Guitarists Tend to Focus Too Much on Gear, Matteo Mancuso Says: Here’s What They Should Do Instead

According to the young and talented Italian guitar virtuoso Matteo Mancuso, guitar players these days are a little too focused on gear instead of their actual playing.

Mancuso is easily one of the finest guitar players of the younger generation. With his impeccable classical-style fingerpicking stance, he’s able to a variety of styles on electric guitar, often even sounding as if he’s using a plectrum. But apart from technicalities, he’s also an all-around awesome musician. So it’s a combination of a great attack on strings and his incredible choice of notes.

Speaking to Volume 11 in an interview recently, Mancuso addressed the matter, giving classical guitar players as an example of someone who kept the core of their sound in their hands.


“With classical guitar, you need to have a good sound on your own,” the young virtuoso argued (transcript via Ultimate Guitar). “Electric guitar players tend to think too much about gear.”

“If I don’t like the sound, that means I have to modify something on the pedalboard, or I have to change the amp. But most of the time, you can pretty much adjust your sound by playing in a different way, or studying more the production of the sound.”

Starting off as a classical guitarist, Mancuso definitely knows what he’s talking about. Of course, this doesn’t mean that your guitars, amps, and pedals don’t matter. It just means that you should start with the fundamentals and know how to use what you have. Tweaking a knob or buying this new shiny pedal won’t magically help you sound better.”

And speaking of his classical training, Mancuso reflected on how this aspect helped him become the player that he is now, especially in shaping his tone.

“Classical guitar helped me a lot to achieve that,” he continued. “Why I keep my nails short — because they are more comfortable, first of all, but also because of the sound. Because if you have longer nails, you have a different sound.”

But it goes more than that. Matteo added:

“And also, the way you shape the nail, it can produce a different sound. That’s what I learned with classical guitar, and it helped me a lot to produce a better sound from the start, without touching anything from the pedalboard to different guitars.”

The Unbelievable Guitar solo by GOAT Mancuso,🎸😳 watch till the end😎

Basically, in other words, Mancuso is saying that he belongs to the “tone is in the hands” camp. As he pointed out:

“That’s why the tone is in the hands. It sounds like a banal thing, but really, the tone is in the hands. Another thing was also left-hand strength.”

“Electric guitar players tend to solo a lot. We concentrate a lot on soloing, but actually, the classical guitar has a lot of polyphonic themes, so you have to [use] a lot of force; do a lot of arpeggios, and that kind of workout helped me a lot to achieve left-hand strength. These two things were the most helpful.”

The Great Wall - DriftLab - Matteo Mancuso solo

Relatively recently gaining more attention in the world of guitar, Mancuso has some incredible down-to-earth advice to share. And it all usually comes down to sorting out your skills rather than spending large sums on gear. For instance, when he was recently asked in another interview about sharing a piece of advice to young musicians, he offered:

“I think the listening process is really, really important. Some people underestimate the listening process, but it’s really important because you need to know what excites you the most about guitar.”

“There’s so much music out there that maybe you still don’t know what is the thing that excites you the most. So exploring different sides in general is very important in order to know what music you want to do with your guitar.”

Eugene’s Trick Bag - Matteo Mancuso (Plus Big Announcement!)

“Then, blending different styles will come with time. I was able to blend jazz, rock, and fusion because I listened to a lot of different music and I had the chance to listen to a lot of different music since when I was very young.”

“So I think a good suggestion would be: play what excites you the most about guitar. If you like shred rock, ’80s kind of stuff — it’s okay, if that thing makes you happy. If you play what makes you happy on the stage, people will realize it, and you will transmit this happiness to the people around you.”

“So it’s really important to play the things that you are happy with, and not just trying to learn a lot of things simply because someone told you to learn jazz, maybe.”

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“It’s a matter of finding your own balance. I mean, there’s so much guitar music out there that it’s really, really tough to decide what you want to do.”

“How can you realize if you like Tommy Emmanuel or Yngwie Malmsteen more? They are two completely different instruments when you think about it — it’s guitar, but it’s not the same instrument.”

“And that’s because guitar has so many ways, and so many techniques, so many styles, that sometimes it’s really difficult to find your own self on this instrument.”

Matteo Mancuso & Cory Wong Jamming Together for the First Time at NAMM 2024 (Funky Blues Part One)

Photos: Idunnorick (Matteo Mancuso, Stefano India and Giuseppe Bruno), Sidebart (Large pedal board)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.