Tommy Emmanuel is widely known as an apex acoustic guitar player – the top of the game, the cream of the crop, the man with the plan from the street with the beat. But everyone knows that.
What I did not know was that he’s also a phenomenal teacher.
I’ve learned some Tommy Emmanuel tunes over the years and loved his music. His style appeals to me. It’s complicated, but always melodic. Energetic, but not frenetic. And, importantly for me, it’s realistic. I love Antoine Dufour, but his tunings and arrangements are so intensely intricate that they seem a world away (…nevermind the fingernail maintenance required). Tommy, though, feels like he’s one of us.
In order to learn his songs and style in the past, I’ve looked to YouTube of course. And you can find some videos, posted from his workshops by cell phone-wielding, third row fans. And you can find relevant fingerpicking lessons, like Don Ross’s series on JamPlay (or now Mike Dawes’ lessons).
But, alas, the path forward always felt patched together and sketchy. The material on YouTube was not well-ordered, and the video is not meant for close analysis of the playing. And other fingerstyle video lessons often don’t discuss thumb pick technique (a core part of Tommy’s style).
Back to Today
And then I found out: Tommy has a series of lesson videos up on TrueFire.
A dream come true. A chance to get insight and guidance from the man, himself. No more trying to adapt general fingerstyle lessons to a thumb pick mindset. No more guessing at his method for thumb independence. This felt like a chance to go straight for the goal of playing some amazing Chet Atkins-style acoustic guitar.
So. I finally had some time go through them and the verdict is….
I am really, really impressed.
The guy is a great teacher. I know, I know, when you do a blog review, you always want to present both sides: pros and cons. Give an even representation of the product or service. But I have to admit that I feel very biased on this. The teaching series is exactly what I needed.
A Few Reasons I’m a Fan
His positivity is infectious. I don’t if it’s because he’s Australian, or because he’s naturally a chill guy, but he just makes you feel better about life. And guitar. He’s funny, upbeat, and comfortable in front of the camera.
His explanations are clear and concise. Sometimes guitar instructional material feels very wordy. Like they keep repeating themselves. Not Tommy. He’s great at describing the key issues concisely, and then moving on. I love the efficiency.
He’s an experience teacher. He’s talked to a LOT of guitar players and it shows. He knows the typical obstacles guitarists face and provides insight for how to move forward. There’s no untested theories here. Everything has stood the test of time.
The three angle video. Because Tommy’s playing is complex, it can be difficult to see what’s going on. The video series uses three angles so that you get a clear view of the picking hand, and two different angles of the fretting hand. And you need them. I found myself consistently re-watching sections in order to focus on another angle.
Practice exercises. Particularly in the first series, Tommy provides his own unique exercises for building your both picking and fretting skills. And these are focused on fingerstyle guitar proficiency.
And in the final analysis, the teaching is great because it’s perfectly on track with what I want to play. If you want to learn basketball, go watch LeBron James. If you want to learn Chet Atkins-based fingerstyle guitar, go watch Tommy Emmanuel.
There are several video series’ that Tommy has recorded. If you are new to playing Tommy’s style, I recommend you start with the first Fingerstyle Milestones. If you’re already up to speed, you might jump to Certified Gems in order to focus immediately on learning specific songs.
One More Suggestion
If you like the Truefire lessons, they also offer a monthly subscription for $19.99 where you get access to everything. If you plan on ripping through the Tommy Emmanuel material, it’s a much cheaper way to go.
Click here to sign up for a monthly TrueFire account.