from Camano Island Washington
A resident of Washington State, Tracy Moore is one of the worlds truly fine acoustic 12-string guitarists. Trained in classical guitar and Renaissance Lute, Tracy’s reputation has attracted the attention of the national press, including Guitar Player and Acoustic Guitar Magazine. By utilizing the upper octave pairs of strings into the melody lines of his compositions and arrangements, Tracy has expanded the rich melodic tones and the dynamic possibilities of the 12-string guitar to a higher level. Tracy has lifted the 12-string guitar above its former role as an accompaniment or power guitar instrument to what Tracy calls “Melodic 12-String Guitar”. Tracy presents a mix of traditional Celtic, old European lute works, and original contemporary solo 12-string guitar music from his recordings, including his latest effort, Tracy Moore: The Collection. The music flowing from Moore and his 12 string guitar is delicate, dynamic, serious and often whimsical; his mesmerizing melodies are created by striking the 12 strings of his guitar individually, rather than in pairs, allowing for a wider range of texturing and melodic possibilities, creating Tracy’s signature sound.
My ear was first drawn to the 12-string guitar when, as a young teenager, I was given a Pete Seeger 12-string guitar instruction LP and booklet by one of my newspaper route customers. I was already learning guitar at that point, with the dream of playing in rock’n’roll bands. And then, in high school, my guitar teacher turned me on to Leo Kottke’s “Armadillo” LP. Soon I was leading a dual life as lead guitarist in a rock’n’roll band, and as a serious student of the acoustic guitar. By the time I reached college, I had decided to major in classical guitar. The beautiful, melodic music of the Renaissance lute caught by ear and I began to also study the music written for this incredible instrument. In the course of my studies I acquired a lute. I also purchased a Guild 12-string guitar and began learning and performing the music of the “American Fingerstyle Guitar” movement, for lack of a better term.
The lute and the 12-string guitar both have double courses – strings in pairs – some tuned in unison, others to octaves. The lute’s highest string is actually a single string, called a chanterelle. The next two courses are tuned in unison and the remaining courses in octaves, with the lower octave first, as you strike the string with your right hand thumb. On the 12-string guitar, the upper two courses are in unison, and the remaining four courses are tuned in octaves, but opposite those of the lute, the 12-string’s higher octave string is struck first with the thumb.
A college roommate played melodic banjo, a banjo style where you incorporate the high G string of the banjo into the melodic lines of music. This intrigued me, and looking at the 12-string guitar, I realized I had four of these upper octave strings that could be incorporated into the melody lines. That did it… I was hooked!
Working with this style of 12-string playing, your right hand gets quite busy, plucking the melody with your right hand fingers and alternating melody notes with the upper octaves of the courses you choose with your thumb. The thumb also has its usual bass duties, so you develop the technique of plucking only the upper octave of a course when needed with your thumb or, both pairs as normal or, just plucking the lower octave when you want extra clarity in your bass line.
The melodic and textural possibilities of the 12-string guitar just explode when you think of the instrument in these terms.
To varying degrees, the compositions and arrangements included in “The Collection” make use of these techniques on the 12-string guitar. Tunes such as “Tom Bombadil” and “Clam Chowder” scratch the surface of these techniques, while compositions such as “Highland Drive”, “Peculiar Point of Balance”, and “McSharry’s Jig” really get into it.