Jun 262013
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For the last few days I’ve been spending all my time watching youtube videos of an amazing nylon string player, Estas Tonne:

There certainly seems to be a flamenco influence here, but I think his style is more suited to a modern popular audience than many flamenco players, primarily due to his playing being focused on the natural minor scale rather than the phrygian dominant.

What I find so great about this player is the sound scapes he can create with a single acoustic guitar and how well he can use some relatively simple harmonic ideas to carry a performance for so long.

He has got me picking up my classical guitar again to try to bring some of his influence into my playing and as such, have been trying to dissect his style from the videos I’ve been watching. Here are some of the main points I’ve noticed:

Harmonically, a lot here is back to the basics. Much of his work is in either Em or Am, thus often putting open bass strings at his disposal to add depth during melodic runs.

He heavily sticks to the chords: i, iv, V7, VI, VII. (e.g. Em. Am, B7, C, D) These chords are all formed from the natural minor scale with the exception of the V7 and it is common to make the V chord a dominant in a minor key, to allow a dominant tonic resolution between V7 – i.

A lot of his note choice for either adding tension to a chord or for melodic runs is straight from the natural minor scale (e.g. E Aeolian).

I see a lot of his left hand work as quite achievable for an accomplished player. A lot of his melodic runs are given depth by having open string bass notes at his disposal (or say treble open string notes from Em). Additionally, when he uses extra tones to add tension to a standard chord voicing these tones are often easily accessible from the chord voicing.

So with the above basics, how can his playing sound so mesmerising? I think this comes down to two main points: his feel for the music and the amazing versatility of his right hand techniques.

In terms of feel for the music, this really comes through with things like his ability to swell the timing, pause at the right points (say when he hits a 9th against a tonic base) and effortlessly transition between these timings to a constant dance like rhythm. In terms of his timing swells, pauses and movements to constant beats he does all this effortlessly without ever losing the continuity of the music. Other aspects here are things like his lead nuance such as the well placed slides between notes.

And then there is his right hand technique. It seems fairly heavily influenced by flamenco technique but I suspect it is actually quite a unique style. Some aspects he transitions between are arpeggios, rest strokes, multiple finger strums and an ability to intermix bass notes or lead notes virtually anywhere with this. He also uses his left hand technique to range in dynamics from sparse quite arpeggios all the way up to wild fast strumming and, as with his timing swells, he also has the ability to transition between these left hand dynamics at will without losing any continuity of his music.

So this is what I’ve managed to figure out from his style so far. I’m sure what I’ve presented here is really a gross simplification of all the nuance he has put into his style, but I do think that a basic analysis like this is also helpful when trying to incorporate a players style as an influence in your own playing.

I hope this was interesting and here are his links to his music:


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  15 Responses to “Artist Spotlight: Estas Tonne”

  1. I like his way of play. Estas actually bring my guitar back to my hands. His right hand seems to work out of any style but each finger play individual style. Also he uses pedals, sound like memory man, I am trying to figure out which one.

    • Yeah, he’s a pretty amazing player Taras. In terms of pedals, he seems to use some sort of delay, but I’ve never really heard him utilizing looping in his playing. I think he does sometimes trigger an E synth bass tone drone which might be stored as a patch in a memory man I guess.

    • Hi Taras, if u pause at 7:11 in this video you can see 5 pedals, these are, from the bottom:
      1: Boss SL-20 Slicer
      2:TC Eletronic Hall of Fame- An Reverb,set in modulation mode
      3: Eletro harmonix Freeze, and type of sustain/loop
      4: Boss Equalizer
      5: Boss Tuner

      So, theres a lot more going on than just his playing, the Slicer and the Freeze create a percussive and sustained atmosphere, and the Reverb is key too in the way the guitar sound, creating that allusive guitar sound. Hope it helps, Hugs !

      • Hi, you save me a lot of work, thank you! I spent days trying to find out what pedals he use.
        I never imagine he use and slicer, and I was sure he use to use a delay too, at least in others vids. Any idea what is the gadget tha appear at 7.15?
        Thanks a lot

      • I know this is old, but Estas Tonne also uses a Electro-Harmonix Micro POG as well to get that low organ sound like at the Boom 2014 (Road to Utopia). Even if you get that Hall of Fame and turn it on Mod mode man, your classical will sound exactly like Estas’ guitar.

  2. Hi im wondering if any one has any idea on what guitar estas tonneis is playing. I would love
    To learn to play like him one day. Although I can Imagine this would take many yrs of practice. But i haven’t a clue on what guitar he plays. Im truly stumped and it’s getting so frustrating.
    I would be very grateful if someone would have some idea. I just love his music and he is truly gifted.
    Pls can someone help.



  3. i want to learn the Estas Tonne right hand technique !! where i will find it ??

    • Hi Dave,

      I haven’t found any resource specifically on learning his right hand technique.

      I’m sure studying classical and flamenco technique will get you a fair way there, but he seems to be able to integrate finger strumming with bass notes, treble notes and arpeggios quite unlike anyone I have seen before and at this stage I have not been able to replicate this.

  4. If someone wants to split the cost to have his song ” The Song of the Golden Dragon” tabbed out, I would do that with them. It is a bit expensive. I WILL play that song!

  5. I am working on a tab for this and I’m looking for musicians who want to help me. I got about 1:40 done. I added fingering notations so far to clarify right hand techniques but I am really reaching my skill limits doing that tab, email me if you feel capable of helping

  6. Hi !
    Any idea what guitar brand did he use ? I know one is Manuel Rodiguer. But not the other.
    Thank !

    • I am also wondering this too. I assume you mean the one he uses for Internal Flight Short Film and Soundscape and others?

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