A Talk With John Stowell on Approaches to Chord Melody Playing

John and I have been acquainted for a number of years, as I first saw him in Portland around 1999. I later attended one of his workshops in Denver, while I was living in the area. I think that was around 2010. Since coming back to the Portland, OR area in 2013, we’ve kept in touch from time to time. In this case, John invited me to record a discussion of us trading ideas about solo guitar, specifically mixing chords and melody to make things interesting. The full video is available on Mike’s Master Classes. This is the teaser on youtube.

The Covid-19 Suite

In the Spring of 2020, when the pandemic caused everything to shut down, I decided to apply my energy to this trio of compositions and record them at home.


This tune is an expression of the uncertainty surrounding the pesky and dangerous virus, how fast it was spreading, and where it would go as far as impact on society.

Two Plus One Is Four

At this point, I’m pretty upset about the mismanagement of the pandemic at the federal level, the denial, down playing, misinformation, and lack of responsibility. For guitar geeks, it was time to break out the ES-335, a bit of overdrive, and some harmonic dissonance in a somewhat bluesy progression.

Of Humanity

My heart sank witnessing the struggles experienced in health care facilities and by providers, along with that were the families suffering the loss of loved ones. I was also inspired by the courage and dedication of health care workers in their relentless caring for those in need.

The Nylon Project

I have always played some level of solo guitar, but as solo guitar became more the rule than the exception (2010-ish), I purchased a Taylor nylon string guitar. With that, I recorded a selection of tunes to demo for playing weddings, restaurants, and such, and called it The Nylon Project. It worked! And it was the beginning of a long relationship with nylon string guitar.

Kevin Karrick, Guitarist · The Nylon Project


I was inspired to arrange this instrumental version of Paul McCartney’s wonderful tune, Blackbird. The intro was inspired by something I saw Martin Taylor play. I asked him about the intro, and chuckling, asked him if I could steal it for my own use. He said, “Sure, I stole it from Johnny Smith”. Martin and I shared a number of such stories in that time period around 2011.

Mood For A Day

This is a favorite solo guitar piece that I learned a long time ago. I think I was fifteen when the Yes album, Fragile came out, which included this tune by Steve Howe. He was one of my favorite guitarists at that impressionable age, so I immediately took on the task of figuring out how it play it. It remains in my repertoire to this day. My version of it has probably evolved a little over the years.