During last year’s Young Guitarist of the Year competition, guitarist hunter Hallberg – who was just 13 years old when he entered – was handpicked as a finalist by guest judges Chris Buck, Rob Chapman and Matt Tuck. Alongside two others finalists, Alex Hooi and Abigail Zachko, Hallberg travelled to London from the United States to perform live at the UK Guitar Show.
Ultimately, Hallberg’s confident, technically masterful performance led him to victory. In addition to earning the Young Guitarist of the Year title, he received a beautiful PRS S2 Singlecut Semi-Hollow in Scarlet Red and a year’s supply of Ernie Ball strings.
With Young Guitarist of the Year 2019 (powered by Ernie Ball) well underway, we caught up with Hunter to revisit his memories of being involved in the competition and to get some tips for any young guitarists thinking about entering. With guest judges including Alice Cooper shredder Nita Strauss, instrumental guitar prodigy Plini and YouTube/Toska star Rabea Massaad, Young Guitarist 2019 is not to be missed.
Under 16 and ready to enter? Head to the bottom of this article and upload a link to your entry video using the form (don't forget to select 'Young Guitarist' from the dropdown menu). Good luck!
What opportunities has winning the competition and being awarded the Young Guitarist of the Year title afforded you? More gigs, appearances, collaborations, new industry contacts?
“Yes! Better gigs, playing later in the evening for sure! Lots of industry contacts; I've got to meet a lot of the top players and the title has been a big part of that. Right after attending the NAMM Show in January of 2019, after speaking with many of the top brands, I got my second endorsement with Aristides Guitars. My first was Fractal Audio Systems. I love working with such top tier companies!”
The video of your performance at the final has been viewed 618,000 times. Has this had a positive impact on the growth of your guitar playing career?
“For sure, that's a lot of eyeballs. My Facebook and Instagram page each grew over one thousand followers right after the contest.”
What were your personal highlights of taking part in the Young Guitarist of the Year live final?
“Making new friends with my fellow competitors, meeting Misha from Periphery (one of my favourite bands) and performing live were all big highlights for me.”
How would you describe the atmosphere at the event?
“A great gathering of fellow guitar nerds!”
How did it feel when you heard your name announced as the winner live on-stage?
“It was the best feeling in the world. It was hundreds of practice hours preparing, then getting on stage and letting it fly! It was very special because Abby and Alex, the other finalists, were so incredibly good too. Either could have won.”
Have you been putting the PRS and Ernie Ball prizes you won as part of the competition to good use?
“The PRS guitar is absolutely beautiful, it's almost too pretty to play! The year's supply of Ernie Ball strings are awesome as well.”
Why do you think the star judges singled out your entry video to go through to the live final?
“I think because I wrote an original song that was fairly technical that I played with some passion.”
What tips can you offer this year’s entrants?
“Choose the right piece to perform for your entry in order to impress the star judges. It has to have a bit of everything that you have mastered in your bag of tricks; you have to take some big risks to win at this level.
“You can't just shred mindlessly, you have to go fast at the right time and you have to be really clean if you are going to go fast. Vibrato and bends will be looked at carefully by judges (and the rest of the world on YouTube).
“Shoot in HD or 4K and make sure to either use a DAW like Pro Tools, or a camera with a great built in microphone for better audio. If you sound better than everyone with cellphone audio, you'll have a leg up from the first round."
What about advice for guitarists who are too nervous or feel they don’t have the skills to enter?
“I didn't expect to win when I entered, but I felt like I had a chance. You can't win if you don't enter.”
Enter the competition here!
8 tips for Young 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.