Acoustic Guitarist of the Year 2019 judge Andy McKee: “An abundance of notes and new tricks will not necessarily win my vote”

Acoustic Guitarist of the Year 2019 judges Molly Tuttle and Andy McKee

We’re currently on the search for 2019’s Acoustic Guitarist of the Year. If you’re an amateur acoustic virtuoso or budding fingerstyle player looking to boost your career, Acoustic Guitarist of the Year is a great place to start. Don’t take our word for it, just ask 2018 winner Alexandr Misko.

Not only will finalists have the chance to perform live on stage at the UK Guitar Show in London this September and win massive guitar prizes, including a Takamine EF341SC guitar, but you also stand a chance of having your playing seen by our star judges, which this year includes Andy McKee and Molly Tuttle.

Entering is easy: simply shoot a video of your playing, upload it to YouTube and send us the link using the form below. We’re running Bassist, Young Guitarist and Guitarist of the Year categories, too.

To help you fine-tune your performance, we posed some questions to your judges to find out what they’ll be looking for from Acoustic Guitarist of the Year entries; and it's definitely not all about showboating...

What qualities will you be looking for from Acoustic Guitarist of the Year entries?
Andy McKee:
“I will be listening for things like good technique and originality, but most of all I will be listening for good musicality and expression. An abundance of notes and new tricks will not necessarily win my vote.”
Molly Tuttle: “I will be looking for guitarists with an original style that comes from the heart. I’ll also be considering technical abilities such as tone, feel and dexterity. First and foremost, I’m excited to discover creative guitar players with a passion for music and the instrument!”

What tips or words of support can you offer players looking to enter?
“Do your best and don’t worry about the outcome. Play with integrity!”
MT: “It’s a treat for me to discover new guitarists and I can’t wait to hear what you all come up with!”

How important is sound and video quality compared to a good performance, creativity and originality?
“I would say it is not nearly as important as the music itself. But do try to get a good recording of your playing that we can hear clearly.”
MT: “I know that everyone has different levels of access to video and audio recording devices and will keep that in mind when watching the videos. The important part is the quality of the performance and I won’t be considering audio or video fidelity as a determining factor. Many of my favourite guitar videos that I see online are ones of people in the comfort of their own homes recording with whatever they have available.” 

What advice do you have for guitarists who might be nervous or reluctant to put their playing out in the public domain?
“Try to look at entering the competition as an experience for growth more than anything else. Whether you ultimately win or not, you will learn something about yourself and your music.”
MT: “Just remember there is no ‘wrong’ way to play the guitar! Putting your music out there in front of others is a big step and something to be proud of. Online platforms like Instagram and YouTube can be a positive way to connect with others who share the same interests, and find an audience who appreciates what you do.”

Putting your music out there in front of others is a big step and something to be proud of

Molly Tuttle

Did you ever enter any guitar competitions or battle of the bands when you were younger, and if so, how did you do?
“I have entered a few competitions in the past. I looked at them as opportunities to get my music in front of people and to perhaps lead to new things. I won first place in the Kansas Acoustic Guitar contest, and I’ve won third in both the Canadian and International Fingerstyle Guitar Championships. The career I have now is due in part to the connections I made at those competitions.”  
MT: “I’ve never entered a competition on guitar or a battle of the bands! I don’t really like the idea of music being a competition which is why I’ve made a deliberate choice to focus on support and encouragement while helping select the Acoustic Guitarist of the Year.”

What does playing guitar mean to you?
“For me, playing the guitar is a way to say things that I do not have words for. It’s a way to connect with people, and they could be from a completely different culture in a different country, but music speaks to everyone. The guitar is a way to tap into that universal language.”
MT: “The guitar is such a versatile instrument. I feel there are endless ways to express my voice on the instrument and endless areas for learning and growth. The guitar is really a lifetime teacher and companion for me.”

What guitar projects do you have on the horizon?
“I’m working on some new acoustic guitar music at the moment, but I’m also trying new things. I’ve become quite enamoured with the sound of ’80s synthesizers and so I’ve been experimenting with those lately. Some new tunes I’m working on have a sort of ’80s film soundtrack vibe to them. It’s been a lot of fun trying something new!”
MT: “I’m excited to share the stage this summer with fellow flatpicker Billy Strings at the Newport Folk Festival. We are working up some fun tunes as well as learning each others material.” 

Entry form

8 tips for Acoustic Guitarist of the Year success

1. We need to see you play! No promo-style band videos or miming please.
2. 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. This competition is open to all types of player.
3. Keep it tight and get to the point fast. Our experts are begging to be impressed, so 15 minutes of noodling won’t make the grade.
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. Make it sound and look good! Smartphone audio can work fine, but remember to point the camera at yourself, not at the dog.
7. Want to enter all four categories? ‘Guitarist’, ‘Young Guitarist’, ‘Acoustic Guitarist’ and ‘Bassist’ of the Year? Go for it!
8. The Guitarist of the Year team and judges also want to know about the person behind the playing; use the ‘tell us about yourself box to explain what drew you to the guitar, what styles you favour, the gear you use, and anything else that could make you stand out.


1. All entries must be via videos uploaded to YouTube and submitted through the entry form above. No other emails or points of contact will be accepted.
2. Entries must be received by 23.59 (BST) on 3 July 2019.
3. Young Guitarist of the Year entrants must be 16 or under on 21 September 2019.
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 Future Publishing magazines and playing live on stage at the UK Guitar Show in London on 21 or 22 September. Live performances will be filmed, photographed and live streamed.
6. You need to be available to travel to London for the live final and must cover all your own travel and accommodation costs for the event.
7. As ever, the judge’s decision – picking our finalists and our eventual winner – is final.

MusicRadar Team

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