16:43
TEDGlobal 2012

Usman Riaz + Preston Reed: A young guitarist meets his hero

Filmed:

Usman Riaz is a 21-year-old whiz at the percussive guitar, a style he learned to play by watching his heroes on YouTube. The TED Fellow plays onstage at TEDGlobal 2012 -- followed by a jawdropping solo from the master of percussive guitar, Preston Reed. And watch these two guitarists take on a very spur-of-the-moment improv.

- Revolutionary Guitarist
Preston Reed’s hands have an otherworldly coordination. The fingers, nails, thumbs, and palms of both left and right dance, pluck, strum, and slap his guitar, which bursts with a full sound. Full bio

- Percussive guitarist
Young guitarist Usman Riaz pulls a rich, swirling sound out of the acoustic guitar. Full bio

(Music)
00:17
(Applause)
03:33
(Applause)
03:57
(Music)
04:08
(Applause)
07:17
(Music)
07:41
(Applause)
10:53
Chris Anderson: You guys were amazing.
11:21
That's amazing.
11:23
(Applause)
11:25
You just don't hear that every day.
11:28
(Laughter)
11:30
Usman, the official story is that
11:32
you learned to play the guitar
11:34
by watching Jimmy Page on YouTube.
11:36
Usman Riaz: Yes, that was the first one. And then I --
11:38
That was the first thing I learned,
11:41
and then I started progressing to other things.
11:43
And I started watching Kaki King a lot,
11:46
and she would always cite Preston Reed as a big influence,
11:49
so then I started watching his videos,
11:53
and it's very surreal right now to be --
11:55
(Laughter)
11:58
(Applause)
12:00
CA: Was that piece just now,
12:05
that was one of his songs that you learned, or how did that happen?
12:07
UR: I'd never learned it before,
12:10
but he told me that we would be playing that on stage,
12:11
so I was familiar with it, so that's why I had so much more fun learning it.
12:14
And it finally happened, so ...
12:18
(Laughter)
12:21
CA: Preston, from your point of view,
12:22
I mean, you invented this like 20 years ago, right?
12:24
How does it feel to see someone like this
12:26
come along taking your art and doing so much with it?
12:29
Preston Reed: It's mind-blowing,
12:33
and I feel really proud, really honored.
12:36
And he's a wonderful musician, so it's cool.
12:39
(Laughter)
12:44
CA: I guess, I don't think there is like a one-minute other piece you guys can do?
12:47
Can you? Do you jam? Do you have anything else?
12:53
PR: We haven't prepared anything.
12:55
CA: There isn't. I'll tell you what.
12:58
If you have another 30 or 40 seconds,
13:02
and you have another 30 or 40 seconds,
13:06
and we just see that, I just think --
13:07
I can feel it. We want to hear a little more.
13:09
And if it goes horribly wrong, no worries.
13:12
(Applause)
13:13
(Laughter)
13:17
(Music)
13:31
(Applause)
16:17
Translated by Morton Bast
Reviewed by Thu-Huong Ha

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About the Speakers:

Preston Reed - Revolutionary Guitarist
Preston Reed’s hands have an otherworldly coordination. The fingers, nails, thumbs, and palms of both left and right dance, pluck, strum, and slap his guitar, which bursts with a full sound.

Why you should listen

Most guitarists the world over play their instruments in essentially the same way: the left hand holds the neck and applies pressure to each string to change notes, while the right hand plays the melody. Not so with Preston Reed.

In the 1980s, Reed began playing his instrument in new ways, sometimes twisting his left hand to pick out a melody while the right hand strummed accompaniment or tapping the guitar’s body like a drum. A new playing style was born, with deep chords, complex percussion, and weightless melodies. And he's inspired new generations of guitarists to further innovate on the genre he pioneered.

More profile about the speaker
Preston Reed | Speaker | TED.com
Usman Riaz - Percussive guitarist
Young guitarist Usman Riaz pulls a rich, swirling sound out of the acoustic guitar.

Why you should listen

TEDGlobal Fellow Usman Riaz is a young Pakistani musician making a worldwide mark with his astonishing and fun-to-listen-to technique. Influenced by percussive guitarists--who move beyond strumming to striking, treating their fretboard like the soundboard of a piano--Riaz makes a sound that feels larger than the instrument itself, with a compelling pattern of repetition and variation that harkens to mystical music traditions.

In 2011, a viral video for his song "Fire Fly" helped bring his sound from the small-but-thriving Pakistani music community to a global audience. He's now collaborating with other musicians in Pakistan and working on a new album of original music.

More profile about the speaker
Usman Riaz | Speaker | TED.com