Don Alder

Don Alder

 Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN

Don Alder is one of the top Acoustic Guitarists in the world. 2011 Guitar Idol winner, 2010 Guitar Superstar winner, 2007 Intl Fingerstyle Champion. Only guitarist in the world to win all three. He's been featured in the top guitar magazines and has more then 3 million accumulative youtube views.

Band Press

2nd Annual Pemberton Folk Festival – By Cindy Filipenko of Pique News Magazin

4:00 p.m.

While I stand in the line-up for Lois Joseph’s traditional Lil’wat food (bannock: $1), the crowd has grown to 250. Although the rain has stopped, I am cold and ready to go home. But my focus quickly changes from concerns about my core temperature to the amazing sounds Don Alder wrangles out of six strings and a pound or two of wood. A renowned finger-guitarist, Alder can make a single instrument sound like a four-piece band. An audience member who rocked our Christmas party with his guitar playing pays Alder ultimate praise, " The guy’s like the acoustic Hendrix."

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Don Alder “Not A Planet” 2008 – Henk te Veldhuis-Bridge Guitar Reviews-© 2008

As a 2007 International Fingerstyle Champion in Winfield, Kansas,
Don Alder released several acoustic guitar albums with brilliant
guitar stuff with many influences from as well folk, blues, jazz, pop
and other styles. Don released most instrumental acoustic guitar
albums. He travelled all over the world with stunning live guitar
shows. His newest album contains fascinating acoustic guitar with
guest musicians like the legendary bass player Michael Manring
and harpist Julia Thornton and pianist Brad Hoyt. On 9 of the 13
tracks Don is exploring a new setup with a band with fantastic
musicians, in divers musical textures and colours. On two songs,
“6 ft Tall” and “Haunting Me” you can check out Don Alder on lead
vocals in fine pop sounding songs with Tim Tweedale on slide guitar.
“Sayonara “ Calm” is a duet with Michael Manring on fretless bass, a
lovely journey towards the heart and soul. “Mr. Anderson” is full of
groove and staccato bass. On “The Blue Shift Principle” a superb
interaction takes place between Don Alder, Michael Manring and
drummer Ray Garraway, again full of groove and rhythm. On “Ms
Diana” Don has a wonderful duet with Julia Thornton on harp. A
lot of groove going on also on “Finger's Fingers a song by Don
with some inspiration of fellow guitarist Peter Finger. “Not A Planet”
is certainly a vary versatile CD with very talented musicians and
among all Don Alder excels in excellent guitar virtuosity.

Not a Planet - Don Alder – Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange

Now familiar with Don Alder's work, I could hardly wait for this disc to issue, but, while I sat impatient, he had an honor accorded him, becoming the first Canadian winner of the Walnut Valley Festival International Fingerstyle Championship, a well respected guitar venue. This CD richly demonstrates the wisdom of the Walnut Valley judges, but it also opens a bit more widely what had previously been only an afterthought: his vocal work.

Alder's last disc was a trove of very considerable depth, and this continues that but with a difference: the time in between has bestowed an even easier confidence than was otherwise apparent. The first two cuts alone are almost cocksure, so breezily brimming with perfection that it takes merely the first few bars of The Wall (dedicated to his buddy, the astonishing wheelchair mega-athlete Rick Hansen) to completely arrest the listener. Then the second attribute hits: most of this is duet, trio, and group work, divinely indexed as such. The backing quartet sounds as though it's been a two-decade road ensemble for the guy (and Tim Tweedale's understatedly bittersweet slide work can be wrenching), foursquare in harmony in every manner.

Then comes 6ft. Tall, the first vocal cut, and Alder unwraps an upbeat almost David Wilcox-ish timbre of positivity, infectious and definitely ear-catching. There's a bit of Michael Tomlinson as well (and, man, wasn't that guy a wonder!) but none of this affects for a moment the guitarwork, which is sparkling, here underscored by Mark Olexson's spunky Hammond. Like Wilcox, Alder shifts tunings constantly from cut to cut, only once strictly standard. Sayonara.calm wafts through the speakers, and the bass player has to be instantly unmistakable. I grabbed the liner and, sure enough: Michael Manring. Only he and Mark Egan play a fretless quite that way, and his duet with Don is as solid as a chamber recital, a brilliant demonstration of melody and variation in a gauzily mellifluous vein, slow, every note a finely cut gem.

If you haven't yet had enough of the guys who sound like two to three players at once, the fourth cut, Mr. Anderson, is a bouncily swinging track that's exactly that. With just the guitarist isolated in this and three other cuts, the listener gets full doses of his acumen point blank, and they're stunning (hey, he hangs with Andy McKee, so this ain't jes' my opinion, Jeeter). Haunting Me shows up further on to unfold the folk-blues Alder's capable of, singing in a wistfully defiant fashion of love never had while remaining a frustrating and tantalizing possibility. It is, in fact, my favorite cut, and I'd never have thought that possible amid such a instrumental feast, yet…there's just something about it that glides between several levels and stays in the ear and mind.

Vancouver guitarist takes up Hansen’s challenge to believe in dreams – Peter Leney - Freelance travel writer

OSNABRUCK – Not four years after taking his friend Rick Hansen’s advice to believe in dreams, Vancouver guitarist Don Alder is playing in the top ranks of his fingerstyle field.

In a recent career step, Alder competed last October (2004) at the Open Strings fingerstyle guitar festival in this northwestern German city. The Kitsilano resident was one of five finalists picked from about 300 tapes submitted by guitarists around the world.

“He sounded very fresh and original,” said Peter Finger, Open Strings organizer and founder in 1997. His festival spotlights fingerstyle playing, which he defines as a fusion of styles like jazz, blues, and new age. Fingerstylists mostly play their own compositions and use steel string guitars. Flat picks and flamenco strumming are out.

Peter Finger (yes, it’s his real name) is an internationally known master fingerstyle guitarist. His torrential notes dazzled an audience including me at the 2003 Montreal International Jazz Festival. He told me then about the Open Strings festival in Osnabruck.

I planned to go this year even before learning that a Canadian made the competition cut. Backstage, Finger introduced me to Alder; he stands nearly six feet tall and exudes such Canadian decency that I felt homesick.

Alder joked that he tries to be a “one-man band” incorporating jazz, techno, classical discipline and percussion – the slapping of the guitar body characteristic of fingerstyle. He uses a roving claw-hammer right hand and frequent over-the-neck fretting with the left.

It somehow emerged that he was in the 1973 accident that left Man in Motion Rick Hansen paralyzed. The two were boyhood friends in Williams Lake, B.C. Hitchhiking home from a fishing trip, they were thrown from the back of a pickup truck that rolled. Alder escaped injury.

Over the years, he has stayed close to Hansen and now works as technical production manager with the Rick Hansen Man in Motion Foundation, a charitable organization that raises money for spinal cord injury research. He was on the team of Hansen’s 1985-87 world tour that included wheel-chairing on the Great Wall of China.

Aside from playing in bands as a teen (he vaguely recalls the Dog Creek Pub in Williams Lake), Alder turned seriously to the guitar and composition only three and a half years ago – in part responding to Hansen’s signature message: “Rick is all about living your dreams,” he said.

A more concrete motivation was the determination to play guitar on the soundtrack of the upcoming film on Hansen’s world tour entitled Rick Hansen: Heart of a Dragon. Due for 2006 release, it is produced by Mark Gordon with Canadian music producer David Foster doing the soundtrack. “The film was an inspiration to get organized,” Alder said.

On the pragmatic side, despite having long fingers, Alder needed fingernails to pick strings. His own stopped growing due to a broken pelvis from a car accident prior to the Hansen one. He learned about artificial nails from a tutorial video by Don Ross, who he idolizes as Canada’s top fingerstyle guitarist. “Nails gave me the power to play,” he said.

It also helped that Alder, 49, is single. When he gets back home in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood after a day at the Hansen Foundation, “it’s pretty well straight guitar,” he says. “I’m not accountable to anybody.”

He spends evenings not doing scales, but composing. It’s a process he calls searching for “nuggets (original and likeable melodies), not noodles. Find a nugget and add structure and the songs develop quickly,” he said. The method has filled four CDs and a collection. None are available in stores, however; he sells them privately at events.

Alder describes himself as a passionate rather than sophisticated player. His compositions come from inspiration, not musical training. In fact, he can’t read music. He calls that a blessing in disguise that keeps him original, but says he is “now in a race to catch up on musical knowledge.”

By Alder’s definition, fingerstyle means “putting all other styles in a melting pot, taking a steel string guitar and playing with five fingers.” He said that fingerstylists like Don Ross, Peter Finger, Alex de Grassi and Pierre Bensusan are “in the forefront of generators of acoustic music for the 21st century.”

Other milestones of Alder’s career rise include appearances at the U.S. National fingerstyle guitar championship in Winfield, Kansas and last summer’s first annual Canadian Guitar Festival in Odessa, Ontario. His experience with Hansen led to volunteer work with the Vancouver Adapted Music Society and playing in Spinal Chord, its performance band.

Guitar endorsements are another career aspect. Montreal guitar maker Michael Greenfield has designed a Don Alder G4 signature model guitar for what his Web site describes as “guitar contortionist and madman Don Alder.”

Alder ranks Osnabruck’s Open Strings with Kansas as the most respected fingerstyle competitions. Kansas favors the Chet Atkins “boom chuca boom chuca” style while Open Strings is freer and newer.

Aside from the brief competition component, Open Strings is a weekend feast of afternoon and evening master guitar performances. The recent festival (Oct. 15-17) presented 15 groups and individuals from Brazil, Bulgaria, Ireland, Scotland, U.S.A., and many from Germany. An Indian guitarist, Konarak Reddy, was in the competition.

The festival’s home city of Osnabruck, population 160,000, is off the beaten track between Hamburg and Cologne. Its chief tourist attraction is a 16th century town hall where the Peace of Westphalia was signed, ending the Thirty Years War (1618-48) between Catholic and Protestant rulers in Europe.

Other Osnabruck attractions include a memorial centre to local son Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front, and a Daniel Libeskind-designed museum with paintings by Felix Nussbaum, a German-Jewish artist who perished at Auschwitz.

* * *

Competition time at Open Strings was 1 p.m. Saturday. Feeling nervous, Alder slept poorly the night before. Virtuoso warm-up playing in adjacent rooms increased his jitters. “I can only win on originality,” he sighs. “Just as long as they don’t throw things at me.”

He played third after a Greek quartet interwove their notes brilliantly and a solo classical guitarist from Heidelberg played a sweet fandango. However, Alder’s playing was so faithful to passionate fingerstyle fusion frenzy that I thought the classical types were set up as stooges to showcase him.

Still, the final two performers were challengers. A Dresden duo played a bouncy Eleanor Rigby variation, while the Indian guitarist did tunes titled Deviant Goddess and Kali Rocking.

In the end, Alder was the only competitor to play a steel string guitar and also to perform standing up. An orange shirt and black pants added a dramatic splash.

Peter Finger announced the three top winners backstage after emphasizing that the judges were deeply divided. The winner: the Heidelberg classical guitarist! The Dresden duo and Greek quartet were runner-ups. In silence, Alder and Reddy were left to wonder who came fourth and fifth.

Finger came over immediately to console Alder: “This is not a loss,” he told him. “We picked you from 300 tapes. It’s just one moment in time.” Finger later told me that he disagreed with the results and would have placed Alder second or third.

Alder was calm initially, but grew self-critical by evening. He regretted doing a song for his second piece, not using all his allotted time, not chatting with the crowd to underscore his being Canadian, and not doing a slow piece to show his depth. A technical sound problem threw him off.

But next day, his mood brightened. “Two people recognized me from the Internet and wanted me to show them parts of my songs they were learning. It was a treat to hear someone playing back one of your songs, a true honour.

“So even though I didn’t win, there were lots of silver lining moments,” he said.

And in December, he will tour Taiwan with Peter Finger and other fingerstyle masters, standing in for Don Ross. It almost amazes him: “Coming out of nowhere, playing with the masters – and I’m still kind of wondering if I’m a fake or not.”

The Open Strings Festival Web site is Dates of the 2005 festival are Sept. 30-Oct 2). Alder’s Web site is

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Don Alder "The Acoustiholic", 2003 – © Alan Fark

Most artists who arrive on the scene with acoustic guitar-in-hand proclaim themselves as either fingerstylists or singer-songwriters, but hardly ever both. Don Alder is an artist able to wear both hats quite comfortably. The former Winfield competitor and student of Don Ross can kick up his heels instrumentally (as on "Granny on the Run") but can also put his vocals and songwriting up on ear-catching display ("Haunting Me").

Don Alder - Take the Train Eh 2005 – Henk te Veldhuis - Bridge Guitar Reviews.

Canada is one of the places where many finger-style guitarists have
their residence. Don Alder lives in Vancouver and has been a guitarist/
composer over 23 years. He performed with Don Ross, Alex de Grassi,
Peppino D'Agostino among others. Also Don was a competitor in the
prestigious U.S. National Finger-style Guitar Championship in Winfield,
Kansas. Don Alder's influences come from guitar players like Michael
Hedges, Don Ross and for instance Bruce Cockburn. His new album
Take the Train Eh.. is a groovy and up tempo album with extraordinary
techniques on his selected guitars. He uses Greenfield, Lowden and
Jenkins guitars, which all have there own unique sound. This album
is a solo guitar album without Don his warm expressive voice. Don
starts of with Dr. Dr. which is full of astonishing techniques as tapping,
slapping, percussion and a brilliant groove. Meeting Pierre is in the
style of Pierre Bensusan, who also as Don plays a lot in DADGAD
tuning. This song embodies a lot of space and structure with a fine
gentle touch. The album would even impress more if Don focussed
more on melody line building and not primary on skilled techniques.
Chet or Cheese shows his admiration for Chet Atkins in a top-notch
composition. One of my favourites is Its Only Goodbye which has all
a good song needs, balance, structure and emotion. Tommy Time is
an ode to Tommy Emmanuel with the typical melody lines and staccato
approach. One thing is clear Don Alder has a own significant signature
which covers all capabilities in finger-style music. Don Alder writes all
his songs himself which can compete with the best guitarists in the circuit.
Seldom one sees so much quality, and versatility in one guitarist. Don Alder
succeeds with this album to impress any serious acoustic guitarist and