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Hole Notes: The Fleet-Fingered Moves of Six- and 12-String Virtuoso Leo Kottke

The following content is related to the June 2013 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.

Acoustic fingerstyle phenom Leo Kottke released his first album, Twelve String Blues, in 1969. A year later, he sent his sophomore effort, Circle ‘Round the Sun, to famed picker John Fahey, setting the wheels in motion for a deal with Capitol Records.

Since then, Kottke has issued dozens of solo albums on various labels and collaborated with musicians as wide-ranging as the Violent Femmes (The Blind Leading the Naked), Lyle Lovett (Joshua Judges Ruth), Rickie Lee Jones (Traffic from Paradise), Big Head Todd and the Monsters (Sister Sweetly) and Phish bassist Mike Gordon (Clone and Sixty Six Steps).

He had a frenetic folk style approach, rooted in the use of thumbpicking, until a hand injury forced him to change to a more classical approach. Though Kottke wields an assortment of six- and 12-string instruments live and on record, often using an assortment of open, altered and slack tunings, this lesson focuses on his standard-tuned six-string work.