Steve Lukather’s winning formula for Guitarist of the Year 2019

Guitarist of the Year 2019 judge Steve Lukather
(Image credit: Scott Legato / Getty)

Steve Lukather is one of the most prolific guitarists on the planet. Not only has he contributed his tasteful playing as a session guitarist to hits by iconic names including Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, but he also founded the brilliant Toto, who have enjoyed their own 40 year-plus career.

To put it plainly, Steve knows a thing or two about what it takes to become a world-class guitarist and musician. It’s for this reason that Steve is perfectly equipped to judge this year’s Guitarist of the Year competition, alongside John Petrucci and Tosin Abasi. We're also runnings categories for Young Guitarists, Acoustic Guitarists and Bassists.

Guitarist of the Year 2019

If your Guitarist of the Year entry makes it to the shortlist, Steve will personally watch your video. The top three guitarists selected by our judges will then travel to London later this year to battle it out for the title and mega guitar prizes at the UK Guitar Show. Enter here or use the form below.

To get to this stage in the competition you need to know what makes our judges tick. For this interview we grilled Steve on what it will take to impress the judges and how to improve your chances of becoming the 2019 Guitarist of the Year.

What qualities will you be looking for from Guitarist of the Year entries?
“A sense of melody, good time, taste and something new and original; don't think speed is the be all and end all, but it’s still great to have!”

What tips can you offer players looking to enter the competition?  
“Make sure you've worked your parts out and then go for as few takes as you can so you sound fresh. Take your time.”

Make sure you've worked your parts out and then go for as few takes as you can so you sound fresh.

Steve Lukather

How important is sound and video quality compared to a good performance, creativity and originality?
“It’s pretty important as lots of audio hiss and grainy footage isn't ideal; with the ease of recording and filming today you don't want to compromise on this. That said, a good performance and a memorable piece are what you're ultimately being judged on.”

What advice do you have for guitarists who might be nervous or reluctant to put their playing out in the public domain?
“You've nothing to lose; you've got to be in it to win it! And if you're not selected, at least you've tried! Everyone I know, including myself, has missed or lost an audition. Every day is a 'do over' but just take a breath and do your best.”

Did you ever enter any guitar competitions or battle of the bands when you were younger, and if so, how did you do?
“Yes I did. My band did the Teenage Fair battle of the bands - problem was we were 11 years old! They gave us a prize for youngest band ever. This was 1968 so [there were] not a lot of kids playing and we were pretty good for kids. There were no guitar competitions back then though. I did grow up with Michael Landau, my brother since we were 12 years old. That was competition, but in the best way. He is such a monster, always was, and we had a blast growing up playing in bands and early recording and are still the best of pals.”

What does playing guitar mean to you?
“Everything. I still love it after all these years and I’m having the best of times now. Toto is going great and I love being in Ringo's band.”

What other projects do you have on the horizon this year?
“I've a book out, The Gospel According to Luke, and a documentary is being worked on for next year (or so). I have more live side projects and a solo record planned. Regarding travelling, I have the Toto Europe tour this summer, Ringo's USA tour towards the end of summer and then Toto's USA tour in the Fall - I hope to see you guys out there. I love to create and play, I can't stop, hahaha!”

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.

MusicRadar Team

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