Matt Palmer: A Guitar Innovator with Deep Roots

By Meaghan Menzel

Copy Editor

Dr. Matthew Palmer joined the Washington College community as a lecturer in music for guitar. According to Dr. Palmer’s website, he is the recipient of awards such as the “Up and Coming Guitarist of the Year” award by Guitar International Magazine, first prize for the Beeston Memorial Competition in 2008, first prize in the Sholin Memorial Competition in 2008, and many more. He has come out with CDs such as “Appassionata” and “Un tiempo fue Itálica famosa.”

“Matt Palmer is one of the most impressive guitar players I’ve come across,” said Grammy-award Winning Composer Sergio Assad, according to Dr. Palmer’s website. “He has developed a very personal right-hand guitar technique using a combination of three fingers for four-note patterns. This technique has been worked by other guitarists in the past but Matt Palmer has taken this possibility to an ultimate level and the result is pure music.”

According to Dr. Palmer, he was born in east Tennessee and moved many times before returning to east Tennessee when he was 10 years old. He said, “My best memories would probably be related to country life: farm work, bonfires, working on old cars, family, [and] snow. There was always a guitar nearby, or good music in the background.”


He said, “My dad played to us when we were kids, so I always liked the guitar. I began playing at 10 years old along with two of my older brothers. We took lessons for only a brief time at a local music shop, but mostly I was self-taught, learning by ear, my brother, or from magazines… I was so enamored with guitar as a kid that I was able to progress very rapidly. Of course things were hard, but I always enjoyed the challenge and was willing to put in the long hours required to get good. I think those are the most important things: time and determination.”

Dr. Palmer got his Bachelor of Music degree in Guitar Performance at Middle Tennessee State University in 2003, his Master of Music degree in Guitar Performance at Appalachian State University in 2006, and his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Guitar Performance and Music Theory from the University of Arizona in 2012. These days, he said, some of his other interests include, “my sons Alexander and Matthew, auto mechanics, Chopin, Scriabin, astronomy, music theory, [and] film.”

In addition to teaching and performing, Dr. Palmer has also published the book “The Virtuoso Guitarist Method,” which, according to his website, is an “in-depth guide to Matt Palmer’s groundbreaking approach to playing fast scales on the guitar. This proven and effective A-M-I scale method is specifically designed for speed and efficiency.”

Dr. Palmer said, “When I came to the classical (fingerstyle) guitar, I had no experience with right-hand fingerstyle technique, even though I was already quite advanced as a guitarist, so along with working with my instructor, I was also developing new ways to play the music I wanted to play. Over time I realized that I had developed a unique system of playing scales—a kind of classical/metal hybrid system that works incredibly well.”

According to Dr. Palmer, what he loves about the guitar is the sound. “It is a very versatile instrument that can be used effectively in any style of music. It is also expressive, capable of really captivating audiences.”

He said his favorite musicians “from [his] electric guitar days” included Yngwie Malmsteen, Marty Friedman, Jason Becker, and Randy Rhoads. These days, he enjoys David Russell, Vladimir Horowitz, Julian Bream, Jascha Heifetz, and Aniello Desiderio.

“When I was a kid, I played primarily heavy metal. As a young guy, I think the more aggressive music just resonated with me the most. I usually gravitated towards bands that featured amazing guitarists that wrote great solos,” he said. “These days I only perform classical guitar, though that term encompasses a very broad range [of] specific styles. It is usually a lot cooler than you may think. As an instructor, I teach virtually all styles of guitar.”

Here at WC, Dr. Palmer teaches two sections of Applied Music for Guitar and three sections of Classroom Guitar, and he coaches a new Chamber Ensemble in guitar. He also coordinates the yearly Eastern Shore Guitar Festival at Washington College. He said, “I love seeing students having fun and overcoming challenges on their own. It is very gratifying to know that I have helped a student achieve his/her goal and to hear them play music… Engaging students can be difficult at times. I teach a variety of styles from classical to metal, and finding just the right combination of repertoire, technique, and fun for individual students can be tough, but this is all part of the job—getting to know students and finding ways to help them learn and improve. It is actually fun for me.”

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