Preston Reed set to showcase percussive guitar technique to Ellena’s April 5

Preston Reed, who invented a style of playing guitar that includes tapping the neck while drumming on the instrument's body, will play Ellena's Cafe in Napanee on April 5. Photo from

Adam Prudhomme
Beaver Staff

World-renowned guitar player Preston Reed will bring his unique playing style to Napanee on April 5, when he takes the stage at Ellena’s Cafe as part of the Starstop concert series.

Reed is best known for pioneering the integrated percussive technique, which combines the ‘tapping’ style of playing the neck of a guitar while using his other hand to both strum and drum on his guitar. Since developing the technique in the late 1980s, its been adapted by guitar players all over the world.

Born in the U.S., the 63-year-old has enjoyed a four decade long career, which includes 17 studio albums. He was recently named 12th in Digital Dream Doors’ ranking of the 100 greatest acoustic guitar players.

“Something that had always intrigued me, but I didn’t think it was possible, was figuring out a way to play drums and guitar at the same time,” Reed told the Beaver over the phone from his home in Scotland about his style of play. “I always noticed all the cool percussive sounds that you could make on the body of an acoustic guitar. When I put the two things together, if I were going to play drums on the guitar, how would I even start? Holding the guitar in a conventional way, with my right hand over the sound hole, my left hand making chords, there was really no way I could free my hands up to play drums as well. I thought what would happen if I reversed the problem and thought how do I add guitar playing to a drum beat?”

After much experimenting, he was able to perfect his now world famous style.

“I started writing tunes that way very quickly and started performing them along side my other stuff at shows and people seemed to really like it so I just kept going,” said Reed. “It just blossomed into this huge thing.”

In 1999 he put out a how-to video on his playing style, which has served to influence the likes of Kaki King and Andy McKee, among others.

“I think it’s something cool that other people can benefit from,” Reed said of sharing his technique. “I have sometimes come across people who have learned my style and don’t give credit where credit is due and that of course is disappointing. But most of the people who know about this way of playing know I’m the source of it and most people have been respectful enough to give credit from what they gained from my work.”

Reed has also held several in-person training sessions, including a week long lesson with a young Ed Sheeran.

“He’s a very hard worker, a very bright kid,” said Reed of Sheeran. “He was able to quickly learn the ideas that I was imparting to him.”

With a huge music catalogue to his name, Reed will have plenty to choose from for his April 5 show.

“It’ll be a bit of everything,” said Reed of his upcoming performance. “When I play a concert I like to entertain the audience, people of all ages. It’ll be a range of stuff I’ve done both old and new and I’ll be covering different styles of music. I love all kinds of music, so they’ll be jazz, rock, funk, blues, county, blue grass, all the different styles that I like.”

Tickets for the show are $25 and available at Ellena’s Cafe or online at

His appearance in Napanee is the first of a new tour, which will include stops throughout Ontario and Montreal before embarking into the U.S.

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