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Joe Robinson: Self-Taught Guitar Virtuoso

The readers of <em>Guitar Player </em>magazine recently named Joe Robinson "Best New Talent."
Simone Cecchetti
The readers of Guitar Player magazine recently named Joe Robinson "Best New Talent."

At just 19 years old, self-taught Australian guitarist Joe Robinson has accomplished what most musicians can only dream of. He recorded his first CD at age 14, and won first place on Australia's Got Talent at 17.

The following year, Robinson took the top title at the World Championships of Performing Arts.

Robinson credits much of his training to videos he found on YouTube. "I came from a very kind of rural part of Australia," he tells NPR's Lynn Neary. "Really, there was no guitar teacher for me to learn from." So he turned to YouTube at around age 10, and started exploring and playing with his guitar. Just a few years later, he played Mason Williams' "Classical Gas" — which he learned from YouTube — on Australia's Got Talent, and won.

"I just fell in love with it straight away," Robinson says about playing the guitar. "And here I am now, 19, in America, playing professionally. I can't believe it."

At first, the virtuoso aspect was Robinson's main focus. Now, he's broadening his repertoire, learning to sing and to write his own songs. He says learning to write lyrics has had a steep learning curve, but he's enjoying it.

And that doesn't mean he's leaving the cover songs he's learned behind. "I think you have to find a way of putting your own slant on it," he says, "while maintaining the original melodic ideas of the song."

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NPR Staff