Hey Reddit! Excited for my second AMA. I'm Mak Grgic, classical guitarist and faculty member at Mount St. Mary’s University. I was born in Slovenia but currently live in LA, having lived in Croatia and Austria before moving to the States. I was also a competitive at math in Slovenia and a European world champion at Shotokan Karate. (A thumb injury at 19 was actually what led me to focus solely on music). I've been written about in the LA Times, New York Times and Washington Post and have toured through North America, Asia, and Europe. Feel free to ask me anything about music, what touring is like, what a Doctorate in music requires, or even how to play a concert with a broken thumb:)

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/7guitarist

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MakGrgicGuitar/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/makguitar/?hl=en

My Proof: https://imgur.com/a/z6qsGv0

Edit: So enjoyed answering everyone's questions! Have to sign off for now, but will be checking throughout the day to answer more.

Comments: 93 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

WhiskeyDickens20 karma

If you could buy a vowel, what would your last name be?

MakGrgic13 karma



There's actually a hidden vowel in there. Here's how it should be spelled: Gergich.

WhiskeyDickens11 karma

I hereby christen you Mark Gergich. Big thanks to the United Nations for their airdrop of vowels into Slovenia. :)

MakGrgic9 karma

Very kind of you :D

yawetag129 karma

I love playing classical and fingerstyle guitar!

Other than finding a tutor, what training would you recommend? Which books? YouTube channels? Even a good guide for beginners/intermediate pieces would be nice.

MakGrgic13 karma


I'd say nowadays, more than ever, we have endless resources available. Maybe too many :D Let me recommend a few.

BOOKS: - Pumping Nylon by Scott Tennant - Books of technique by Abel Carlevaro - then there's books by Aaron Shearer, some on Mel Bay, even a book by Christopher Parkening, Ricardo Iznaola, a new book by Hubert Kappel. Needless to say many!

OTHERWISE EXERCISES: - Mauro Giuliani - Fernando Sor - F. Carulli - F. Tarrega ... have fantastic etudes

Online Resources like Tonebase, True Fire are good. And in terms of YT channels, I have never done the search, but I am sure if you just type in the desired issue to be tackled, it will give you multitude of answers!

Hope this was helpful :) Mak

yawetag123 karma

Yep. The resources are out there, but it's hard to filter through them all. Getting recommendations of someone who might have used them personally, or heard of others who have, is always helpful.

Thanks for your answer!

hasthebiggerschwartz3 karma

I’d love more on this also. Fingerstyle is incredibly difficult for me and I can’t seem to get breakthrough.

MakGrgic5 karma

Which avenues do you use as a resource?

hasthebiggerschwartz1 karma

There’s just so much on YouTube nowadays that I usually use that as a resource. Your answer to my practice question I think was helpful in this regard. A lot of times when I sit down I’m not sure what to work on.

MakGrgic2 karma

That makes sense. Please do write to my directly if you want more help!

MakGrgic2 karma

My pleasure!

V-Frankenstein9 karma

What do you think of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard's use of microtonal guitar in some of thier stuff, especially their album Flying Microtonal Bannana?

MakGrgic7 karma

Oh my gosh. This is a discovery for me! Thank you for mentioning this. I'll have a listen and get back to you!

22plus6 karma

Do you use a fretless guitar for microtonal playing?

MakGrgic5 karma

I certainly do sometimes! There's a little video on FB somewhere where I play with Buzz Gravelle, and we also recorded a piece together on the fretless guitars!

karichar6 karma

what’s the number one tip for a beginning guitar player?

MakGrgic22 karma

In my opinion to understand that chords are actually the most difficult thing to start with on the guitar. Usually when people take up the instrument, they think the first thing they should learn is the chord, whereas in fact that involves many pieces of info being put together and insomuch provides for a difficult way to start.

Starting with simple melodies and just one string accompaniment is in my opinion better. It sounds good quicker and provides for immediate boost in self-esteem!

Good luck!

AluminumBadFalcon2 karma

Neat to see an accomplished player with this opinion! I've been saying this same thing for years.

MakGrgic2 karma

Great minds think alike :DDD

treadfast5 karma

What kind of guitar is that ? / what’s going on with the frets ?

MakGrgic13 karma


Was wondering when someone would notice the frets being all weird. :)

So this is a guitar made by Walter Vogt, and it has what are called 'movable frets'. Each of these can be moved separately, and can be adjusted to any temperament/tuning pretty much out there.

What you see on the picture is the guitar being tuned to a well-tempered tuning as specified by Mr. Kirnberger in 18th century. It is supposed to be one of the tunings used in Bach's time, and since I am in the process of recording an all Bach album, we thought I'd be a cool idea to use this guitar to record on!

Thanks for the question!

Yoursaname6 karma

Is the album going to be called "Back to Bach"?

MakGrgic2 karma

Lol probably! Good title! :)

hasthebiggerschwartz4 karma

Mak,what does a practice session for you look like?

MakGrgic10 karma

Good question!

In an ideal scenario, I'd spend my time practicing about 30 minutes of technique/warmup exercises. After that I'd tackle specific spots in pieces within the repertoire that I am currently working on. This for about 1.5 hours. Since I love reading music, I'd spend some time just going through new pieces of literature. The last 2 hours of an ideal practice session, I'd be slowly running through all the music that I am about to perform within the week or so.

The reality is however much more different. I am super happy nowadays if I am able to cram everything from above into an hour long practice session each day :D

Thanks for the question!

hasthebiggerschwartz1 karma

Thanks mate. The Macedonian Girl video is super dope btw. Where did you guys film the opening? It’s gorgeous.

MakGrgic5 karma

Thanks! The whole video was filmed at two different locations in Slovenia. One (the hill) is called Nanos, and the other one was an abandoned village (forget the name) from the end of the WWII, when the partizans fled. It remained intact ever since.

MomoPewpew3 karma

Do you have any recommendations for books about microtonal harmony?

I'm currently reading Harmonic Experience by W.A. Matthieu which already covers a lot about harmonic commas and justly intoned intervals but I'm always looking for more recommendations to add to my reading list.

MakGrgic4 karma

Well, I'd first perhaps decide which music you'd be interested in exploring. If it's just the historical temperaments that you are interested in (other than equal temperament), then you'd want to get your hands on treatises by say Dolmetsch. I remember a book by Holford and Galilei I believe wrote something on this, although I think he was advocating for the equal temperament more than anything else.

If you are delving into ethnic music, then specifying the area of interest would be the way to go: maqamat, pathet, classical indian music would be some to look at.

In terms of the modern approach to microtonality (especially as seen on guitar), check out a book called The Microtonal Guitar by John Schneider.

In the modern times I adore Georg Friedrich Haas in his spectral approaches, also Radulescu for instance, and do check works by Harry Parth (it will blow your mind)!

Hope this was helpful.

mlaturno3 karma

What's the biggest lesson you've learned from playing music professionally?

MakGrgic6 karma

Well, I learnt that music is beautiful and dreamy, but that to be a musician and truly making a living out of it, it takes much more than just a dream to make it work. Building a career is a 24/7 job, and it never stops!

I once was listening to (I think it was) a documentary by Steve Vai, and how he was very diligent about his approach to building his career. He was 100 percent on point. Great effort and careful planning, and now he is one of the most acclaimed guitarists of all time.

Tough business, but we love it, as they say :)

robo_octopus3 karma

Who (bands or individual players) do you consider to be preeminent guitar players of today? As in- who do you see out there demonstrating the kind of talent that you think will put them up there with the greats in coming years?

MakGrgic3 karma

Good question. I recently saw the following brilliant players: Julian Lage, Yamandu Costa, Birelli Lagrene (pardon the mistakes in spelling). They completely blew my mind!

Truth is, talent is so massive nowadays, that it is almost impossible to know everyone. What are some of your favorites?

MakGrgic1 karma

Good question. I recently saw the following brilliant players: Julian Lage, Yamandu Costa, Birelli Lagrene (pardon the mistakes in spelling). They completely blew my mind!

Truth is, talent is so massive nowadays, that it is almost impossible to know everyone. What are some of your favorites?

Fried_Kapuchims3 karma

Hey Mac, thanks for doing an AMA! I've been trying to learn guitar for ages but I seem to hit a stone wall every time. Is there some technical training that you'd recommend for a newbie to help me work on fingering and chords and finally make some progress?

MakGrgic6 karma

Well, an immediate question for you would be are you tackling chords from the get go? And are you doing the full chord versions?

If so, then I'd advise the following: - minimize the chords by doing their simple version options (just the first three strings are enough to have a full chord sound): for instance an F chord would then be only String 1 Fret 1/String 2 Fret 1/String 3 Fret 2. Then make sure you strum only those strings. Much easier! - the other thing I'd advise doing is picking out pieces of music, where you can focus on just playing the melody line, while you have say a chord progression being produced by an app. That, or perhaps a melody line with simple bass accompaniment.

These two options are much easier for the left hand and provide for a quicker high five to yourself after a job well-done :)

Good luck!

dcrow__83 karma

Wild stories you say? What's the craziest thing that has ever happened to you while on tour?

MakGrgic10 karma

Hm. This may not be the most crazy, but was still pretty particular. Had a gig for some government officials in Asia, and played what I thought was a pretty decent set. I got a lukewarm response, followed by one of the more important officials coming on stage and grabbing my guitar from me. Then he told me to stand and wait, while he plays a tune. When he started (and he wasn't exactly a pro), the entire audience went bananas.

It was a strange experience insomuch that I felt quite out of place, but having said that, it showed how different cultures around the world are, and how accepting and understanding we have to be when traveling around.

Thanks for the question!

MarkAttark2 karma

Your karate background has my curious; do you watch the UFC? Favorite fighter? + Were there any parallels between training martial arts and training music?

MakGrgic6 karma


Believe it or not, I'm a pretty peaceful dude, so UFC wasn't of interest to me that much. I preferred those amazing shaolin monk videos, where they break stuff with only a finger lol

...and yes. Parallels are actually many. Music and martial arts require both the similar amount of focus and dedication. Classical music especially, with its relentless need for countless hours of practicing, is a process of being centered enough to be able to sit through 6-7 hours of practice a day.

Good questions! Thanks!

SteveJackson0072 karma

Do microtonal guitarists have dwarf groupies?

MakGrgic6 karma

Wish microtonal guitarists had any groupies at all :D

foryoutoknow2 karma


I've played for quite a while but some of my weak spots I've had issues with for a while. Namely I just can't seem to nail down the practical application of theory while playing, or particularly with improvisation. or visualize and anticipate how mode and scale patterns will "shift" relative to the chord changes and I get lost. I think a lot of it has to do with still not having a good grasp of the notes on the fretboard but for whatever reason trying to memorize that and then understanding which notes to play when a chord or key changes seems insurnountable. But I know it really isn't because I've learned to sight read on other instruments, so why not the fretboard?

Hopefully that makes sense and you might have some insight to share on how to break through that.

MakGrgic1 karma


if I understand correctly, you are referring to the issue of transposability on the fretboard?

When you play chords and scales, do you often include open strings in the mix or do you use bar chords and scale shapes with full fretted notes? Including open strings in any of the two prevents us from moving patterns up and down the fretboard freely.

Guitar is tricky this way and is actually bothering many composers as they write for us. Hopefully this will change with time! :)

MagesticLlama12 karma

Can you give us 2 wild stories?

MakGrgic8 karma

Lol so I do have to say I am a classical guitar player, not a rock star :DDD Joke.

Not the wildest, but one nerve-wracking was certainly when I was traveling to Athens for a concert, and my guitar was left forgotten at the airport in Vienna. It took three days, and a call at the end from the ambassador of Croatia to the authorities in Austria, for them to find the guitar, fly it as separate cargo to Athens, and bringing it to me an hour before the concert :D

MagesticLlama15 karma

Wow. Talk about stressful!

Forgive my question, in your description you mentioned "...wild stories to boot". I was intrigued by that 😄

MakGrgic4 karma

A great question! Thanks for chiming in.

CarelessShop2 karma

eek. that does sound painful lol

MakGrgic4 karma


Stop______HavelTime1 karma

Hey Mak,

Thank you for doing another AMA!

Im super late to the party here but is there a particular right hand pattern you prefer for very fast runs? I’ve seen some incredibly quick players using just alternating i and m and other people using primarily ami. Do you have a ‘go to’ right hand pattern for very fast runs or is it mostly situational?

MakGrgic1 karma


Good question. I like to alternate depending on which style my scales find themselves in. If in the renaissance/baroque, I tend to prefer p-i combo, otherwise i-m. If in flamenco music, then I use the same i-m but with apoyando.

Hope that was helpful! Mak

VannThousand1 karma


I'm looking for a nice electroacoustic guitar (nylon strings). What brand/model would you recommend, assuming your budget is not unlimited?

Bonus question: If you'd had chosen any other art to focus on, which one would it be and why?

MakGrgic4 karma

Hello hello.

Well, there's certainly the standard Taylors, Yamahas.. I have personally enjoyed the Godin guitars. Many flamenco guitarists use them for bar gigs nowadays.

For another art form... Hm.. Perhaps cinematic art? I live in LA, so that seems to be an exciting idea to entertain. Although tough to say, because I do remember a moment when listening to the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 played by Kissin, when I felt the goose bumps and sort of new that music has that special something.

BlueEyesWhiteBaggins1 karma

What are your top 3 most memorable shows and why?

MakGrgic3 karma

Hm, easy peasy: - a performance at Denver's Newman Hall with the Assad Brothers - my first ever orchestra performance in St. Petersburg in the palace Beloselsky-Belozersky - the time I played in an open air concert for 15000 people alongside Beach Boys

The tour with KD Lang last year was exciting too!

neverchaseachicken1 karma

Hi! You're obviously very skilled at many things, and I assume most questions will involve those gifts.. but I'm curious - is there anything you aren't good at that you wish you could be better at? Thanks for taking our questions!

MakGrgic4 karma

Hey, good question!

More than wishing to being better at certain things, there's a more present desire to have the time to learn about what I do not understand and have little knowledge about.

This summer for instance I met Bill Anders (astronaut), Hedrick Smith (journalist), Lauren and Richard Donner (film makers), who all have achieved amazing things. This made me understand once more that there's so much out there that I will never be able to learn about, just because the days only have 24 hours.

Hope this makes sense! Thanks for your question.

lunarbyrd1 karma

Apart from the steep learning curve, what other reasons do you think microtonal guitar is not so mainstream?

MakGrgic3 karma

That's a good question. My guess is that because it involves having to do some research first in order to have most satisfaction of playing a microtonal guitar. Your regular guitar is easy to just pick up, and 'strum away' with some tutorials found online, but I haven't seen many such tutorials on YT still to date :)

The other thing of course is the chain of demand and supply. If there's little demand, there's less supply, so people can't just get a hold of a guitar with movable frets at any guitar store. These need to be specially ordered.

Good question! Thanks :)

PotatoQuality2511 karma

I saw a Ted Greene masterclass and loved the way he said "we are in every key". What do you think of that?

Do you improvise a lot? I noticed some classical guitarist mixing jazz standards and classical techniques, such as Francesco Buzzoro. Ever though about doing so? Thanks for the AmA

MakGrgic3 karma

Lol, good quote. He might have meant that our daily affairs assume diverse points of views and emotional feedback, such as different colors of keys provide for a landscape of feels :)

I don't call myself a jazz musician, but I have certainly dabbled in improvising, and even played in a jazz trio, for a year or so, around bars in LA. I certainly did this as well, not at the level of Francesco however. He is a master! Check out also the Grigoryan brothers. They are awesome!

NinjaKnight921 karma

Hey Sorry! I'm a little late to the party! but I hope you're still answering questions. The Idea of playing microtones on a fretted instrument really intrigued me, and at first I thought that this would be achieved with careful string bending, as commonly seen in blues and rock and roll music. But in the context of both of those genres It's typically used for improvisation and vibrato purposes. not as much for targeting specific "Quarter Steps" on the scale. You discussed briefly that you play on a guitar with adjustable frets I'm assuming that's what I'm looking at in this video of you playing in 2017.

What is the process and that thought that goes into setting up the frets on the neck like this? Is it set up with a particular key signature or song in mind? And does it require a special tool to adjust? The fret arrangement at the higher register more towards the body seems particularly fascinating.

And one more question if you don't mind, as a doctorate student in guitar, what are some of the most bizarre instruments you've had the chance to play? Ever play anything like Pat Metheny's Picasso Guitars or something of this sort?

MakGrgic1 karma


Excellent question. Thanks for chiming in!

Bends and vibratos are great, but they are not as precise as you want them to be. As a result they are indeed used more for just an expressive effect.

The way the guitar that you pointed out is set up is exactly as you described. One picks a temperament, does the calculation of the exact position of the frets upon the entire fretboard, and then a small 'captain Hook-like' tool is used to push them around. Lots of work though, considering that each fret more or less needs to be adjusted. And yes, it is totally possible to do quarter tones or even lesser interval distance for this.

Eh! The good old Picasso Guitar. Have you seen the Orchestorium (maybe I miss-spelled it)? Unfortunately I haven't. The weirdest I've done was the adjusted viola and adjusted guitar from the collection of Partch Instruments.

Where do you study?

Asterfields12241 karma

What's your wildest of wild stories?

MakGrgic2 karma

Getting lost on the way to a concert hall and arriving after the concert had already started :D

plasticlaces1 karma

What’s a day in the life of a doctoral student look like? And what’s the difference between doctoral work and master’s work?

MakGrgic1 karma


Well, can't tell you anymore since I am already finished with my Doctorate. But I can tell you, that it is a relatively academic heavy study program, with less emphasis on the actual instrument. As a part of my studies I had to do an academic field, which was post-tonal theory with emphasis on music from Middle and far East as it applies onto the Western musical forms and guitar. In addition to that, I did conducting and music business as minors. So... days full of book reading :)

In my experience, the masters in music is opposite to that a very easy going program with lots of playing and performing.

Thinking of going for music studies? :)

HarajukuFag1 karma

How much money do you make per show on average?

MakGrgic1 karma

Lol business secret :)

HarajukuFag1 karma

Okay so why post an “ask me ANYTHING” and only give selective answers... lol

MakGrgic1 karma

Contracts... :S