Preston Reed -  1966
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PRESTON REED

Preston Reed has virtually reinvented how the acoustic guitar is played. Reed practices a flamboyant self-invented style, characterized by percussive techniques and simultaneous rhythm and melody lines that dance and ricochet around each other, giving his music a level of excitement that is unparalleled among today's guitarists.

Playing an array of guitars from acoustic to electric to classical Reed's vast range of explosively original music will forever change your expectation of a guitarist.

First-time listeners find it impossible to believe that they're hearing just the one musician, in real time. Reed attacks the entire instrument in a never-ending search for the orchestra he knows is lurking inside. At full tilt, his fingers, thumbs, fists and hands at once suggest a drummer, keyboardist, bassist and several guitarists at work.

The most impressive thing about Reed's technique, though, is that it doesn't draw attention to itself. His compositions are far from abstract virtuosic displays; even without lyrics he creates vivid, engrossing scenes. Sometimes the effect is almost onomatopoetic. Reed generates visual stimuli with every tweak of his instrument, thus augmenting his wordless compositions with an aura of the poetic. Each tune is a story in itself with a potent, cinematic atmosphere and an almost tangible thread of communication between Preston Reed and the listener.


Reed's entry into this guitar odyssey was inauspicious enough, his path thereafter largely self-discovered. A few chords learned from his guitar playing father, a brief, very brief, flirtation with the ukulele, clandestine practice sessions of his favourite Beatles and Stones songs on dad's guitar .... and then a too-strict classical guitar teacher led to premature retirement.

At 16, however, Reed heard Jefferson Airplane's rootsy blues offshoot, Hot Tuna. His interest was rekindled big time. Acoustic guitar heroes John Fahey and Leo Kottke were studied, their styles absorbed but not imitated, and at this point things really begin to get interesting because, at 17, Reed, by now precociously proficient, played his first live gig, supporting beat poet Allen Ginsberg at the Smithsonian Institute.

Just getting on a train from his native Armonk in New York State to Washington was a cool adventure. And it was just the first of many, not least of which was the one which resulted from his signing his first deal with a major record company, MCA, through the auspices of his friend, country singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett.

Determined to make the most of this opportunity, Reed pushed himself to go beyond the standard fingerpicking styles he'd perfected. The result was the beginnings of Reeds startlingly innovative style, with its percussive, two-handed fretboard attack, that you hear today and which has caused guitar luminaries such as Al DiMeola and the late Michael Hedges to describe Reed as "phenomenal" and "inspiring". His playing has spawned a generation of imitators, yet Reed remains one of a kind.


Reed's compositional talents extend to film soundtracks and prestigious commissions for the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, and as well as appearances alongside Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt his major performances include an historic live satellite broadcast on Turkish National Television in 1997 with renowned saz player and composer Arif Sag which reached an audience of 120 million in 17 countries, prompting a flood of international telephone calls to the station from stunned viewers.

Since 1979, he has recorded thirteen albums and three videos and charmed audiences on three continents. He continues to tour with the same hunger and relish that informs his guitar playing. The secret, he says, is to relax and let the guitar patterns run by themselves. Which explains how, at full tilt, he may sound like a full-on heavy metal band but he still won't have broken sweat.


Contact Preston via email: Preston Reed



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Preston Reed


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