Interview: Rob Ward

Dan McAvinchey: Rob, when did you first get interested in guitar, and how did you learn and progress as a player?

Rob Ward: I was 14 when starting to get into guitar, and I was listening to a lot of rock at the time. I remember running home from school every day so I could close myself in my room and practice for hours. I had a teacher named Joe that would come over to our house, and I would wait by the window like a little puppy dog on the days I had guitar lessons. I was always eager to learn something new and wanted to learn as much as possible. I taught myself a lot of things too, and I really explored just about every guitar orientated CD, book, and video that I could get my hands on.

I eventually developed and went on to study classical guitar for many years, and at some point switched to spending more time with the steel string guitar. I liked the shimmer of the steel strings. They have a crispness and liveliness that the nylon strings sometimes lack. Steel is also easier to put into altered tunings and is more forgiving when recording than nylon. Though, I do appreciate the way that the treble strings sing on a classical - you can't achieve that on steel.

Nowadays, after 20+ years of playing and experimenting with different styles, I've sort of come full circle and play acoustic, electric, and classical equally. I don't have a favorite as they all have qualities that I enjoy. What I pick up to play just depends on what mood I'm in.

Dan McAvinchey: Are you currently self-releasing your original music?

Rob Ward: Yes. I started making recordings when iTunes and other digital stores were first coming out. I remember discovering that these new services made it relatively easy to release my own material with digital distribution, and I figured, "Why not just do it by myself?" I never really second guessed my decision to do it that way.

My last five or six releases have been singles that have only been offered as digital downloads. I'm currently toying with the idea of recording a full album, but that's still only an idea at this point. In the future, should the right situation arise, I'm always open to the possibility of working with a label that shares a common musical vision, but until then, I'm cool staying the course as an independent musician too.

Dan McAvinchey: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?

Rob Ward: If I had to come up with a catchphrase to describe it, it would be, "Melodic acoustic (sometimes electric) guitar music with depth and interesting harmonies." At least, that's what I'm aiming for. Sometimes it takes me six months to a year to finish one composition. I don't release anything until I'm satisfied with what I created. I used to give timelines for my releases, but I gave up on that. Now, I just say that my music will be finished when it's finished. Perhaps I'm a perfectionist to a fault, but at the same time, I feel comfortable with what I release.

Dan McAvinchey: Which of the tracks from your most recent project do you enjoy playing the most?

Rob Ward: In general, my newest compositions are always my favorites. Creating is what it is all about for me. I rarely go back and revisit old pieces. My current material is always representative of where my head is at musically at any particular point in time.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you feel about the current crop of guitar-oriented magazines and how they are currently covering instrumental music?

Rob Ward: I read guitar magazines all the time when I was a teen, though I don't read too many
anymore. In my honest opinion, I unfortunately believe that the current guitar world lives a little
too much in the past and overly repeats stories of old glories. I recently wrote a blog titled "25
Golden Years of Guitar: 1967-1992"
, and it sums up my thoughts on the topic.

Dan McAvinchey: Are you using any social media sites to promote your music?

Rob Ward: Sort of. My music is posted on most of the popular social media outlets, but I still believe the best way to get music out there is by concentrating on creating the best music possible and achieving things in the real world. Word of mouth has always been the best and most organic way of advertising, and I think it still is. Of course, I'm not saying that advertising isn't necessary, because it is, but I think it's overrated. If someone writes a great song or piece of music, word eventually naturally spreads about it.

In addition, I'm starting to sense that the oversaturation of social network postings is starting to take it's toll on the psyche of the world's population. It's getting to the point where there's so much nonsensical info in front of our faces all the time that the majority of it just gets ignored anyway, and if nobody really cares, what's the point of posting? Since it's still currently part of the musical marketing landscape, I suppose that I'll keep using social media sparingly on an "as needed" basis until it fades out or morphs into something else entirely.

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Dan McAvinchey: From a publicity and promotion standpoint, what do you find is working best, or not working, for you?

Rob Ward: Posting videos online seems to work well. Videos have helped introduce my music to people I would never been able to connect with otherwise. I've made some fans from different parts of the world, and that's great! With that said, video sites are increasingly flooded with millions of clips, and I suppose as the volume of content continues to rise, so does the likelihood that more videos will become easily "lost at sea." I guess we'll see how it plays out in the future. For now, I think it still works for independents like myself.

Even though baby steps are being taken, one thing that still isn't working well is the protection of intellectual property on the internet. Monetary value of music is largely controlled by it's inability to be easily stolen at the click of a button. Until that gets solved, I unfortunately believe that the music business will continue to spiral in a free fall for an unknown period of time. I know there are still groups of people who believe that it is their right to be entitled to free content, but I guarantee that those people never spent time and money creating something only to have it downloaded for free.

Dan McAvinchey: Why do you think certain music fans prefer instrumental music over traditional vocal oriented music?

Rob Ward: That's a good question, and I don't know the answer. My ears have always naturally zoned in on the music, as well as the melody and rhythm of the voice; sort of filtering out the lyrics. The specific words in a song were never that important. For the longest time I assumed most people listened to music the same way. But, that's definitely not the case. While I know many people who hear music like me, I also know many who mainly focus on the words. Maybe it's in the way our brains are wired. I can memorize pages of notes without too much trouble, but I can't remember lyrics to a simple song to save my life. On the flip side, there are people who can remember hundreds of lyrics but can't play an instrument. Perhaps this is a question better suited for a scientist.

Dan McAvinchey: Other than guitar-oriented music, what kind of music do you like to listen to?

Rob Ward: I listen to a lot of different things, but for an example I'll single out classical piano music. I can listen to Bach, Beethoven's piano sonatas, and works by Chopin all day long. From a compositional standpoint, listening to piano music is very inspiring. especially listening to the bass lines and harmonies that pianists are able to create under the melody. Guitarists generally only use four or five fingers to fret notes as opposed to pianists who easily use all ten digits to hit the keys, so it's a more daunting task to compose a solid piece of contrapuntal music on guitar. It takes some extra creativity to figure out how to move a bass line down the guitar neck when your melody wants to go up! In this respect, I occasionally become envious of what pianists are capable of. However, I never had the desire to jump ship and switch instruments. I love the sound of the guitar more than anything, and the feel of touching the strings is natural to me. If I couldn't bend and wiggle the strings I'd go nuts!

Dan McAvinchey: Finally, what's up next for you, what are some of your plans for the future?

Rob Ward: A few years ago, I relocated to Warsaw, Poland and co-founded a private music and art school called New York Studio of Music and Art. We started the school from the ground up, and within two and a half years grew it into a studio with a full schedule of students. The school has been my main focus for quite some time, and will remain so in the future. You can say that NYSOMA is my musical hub, central control station, or mother ship for all of my musical activities.

Additionally, later this year, the second edition of my book "The Guitar Toolbox" should be ready to be published. The goal of the guitar method is to neatly organize everything that I know about teaching guitar and package it in an easy-to-read book.

I also spend plenty of time composing. I probably have enough new material for an album or two, and I'm looking forward to the time when I can lay down some tracks in the studio. As I mentioned earlier, I don't have any specific release dates in mind at this time, but when it's finished, I'll be sure to put it out there! Check out my web site at for more information.

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Rob Ward is an acoustic/classical guitarist, composer of contemporary instrumental music, and educator from the U.S.A., currently living in Warsaw, Poland. He performs with the Spanish/Latin guitar duo The Gringo Duet, jazz/classical family group Out Duo & Friends, party band Warsaw Party Band, and other various ensembles. Ward is also the owner of New York Studio of Music and Art located in the Ursynow neighborhood of Warsaw which provides professional music & fine art instruction.

Dan McAvinchey conducted this interview recently with Ward, which illuminates the passion and focus of this busy musician.