Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Steve Kaufman, Champion of Contests and Of Teaching Acoustic Guitar Flatpicking

Steve Kaufman Is a Fretboard Master.

Simply put, Steve Kaufman is the all time king of contest guitar playing in the field of flatpicking acoustic guitar. On top of that, Steve Kaufman is, perhaps, the greatest flatpicking instructor in the United States of America. I've met Steve Kaufman, and he's a nice guy; but he's very busy. I've bought Steve Kaufman tutorial magazines and compact discs directly from Steve Kaufman, and I've even played one of his guitars. This is a man who, perhaps, knows and performs more traditional, public domain folk tunes on the acoustic guitar than any other man or woman living, and he does that at a higher level of skill than most anyone can even approach.

Steve Kaufman. Master Flatpicker and Master Instructor.

Steve Kaufman

Finding nothing, and this is very surprising considering who the man is, and what all he's done, in Wikipedia, I've been unable to find the typical "Steve Kaufman was born on such and such date in such and such, U.S.A." stuff, suffice it to say, . . . . . . .here's his official website:
One need not be very bright or observant to have noticed that I, the author here, was born and raised, and continue to live in Kaufman, Texas; this has nothing to do with Steve Kaufman, who he is, or why this is being published. I sort of doubt the the amazing Steve Kaufman has ever been to Kaufman, Texas; has ever heard of the place, or has ever had any reason to have; except that I personally told him that I was from, Kaufman, Texas; and I sorta kinda noticed that it rang no bells for the man. But the name of Steve Kaufman resounds with anyone who plays an acoustic guitar with a pick anywhere in the United States, and the rest of the world.  He's just that big of a deal.  His Kaufman Kamp schools for flatpicking guitar and mandolin are huge events with many instructors on Kaufman's level, and with classes for beginners on up to serious amateurs and professionals.  Steve Kaufman's books of tablature for learning Celtic, Bluegrass, Gospel, and even Seasonal tunes for guitar and mandolin  are also among the very finest learning materials available on the market.  I've a stack of Steve Kaufman "always free, never cheap" newsletters, and the arrangements for both obscure and well known folk tunes found within are always a treasure.

Steve Kaufman Flatpicking Instructional Material.

Mel Bay presents My First Bluegrass Guitar Picking Songs (My First (Alfred Publishing))
Amazon Price: $9.34
List Price: $17.99
Bluegrass Guitar Solos That Every Parking Lot Picker Should Know (Bluegrass Guitar Solos Every Parking Lot Picker Should Know)
Amazon Price: $50.68
List Price: $69.95
Basic Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar
Amazon Price: $18.02
List Price: $29.95

Contest Champion, and the Walnut Valley Festival

The Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas is without a doubt the largest folk music festival in the United States, and it is held annually during the third week of September. Held at the festival every year is the amazing, and very prestigious World Flatpicking Guitar Championship, and nobody has won this contest as many times as has Steve Kaufman, who has won the contest an amazing four times over the years.  I thought I'd give a bit more information for how these contests are scored, and the following comes from the official website, and there is a link for that at the bottom of this section:
0 points 1. ARRANGEMENT - Contestant's version of the tune selected. Is it appropriate to the tune and arrangement? Is the tune selected in keeping with the flavor of the festival? Is the arrangement original, for the most part, to the contestant, or is it someone else's known arrangement?
40 points 2. EXECUTION & ARTICULATION - Are the notes buzzing and muddy, or are they clear and distinct? Tone - Are the notes full or thin sounding? Timing - Is the tempo steady and constant? Dexterity - Are the notes played in difficult positions up and/or down the finger board or is the piece played for the most part in first and/or second position? Tuning - Is the instrument in tune with itself and relatively close to concert pitch of A=440?
10 points 3. EXPRESSION, DYNAMICS & SHOW VALUE - The music should be played with life and feeling. The performance is not to be based on audience response.
10 points 4. OVERALL IMPRESSION - Paragraphs 1 through 3 are considered at this point

The Seven String Gallagher Steve Kaufman Model Acoustic Guitar.

The Steve Kaufman Seven String Guitar.

Steve Kaufman, being one of the pre-eminent flatpicking guitarists in this world, has many fine instruments, but among them is his own Gallagher Signature Model Seven String Acoustic Cutaway Guitar, and I've played it myself, though not nearly so well as he can.  At the last Walnut Valley Festival that I'd attended, right after buying some books from Mr. Kaufman directly, a man behind his booth named Mr. Gallagher, who I'd previously spoken to at the festival, saw me, remembered seeing me playing on someone else's guitar, and handed me Steve Kaufman's guitar.  Now, Mr. Kaufman didn't know me from "Adam," really, so I saw him give a quick turn an look at this stranger playing one of his instruments.   He then saw that I was under the supervision of, probably, the man who'd made the thing to begin with, and so it was all cool then.  Sadly, having someone like Kaufman standing within earshot had an effect on my . . . .abilities.

The Steve Kaufman Model Gallagher Guitar is another fine instrument well worth knowing about and owning, but it's a seven string guitar, which is very uncommon.  It features a lower "D" string, which is larger in diameter than the typical largest string, the big "E" string.  As must be expected, the neck of the guitar is thicker than usual, and this is to accommodate the additional string.  I've large enough hands and long enough fingers to play an instrument like this, but it would definitely take some getting used to, and it's not for everyone.

Conclusion. . . .Play Yer Guitar!

I hope that this article has done something towards introducing you to who Steve Kaufman is, and maybe, given you some direction towards discovering some great music, and the music instructor who has done, probably, more for more aspiring acoustic guitarists and mandolin pickers than any other in the realm of instruction.  It's also my sincerest wish that you enjoy the videos I've provided, but surely there are many, many more.  If I can get just one person started in the fine art of acoustic flatpicking, then my job here has been an amazing success.  Play Yer Guitar!

Steve Kaufman, International Flatpicking Champion


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