Guitar virtuoso Matteo Mancuso, known for his unique fingerpicking approach, pointed out the importance of knowing how to play the blues.
Getting into the spotlight in recent months, Italian guitar sensation Matteo is impressing all fans of guitar-oriented music with his jaw-dropping playing skills. But apart from utilizing a classical-like picking hand stance while playing some of the shreddiest runs in modern music, it’s primarily his expressive qualities and choice of notes that are capturing the hearts of music lovers today.
And according to what he said in an interview with Mike Nelson recently, the expressiveness in his playing comes from blues music.
“Yeah, it was really important,” Matteo said after being asked whether the genre was important to him in his early stages (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs). “It was my first introduction to playing through the changes.”
“Actually, the blues was like my first structure in order to play through the changes,” Matteo added. “And I really like people like Robben Ford, for example —they are really into the blues, but they can sneak in some jazz phrasing in it. People like Scott Henderson also are like that.”
Of course, Robben Ford and especially Scott Henderson aren’t like your typical blues musicians. Nonetheless, the genre’s main qualities are still very noticeable in their music.
“So yeah, the blues was really important even for the expression of the guitar,” he continued. Although blues may not be considered a technically impressive genre among the shred-focused guitar-playing population, Mancuso points out some of the genre’s aspects that are crucial for impressive technical playing.
“You learn the bending, you learn the vibrato — so the blues was really important to me.”
He then added:
“One of my favorite guitar players is Eric Johnson. [He] is an incredible blues player as well, other than being an exceptional virtuoso. Blues, I think, is one of the most important things you can learn, actually.”
During the same chat, Matteo also discussed the expected influence of Eddie Van Halen on his work. When asked about this influence and whether Eddie is “the greatest ever,” he replied:
“Eddie [Van Halen] is for sure one of the greatest innovators. I can’t say he’s the greatest ever because we can’t really say — it’s a matter of preference.”
And obviously, this is very subjective and pretty much impossible to point out. Discussing the matter, Matteo also shared a few other of his favorite guitar players. He explained:
“Somebody said that Django [Reinhardt] was the greatest ever, somebody said that Wes [Montgomery] was the greatest ever.”
“Usually, it is Jimi [Hendrix]. They say that he’s the greatest ever because, from the innovation perspective, he was the player that innovated more, if you compare him to the other players.”
“But real innovators, if I have to name a few, would be Django, Jimi, and Eddie Van Halen,” Mancuso offered. “These three, I believe, are the most important ones.”
“And also from the jazz fusion world, I would say Allan Holdsworth was the one that innovated more, but that was more on the jazz fusion side of things. So yeah, these four guys, I believe, were the most innovative in a way.”
Now 27, Mancuso started his career at a much younger age. Although a child prodigy with some following starting in the 2010s, his name got into the mainstream of guitar after he appeared in an interview with Rick Beato recently. He was featured in two episodes of Beato’s online show, the second time with another modern virtuoso, Mateus Asato.
Of course, it wasn’t like he was completely unknown — quite the contrary. Last year, he appeared in a feature by Guitar Player magazine, where he was praised for attracting the attention of giants like Al Di Meola, Steve Vai, and Joe Bonamassa.
Speaking to Guitar Player, he reflected on the origins of his fingerpicking technique. Matteo named his father as a great influence in this aspect.
“He played everything from classical music to funk, so he’s a very versatile player,” the musician said of his father. “He was in an Italian rock band called Camaleonti in the mid-1960s, and he worked as a touring pop guitar player for other people here in Italy.”
“Now he is more like a producer than a pure guitar player, so he’s worked with a lot of popular Italian musicians. He helped a lot with my album.”
“He was like a listening guide for me, more than a teacher. I started playing guitar when I was around 10 years old, and I always saw my father playing guitar around the house.”
“When I first started, I played with fingers because I thought that the instrument was meant to be played like that because I always saw my father playing with fingers.”