One Guitar, one Hundred Percussions Interview with Preston Reed

by Sebastiana Ierna

Acoustic guitarist Preston Reed, one of the most influential and innovative figures on the international scene, revolutionized the way to play the instrument between the 1980s and 1990s. The 69-year-old American has released 17 albums of original compositions, highly appreciated by both the public and critics, and has performed on six continents For 23 years, he has lived in Scotland, where from 2003 to 2009, he held summer seminars working with numerous young musicians, including the then fourteen-year-old Ed Sheeran in 2005 We met him ahead of his first participation at the Cremona Musica International Exhibitions and Festival, where he will perform on Saturday, September 28, as one of the most anticipated guests of the Acoustic Guitar Village.

Your international fame is tied to an innovative approach to the acoustic guitar. What is it about?

I simply “rediscovered” the body of the guitar, introducing percussive effects that exploit its wide sonic possibilities. Depending on where and how you hit it, you can produce very different timbres that resemble existing percussions: hitting the neck with the left hand gives us the high hat, striking the side of the instrument above the neck produces the hand clap, the conga, and bongo beats using both hands, and finally, the bass drum with just the right hand. This new technique has allowed me to bring all my musical ideas to life and to expand the sounds of the guitar. Someone who saw me on stage, in this regard, called me “acrobatic”: but my goal is communicative, rather than virtuosic, I try to define my own language by exploiting all the instrumental opportunities available.

How did this idea come about?

As a boy, I was fascinated by the timbres of percussions, especially those obtained by beating on random objects: experimenting with them on the guitar, I realized the results I could achieve. The different styles of rock & roll, modern jazz and big band jazz, blues and R&B, pop, and classical orchestral music: in my head, these styles intertwined and combined with the new percussion effects, and that’s how I created my compositions. Playing in a conventional way did not give me the right inspiration; by opening my mind to all possible novelties, instead, I was able to convey the deepest emotions that music itself has given me.

Looking to the future, do you see other innovations on the horizon?

I would like to collaborate with orchestral ensembles to create new albums: my solo pieces make use of a wide sound range, adaptable to large instrumental groups. For me, it would mean adding an important piece to my research and enriching it with new perspectives.

In cooperation with