For the reason that ’80s, Peppino D’Agostino has created an giant vision of the acoustic guitar as a concert instrument, tapping into now not handiest the metal-string’s native idioms of oldsters, blues, and country but furthermore nylon-string traditions from Italy, Spain, and Brazil. Esteem many fellow explorers of fingerstyle guitar, D’Agostino uses unorthodox tunings, percussion, and moderately a range of extended ways to open up new vistas on the instrument. Yet his guitar compositions feel driven, before every little thing, by melody—now not fingerboard acrobatics.
At the muse from Italy, D’Agostino started out in the U.S. as a avenue musician and restaurant guitarist in San Francisco. He quiet makes his dwelling in the Bay Dwelling, touring internationally with his signature Seagull guitar. D’Agostino’s discography attests to his various pursuits, including collaborations with classical guitarist David Tanenbaum, Italian songwriter and pop producer Corrado Rustici, and electrical rock guitarist Stef Burns. D’Agostino’s most newest album, Connexion, showcases his fluctuate and mastery as a player/composer.
As effectively as to his performing occupation, D’Agostino is a prolific trainer, creating classes in newest years for TrueFire and Guitar by Masters, moreover interactive scores by Interlude. Along with his wife, Donna, he runs Music World Retreats, which offers music camps in the U.S. and Europe for guitarists moreover mandolin, ukulele, and violin gamers. Upcoming guitar occasions consist of 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 phone to be taught more about his newest travels with guitar.
If you were discovering out to play in Italy, used to be there a particular artist who drew you into instrumental metal-string guitar music?
You understand, after I started, I standard to play electrical guitar—I was a mountainous fan of [John] McLaughlin and among the crucial early Santana, that kind of stuff. But then somebody introduced a epic from the U.S. in 1974: it used to be John Fahey, Leo Kottke, and Peter Lang on Takoma Recordsdata. The music used to be really undefinable. It used to be now not blues, it used to be now not country—it used to be moderately a range of. I was straight attracted to that and started, worship folks in my generation, to strive to reproduction it. For sure there used to be factual the turntable at that point, so, you understand, up and down with the needle.
The silly phase is that I didn’t know about open tunings. I was attempting to recreate what Leo and Peter Lang and Fahey were doing the usage of standard tuning, so clearly I went indignant. But then presumably I read someplace about altering the tuning.
Did you watch moderately a range of instrumental guitarists at the time as effectively?
I’ve been continually very attracted to many moderately a range of kinds, and for the Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, Lenny Breau fingerstyle, I accept as true with to present credit rating to [French guitarist] Marcel Dadi. He used to be taking half in Chet Atkins songs, and for the interval of the vinyl there had been continually the tabs.
For the time being furthermore, Stefan Grossman used to be residing in Italy, and I be aware going to focus on with him. He used to be residing shut to Rome, and he had this charge known as Kicking Mule. That’s how I learned folks worship John Renbourn and Dave Evans, who I mediate used to be a genius. There’s an album known as Unhappy Pig Dance that is graceful.
As in contrast with moderately a range of instrumental guitarists, you middle of attention mighty more on melody. Does melody manual your composing direction of?
In most cases, yes. I mediate it’s because I grew up singing Italian songs which would perhaps be very melodic. After I started taking half in guitar, I was taking half in the chords and accompanying my say because that’s what my guests wished, so that transferred in a while after I started writing instrumental music.
You understand, as I’ve evolved as a musician, I use all parts. As an illustration, there’s a section known as “Bounce Rope” that used to be basically impressed by emphasizing the upbeat. With one other piece, “Beyond the Dunes,” I was very impressed by a 7/8 time signature. So [in those examples] I developed one thing in line with rhythm.
Acoustic guitar is this kind of naturally rhythmic instrument that you wish real sensitivity to procedure bag melodies.
What’s interesting is that I mediate it’s related with open tunings. Every person is aware of that DADGAD is amazingly standard, but I use tunings which would perhaps be really extraordinary. I mediate I attain that so I don’t fall into patterns, and it’s related to melodies. As an illustration, there’s a section that I wrote known as “9 White Kites” with a really extraordinary tuning that is C# G# E F# B D#, so it’s a C# minor sus. And taking half in in that tuning is kind of worship stepping at nighttime. You don’t know scales, chords. I was factual following my fingers and what they found on their comprise. Thanks to the obscurity of this tuning, I was ready to web that melody.
Does it ever work the moderately a range of manner around, where you’ve a melody to your head and web a tuning that helps you play it?
No, but you factual gave me a correct advice!
Lately, I’ve been pondering of the usage of expertise worship [the notation software] Sibelius: factual scamper to the rating and manually switch the notes, and then switch to the guitar. [Brazilian guitarist and composer] Sérgio Assad does this loads genuinely.
Are there any tunings you’ve learned now not too long in the past that you critically worship?
Yeah, there’s one which a aggregate of two chords. The sixth, fifth, and fourth strings are F, A, and C, so there you’ve an F most well-known chord. Then the third, second, and, first are E, G, C, which is a C chord. So it’s a aggregate of F most well-known and C most well-known. That’s the tuning that I use on a section known as “Dancing with Shadows,” which is on my newest album. I’m going to strive more of that in the waste, whenever you happen to continuously accept as true with two moderately a range of chords collectively shut to each moderately a range of.
There’ll seemingly be this kind of divide between the nylon- and metal-string guitar worlds by manner of plot, repertoire, and teaching plot, but you’ve crossed over moderately loads. What accept as true with you learned from the nylon-string or classical aspect that informs what you attain on metal-string?
I’ve been lucky ample to play with spacious classical gamers equivalent to David Tanenbaum and Sérgio Assad—these are really some of the crucial handiest gamers in the arena. Marc Teicholz furthermore, who’s phase of the college at San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
What I’ve learned from classical musicians is the eye to the particulars. They devote their lives to how they ship the notes, if a expose is conducted open or on [a fretted] string . . . There’s continually a reason in the support of how they play. That’s one thing you don’t ogle generally in the acoustic guitar world—that stage of precision and dedication to the cleanness of notes and furthermore to the start.
The moderately a range of ingredient is, with contemporary compositions on classical guitar, I mediate there’s mighty more harmonic depth than in the acoustic guitar world. Harmonically there’s mighty more exploration, which is inspiring to me as an different of factual staying internal six or seven chords.
Let’s focus on your guitars barely. Bear there been any changes to what you’re the usage of onstage or for recording?
If truth be told, my most well-known instrument is my [Seagull] signature model that I developed with Robert Godin about 30 years in the past. It’s a six-string guitar with a wider neck. They worked for two or three years with a college there in Montréal to rating bracing that makes the instrument very balanced between the bass, midrange, and treble. Right here’s the guitar I use are residing and in the studio.
Has the guitar evolved at all over the establish the years?
Sure, as some distance as the bracing and furthermore the gaze. It’s now bourbon, a darkish colour, and aesthetically we genuinely worship it. Beautiful quickly genuinely, Godin will give you the thirtieth anniversary of my guitar. This is a pupil model, and it’s going to be more cost efficient, so I’m taking a expect forward to seeing what they arrive up with.
Also, here’s an electro-acoustic instrument. The newest model has an L.R. Baggs Anthem pickup, which I’m very glad with, though in obvious eventualities I play factual acoustically [with a mic]. Per chance here’s the have an effect on of classical guitarists—they don’t must make use of anything else.
It’s a moderately a range of kind of plot whenever you happen to use handiest a correct condenser microphone. The acoustic sound is nearer to truth. If you drag in, it turns into one thing moderately a range of—graceful, but moderately a range of.
With Music World Retreats, you host a fluctuate of music camps, including some focused on fingerstyle guitar. Many fingerstyle gamers are solo oriented—they keep now not appear to be basically conversant in taking half in with moderately a range of oldsters. Is phase of the camp bringing folks collectively to experience music in a more social manner?
I love this demand. You understand, some of the places where we ship the Music World Retreats is to Sicily. In August, the first one used to be a mandolin retreat with Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg. Mandolin gamers, they play collectively the entire time. At nights, we generally scamper to this gourmet restaurant, and the chef is de facto silly. Every night with the mandolin gamers, at the cease of the dinner, after a full bunch wine and stuff, all americans used to be glad and so that they all conducted collectively, loyal? 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 said, “Boy, here’s a moderately a range of kind of community. They’re vital, you understand? They don’t play collectively!”
I’m really aware that fingerstyle guitarists are generally in their room—it’s a lonely one-person experience. But I strive to interrupt that in these workshops. As an illustration, Adam Rafferty created an ensemble of Bach pieces with four parts, so that they’ll all play collectively. And I even made an procedure of Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” with four parts. So we push the students to experience what taking half in collectively means, because moderately a range of them don’t know and a few are really frightened. But when we relieve them, you can also ogle how mighty enjoyable they accept as true with got.
What He Plays
Peppino D’Agostino plays his signature Seagull guitar, is known as the Peppino Signature CW, which has an additional-extensive neck (1.9 inches at the nut) that’s with regards to as extensive as on a classical guitar.
When he plugs in, he uses an L.R. Baggs Anthem pickup by a Baggs Venue DI that allows him to flee a separate amp output onstage and accept as true with more defend a watch on over his stage volume. When he performs with a mic handiest, he uses an AKG 460 pencil condenser.
He uses Dunlop 80/20 bronze light gauge strings (.011–.052) that he changes for every point to.
He continuously uses a Dunlop thumbpick, hoping on the music. “If I play a classically oriented piece, I use the pad of my thumb to accept as true with more defend a watch on of the volume, expression, and dynamics,” he explains. “If I play fast bluegrass, pop, country, or ragtime and I accept as true with to muffle the bass string sound, then I’ll use the Dunlop thumbpick. As effectively as, I leisure the aspect of my loyal hand shut to the bridge to damp the sixth, fifth, and continuously the fourth strings.” —JPR
This text before every little thing appeared in the March/April 2024 ache of Acoustic Guitar journal.