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Talking Country Guitar with Guthrie Trapp

talking country guitar with guthrie trappHow did you get started playing guitar?

I grew up in a very musically rich family. My parents did not play instruments, but my uncle was a self taught musician and I really looked up to him. Me being an only child, he was like an older brother to me. My parents however listened to a ton of great music. I was not raised on Top 40 radio by any means. A lot of folk, blues, country, bluegrass, jazz and some rock was what I heard from birth. I think that's what instills the sound and feel of music in our hearts as infants and young children.

Being in that environment, I was drawn to the instruments that were always around. I first noodled on the harmonica and then picked up guitar and later mandolin - that was around 7 years old I think. I started really diving into guitar and mandolin from about 10-13 years old.

What made you want to learn country guitar?

To be honest I never set out to learn country guitar specifically, it kinda just happened. I have always been a huge fan of many types of music. It’s all very related to me in many ways. But this is a style I’m known for because it comes to me pretty naturally I feel.

There's many of my favorite influences in traditional country music. I hear blues, jazz, gospel, funk, bluegrass, swampy southern feels..etc. But I think being able to really play on the country songs and play at some faster tempos is what I like. Playing cool shuffle feels and funky half time feels is just fun for me. To me real country music is still very soulful and the lyrics are usually simple and hit home for many people no matter what your life is like.

What are some of your favorite country guitar songs?

Some of my favorite country songs are “Swinging Doors”, “The Night The Bottle Let Me Down”, “Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink” by Merle Haggard. Almost anything by Junior Brown. Almost anything by The Jamie Hartford Band. The reason I gravitate towards these songs and artists is there bluesy feel and soulful feel. Those Merle Haggard songs in particular really make me feel something. His singing, the lyrics and honest music and playing get to me.

Who are some of your favorite country guitar players of all time?

junior brownSome of my favorite country guitar players are: Junior Brown, Don Rich, Roy Nichols, Jamie Hartford, Ray Flacke, Vince Gill, Steve Wariner, Marty Stuart, and probably a few more I’m not thinking of here. The reason I think I like these guys so much is because of their influence of the blues. I keep saying that, but it's such a HUGE part of this style of playing. It has to be soulful or its not believable. Country music is honest music! It has to come from the heart and soul. Those are the players I like the best. AND all those players use very little or no effects pedals..that's saying something also. Keep it simple and soulful.

How did you go about organizing the country guitar curriculum at ArtistWorks?

I’ve done a lot of teaching and clinics, but never put together a lesson plan quite like this before. It’s amazing what we got in the end result. I haven't had to think beginning to end like that in a long time, so that was challenging for me. The organizing and re writing to eliminate any holes in the curriculum took time but came out great I feel. I just really thought hard about what needed to be covered start to finish and how to fit all the key concepts in order so theres a flow to these lessons. I really think we achieved that.

What advice would you give someone who’s just starting out?

For beginners and intermediate players I have a few things that I always cover as far as advice goes. Some of these may also fit into everyday life as well. I think good advice usually does:

  •     Be yourself
  •     Don’t over think it
  •     Have a big vision but not a rigid plan
  •     Let the music take you where you need to will
  •     Don’t obsess over doesn't matter what anyone else is using
  •     Listen to what's going on around you...not so much yourself
  •     Be open to many different styles of music and instruments…if you like 
  •     If you hear something you like, learn it
  •     Practice humility if you have the talent
  •     Work hard but have fun
  •     It's only music...take chances  
  •     Write a song
  •     Always wear black until they come out with something darker

 What are some of the main fundamental technique you teach in the lessons?

Some of the main fundamental techniques I cover in this curriculum are most importantly, the major chord shapes  - I can’t stress that one enough. Also right and left hand positions, picking techniques/patterns and some interpersonal aspects of music. By this I mean relaxing, having fun with it, if something is frustrating...take a break, go easy on yourself.

What are some of the more advanced techniques you teach in the lessons?

Some of the more advanced lessons the hybrid picking style (pick and fingers) which is an integral part of country guitar playing and “chicken picking”. I cover "double stop" positions and advanced soloing concepts as well as some different harmonic ideas over chord substitutions. I also teach banjo style rolls, listening to the other musicians, and having stage etiquette.

The backing tracks are also a huge part of the online lessons I have developed as well. They come in very handy to practice up to speed with different keys, chord changes and feels. These tracks were recorded by real Nashville session players playing real instruments with great audio quality -  no drum machines here!

country guitar with guthrie trapp

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