TrueFire’s Next Top Guitar Instructor (TNTGI) contest has one goal in mind: Find amazing guitar instructors that deserve exposure to our amazing students. The flip side of that coin was also to find those awesome instructors because our student’s deserve the best instruction!

Out of hundreds of entries and multiple rounds of voting, one instructor remained. John Hatcher has a long history of being a “top” guitar instructor in his own right. His tasty fingerstyle blues playing along with his ability to break lessons down into understandable, bite-sized chunks makes it easy to see why students voted him to the top.

With winning TNTGI, came a trip to the TrueFire studio to record his first TrueFire course, Fingerstyle Blues & Roots. This has turned out to be a student favorite from the moment it was released! Check out our conversation with John about the experience of winning TNTGI and working on his course, and take a look at the course here.

Q&A with Winner, John Hatcher

TF: How did it feel to win TNTGI?
I was on cloud nine. The minute I got the word from Team TrueFire, I ran straight outside and let out a “wooohooo!” that anyone within a block heard. I’ve been a student of TrueFire’s for years so I knew this was a big deal. I couldn’t have been more honored and excited. I still can’t believe it.

TF: Have you gotten a lot of good feedback since you won the contest?
Since the contest, I’ve gotten a lot of positive support from my students and even other professional guitar teachers. It’s been cool to hear the feedback from my students because they were the reason that I was even nominated. There’s a collective respect for what TrueFire does for the guitar community and I think that my students were happy that I’d be a part of it.

TF: What was it like going to Florida and recording in the TrueFire studios with the gang?
First of all, I had a blast! We got a great deal of work done in a short time period, but somehow it still felt laid back and relaxed. I felt like TrueFire family from the minute Ren put a great cup of coffee in my hand 🙂

Beyond that, I was extremely impressed with how professional everyone was, it just seemed like a great group. There was a perfect mix of professionalism and just hanging out and making music. It helped me feel relaxed once the cameras were rolling.

TF: You often talk about your obsession with acoustic blues players like Etta Baker, Keb Mo and Blind Blake and how you were able to trace your obsession with this style of music to one song – Eric Clapton’s version of “Hey, Hey” by Big Bill Broonzy. What specifically about it in that particular song that fascinated you to that degree?
That lick! The one that happens at the end of the progression…it grabbed me immediately.

I was a kid when the Unplugged album came out and I was innately drawn to the bluesy tunes on that record. But “Hey, Hey” stood out because it just didn’t sound like any blues tune I’d ever heard. It’s very unique the way the melody and rhythm are melded together into one bluesy little package. It’s just brilliant. Of course, Clapton’s version is great, but at some point, I started backtracking to Broonzy and the other Blues greats that Clapton covered on that album. It’s been a journey ever since then. “Hey, Hey” put me on the path and Keb Mo’s first album made sure I stayed on it!

TF: Most blues players use a pick and don’t have fingerstyle chops. Even if you’re one of these players (mostly using a pick), is it possible to get fingerstyle skills?
I first started playing hard rock on an electric guitar. I thought fingerstyle sounded cool, but it wasn’t for me. I just couldn’t do much past pluck out the intro to Stairway! So yeah, I think it’s possible to learn fingerstyle because I was one of those pick-only players that transitioned into fingerpicking. It takes dedication and some good picking exercises, but I believe most players can build their fingerstyle skills and have fun while doing it. It’s pretty rewarding to be able to play the bass, rhythm and melody for a piece of music all at once. For me, it’s worth putting in the time to build these chops.

TF: Tell us a little bit about your new TrueFire course…
At its core, Fingerstyle Blues Roots is a crash course in the fundamentals of acoustic fingerstyle blues. We cover the most common picking techniques and give players exercises to help build the physical skills needed to play great Fingerstyle Blues. The really fun part comes in the performances. Each one covers a different set of concepts that are very common to acoustic blues.

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