“I didn’t invent this technique. Like Eddie Van Halen said he never invented tapping, I see it in a similar way”: Matteo Mancuso walks you through the secrets of his breathtaking style, which saw Steve Vai hail him as “the evolution of guitar”

Matteo Mancuso playing a Yamaha Revstar in the Guitarist studio
(Image credit: Future)

Over the course of a few short months, Matteo Mancuso – the Italian virtuoso tipped for greatness by some of music’s most prolific players – has quickly become a household name for electric guitar fans.

Even before the release of his debut album, The Journey, Mancuso and his trusty Yamaha Revstar were making waves on social media, releasing a suite of videos that showcased his unique fingerstyle approach to shredding. 

It was this style that attracted the plaudits of Tosin Abasi, Joe Bonamassa and Steve Vai, among many others, with the latter going so far as to label Mancuso as “the evolution of guitar”.

A brief appraisal of his style will reveal why Mancuso has taken the guitar world by storm. With an unorthodox, classical-inspired electric technique that sees the young player use every digit of his right hand to navigate the strings, Mancuso is able to reach sensational speeds, all while channeling elite phrasing and irresistible melodies.

In a new 22-minute video from Guitarist, Mancuso sat down to dissect the ins and outs of his mesmerizing playing style, touching on his biggest influences and background as a classical instrumentalist along the way.

First up is a tour of the mechanics of his unique fingerstyle approach – which can be broken down into two distinct hand positions for soloing and chord work – and a discussion of why Mancuso ditched the pick for fingers.

“With the nail you get the attack that you maybe get with the pick, but at the same time you have a darker tone because [of] the flesh of the finger,” he explains. “That would be my first ‘secret’, let’s say, to my playing.”

But, as Mancuso goes on to caveat, he doesn’t see his style as a “secret” to be learned, nor does he agree that he invented any new way of playing the six-string – he’s just shredding in a way that is unusual to see from the fretboard of an electric guitar.

“There are no secrets,” Mancuso stressed. “I didn’t plan this technique. It’s a good mix of bass technique and classical style that I learned when I was a teenager. It’s just rare to see it on the electric guitar.

“I always say that I didn’t invent this technique. Like [Eddie] Van Halen never said that he invented tapping, he just put it on the rock ‘n’ roll side of things – I see it in a similar way.”

If you isolate yourself only on blues, or only on jazz, you really miss a lot of opportunities

Elsewhere in the video, Mancuso also touched on economy of movement and the importance of listening – two key factors that have allowed him to develop his skills.

“That’s how you become your true self,” he says. “Because if you isolate yourself only on blues, or only on jazz, you really miss a lot of opportunities. That’s why I like players that are really open, people like Scott Henderson.”

It’s not the first time Mancuso has opened up about his guitar playing, with the Yamaha Revstar loyalist once revealing to Guitar World he never even wanted to be a lead player.

“I didn’t like most of the classical repertoire, and always playing solo guitar was boring to me,” he admitted. “I wanted to play with a rhythm section.”

Visit the Guitarist YouTube channel to watch the entire video lesson.

In other Mancuso news, the guitarist recently paid tribute to his hero Steve Vai with a flawless fingerstyle rendition of Vai’s legendary crossroads showcase, Eugene’s Trick Bag.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.