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Derek DeMuth Makes Magic With Percussive Fingerstyle Guitar

Derek DeMuth is a fingerstyle guitar wizard.
Derek DeMuth is a fingerstyle guitar wizard. Bob Coorsen Photography
Boulder-based Derek DeMuth plays percussive fingerstyle guitar. The tapping, slapping melodies that flow from his fingers are visually and sonically impressive. With his two hands, he produces a sound that suggests the presence of a full band.

In addition to his own compositions, he plays classical favorites from Carcassi, Brouwer, Tarrega, Legnani and Chopin, as well as cover songs from the Beatles, Queen, Toto and other popular artists. DeMuth has also explored various styles of electronic music, and some of his songs have been licensed by TV and film companies.

caught up with DeMuth in advance of his performance at Bands on the Bricks in Boulder this week.

Westword: When did you start playing the guitar?

Derek DeMuth: I started playing when I was twelve. I was into classic-rock artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, and I played electric guitar. As I got older I decided to study music, and to do that I had to learn how to play classical guitar and how to read music and how to finger-pick. I played a lot of classical music in college, and then after I graduated from college the percussive fingerstyle really caught my attention, and the first song I wanted to learn in that genre was "Drifting," by Andy McKee. That song has like [58] million views on YouTube.

I hear you'll be competing in a guitar performance contest in Arkansas.

Yes, I found the contest online. I'm a big fan of Candyrat Records, which is one of the hosts of the competition, along with Fretmonkey Records. Candyrat has recorded people like Andy McKee and Adrian Bellue and tons of other great guitarists. It's on September 14 this year, and it has 25 contestants and two rounds. In the first round, every one of the 25 contestants plays two songs of their choice. The judges will then select five finalists from that round who will then play another two songs. And from those five finalists will be chosen first-, second- and third-place winners. That's the format. So I have to think about what four songs I'll play.

What can you win?

All kinds of prizes. The first-place winner gets to go on an artist tour of China, among other things. You can win a guitar and all kinds of gear like gig bags and strings and other stuff. And they'll feature your name and probably some of your music on all the Candyrat socials, so some really good exposure.

So it's a competition exclusively for people who play in the percussive fingerstyle?

The people who show up could play in any style, but percussive fingerstyle is what Candyrat caters to. So I'm sure that I'll be performing that style of music.

Are you originally from Boulder?

I grew up in Golden and then moved to Boulder. I graduated from CU Boulder in 2013 with a bachelor's in music. I'm focusing on music and performing music full-time now. I average about one or two shows a week around the Front Range.

Do you do any busking?

I tend not to do that anymore, though there are many places to busk in Boulder. It's a bit of a challenge for my kind of music, which requires more attention. Since I don't sing, people tend to just walk by.

What are some of your favorite local venues?

Well, one of my favorite gigs to play is Bands on the Bricks on Pearl Street, which I'll be playing on July 3. I played it in 2017, too. It was a really fun show. I'm really excited about being there again. On September 30, I'll be performing at the Boulder Guitar Society for the first time. They feature a different guitarist every month. It meets in a church in Boulder.

Have you recorded any of your material?

Yeah, I have two all-original guitar albums out on Bandcamp and on my SoundCloud. I just released an EP called A Different Wavelength that has five songs in the percussive fingerstyle genre. The title track is on YouTube.

What kind of guitar do you like to play?

For percussive fingerstyle, steel-string acoustic is the preferred medium. I also play nylon string guitar, which is used for classical music, which I also still play.

You also do electronic music, right?

Yeah, I was very into electronic music for a while, and I have an album of my own electronic music out. I've shifted my focus to guitar, though, because I thought it was going to be hard to break into that scene, because there were so many people producing electronic music.

Anything else?

Just my website, my new release, the Fingerstyle Collective Guitar Contest and my upcoming show in Boulder. That's it for now.

Derek DeMuth, 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 3, Bands on the Bricks, 1300 Block of Pearl Street, Boulder, free. 
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Nick Hutchinson writes about music for Westword and enjoys playing his guitar when not on deadline.
Contact: Nick Hutchinson