Track of the Week: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” by Tommy Emmanuel


Track of the WeekI recently read an article in the May 2011 issue of Guitar Player magazine about finger-style virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel. The article clearly portrayed Emmanuel, an Australian guitarist that I’ve never heard of, as a Travis-picking god. Naturally, my interest was piqued and when I looked him up on YouTube I wasn’t disappointed. This is what I found:

Clearly, Emmanuel, who has been playing since the age of four, knows his way around a fretboard. This beautiful arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” infuses elements of country, classical, and jazz music. I found this track to be inspiring and I’m amazed that I’ve never heard Emmanuel play before. I’m slowly realizing how much a fan I am of the Travis-picking style, and Emmanuel may be my new Travis-picking hero.

Travis-picking is a form of finger-style playing that is defined by its use of the thumb to pluck a bass line while the index, middle and ring fingers pluck out chords and melodies. Merle Travis is credited for inventing the Travis-picking style, but it is perhaps Chet Atkins who inspired generations of players, like Mark Knopfler and Tommy Emmanuel, to adopt it.

I’d like to point out a technique that Emmanuel uses at the very beginning of the video. The technique is called harp harmonics, and it allows the guitarist to play very musical harmonics anywhere above the 12th fret. The harp-like sound is the origin of the technique’s name and it is fairly common with Travis-picking players.

I have bought the studio album, Endless Road, which features “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and 18 other amazing songs. Each song is extremely technical, yet musical.

For more information about me and the guitar lessons that I give in and around Baltimore, visit www.ewguitar.com.

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