Guthrie Govan: “Winning Guitarist of the Year laid an important foundation without which my career might well have taken a rather different turn”

Past Guitarist of the Year winner Guthrie Govan
(Image credit: Future)

By now you should be aware that our Guitarist of the Year competition is in full swing for 2019, along with Young Guitarist, Acoustic Guitarist and Bassist of the Year. If not, you can read all the information on how to enter here.

The competition was originally launched by Guitarist Magazine in 1991. One of the early winners was none other than Guthrie Govan, who you probably know for his work with Steven Wilson, Asia and Hans Zimmer, as well as shredding in The Aristocrats.

Winning Guitarist of the Year all those years ago laid an important foundation without which my career might well have taken a rather different turn

Guthrie Govan

As we continue our hunt for the next guitar star, we caught up with Guthrie to hear his memories of Guitarist of the Year, and how entering the competition gave his fledgling career a significant boost.

“The guitar community of two and a half decades ago was a fragmented thing indeed, bearing little resemblance to the truly global environment of the present day… 

"Today’s aspiring young players, regardless of their location, can easily access a wealth of online information representing the ‘state of the art’ in their chosen field, coupled with an online infrastructure which enables them to communicate and collaborate with like-minded musicians all over the planet.

“Back when I entered the GotY competition, however, this vision of the future would have sounded absurdly far-fetched. The fundamental basis of my musical vocabulary and style was in many ways similar to the way I'm playing nowadays (people still shout out requests for ‘Wonderful Slippery Thing’ at my gigs!), but in '92-'93 I definitely felt like much more of an ‘outsider’.

"Connecting what I was doing to any kind of ‘bigger picture’ required a degree of laborious research and the prospect of finding an ideal target audience for that kind of playing often felt like something of a lost cause so... when I discovered that a nationwide guitar contest was being organised in my home country, it just seemed like the perfect opportunity to send out a kind of ‘message in a bottle’ and find out if anyone in the UK thought there was any kind of merit or validity in the way I played.

“I think it's fair to say that winning Guitarist of the Year all those years ago laid an important foundation without which my career might well have taken a rather different turn so... well, let's just say that I don't harbour any regrets about having entered the competition! 

"And my favourite part of all? Discovering that the panel of judges at the finals would feature both fingerstyle jazz monster Martin Taylor and Friday Rock Show host Tommy Vance: I remember deeming that to be a surreally (and therefore pleasingly) eclectic panel!”

Enter the competition here!

8 tips for 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.


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