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Tommy Emmanuel: Guitar Player from Australia

Updated on May 26, 2012
Tommy Emmanuel
Tommy Emmanuel

Tommy Emmanuel Biography

Tommy Emmanuel is a professional guitarist who was born in 1955 and grew up in Australia. He began playing guitar at a very early age, and was performing regularly by the time he was 6 years old! One amazing thing about Tommy's success is that he never had any formal lessons as a child. He learned to play guitar completely by ear. All of his family members were musically talented and they eventually started a family band. They traveled Australia performing in different venues in order to make a living. As Tommy would attest, Chet Atkins was one of the earliest influences on his guitar playing development.He picked up Atkins' signature fingerstyle method and never looked back. Emmanuel continued to tour Australia playing guitar in various groups including Air Supply Men, Men At Work, and the Australian rock band, Dragon. Emmanuel grew to fame in his native Australia during the 70' and 80's because of his guitar playing prowess. Emmanuel traveled to the United States in 1980 where he met his childhood idol, Chet Atkins. Over the next few years, Chet would personally mentor Emmanuel in his career as a musician. Since that time, Tommy has started touring and recording as a solo artist and has become known globally for his unique and amazing sound. Emmanuel played with his brother Phil at the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Olympic Games in their native Australia and he has also been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental. Tommy's fame continues to grow across the world, and when you listen to his music it's no surprise why!

Fingerstyle Guitar

Fingerstyle is a method of playing guitar where the player uses all 10 of his fingers to play. Traditionally, the player would fret the notes with the 5 fingers of his left hand while using a pick to pluck the strings with his right hand. When playing with the fingerstyle method, however, the player does not use a pick but instead uses his fingers to pluck the strings. This allows for more notes to be played at one time and opens up countless ways to arrange songs. Tommy Emmanuel is especially known for his ability to play songs with a melody, harmony parts, and a base line all in the same song. He excels at blending the different lines together into one voice so that at times his songs sound as if several different people are playing at once.

Tommy's Guitar

Tommy is unconventional in that he almost always plays his shows using a Maton guitar. Maton is a guitar manufacturing company based in Melbourne, Australia. The very first guitar that Tommy ever played was a Maton and he has chosen to stick by his favorite, hometown guitar even after becoming a sensation.

Guitar Instruction

One of the things that has personally attracted me to the playing of Mr. Emmanuel is the fact that I too am able to learn and play the songs, exactly the same way that he plays them. In association with MelBay, a well known sheet music publisher, the tablature and music for several of Tommy's album's have been printed and are available for sale. Sheet music transcriptions for Only, Endless Road,  and The Mystery  are all available for purchase. He also has several instructional DVD's which allow the aspiring guitarist to see Tommy perform the pieces at any speed and angle, so the highest amount of learning is gleaned.


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      DoveFreexrolo 23 months ago

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      Walter Holokai 3 years ago from Youngstown, Ohio

      Update 19-months after I posted that comment. I saw him at the Rife Center in Columbus, Ohio and took my 2-daughters in 2013. I just missed the meet-and-greet with the Ohio Fingerstyle Guitar Club which I had recently joined. I managed to learn Mr. Guitar, Papa George and One Christmas Night which was a real bear with the harmonics. Hope you're playing strong. Merry Christmas!

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      Jmahadevan 3 years ago

      - Either everyone you shoot is good lonkiog or you capture their beauty with your lens. Both? More good music recs- thanks! He's got heart throb good looks a la James Dean.

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      Walter Holokai 4 years ago from Youngstown, Ohio

      Thanks I will check it out and if he's somewhere in Ohio I'll go. I've been so busy trying to learn his music that I totally forgot about tour dates. I am so happy you told me that. I've been obsessed with the tune: Mr. Guitar lately. It's a tough piece.



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      bewhuebner 4 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Thanks for reading, GuitarGear! I've been a huge Tommy Emmanuel fan for a while now too. I'm actually going to see him play a show here in a few weeks. He's touring the U.S., and I think he'll be somewhere in Ohio, though I don't know when or how far it is from where you are at. It's worth checking out though!

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      Walter Holokai 4 years ago from Youngstown, Ohio

      I am the ultimate Tommy Emmanuel fan. I can't stop playing his tunes to the point my brother, also a guitarist, is starting to call me a Tommy Emmanuel tribute band. In my mind Tommy Emmanuel is the king of finger-style guitar. Thanks for a great hub!

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      bewhuebner 7 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Thanks Phil! Tommy Emmanuel is a very interesting and talented person indeed.

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      Phil Bellingham 7 years ago

      Hi, Great article about Tommy Emmanuel! An enjoyable read, I didn't know that he never had lessons, or that he has always played the same make of instrument.

      Good luck with your future writing!

      Phil Bellingham