Watching Trace Bundy play the acoustic guitar is almost as interesting as hearing the astonishing music he coaxes out of it.
Both of Bundy’s hands are often on the neck of the instrument, his fleet fingers alternately plucking and holding down strings.
His unusual arrangements and unorthodox chording make it possible for the self-taught guitarist from Boulder, Colo., to create incredible ringing sounds.
Bundy’s remarkable version of Pachelbel’s Canon, for instance, has become a You Tube favorite, his live performance video generating 1.2 million hits and a top five-star rating.
“It’s all done with smoke and mirrors,” joked the musician known as the Acoustic Ninja. He will perform on Saturday, July 25, at The Matchbox in Red Deer.
Actually, Bundy admits his confounding style, which incorporates harmonics, right-hand tapping, looping, multiple capos (or string clamps) and lightning-fast picking, evolved out of personal experimentation.
About six years ago, he was sitting on the couch and finger-picking a little guitar riff with one hand “when a light came on. I thought, hey, I’m not using my right hand at all. What if I (used it to) hit another bass note?”
The resulting sounds were so interesting, Bundy thought “that’s kind of cool.” And a new style was born.
Now many other up-and-coming guitarists credit Bundy, who was named the 2008 Most Promising New Talent by Acoustic Guitar magazine, for influencing them to play outside the box, as it were.
The 32-year-old has been his own music teacher ever since he and his older brother pooled their money and bought a $5 guitar off a friend. “It seemed like a lot of money back when I was nine years old,” recalled Bundy, who couldn’t raise enough additional cash for guitar lessons.
He began picking out tunes on his own. Soon, he got so good at it, his older brother gave up playing altogether because he couldn’t keep up.
Later, when Bundy was taking engineering at university, he had the opportunity to take a few music theory classes. He learned he’d arrived at the right conclusions about certain chording patterns — albeit in a round-about way.
The Minnesota-born musician, who has remained an independent artist by choice to retain his creative freedom, has recorded six CDs of mostly original material (a few adaptations also crept in such as Bundy’s popular acoustic version of the Guns N’ Roses song, Sweet Child of Mine).
Over the past few years, he’s performed all over Europe, as well as Japan, Korea and Africa. Three years ago, Bundy worked in his first Alberta concert as part of a honeymoon trip he took with his new spouse to Banff and Lake Louise. “I love the Canadian Rockies.”
Ironically, he used to think he’d never make it as a performer because he can’t sing. “I have a pretty horrible voice and I used to think of it as a curse.
“Actually, it’s been a blessing,” said Bundy, because it made him focus exclusively on the guitar.
Trace Bundy performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 25, at The Matchbox theatre in Red Deer. Tickets are $26.50 from The Matchbox, 403-341-6500.