|Guitar Player, January 1991|
Leo Kottke: Acoustic Pioneer Shifts Gears
By Mark Hanson
Kottke rarely uses low-pitched alternate tunings, a device he was once closely associated with. "I use drop D a lot [D A D G B E, low to high]," he says, "but I use the open tunings just to cover the old hits. I play more closed position stuff, trying to make things sound like open tunings, even though I'm using standard. And these days I tune the 6-string to A-440 most of the time."
On becoming a better player, Leo recalled advice about playing with a steady rhythm that he heard from his Prairie Home Companion pal, Chet Atkins. "The best thing Chet ever told me was to 'wait for the beat,'" says Kottke. "Your urge is to get there ahead of the beat. You want to get there, be there on time. But the tendency is for people to rush, to get there before the beat. But if you wait for the beat, chances are you won't be late, you'll be right on time. It puts gravity on your time. It sucks it in. It's a really great trick."
Despite Kottke's recent layoff, the '80s have been a busy time for him. He's changed labels, recorded, published his first book of guitar solos, issued his Home and Away video, composed the soundtrack for Windham Hill's The Story Of Paul Bunyan, and much more. Might he slow down a bit after 20 years of acoustic fingerstyle innovation? It doesn't seem likely.
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