Tommy Emmanuel Australian Acoustic Guitar Messiah.
Tommy Emmanuel was born May 31,1955 in Australia and is often called
the best acoustic guitarist in the world.
His guitar style is amazing he plays everything from jazz standards,
Broadway Show Tunes,Beatles,Country,Rock,etc...to Classical Pieces
plus he puts his own unique spin and mark on each song he plays. He often
incorporates several different playing styles into his interpretation of a song.
The sound effects and guitar tricks that he can pull out of his guitar
are absolutely astounding. I have never heard any other player get such cool
sounds out of an acoustic guitar. And with TE you just never know where or what
style of song he'll throw them in, it seems to be done completely at random.
Tommy Emmanuel utilizes all parts of the acoustic guitar in his playing. He
sometimes plays percussive effects on the guitar body,he plays behind the nut
at the top of the neck. Tommy usually gets these sounds without using any effect pedals.
He is a master at getting natural effect sounds and tricks out of his acoustic guitar.
He also often bends the guitar neck to get a cool natural swooping effect on his axe.
Sometimes he even uses the tuning pegs to drop the pitch of strings he's playing during songs,
or on song endings.
Along with having incredible musicianship and musical taste.
Tommy is also an unbelievable fingerpicker. He has total independence
in both hands. He can be doing one pattern with his fretting hand,and
then play a totally different rhythmic pattern with his picking hand.
To get some fine examples of TE and his guitar mastery go to Tommy
Emmanuel YouTube and listen to his rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”
Notice how TE starts the song off with his exceptional guitar mastery of
floating artificial harmonics.
I'm just going to give you a mini synopsis or basic idea of what he is doing to play the harmonics.
This will just be a short layman's guide, because to write out each note would take me 3 pages.
So this won't be a note for note transcription but its real close to what he's doing technique wise.
I'll also give you the basic chord structure that he is working the floating artificial harmonics over.
Now before you start to do this,just realize its quite difficult and not easy and you'll definitely
have to work at it as you won't get it the 1st time. And it's certainly not for beginners its an
advanced guitar technique for advanced players.
What he is doing at the start of this song is holding down a 6 string A Major 7th chord with
the following fingering of the left hand. 2nd finger holds down 2 notes at once the C# and
the F# at the 9th fret 6th and 5th strings. The 1st finger frets the A note at the 7th fret 4th string.
And the 3rd finger bars 3 notes at the 9th fret across the 3rd,2nd,and 1st strings E,Ab,and C#.
On the harmonics intro to this song which he plays in the key of A Major.
He starts off with a A Major 7th chord with a C# bottom bass note played on the 6th string
9th fret. And you play this note as a guitar picked harmonic at the 22 fret of the acoustic
So this means you are holding the guitar pick with your thumb and 2nd finger,and using
the 1st finger of your right hand which is out in front to play the harmonic.(which is actually
played by the pick being held by the thumb and 2nd finger.) and if you aren't making the
actual bell chime harmonic sound you're not doing it right.
So in essence what you are doing is sort of making a claw shape with your right hand.
But having your 1st and 3rd fingers of your right hand extended out for picking.
Think of those rap guys that hold their 1st and 4th fingers of their right hand out.
And then we use the 1st and 3rd fingers of the right hand to play the harmonics and natural
notes in the chord right across the fingerboard. But get a visual from the video and you'll
see what I mean. It's easier to see it being done than for me to explain it in words. You could
also put this video on a media player like VLC,then you can slow it down with visual and audio.
Now, getting back to how you play this. After playing the harmonic at the 6th string 22nd fret.
You then pluck the natural E note at the 9th fret 3rd string with the 3rd finger of your right hand,don't
make it a harmonic. Most of the time what we are doing is playing a harmonic then a
natural note and then repeat that cycle right across the finger board. But sometimes TE will
play 3 picked harmonics in a row depending on the sounds he wants.
Then go to the 5th string and pick the F# note as a harmonic at the 21st fret. Now pluck
the Ab note at the 2nd string 9th fret with the 3rd finger of your right hand. Now pick the
A note harmonic on the 4th string at the 19th fret,then pluck the C# note on the
1st string 9th fret with the 3rd finger of your right hand. Then pick the 3rd,2nd,
and 1st strings at the 9th fret all barred with the 3rd finger notes E,Ab,C# all as harmonics
at the 21st fret.
Now move that whole A Major 7 shape down 1 fret to the 6th fret and Tommy plays more
harmonics on that chord shape adding his 4th finger in certain spots on the top 1st and 2nd
strings then he goes to a Bmin 9th chord. The 1st finger bars all 6 strings at the 7th fret hold
that shape down and add the 4th finger to the 1st string 9th fret the C# note to make the
9th scale degree. TE then goes to the 6th fret and plays a E9 and E7b9 and some variations
and that's basically it.
This is a difficult technique playing these harmonics so make sure that you don't have
any dead or muted strings each note should be smooth and clear. If you can get this
Tommy Emmanuel harmonic technique down you'll have 90% of what he's doing on
the into to the“ Somewhere Over The Rainbow Song,” and the rest you can figure out
by watching his video on Tommy Emmanuel YouTube.
Another guitar trick that he does and I don't know if you'll find these written out in any
Tommy Emmanuel Guitar Tabs. He will often play some 3 finger chords by using only
2 fingers. For example he might play an Am chord on the 1st fret using his 2nd finger,2nd fret
to hold down 2 strings the 4th and 3rd strings and 2 notes at once the E and the A notes. And
then play the C with his 1st finger.
TE does this all over the place he does it with the 2nd fret open Emin chord using 1
finger to hold down 2 notes it just depends what sort of sound or effect he wants as
to where he uses it. Same with the open A Maj Chord on the 2nd fret. Or an E Maj
chord on the 1st fret.
A Tommy Emmanuel Tour can be lots of fun if you get a chance to see him play live
at a Tommy Emmanuel concert. He usually plays solo but has also done lots of
band work and backing up singers and such. And also played duets with the great Martin Taylor.
And other great guitarists,does the name Chet Atkins ring a bell? Yup,TE made a CD with him.
As a kid Tommy was absolutely fascinated by Chet Atkins and his fingerpicking style
which is sometimes called “Travis Picking”which is named after guitarist Merle Travis.
And as an adult TE got to meet Chet and work with him. And they made a album together
called “The Day Finger Pickers Took Over The World.” And heck,TE is such a great guitarist
that Chet even awarded him The CGP award personally.
So to say that Chet was a huge influence on Tommy would be an understatement.
More like Colossal influence would be more appropriate. Tommy has pretty much
based his whole style on the influence of Chet Atkins.
Other musical luminaries TE has worked with include Eric Clapton,Les Paul,Sir George
Martin, and John Denver just to name a few of the heavyweights.
Tommy Emmanuel live is a very energetic performer who loves what he does and looks like
he's having the greatest time of his life on stage. Gosh...he may even play his version of
“Classical Gas”or “Guitar Boogie” for you. And I think you can get just about all his music on
Tommy Emmanuel MP3s and CD's etc...
Tommy Emmanuel Guitar Instruction Videos are quite abundant on YouTube.
There's bits and pieces of him showing how he does guitar intros,harmonics,etc...
For you intermediate and even advanced guitarist,if you've never heard of TE and are
hearing him play for the 1st time. After you pick your jaw up off the floor in amazement.
Just so you know TE has been playing professionally since he was a little kid so in other
words he's devoted his whole life to mastering the guitar. So don't be discouraged if you
can't play like him right off the bat,and if you can play like him obviously you're a
I know you've all been waiting in anticipation for the answer to this one question about TE.
Does he play electric guitar too? And the answer is yes but he is famous for being an acoustic
player. His main acoustic guitar is a custom Maton EBG808 fitted with a pick-up.
I'm going to end this section off now so all us guitarists can get busy practicing
and try to sound like Tommy Emmanuel.
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