruce top and mahogany back and sides.
How did you originally get into the two-handed tapping approach?
I started off playing a lot of 12-string, and I was quite influenced by Leo Kottke, John Fahey, and Jorma Kaukonen. Those three were the core of my early guitar influences. Learning how they played gave me a really good foundation in a wonderful and powerful guitar style that I love and still use a lot in my compositions.
But in the late ’80s, I started to feel bored with just doing the fingerpicking. I was watching what Michael Hedges, Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Healey, and Stanley Jordan were doing, and I think it gave me an itch to make my mark with something. I said to myself, “How can I play drums and guitar at the same time?” I had always noticed that the acoustic guitar makes these awesome drum sounds, and depending on where you hit it—just as with any other drum—you get all these different timbres and textures and sounds out of it. With the exception of Michael Hedges and maybe flamenco people, that percussive aspect of the guitar was being completely ignored. The only thing guitarists were focused on was the sound of the strings, and that just seemed tragically limiting.
I knew I was not going to be able to do an integrated drum rhythm while playing the guitar normally, because both hands are already busy fretting and picking strings, so I went, “What would happen if, instead of trying to add drums to guitar playing, I started off playing a drum beat on the guitar, pretending I was a drummer, and then negotiated the strings into that?” Part of it might be that I’m left-handed but have always played right-handed, but for some reason my left hand just really took to playing above the neck. It made it easier to play percussion on the neck and upper bout, and I almost instantly started to play bass lines with my left hand. Then I was able to use the upper strings with my right hand to do some syncopated strumming.
Preston Reed demonstrates his renowned two-handed tapping technique on “Funkin’ at the Junction” from his new album, In Here out There.
When you write a tune, do you immediately go to a two-handed technique as you develop the piece, or do you come up with a musical idea first and then figure out how to play it?
I just let myself drift and experiment. My favorite kind of composition is a blend of different techniques, only one of which is going to be the hammer-ons and pull-offs over the top of the neck. It works best to have compositions that have different sections to them, like in “Moonlight Races.” It starts off with fingerpicking and then goes off into percussive stuff and drums, and then it goes into the integrated percussive, two-hands-over-the-neck stuff.
I’m really glad to have had the foundation of more traditional fingerpicking, so when I started playing over the neck it gave me another sound I could employ to make the composition more varied and interesting.
What tips do you have for players who wants to explore a similar style?
What’s important is to be really aware of what kind of a tune it is. If you want to make a rocking, grooving tune, then the most important thing to pay attention to first is the groove. Before you even get into developing a melody or a harmonic progression, the very first thing you want to pay attention to is the rhythm. When I’m writing a tune like that, the first thing I look for is a bass line and a combination of bass and percussion that feels really good. It’s like building a house—you create the foundation before you build the house.
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Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
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Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
Belltone P-90 Foil-Tron Pickup
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.