2018 Guitarist of the Year judge Joe Satriani: “Clean it up, tune it up, turn it up and give us your best version of you”

(Image credit: Jesse Wild/Future / Adam Gasson/Future)

Do you love the guitar? Would you relish the opportunity to get your playing in front of a panel of star judges and follow in the footsteps of Guthrie Govan and Dave Kilminster? If so, the 2018 Guitarist of the Year competition is for you. 

We’ve already received hundreds of Guitarist of the Year entries, but there’s still time to send us your entry. Simply shoot a video of your playing, upload it to YouTube and send us the link using the form below.

If you’ve been putting off filming your entry, fear not. We’ve gathered our esteemed Guitarist of the Year judges - Joe Satriani, Mark Tremonti and Paul Gilbert - together to help with some expert tips on what they’ll be looking for when it comes time to judge the entries. In fact, we’d recommend reading this before shooting your video…

Did you ever enter any guitar competitions or battle of the bands when you were younger, and if so, how did you do?

Joe Satriani: “My high school band, Tarsus, entered and won many ‘Battle of the Bands’ competitions. They were fun, traumatic, crazy events that had the added bonus of exposing me to other young kids my age with enormous talent. Even when we won I always walked away thinking I could have played better, and perhaps should learn what I witnessed the other guitar players pulling off. One should never stop learning and trying to grow as a musician. Never.”

Mark Tremonti: “Nope, never… I wasn’t as brave as all these guys and gals!” 

Paul Gilbert: “When I was eleven I played with my cover band at a talent contest. I think we played ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ by Ringo Starr. We did not win. When I was 16, I entered a guitar solo contest in Pittsburgh. I came in second place (the first place winner was the guitarist in the band that sponsored the contest… go figure!). When I was 18, I moved to LA and entered the ‘L.A. Guitar Wars’ contest. I won first place in that one. Billy Sheehan was a judge!”

What qualities are you looking for from Guitarist of the Year entries?

JS: “Besides good timing, intonation and technique, you can’t underestimate the power of the ‘it’ factor. I know it’s hard to define, but we all know it when we hear it and see it. Originality is a powerful quality in these competitions too. However, it’s pulling all these elements together and making a coherent and compelling presentation that will have the most impact on each stage of the judging.”

MT: “Heart, soul and overall control of expression.”

PG: “I like musicians who are musical. That can be very challenging to do at a contest, because the energy of a contest can easily inspire athleticism. But it’s pretty easy to hear if a player has good musical instincts, even if they are playing athletic things.

“Mostly, I love to hear players who have a strong sense of rhythm, melody, dynamics and tone. I love to hear strong vibrato and pitch-accurate bends. When I hear any player, I get a sense of if they are playing what they hear in their heads, or if they are running through patterns visually. It’s always great to listen to a musician who is playing what they hear.”

It’s easy to be nervous at these kinds of things, so it’s great to choose music that you know you can play really well.

Paul Gilbert

What tips would you offer players looking to enter?

JS: “Players entering the competition should try and identify what makes them unique and bring it forward. Clean it up, tune it up, turn it up and give us your best version of ‘you’. Keep it simple, and make it powerful and to the point. Every note counts.” 

MT: “Stay apart from the pack by doing something new and unique that still fits your style.”

PG: “Choose something that is ‘indestructible’ for you. It’s easy to be nervous at these kinds of things, so it’s great to choose music that you know you can play really well, even if you’ve got some nervous energy to deal with. In other words, I’d like to listen to you play something that comes easily to you (and have you play it great!), than something that is really hard for you (and have you struggle with it). Play the easy stuff, and hit it out of the park!”

What does playing guitar mean to you?

JS: “Guitar playing is a way of life for me. I love trying to play my heart out every time I pick up the instrument. I love the struggle and I love the emotional rollercoaster ride it takes me on each and every time I play. There is nothing more thrilling than playing the right notes at the right time with the right tone. Except, perhaps, doing all that on stage in front of your fans every night!”

MT: “It's my main passion and the gateway outlet for my artistic expression!”

PG: “I love music overall. I enjoy singing, playing piano and drums. But I’m best at guitar. I keep finding new sounds, even after playing over 40 years. In fact, I still feel like a beginner. There is so much to do! I finally found my favourite notes for soloing over a minor V-chord. Now I look forward to that part of the song that I used to fear. Gimme that thing!”

Enter the competition here!

6 tips for success

1. We need to see you play! No promo-style band videos please.
2. Keep it tight. Get to the point fast. Our experts are begging to be impressed so 15 minutes of noodling won’t make the grade.
3. Keep it musical. We’re all for fretboard madness and next-level sonics but not at the price of trusty musicality and genuine mastery of multiple techniques.
4. Make it impressive. Go for it. We want to see the full breadth of your skills in as tight a playing package as possible.
5. Just your best video please! Our experts are busy. Don’t make us wade through multiple entries where one would do.
6. Want to enter all three categories? ‘Guitarist’, ‘Young Guitarist’ and ‘Acoustic’ Guitarist of the Year? Yeah! Go for it.


1. All entries must be via videos uploaded to YouTube and submitted through the entry form above.
2. Young Guitarist of the Year entrants must be 16 or under on 29 September 2018.
3. Entries must be received by 23.59 (BST) on 2 July 2018.
4. Don’t call us - we’ll call you if we like what you’re doing.
5. You need to be okay with us sharing your video to our wider online audience, appearing in the magazine and playing live on stage at the UK Guitar Show in London on 29 September.
6. As ever, the judge’s decision – picking our finalists and our eventual winner – is final.


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