But even if the 26-year-old Sicilian phenom is only getting started, he already has an abundance of wisdom to share with us, and he recently sat down with Guitarist magazine to shoot a video masterclass for YouTube, in which he promises that he isn’t going to be keeping his unique fingerstyle techniques under lock and key.
“There are no secrets. I didn’t invent this technique,” he says. “It’s a good mix of bass technique and classical style that I learned when I was a teenager. It’s just rare to see it on the electric guitar, but I always say that I never invented this technique, just like Van Halen never said that he invented tapping.”
What is bracing and unorthodox, particularly for we flatpickers out there who have spent too many hours training our picking hands to adhere to strict alternate or economy patterns, is to see a player like Mancuso adapt fingerstyle for fusion rock.
Much of Mancuso’s style is rooted in blues-rock, informed by jazz, but his fingerstyle technique draws upon classical guitar. Mancuso has two positions for his right-hand picking. One, for addressing scale-based runs, the other using thumb and all four digits of his right-hand to play arpeggios and skip strings. When he applies both together the results are jaw-dropping.
And then there is his left-hand technique. Here the idea is all about executing his note choices with economy of movement. Again, it was classical guitar that helped him incorporate this sense of economy when addressing the fretboard.
“I you have an elegant motion – especially with the left hand – things will be easier, so I always tried to not stress out my left hand too much,” he says. “Especially on the electric guitar, you don’t need too much strength in the left hand, so whenever I do a line, even if it’s complicated, I always try to not move my left hand too much. It’s always a matter of balance. Like for the legato thing, I always try to have strength and volume, but at the same time not press on the fretboard too much.”
Mancuso says he prefers to pick the notes with clean tone, and play legato lines on distorted guitar, but the key is to mix them. When Mancuso spoke to MusicRadar earlier in the year, he said his practice routine would incorporate all of these approaches together, rather than focusing on one aspect of his playing, which is where learning songs comes in useful.
“I just grab the guitar and play what excites me most in that moment,” he said. “I always try to learn songs, because for me repertoire is a very important thing, and when you learn songs you learn a lot.
“Musically speaking, the three most important things are rhythm, melody and harmony. You can learn these three things when you are learning a song. That’s what I try to do everyday.
“I try to learn repertoire. I try to work on my solos, of course. I try to work on my technique. But I like to work on these together. I don’t like to work only on my technique, or only on my legato, or on my timing. I like to work on these together, and that’s how my practice works.”
In the video, Mancuso emphasises the importance of using your pinky, of being mindful of intonation when learning how to bend. But perhaps some of his most salient advice for guitarists is to look beyond the instrument for inspiration. Mancuso, like players such as Frank Gambale, says we have much to learn from saxophonists and pianists.
“When I was at the conservatory at the music school in Palermo I learned a lot from listening to other players, like sax players or piano players,” says Mancuso. “That’s really where I started to develop my jazz vocabulary. This helps you think about the guitar in a diverse way, because if you only listen to guitar players you will come out with only guitaristic things. Good advice would be to listen to different solos, especially sax players because it is a monodic instrument – they work a lot on their phrasing and their improvising skills.”
You can check out Mancuso’s masterclass above. In other news, Mancuso has just been confirmed as one of the educators in Steve Vai’s all-star team at the Vai Academy 7.0, which will be held in Orlando, Florida in January 2024. The news was announced in the most appropriately with Mancuso delivering a blistering performance of Steve Vai classic Eugene’s Trick Back from the movie Crossroads.