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Fingerstyle Composer Peppino D’Agostino Connects the Steel-String Guitar Worlds

For the reason that ’80s, Peppino D’Agostino has created an mighty imaginative and prescient of the acoustic guitar as a dwell performance instrument, tapping into now not handiest the steel-string’s native idioms of oldsters, blues, and nation nonetheless also nylon-string traditions from Italy, Spain, and Brazil. Like many fellow explorers of fingerstyle guitar, D’Agostino uses unorthodox tunings, percussion, and other prolonged tactics to launch up contemporary vistas on the instrument. Yet his guitar compositions in actual fact feel pushed, at the birth, by melody—now not fingerboard acrobatics. 

First and main from Italy, D’Agostino started off within the U.S. as a avenue musician and restaurant guitarist in San Francisco. He mute makes his home within the Bay Space, touring internationally along with his signature Seagull guitar. D’Agostino’s discography attests to his diverse interests, including collaborations with classical guitarist David Tanenbaum, Italian songwriter and pop producer Corrado Rustici, and electrical rock guitarist Stef Burns. D’Agostino’s most most up-to-date album, Connexion, showcases his vary and mastery as a participant/composer.

As smartly as to his performing occupation, D’Agostino is a prolific teacher, organising lessons in most up-to-date years for TrueFire and Guitar by Masters, as smartly as interactive scores via Interlude. Along with his accomplice, Donna, he runs Tune World Retreats, which gives music camps within the U.S. and Europe for guitarists as smartly as mandolin, ukulele, and violin gamers. Upcoming guitar events encompass a Martin Taylor retreat in California and a bluegrass immersion in Sicily with Bryan Sutton and Chris Eldridge. 

I caught up with D’Agostino by cell phone to be taught more about his most up-to-date travels with guitar. 

Whereas you were discovering out to play in Italy, turned into once there a particular artist who drew you into instrumental steel-string guitar music?

You understand, once I started, I frail to play electrical guitar—I turned into once a limiteless fan of [John] McLaughlin and one of the early Santana, that roughly stuff. Nonetheless then somebody brought a characterize from the U.S. in 1974: it turned into once John Fahey, Leo Kottke, and Peter Lang on Takoma Records. The music turned into once in actual fact undefinable. It turned into once now not blues, it turned into once now not nation—it turned into once varied. I turned into once at once drawn to that and started, cherish folks in my generation, to verify out to replicate it. Needless to claim there turned into once correct form the turntable at that level, so, you know, up and down with the needle. 

The silly part is that I didn’t know about launch tunings. I turned into once attempting to recreate what Leo and Peter Lang and Fahey were doing the use of identical outdated tuning, so no doubt I went enraged. Nonetheless then almost definitely I be taught someplace about changing the tuning. 

Did you look other instrumental guitarists at the time as smartly?

I’ve been repeatedly very attracted to many varied kinds, and for the Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, Lenny Breau fingerstyle, I want to present credit to [French guitarist] Marcel Dadi. He turned into once playing Chet Atkins songs, and internal the vinyl there were repeatedly the tabs. 

In the intervening time also, Stefan Grossman turned into once living in Italy, and I keep in mind going to consult with with him. He turned into once living shut to Rome, and he had this model called Kicking Mule. That’s how I stumbled on folks cherish John Renbourn and Dave Evans, who I procure turned into once a genius. There’s an album called Unhappy Pig Dance that is gorgeous. 

Compared with loads of instrumental guitarists, you focal level critical more on melody. Does melody e book your composing route of?

In traditional, yes. I procure it’s because I grew up singing Italian songs that are very melodic. After I started playing guitar, I turned into once playing the chords and accompanying my order because that’s what my peers wanted, in reveal that transferred later on once I started writing instrumental music.

You understand, as I’ve developed as a musician, I use all parts. Shall we bellow, there’s a portion called “Soar Rope” that turned into once essentially impressed by emphasizing the upbeat. With but another portion, “Past the Dunes,” I turned into once very impressed by a 7/8 time signature. So [in those examples] I developed something per rhythm. 

Acoustic guitar is such a naturally rhythmic instrument that you’d like trusty sensitivity to create stable melodies. 

What’s attention-grabbing is that I procure it’s connected with launch tunings. All people is aware of that DADGAD might maybe be very standard, nonetheless I use tunings that are in actual fact distinctive. I procure I discontinuance that so I don’t tumble into patterns, and it’s connected to melodies. Shall we bellow, there’s a portion that I wrote called “9 White Kites” with a in actual fact distinctive tuning that is C# G# E F# B D#, so it’s a C# minor sus. And playing in that tuning is roughly cherish stepping within the useless of evening. You don’t know scales, chords. I turned into once correct form following my fingers and what they stumbled on on their very cling. As a result of the obscurity of this tuning, I turned into once in a collection up to search out that melody.

Does it ever work the erroneous procedure spherical, the set up you procure a melody for your head and gain a tuning that helps you play it?

No, nonetheless you correct form gave me a factual draw!

These days, I’ve been thinking of the use of technology cherish [the notation software] Sibelius: correct form toddle to the get and manually transfer the notes, and then transfer to the guitar. [Brazilian guitarist and composer] Sérgio Assad does this loads in actual fact. 

Are there any tunings you’ve stumbled on now not too lengthy ago that you namely cherish?

Yeah, there’s one which a aggregate of two chords. The sixth, fifth, and fourth strings are F, A, and C, so there you procure an F most fundamental chord. Then the third, 2d, and, first are E, G, C, which is a C chord. So it’s a aggregate of F most fundamental and C most fundamental. That’s the tuning that I use on a portion called “Dancing with Shadows,” which is on my most up-to-date album. I’m going to verify out more of that within the lengthy bustle, within the occasion you fundamentally procure two varied chords together shut to one but another.

There might maybe be mostly such a divide between the nylon- and steel-string guitar worlds in relation to methodology, repertoire, and instructing approach, nonetheless you’ve crossed over reasonably loads. What procure you learned from the nylon-string or classical side that informs what you discontinuance on steel-string?

I’ve been fortunate sufficient to play with huge classical gamers equivalent to David Tanenbaum and Sérgio Assad—these are in actual fact some of basically the most efficient gamers on this planet. Marc Teicholz also, who is part of the college at San Francisco Conservatory of Tune. 

What I’ve learned from classical musicians is the eye to the details. They devote their lives to how they bring the notes, if a present is played launch or on [a fretted] string . . . There’s repeatedly a motive at the back of how they play. That’s something you don’t note usually within the acoustic guitar world—that level of precision and dedication to the cleanness of notes and also to the supply. 

The opposite element is, with up to date compositions on classical guitar, I procure there’s loads more harmonic depth than within the acoustic guitar world. Harmonically there’s loads more exploration, which is provocative to me in preference to correct form staying internal six or seven chords.

Let’s focus on about your guitars somewhat. Bear there been any changes to what you’re the use of onstage or for recording?

Undoubtedly, my most fundamental instrument is my [Seagull] signature mannequin that I developed with Robert Godin about 30 years ago. It’s a six-string guitar with a critical broader neck. They worked for 2 or three years with a school there in Montréal to create bracing that makes the instrument very balanced between the bass, midrange, and treble. Right here is the guitar I use are living and within the studio.

Has the guitar developed at in all places the years?

Yes, as far as the bracing and also the peek. It’s now bourbon, a darkish color, and aesthetically we in actual fact cherish it. Reasonably quickly in actual fact, Godin will near up with the 30th anniversary of my guitar. This might maybe occasionally also be a student mannequin, and it’s going to be much less costly, so I’m taking a peek ahead to seeing what they near up with. 

Also, right here’s an electro-acoustic instrument. Essentially the most up-to-date mannequin has an L.R. Baggs Anthem pickup, which I’m very happy with, though in sure eventualities I play correct form acoustically [with a mic]. Presumably right here’s the influence of classical guitarists—they don’t prefer to make use of the leisure. 

It’s a undeniable roughly approach within the occasion you say handiest a factual condenser microphone. The acoustic sound is closer to reality. Whereas you happen to walk in, it becomes something varied—lovely, nonetheless varied. 

With Tune World Retreats, you host a ramification of music camps, including some serious about fingerstyle guitar. Many fingerstyle gamers are solo oriented—they’re now not basically acquainted with fiddling with other folks. Is a part of the camp bringing folks together to skills music in a more social approach?

I cherish this query. You understand, one in all the places the set up we bring the Tune World Retreats is to Sicily. In August, the most fundamental one turned into once a mandolin retreat with Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg. Mandolin gamers, they play together the overall time. At nights, we usually toddle to this connoisseur restaurant, and the chef is de facto silly. Every evening with the mandolin gamers, at the discontinuance of the dinner, after hundreds wine and stuff, everyone turned into once happy and all of them played together, correct form? The next week, we had the fingerstyle workshop with Adam Rafferty and myself. We went to the identical restaurant and the chef came to me and he talked about, “Boy, right here’s a undeniable roughly group. They’re serious, you know? They don’t play together!” 

I’m in actual fact conscious that fingerstyle guitarists are usually of their room—it’s a lonely one-person skills. Nonetheless I strive to destroy that in these workshops. Shall we bellow, Adam Rafferty created an ensemble of Bach pieces with four parts, so that they can all play together. And I even made an procedure of Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” with four parts. So we push the college students to skills what playing together device, because loads of them don’t know and some are in actual fact terrified. Nonetheless when we lend a hand them, you might maybe even note how critical stress-free they procure.

What He Plays

Peppino D’Agostino plays his signature Seagull guitar, identified as the Peppino Signature CW, which has an additional-broad neck (1.9 inches at the nut) that’s virtually as broad as on a classical guitar. 

When he plugs in, he uses an L.R. Baggs Anthem pickup via a Baggs Venue DI that enables him to bustle a separate amp output onstage and procure more control over his stage volume. When he performs with a mic handiest, he uses an AKG 460 pencil condenser.

He uses Dunlop 80/20 bronze gentle gauge strings (.011–.052) that he changes for each present. 

He steadily uses a Dunlop thumbpick, searching on the music. “If I play a classically oriented portion, I use the pad of my thumb to procure more control of the volume, expression, and dynamics,” he explains. “If I play rapid bluegrass, pop, nation, or ragtime and I want to muffle the bass string sound, then I’ll use the Dunlop thumbpick. As smartly as, I leisure the side of my correct form hand shut to the bridge to damp the sixth, fifth, and once in a while the fourth strings.” —JPR

Acoustic Guitar magazine conceal for difficulty 344

This article within the launch regarded within the March/April 2024 difficulty of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

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