My first musical influences were my family, my father, Don (sr.) who sang and played guitar, and my mother, Nancy, who sang and played piano. The picture below left is of my parents and myself as an infant. Next to them is a picture of my half brother, Tom who was also a vocalist and guitarist. I borrowed his book and LP of the Chet Atkins method from which I first learned country style finger picking.



My next big influence was James Taylor who hit the scene when I was around 15 or 16.  I spent many hours locked away trying to figure out his every lick on guitar.

james taylor


It was something of an epiphany for me when I first heard Joe Pass play solo jazz guitar: rich harmony, a constantly moving bass line, and complex sometimes blindingly fast melodic lines…and improvised!

joe pass


In my 30s I finally sought out a guitar teacher.  My first was John Stowell, a remarkable player with a truly distinctive voice.

John Stowell


While I studied with some great teachers, most of my finger style technique was developed on my own by working through the exceptional instructional material of Howard Morgen, especially his book, “Concepts: Arranging for Fingerstyle Guitar”.

howard morgen


My next teacher was Jerry Hahn who had a long-running column on jazz in Guitar Player Magazine.  He now runs the jazz guitar program at Kansas State University in Wichita.



Some of the artists who have been most influential to me: Chet Atkins, Lenny Breau, Martin Taylor, Tommy Emmanuel, Jeff Linsky, and Earl Klugh.

chet atkinslenny breauMartin Taylortommy emmanueljeff linskyklugh


And finally my long time guitar coach and teacher extraordinaire Mark Stefani.  Mark worked with me for years teaching me improvisation, arranging, and helping me develop my repertoire, as well as giving me invaluable insight into the language of jazz and a classic pedagogy of the form based on the work of master improvisers rather than the chord/scale relationship presently in vogue at many colleges.  Mark has perhaps the best most comprehensive guitar and bass instruction website on the web today.  Check it out at

Mark Stefani

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