Back in August, the Thalia community voted Mr. Tommy Emmanuel as the greatest fingerstyle guitarist of all time.
It’s not at all surprising. As we’ve already stated a couple of times in this blog, Emmanuel is as complete a guitarist as you’re likely to find. He’s got style, he’s got flair, and he’s got an undeniable sense of melody and musicality that makes him a joy to listen to.
But Emmanuel isn’t just an incredible guitarist, oh no. Over the years, in interview and on stage, he’s provided some of the most insightful and relatable comments on guitar playing that we’ve ever heard.
Seriously, Tommy is like a guitar zen master. He might be in the pantheon of the greatest guitarists of all time, but his humble, down-to-earth assessments of being a musician never even come close to big-headedness.
For today’s blog post, we’ve decided to compile a list of our favorite Tommy Emmanuel quotes. Whenever we’re struggling with motivation, inspiration, or where to go next on our musical journey, these are some of the words we look to for guidance.
On guitar playing motivation:
“One day you pick up the guitar and you feel like a great master, and the next day you feel like a fool. It’s because we’re different every day. But, the guitar is the same… beautiful.”
On the guitar playing community:
“The thing about guitar players is we’re all like a brotherhood or sisterhood. We don’t care if you’re great, good, bad, in between or whatever. As long as you love it, then we’re all going to help each other.”
On the formula for success (via Guitar World):
“People are inspiring to me and they really energize me and remind me that my mission in life is to play for the people and not get sidetracked by worries or pressures. I don't have a formula for success, but the formula for failure is trying to please everybody.”
On flair in his playing (via All Access Music):
“I never think about my playing as full of tricks because really it’s about the songs. It’s about the quality of the songs and the music. All the other stuff is just entertainment and surprise for the audience, but I don’t do that in every song.
Most of the songs I just try to interpret with as much feeling as possible. Some of the things I do, like whipping the capo off in the middle of a song and doing a key change, that’s purely for fun and as a surprise to the audience. You’re playing away and the audience doesn’t expect you to throw the capo off. It’s a nice little thing to do that is unexpected. It’s really all about developing a style that is attractive to the ear and the eye when you’re playing live because you’re in the entertainment business, so you shouldn’t look like you’re struggling with your instrument. You should be looking relaxed and making people feel like they can trust you, that your arrangements are interesting and that is really what I’m trying to do.”
On getting the right start learning guitar (via Guitar World):
The most commonly asked question is, "How does my son or daughter get started doing what you're doing?" I think it's so important to have good music to play. You don't want to waste time and energy on songs that don't mean anything. You need to find songs that are strong in every way. Good melody, good structure, good feeling and memorable.
And, while this last one has nothing to do with the guitar, we couldn’t resist showcasing Tommy’s undoubted sense of humor!
On being an Australian:
“I come from the bush… where men are men, and the sheep are nervous.”
Do you have a question you would like to ask Tommy Emmanuel? Now you've got your chance.
We are excited to announce that next week, we'll be chatting with the fingerstyle guitar legend and we'll be asking some of your questions to him in the process. Use the comments section below to submit ideas and watch this space for our interview with Tommy Emmanuel!
Leo Kottke is a fingerstyle institution, and an inspiration to guitarists across the globe. His unique blend of folk, blues and jazz and his distinctive syncopated, polyphonic melodies have earned him accolades and followers galore. And, his battles with adversity – he’s overcome partial hearing loss and a near career-ending bout with tendonitis – are testament to his dedication to his craft.
We’re living in a great time for acoustic music. Fingerstyle guitar is thriving, and outlets like YouTube give exposure to new guitarists on a regular basis. But, this wasn’t always the case. In the ‘80s, when synths and electronic sounds reigned supreme, some thought the humble hollow-bodied six-string would go the way of the dinosaur.