Sunday, July 8, 2012

'GUITAR GODS: Muriel Anderson''

- David "Skinny Devil" McLean
Originally published at Tinfoil Music
Date: Sunday, April 27 2003 @ 18:42:30 BST

 Muriel Anderson is one of the most amazing players I've ever seen. Her outstanding technique, exquisite sense of time, and perfect grasp of a variety of musical styles has earned her awards & accolades bestowed on only the highest caliber players. If you have never heard Muriel, just a quick listen to her will drop your jaw. From the carnival atmosphere of "Nola" to the sounds of feudal Japan captured in her piece "Sakura" to the restrained beauty of "Arioso" to the classic sounds of "Parisian Waltz" to the teary "Irish Medley", Muriel demonstrates a scope of musical understanding and expression seldom heard from a single composer/performer.

Winner of the 1989 National Fingerpicking Guitar Champion, guitar instructor at the famed Belmont College, and originator of "Muriel Anderson's All-Star Guitar Night" (which has featured such incredible talent as Lawrence Juber, Preston Reed, Peppino D'Agostino, Alex de Grassi, Stanley Jordan, and Tommy Emmanuel), and founder & director of the Music for Life Alliance (an organization that helps non-for-profit agencies dedicated to putting musical instruments in the hands of underprivileged children), Muriel has penned numerous instructional books & articles, produced several instructional videos and two performance tapes, and released six CDs - one of which ("Heartstrings") traveled to space on board the Space Shuttle in 1993!

She has studied with, among others, Chet Atkins and Christopher Parkening, circled the globe learning, performing, and teaching, and has earned the reputation as one of the best players in the world - a distinction she richly deserves.

To keep up with news and current events, visit Muriel's web-site. You might also want to take a look at her multi-part interview & lesson featured at Guitar.Com, and visit the home of her video releases, Homespun Tapes.

I had the chance to speak to Muriel recently just before her tour in Japan. Check it out!


1) What are your current projects?

This week I am working on an album project with Stanley Jordan. For a long time Stanley and I have both been interested in the healing properties of music, and we wanted to put some of those ideas into an album. Some of the cuts will be recorded with our friend Phil Keaggy. He is a really inspired player and a great artist.

2) How does this (do these) differ from your past work?

Some of the cuts are pure improvisation, with the three of us together. There were some really cool moments when we just sat down and started spontaneously playing together. Phil just kept the recorder on, and captured everything. It's a wonderful thing to when the music happens with two great players like that.

3) Do you have one project that you are most proud of as a guitarist?

I think I am more proud of my work as a composer than a guitarist. As a guitarist I always think I can do better; as a composer, every once in awhile I get it right. I'm very happy with the collection of music for guitar and cello, "Theme for Two Friends." And Julie Adams phrased the cello parts so beautifully.

For my guitar albums, my favorite is still "A Little Christmas Gift."

4) Can you give our readers a run-down of your basic gear (live and/or studio)?


My main classical guitar is built by Paul McGill in Nashville. Steel string by Kevin Ryan, and harp guitar by Del Langejans. I've also been using a new Japanese Morris steel-string guitar for some of my recent recordings.

I have my classical guitar equipped with a plain LR Baggs pickup run through the Baggs para-acoustic DI box or my new D-TAR Equinox box.

The harp guitar has the new Duncan-Turner (D-TAR) pickup. It's really nice - has a full range of frequencies, without exaggerating the high-mids like most pickups. I look forward to trying one in a classical guitar sometime soon.

When I play live, I use a direct box with a built-in EQ to notch out the high-mids, and a mic in front of the guitar. I try to get most of the sound from the mic, and use the pickup to add fullness in the bass and lower-mid frequencies.

I record with two Sony C-48 microphones, and never use pickups when I record.

I've tried lots and lots of different strings. They really make a difference. I use GHS La Classique hard tension on my nylon string guitar and GHS Bright Bronze Lights on my steel string.

5) Who would you cite as early influences, and who are you favorite new players?

Doc Watson was my first big influence. I started out as a bluegrass and fingerpicking guitarist. Then I discovered Christopher Parkening and Chet Atkins who deeply influenced my approach to music. I also listened to the Paul Winter Consort, Tony Rice and Dan Crary, Andres Segovia, some old blues players like Blind Blake and Blind Lemon Jefferson, Pat Metheney, as well as an array of international folk music.

There are so many great players on the scene now, and I've had the opportunity to hear a lot of them at my All Star Guitar Night concerts. I'm sure you're familiar with Tommy Emmanuel - he's really putting out some great music, as is Ben Lacy, Ed Gerhard, Jean-Felix Lalanne, and of course Phil Keaggy and Stanley Jordan. There are so many more, too.
Hugo (violin), David McLean, Blue, and Muriel.

6) Can you give a few tips to aspiring players?

Music is all in the way you listen. Listen and enjoy the sound of your instrument - the music coming out of it is a gift to you. Listen to the music around you, even in the sounds of the birds and the rhythms of the wind. It can teach you how to phrase your music in a natural way so that the music becomes an extension of your own nature.

7) What are your future plans?

I'm doing this interview on the airplane on my way to Japan, so that's next! I would like to take some time now to develop my music again, and do more recording and composing. I'm working on some music for violinist Rachel Barton, and would like to spend some time at home to explore the possibilities of my harp guitar. I'm getting one built for me that's smaller and will travel easier, so I hope to be able to bring it with me on tour more often.

8) Thanx for talking to us, Muriel!

Thank you, David!

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