Preston Reed (born April 13, 1955, Armonk, New York) is an American fingerstyle guitarist. In 1987 he invented a two-handed playing style and compositional approach that integrates the full percussive potential of the guitar body.
Preston Reed learned guitar as a child on his father's guitar and, for a short time, classical guitar with a too-severe teacher. When he was 16 his interest was rekindled by Jorma Kaukonen's acoustic guitar-playing in Hot Tuna. He took the guitar again and began to compose his own songs in the style of Leo Kottke and John Fahey. His first public performance was at Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., in a concert with Allen Ginsberg. His earliest notice came from gigs he played in and near Hartford, CT around 1978; rare tapes of Reed from this period playing solo and in various combinations have quietly circulated, but never been made public. He recorded his first album on a private Hartford-area label in 1979. He continued recording and performing and signed his first major label record deal with MCA Records with the help of his friend Lyle Lovett.
Reed has played with various other musicians, spanning the spectrum between Linda Ronstadt and rock band NRBQ. He was featured on American radio and TV broadcasts. Between 1979 and 2007, he recorded 15 albums on several labels - mostly solo acoustic guitar -, guest-starred on other musicians productions, founded his own Outer Bridge label and featured on two solo videos. He has been commissioned for film soundtracks and a suite of original music for the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet.
Reed moved to Scotland in 2000.
Technique and musical influences:
Reed plays with his fingers, thumbs, fists and hands at once, suggesting a whole band at work: drummer, keyboard player, bass guitarist and several guitarists at once. Some of his tunes invoke impressions of rock bands and duelling guitars, but he is also a player of blues or ballads reminiscent of Bill Evans, one of his musical idols.
As a teenager, Reed was influenced by Leo Kottke and John Fahey and in the beginning of his career was a fingerpicker with notable technical prowess. In the late 1980s, though, he developed his own, highly individual and percussive style, a short time after Michael Hedges published his first records using technically similar techniques, but creating very different music. He drew not only from fingerstyle, but from rock 'n' roll too, developing a very rhythmic drive in some of his compositions. Other pieces are very melodic and dreamy ballads.
His guitar style is characterised by the use of percussive effects he generates with both hands on various parts of the guitar body. He names them, appropriately, rim shots and bongo hits. He uses slap and tap techniques like slap harmonics or the generation of notes or whole chords with his left hand (hammer-on, pull-off). He uses both hands for tapping (two-hand tapping) and frets chords with his right hand (right-hand fretting). He often plays with both hands from above the guitar's neck. In many of his compositions, Reed uses altered tunings characterized by very low bass string tunings, for example BGDGAD or CGDGGD, though he also uses standard tuning on his latest CD, Spirit.
Guitars and technical equipment:
On his first recording Reed used a Martin D28 12 String and a Martin D28 6 String. He later used guitars made by the American luthier Michael Jacobson-Hardy. Later he played Washburn guitars with Seymour Duncan pickups and in the second half of the 1990s a custom Adamas Long Neck Ovation.
Around 2000 he began using several different guitars, not only steel-string acoustic, but also solid body electric guitars, semi-acoustic guitars, electrical baritone guitars, 12-string and classical guitars.
Reed recorded his 2007 album Spirit with a semi-acoustic Yamaha AE-2000 guitar.