like tremolo, crazy-fast arpeggios, and the contrapuntal
stuff. During that time, I was a
big technician, so I was always
looking for the next challenge,
and that was it.
Could you read music then?
At the time, I learned music by
ear almost exclusively. So, I just
started to learn these pieces off
the CD by ear. I didn’t immediately give up electric guitar. I
just wanted to explore this other
aspect of guitar. There weren’t
any aspirations of going to college at all—mostly because I
didn’t know you could study
guitar in college. Once I learned
you could, I auditioned with
these transcriptions I had done.
I went to Middle Tennessee
State University and studied
with Dr. Bill Yelverton.
Did you take any formal les-
sons before college?
When I first started, my mom
had me take lessons from a
teacher at a local music shop.
I took lessons for about a year
and then decided it wasn’t
for me. It wasn’t the teacher’s
fault—I just felt I could do it
myself. I really learned more
about the technique side from
playing Malmsteen and Marty
“I feel fortunate that we are living in a time when some really great guitarists/composers aren’t trying to write like the great pianists from the 19th century,” says Palmer.
guitarists have played scales this
way. Narciso Yepes was probably the first. But when you look
at the editions these guys have
made and the pieces they’ve
fingered, it’s a totally different
approach than what I use.
How is your technique
It’s like an electric-/classical-hybrid left hand mixed with the
a–m–i [ring finger–middle finger–index finger] plucking-hand
stuff. Previously, it was more of
a pure classical-position style of
playing with the left hand, but
I don’t think those two work
together very well, because you
get all these weird right [plucking] hand fingerings each time
you move to a new string.
Now I can play tremolo as
fast—well, almost as fast—as
anyone can speed pick.
the side I was always working
on something much more complex, hiding it from my teacher.
I would imagine your first
lesson in college was pretty
It was humbling. I came to
college with a lot of facility in
my left [fretting] hand, but
the right [plucking] hand is so
detailed and integral to classical guitar playing that I pretty
much had to start from square
one. I was doing everything
wrong. My nails were like an
inch long. We just started with
some real basic studies. It was
a little discouraging, because I
knew I was capable of doing so
much more. I rolled with it and
did the assigned studies, but on
You developed your own
an expansion on classical
tremolo technique [see “Step
on the (Classical) Gas” side-
bar on p. 130]—to play scales
at fast tempos, right?
Right. Like I mentioned, my
right hand was a mess, and I
was coming up with my own
ways of getting things done.
The traditional approach of
playing scales in classical and
flamenco guitar is by alter-
nating the index and middle
finger. I think I was too impa-
tient to allow it to develop,
because it was frustrating that
the right hand couldn’t keep
up. I would throw in the pinky
and use all the fingers on my
plucking hand to play scales.
Then I heard these guitarists
just ripping scales and they
were articulating every note,
so I set out to figure out how
they were doing it. When col-
lege was over, I had most of
the system put together, and
I’m really lucky that my teach-
ers didn’t strike me down from
Your guitar sound on the
album is huge. What guitar
did you use?
I used a guitar that was made
in 2005 by Kolya Panhuyzen,
a German luthier who lives in
Canada. It has a spruce top
with Brazilian rosewood back
and sides and a Spanish cedar
neck. The elevated fingerboard
really helps with getting to the
higher frets on the guitar. I
really like traditional solid-top
guitars and the brightness of
the spruce. For my fingers, a
traditional build, as opposed to
the newer double-top or lattice-braced guitars, has this definite
breaking point. When you play
hard, there’s a point where it
starts to break up.
What do you mean by
There’s a certain edge to it
that kind of reminds you of
distortion. If you play with
that threshold, I think it’s really
another means of expression.
With the newer designs, my
fingers can’t really get to that
threshold. This guitar sounds
beautiful in a concert hall—it
sounds powerful and the vibrato