Want to win Acoustic Guitarist of the Year 2019? Last year’s winner reveals his biggest tips

Acoustic Guitarist of the Year 2018 winner Alexandr Misko performing live at the UK Guitar Show

During last year’s Acoustic Guitarist of the Year competition, Russian acoustic guitar prodigy Alexandr Misko was selected by guest judges Jon Gomm, Mike Dawes and Tommy Emmanuel. Alongside two others finalists, Casper Esmann and Karlijn Langendijk, Misko travelled to London to perform live at the UK Guitar Show.

Ultimately Misko’s creative and moving performance led him to the win. In addition to earning the title, he received a stunning handcrafted Takamine EF341SC dreadnought and a year’s supply of Ernie Ball strings. This year's prize includes a Takamine EF341SC.

The 2019 Acoustic Guitarist of the Year competition is in full swing, once again in association with Takamine Guitars. Molly Tuttle and Andy McKee are already confirmed as star judges with more to be announced soon. In addition to the title, the prize for winning Acoustic Guitarist of the Year 2019 is a beautiful Takamine EF341SC dreadnought guitar.

We caught up with Alexandr to share his experiences and memories of being involved in the competition and to get some tips for any guitarists thinking about entering this year's competition themselves. 

Ready to enter? Head to the bottom of this article and upload a link to your entry video using the form. Good luck!

What tips can you offer Acoustic Guitarist of the Year 2019 entrants?
“In my humble opinion, I would advise all potential competitors not to overthink the visuals since the music should stay primary. It’s very important to record your sound more or less professionally so judges can hear all the details clearly and can better analyse your techniques, dynamics and tone. If you don’t have a decent microphone at home then take your time and record a tune in a studio. Even if you don’t make it through to the final, it’s still nice to have some high quality recordings for future use. 

“Choose a song that you enjoy to play and is as diverse as possible. I would say don’t stick to straight ballads or bangers, there is no need to go to any extremes. Just try to play something dynamic enough to hold listener’s attention throughout – something that’s melodic and sweet, but at the same time has just enough dynamics to present your unique ideas and techniques, and how you can control and blend it all together. You could even write a song just for the competition if you don’t have a proper tune in your repertoire yet; why not!

“Never feel nervous or afraid to participate. You have more than enough time to record millions of takes before you get a perfect one. Just be dedicated and believe in your song. The results don’t matter too much, it’s more about you and becoming a better musician as a result.”

Acoustic Guitarist of the Year winner Alexandr Misko, plus finalists and judge Mike Dawes

Acoustic Guitarist of the Year winner Alexandr Misko, plus finalists and judges, including Mike Dawes

What opportunities has winning Acoustic Guitarist of the Year 2019 given you?
“The Acoustic Guitarist of the Year 2018 title has truly given me some great offers and promising collaborations with such influential and well-known brands as Ernie Ball and Takamine. Also, I got to meet with experts that were judging the competition and I have learned a lot from their wise advice. This has been a real privilege and honour for me.”

[Winning Acoustic Guitarist of the Year 2018] has been a real privilege and honour for me.

Alexandr Misko

What were your personal highlights of taking part in the Acoustic Guitarist of the Year live final at the UK Guitar Show?
“There are so many nice things to remember about the competition, I don’t even know where to start! That was my first time in the UK and I enjoyed it a lot. I finally met my friends Casper Esmann and Karlijn Langendijk in person because we’ve known each other for years through the web and the videos [we create]. Surprisingly we had to compete against each other! 

"I clearly remember that big hall where we were performing in front of a large audience. I also saw my hero Mike Dawes at the UK Guitar Show. In general it was a fantastic experience for me which motivated me to work much harder and to actually visit the UK again, which I did later in November with a tour.”

How would you describe the atmosphere at the event?
“The vibe at the event was so good and the organisers were very friendly and helpful to all the participants throughout. Even though it was my first time there in London and at that large building in particular, I never felt lost or without help because there was always supportive staff around. It truly was a great pleasure being there, meeting lots of new people and playing my music.”

How did it feel when you heard your name announced as the winner live on-stage?
“Honestly speaking, I never expected to win because I wasn’t quite satisfied with my live performance. Also, I heard Karlijn and Casper’s songs before and I thought those tunes were more musically impressive and diverse than mine; I felt very strange competing against my dear friends! Most of all we were just trying to enjoy the show and have fun together. I’m not going to lie, I was really happy to hear my name announced as a winner, but I would never say that I’m better than anybody else; it’s all about personal preference and taste after all. I definitely consider all three of us real winners and I was happy to share a stage with such amazing musicians.”

Why do you think the star judges singled your entry video to go through to the live final?  
“I guess star judges selected my video because they just enjoyed the music. The video was shot in a very straightforward way in my messy room on my old iPad! I was sure that judges would like to see some real-time playing in a real environment with tiny mistakes, instead of a perfectly polished, pre-recorded YouTube video clip. Even though I do have lots of videos shot in that professional way, I took my time to do a special raw recording just for the competition.”

Enter Acoustic Guitarist of the Year 2019 here!

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.

Rules

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.