Vicki Genfan
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Vicki Genfan

Fairview, New Jersey, United States | SELF

Fairview, New Jersey, United States | SELF
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""Vicki Genfan - Live""


Reviews: Vicki Genfan ~ Live
Posted on Saturday, April 03, 2004 @ 12:12:45 EST
Topic: Reviews

Artist: Vicki Genfan

CD: Live

Home: New Jersey

Style: Folk/Rock

Quote: "Not only is it hard to believe she’s playing just one acoustic guitar; it’s hard to believe she’s only got two hands."

By Jennifer Layton

I had to keep reminding myself that I was only hearing one instrument. Vicki Genfan makes the acoustic guitar sound like an entire band. After each song on this live performance (recorded in Germany at the Open Strings Guitar Festival), I understand completely why the audience applauds and whistles so wildly. They’re as amazed as I feel. Whether Genfan is edging into rock or swirling with folk and jazz, this is fiery, living music. The strumming and plucking comes at rapid-fire pace. She beats on the body of the instrument for percussion and plucks at the high notes to make bell-like sounds. Not only is it hard to believe she’s playing just one acoustic guitar; it’s hard to believe she’s only got two hands.

I got lost in the instrumentals. “Impossinova” sounds like tall grass waving in the breeze. “Outside The Box” is a laid-back bluesy number with a smile on its face. I have to smile myself during both tracks when Genfan suddenly starts scatting and crooning. It’s like she can’t help but join in when she hears how much fun the guitar is having. Somehow she manages to keep quiet during “Sí,” although I wanted to sing along as the guitar lowered its voice and drove the sound in a deep, heavy groove. When Genfan does sing, it’s a blend of Judy Collins and Alanis Morrisette. Sweet and spunky.

The sheer timing involved with one particular track made it my favorite. Genfan does a cover of “What’s Going On,” and I sat listening to it less than one week after the train bombings in Madrid. This CD was recorded in late 2002, but when Genfan pauses on lines like “only love can conquer hate,” I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. When Marvin Gaye originally sang the line, “everybody says we’re wrong,” he was talking about the misunderstood, long-haired war protesters of the 60s, but I saw it in terms of how other nations are seeing the United States right now. World events combined with one simple song were connecting Gaye and Genfan, and I was sitting right there watching. It gave me chills.




- IndieMusic.com


"Private Lesson: The Queen of Alternate Tuning...."

The queen of alternate tuning talks about her new album and gives tips on accompanying songs and getting started with two-handed tapping.
Whether playing knuckle-busting instrumentals fingerstyle or creating shimmering textures to accompany her voice, Vicki Genfan possesses a rare combination of flashy technique and soulful feel. A 20 year veteran of the acoustic music scene, Genfan's resume includes playing with Sheena Easton and Donna Summer, and her touring schedule has brought her to prestigious gigs such as the Montreal Jazz Festival, Germany's Open Strings Guitar Festival and the International Guitar Night tour. Recently featured on the 'La Guitara' compilation CD of women guitarists, Genfan has just self-released her latest project, the double CD, 'Up Close & Personal' (www.vickigenfan.com), of which one disc features all instrumentals, while the other contains vocal peices.
(for full review go to http://www.acousticguitar.com/issues/pastissues/toc.asp?IssueID=176) - Acoustic Guitar Magazine -August 2006


"Vicki Genfan - 'Up Close & Personal'"

Vicki Genfan is the queen of pyro-percussive guitar. Incendiary, explosive, the notes come shooting off her hands like stars, like sparks, like a sky full of lightning. She is taking the guitar places it has never been.

And in the guitar age, with so many monsters walking the planet, that's something to say. But Vicki is so deeply lyrical and so primally rhythmic that's it's not a guitar that she's playing, it's music. She plays with an uncanny strength, and commands the guitar not merely to sing, but to confess, to dance. To love.

Some Puremusic enthusiasts may recognize Vicki or her signature style from a video we ran of her in our wrap-up of last year's Folk Alliance. I was hanging out with our mutual friend Erika Luckett, and Vicki pulled us into a stairwell to play us the piece that begins this record, the wild "Atomic Reshuffle." You can also see Vicki arranging the tune in the studio with producer Ian Melrose (who also plays acoustic and electric guitar, low whistle, and dobro), in the movie that's included in this enhanced disc, which is very enlightening. There are a handful of other great players, too, but Vicki G. is front and center.

And all this guitar magic is just disc One, Up Close.

Disc Two, Personal, is Vicki's singer songwriter side. Although she'll move seamlessly from on to the other in concert, I thought that separating them for this recording really worked. As she says in the notes, people will make their own mix on their iPods, anyway...

I forgive myself for forgetting what a great singer she is; it's no wonder. I feel my head moving in a more circular rhythm now instead of just side to side in delighted disbelief. Her womanhood fills the headphones, and her voice moves inside me as only something that comes from inside can. I feel the atoms reshuffling.

There's a lush, funky take on Marvin Gaye's transcendental anthem, "What's Going On." The late guitar genius Chris Jones' song "Ain't Got Love" grooves deeply. Sometimes it amazes me how much some great releases offer. Get this one. • Frank Goodman

- Pure Music - Frank Goodman - October 2006


"Private Lesson: The Queen of Alternate Tuning...."

The queen of alternate tuning talks about her new album and gives tips on accompanying songs and getting started with two-handed tapping.
Whether playing knuckle-busting instrumentals fingerstyle or creating shimmering textures to accompany her voice, Vicki Genfan possesses a rare combination of flashy technique and soulful feel. A 20 year veteran of the acoustic music scene, Genfan's resume includes playing with Sheena Easton and Donna Summer, and her touring schedule has brought her to prestigious gigs such as the Montreal Jazz Festival, Germany's Open Strings Guitar Festival and the International Guitar Night tour. Recently featured on the 'La Guitara' compilation CD of women guitarists, Genfan has just self-released her latest project, the double CD, 'Up Close & Personal' (www.vickigenfan.com), of which one disc features all instrumentals, while the other contains vocal peices.
(for full review go to http://www.acousticguitar.com/issues/pastissues/toc.asp?IssueID=176) - Acoustic Guitar Magazine -August 2006


"Tap Tones"

Written by Bill Milkowski
January 2002

In a spacious loft in Manhattan's SoHo district, Vicki Genfan is entertaining at an intimate singer-songwriter showcase at the home of Sonya Heller, who is also on the bill. A few tunes into Genfan's set, it becomes clear that in addition to being a gifted lyricist and vocalist, she is an extraordinary instrumentalist with an unorthodox approach to solo acoustic guitar playing. Her dazzling displays of two-handed tapping, harmonics, and bass-note slapping, along with her deft fingerstyle approach, have guitar aficionados in the house sitting slack-jawed. Imagine a composite of Jonatha Brooke and Michael Hedges and you're zeroing in on where Genfan is coming from.

(For complete review go to
www.vickigenfan.com) - Acoustic Guitar Magazine


"La Guitara - Anthology of Women Guitarists"

"Produced by Patty Larkin and Bette Warner, La Guitara brings together the work of fourteen exceptional guitar players who all happen to be women... The artist list covers a wide swath with old pros, up and comers and historical icons represented. The performer list includes Sharon Isbin, Memphis Minnie, Mimi Fox, Kaki King, Ellen Mcllwaine, Badi Assad, Alex
Houghton, Vicki Genfan, Muriel Anderson, Rory Block, Jennifer Batten, and Elizabeth Cotton joining producer Patty Larkin.

Choosing the most outstanding selections on La Guitara is as much a function of a reviewer's tastes as it is an analysis of the music. But to my ears the Memphis Minnie tune “ Let's Go To Town” ties with Vicki Genfan's “Joy”and Alex Houghton's “The Bear” as the cuts most likely to have you pushing the “repeat” button on your CD player. All three guitarists combine superhuman physical technique with a novel rhythmic and melodic musical structure to create arresting music..."



- Steven Stone - Vintage Guitar Magazine - March 2006 (pre-view)


"Vicki Genfan of Fairview, New Jersey Crowned Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar 2008"

—Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Elliot Easton of the Cars among celebrity judges who selected winner; Andy Summers of The Police was the Host—

San Bruno, CA (September 16, 2008) —Ten finalists battled for the international title of “Guitar Superstar” at Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar 2008 competition Saturday, October 13 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Vicki Genfan of Fairview, New Jersey, captivated the crowd and the judges with a stunning solo selection on acoustic guitar, beating out nine men to emerge victorious in Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar competition.
First runner-up was Daddo Oreskovich of Chicago, who won points for his original approach, employing Middle-Eastern melodic lines and Japanese koto-like effects, and the only other acoustic guitarist, Makana, of Honolulu, took second runner-up.

All ten tremendously talented players were critiqued by celebrity judges Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Elliott Easton (The Cars), Brendan Smalls (Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse) and George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob). The judges provided comments after each contestant’s performance in an American Idol-style format, finding much to highlight among the uniformly high quality of the performances. Introducing each contestant and serving as master of ceremonies was the Police’s Andy Summers.

“This event is about celebrating the awesome power of the guitar, and all ten finalists stood onstage and delivered absolutely sizzling performances,” said Guitar Player Editor in Chief Michael Molenda. “Each player is a thrilling evangelist for all that is good and holy about transcendent guitar playing, and we were honored and humbled to have them represent their technique, creativity, and passion right here at Guitar Superstar 2008.”

Genfan, the sixth contestant of the night, uncorked a mind-bending composition using an variety of techniques, from alternating fingerpicking and chords, octaves and harmonics to two-handed use of the fretboard and deftly slapping the guitar as if it was a percussion instrument – seemingly all at the same time. Satriani described her performance as “fantastic” and Easton wondered aloud if she was “too good.” Vai deadpanned that she would make a good vice president.

“Vicki mesmerized the audience and the judges — not just with her stunning technique, but also with her musicality and charisma,” said Molenda. “Even though she wasn’t playing an electric guitar plugged into a raging amplifier, she still managed to capture the unmistakable vibe of a true guitar star.”

Further thrills were provided by Carlos Alomar who played some tunes with the new Moog Guitar, as well as from the house band Thud Factor. In addition to her trophy, winner Genfan received a prize package valued at $12,929 from Mesa/Boogie Amplification, EpiphoneGuitars, ZZYZX Snap Jack Cables, Collings Guitars, Audio-Technica Microphones, CAD Microphones, Carr Amps, Cruz Tools, Dunlop Manufacturing, Fulltone Pedals, King Amplification, Shredies, Villex Electronics, Auralex, Essential Sound Products, Fishman, and Keeley Electronics.


Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar is presented by Guitar Center with additional sponsorship from Laguna Guitars, Mesa/Boogie. Moog Music, Epiphone, ZZYZX Snapjack Cables, Bugera Amps, Audio-Technica, Auralex, CAD Microphones, Carr Amps, Collings Guitars, Cruz Tools, Dunlop Manufacturing, Essential Sound Products, Fulltone, Keeley Electronics, King Amplification, Magix, N-Tune Peterson, ProTone Pedals, Reeves Amplification, Reverend Guitars, Shreddies, Villex Electronics, and Westheimer/Cort.


- Guitar Player Magazine/Spinergy Group


"Vicki Genfan of Fairview, New Jersey Crowned Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar 2008"

—Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Elliot Easton of the Cars among celebrity judges who selected winner; Andy Summers of The Police was the Host—

San Bruno, CA (September 16, 2008) —Ten finalists battled for the international title of “Guitar Superstar” at Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar 2008 competition Saturday, October 13 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Vicki Genfan of Fairview, New Jersey, captivated the crowd and the judges with a stunning solo selection on acoustic guitar, beating out nine men to emerge victorious in Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar competition.
First runner-up was Daddo Oreskovich of Chicago, who won points for his original approach, employing Middle-Eastern melodic lines and Japanese koto-like effects, and the only other acoustic guitarist, Makana, of Honolulu, took second runner-up.

All ten tremendously talented players were critiqued by celebrity judges Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Elliott Easton (The Cars), Brendan Smalls (Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse) and George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob). The judges provided comments after each contestant’s performance in an American Idol-style format, finding much to highlight among the uniformly high quality of the performances. Introducing each contestant and serving as master of ceremonies was the Police’s Andy Summers.

“This event is about celebrating the awesome power of the guitar, and all ten finalists stood onstage and delivered absolutely sizzling performances,” said Guitar Player Editor in Chief Michael Molenda. “Each player is a thrilling evangelist for all that is good and holy about transcendent guitar playing, and we were honored and humbled to have them represent their technique, creativity, and passion right here at Guitar Superstar 2008.”

Genfan, the sixth contestant of the night, uncorked a mind-bending composition using an variety of techniques, from alternating fingerpicking and chords, octaves and harmonics to two-handed use of the fretboard and deftly slapping the guitar as if it was a percussion instrument – seemingly all at the same time. Satriani described her performance as “fantastic” and Easton wondered aloud if she was “too good.” Vai deadpanned that she would make a good vice president.

“Vicki mesmerized the audience and the judges — not just with her stunning technique, but also with her musicality and charisma,” said Molenda. “Even though she wasn’t playing an electric guitar plugged into a raging amplifier, she still managed to capture the unmistakable vibe of a true guitar star.”

Further thrills were provided by Carlos Alomar who played some tunes with the new Moog Guitar, as well as from the house band Thud Factor. In addition to her trophy, winner Genfan received a prize package valued at $12,929 from Mesa/Boogie Amplification, EpiphoneGuitars, ZZYZX Snap Jack Cables, Collings Guitars, Audio-Technica Microphones, CAD Microphones, Carr Amps, Cruz Tools, Dunlop Manufacturing, Fulltone Pedals, King Amplification, Shredies, Villex Electronics, Auralex, Essential Sound Products, Fishman, and Keeley Electronics.


Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar is presented by Guitar Center with additional sponsorship from Laguna Guitars, Mesa/Boogie. Moog Music, Epiphone, ZZYZX Snapjack Cables, Bugera Amps, Audio-Technica, Auralex, CAD Microphones, Carr Amps, Collings Guitars, Cruz Tools, Dunlop Manufacturing, Essential Sound Products, Fulltone, Keeley Electronics, King Amplification, Magix, N-Tune Peterson, ProTone Pedals, Reeves Amplification, Reverend Guitars, Shreddies, Villex Electronics, and Westheimer/Cort.


- Guitar Player Magazine/Spinergy Group


"Up Close and Personal"

This double CD showcases two sides of Genfan’s musical persona: her jaw dropping
Fingerstyle guitar work and her rock and rhythm-and-blues vocals. On the 11 original instrumentals on the first disc, Genfan uses percussive bass-string slaps, harmonic clusters, and two-handed tapping techniques a la Michael Hedges and Don Ross. But her compositions have their own distinct blend of funk and filigree, well illustrated in tunes such as “Atomic Reshuffle” and “Kali Dreams”, where she effortlessly shifts between propulsive polyrhythmic vamps and intricate, shimmering arpeggios. The sparse, reflective “In a Mood” is a beautiful duet with low-whistle player Ian Melrose, and on “Si”, Genfan morphs a Cletic-sounding melody into a jazzy groove built around an extended chord progression. On the second disc, various musicians back Genfan’s supple, expressive vocals on originals and covers, including and understated but rocking version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. Some of Genfan’s originals, such as “Love Thing”, have a slick, MOR feel that may not be to everyone’s taste, but the grittier R&B inflected songs, like “Ain’t Got Love” and “So What’s It To Ya”, are infectious. Her instrumental prowess plays a less prominent role in this material, but together, both discs illustrate the multi-faceted talents of this stunning guitarist.
- Acoustic Guitar Magazine Feb.2007 - Written by Rob Forbes-Roberts


"Guitar heroine wows judges"

With nimble fingers racing up and down the fretboard, Vicki Genfan of Fairview bested a field that included nine other guitar players to win the latest "Guitar Superstar" competition.

The contest, hosted by Guitar Player magazine and featuring Andy Summers of the Police, invited 10 musicians on stage to show what they could do with a guitar. Genfan wowed the crowd and the celebrity judges (a group that included Joe Satriani) to bring the title back to New Jersey.
"Vicki, absolutely amazing performance, I loved it," Satriani said after Genfan's song.

Genfan, the only female entrant, played a track called "Atomic Reshuffle."

The event was held at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.






- North Jersey Record


"Guitar heroine wows judges"

With nimble fingers racing up and down the fretboard, Vicki Genfan of Fairview bested a field that included nine other guitar players to win the latest "Guitar Superstar" competition.

The contest, hosted by Guitar Player magazine and featuring Andy Summers of the Police, invited 10 musicians on stage to show what they could do with a guitar. Genfan wowed the crowd and the celebrity judges (a group that included Joe Satriani) to bring the title back to New Jersey.
"Vicki, absolutely amazing performance, I loved it," Satriani said after Genfan's song.

Genfan, the only female entrant, played a track called "Atomic Reshuffle."

The event was held at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.






- North Jersey Record


"'Slap-tap' guitarist has her own style"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
BY ROBERT BIESELIN

A pair of small tambourines crash to the green carpeted floor with a jangling ssshhching as Vicki Genfan yanks a West African talking drum from the waist-high partition that separates her bedroom from a makeshift studio in her Fairview apartment.
“Bum-bwap-bata-bom” announces the drum as she taps at it, vaulting dust from its stretched skin up toward an unfinished ceiling of exposed pressboard. “Bata, bata, bwuum, bata, bum.”

She pounds away.

If you’ve seen her perform, you know the hand motion — a pulsing spasm of bops, taps and slaps that somehow seems both erratic and precise. It’s an enchanting motion and a familiar one — it’s just weird to see her do it on a drum.
“This isn’t just a string instrument,” said Genfan, performing a similar technique on her acoustic Luna six-string guitar — strumming and tapping around its hollow body with a free-spirited charm and confidence that permeates her every move. “The wood gives you so many sounds. It’s truly a drum. That’s what I really love about it.”
Since her early childhood in Washington Heights, N.Y., Genfan has been “experimenting” with music. At age 3 she asked for piano lessons, or so her parents told her. At 5, she wrote her first original song on the guitar, and later, when guitar wasn’t an option in school, she traded the strum-a-dum-dums of its strings for the heavier broom-room-brums of the trombone, which she played proudly despite seeing it as “a boy’s instrument.” Yet nothing could keep her from guitar. And by her late teens she began to write “strange songs” regularly, influenced by outside-the-box guitarists.

“Joni Mitchell was a huge influence. She was tuning her guitars wacko,” said Genfan, who started as a singer-songwriter inspired also by James Taylor and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. “That style spoke to me, I guess … now I have 29 different tunings when I play.”

After years of toiling with “strange tunings,” she eventually developed the aforementioned playing technique to complement them. She calls it “slap-tap,” and it’s accomplished by holding chords traditionally with the left hand and using the right to strum and pluck while also slapping about the fretboard. With fast, seemingly simultaneous movements — strums, plucks, jabs, bops, flicks and smacks — she’s able to evoke a sea of sounds from the guitar, essentially playing bass, percussion, rhythm and lead melody nearly at once.

It’s comparable, she confesses, to techniques used by older folks like Michael Hedges, Leo Kottke and Preston Reed, as well as Reed’s younger follower, 29-year-old Kaki King, whose guitar technique was featured in the 2007 film “August Rush.” Still, while Genfan hails from this campus of guitarists, she’s not a proper student of the tradition.

“I came up with what I came up with in a vacuum. During those seven or eight years I basically stopped listening to guitar music,” she said. “So when people say, ‘You sound like Michael Hedges’ or ‘Hey, you sound like Kaki King,’ I laugh. These people have had more visibility than me over the years, but when I came out of my little woodshed with my technique, I didn’t know who these people were.”

And it hasn’t been easy, said Genfan. Before becoming a self-sufficient musician recently, she was forced to work a series of odd jobs to supplement such musical noodlings. She clinkity-clanked through years of bartending jobs, worked as a body worker in polarity therapy and even had a stint in her younger days building grain elevators. But slowly, over the past eight years, her style gained the attention of her peers and some fans. And so she ran with it, gigging, practicing and recording non-stop. In 2006, she released her most well-known work, “Up Close & Personal,” a two-disc collection of instrumentals and lyrical songs. Now as her latest cover album, “UnCovered,” is set to be released, she’s building momentum, backed by a win at Guitar Player magazine’s annual contest last month in San Francisco.

“At first, I left that contest thinking, ‘I have to learn how to really play electric guitar,’” said Genfan, who was the contest’s only female finalist and one of the few acoustic players in a field dominated by male rock-and-roll shredders. “And then somebody said, ‘Don’t change what you do.’ And that was good for me to hear. In the end, it was really nice for the judges to recognize my music for what it is.”

And yet, despite the foothold of her recent recognition, there are still obstacles to surmount: marketing “outside-the-box” music, making a living solely as an artist and, most difficult for the 49-year-old guitarist, overcoming the dreaded G-word.

“I grew up with the phrase ‘good for a girl,’” said Genfan, who took exception to some of the media coverage of Guitar Player’s contest. “Something like [the award] makes me feel like there’s hope, but it’s still frustrating.”

Now, Genfan sees her place as a “female musician” as a double-edged swo - North Jersey Record


"'Slap-tap' guitarist has her own style"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
BY ROBERT BIESELIN

A pair of small tambourines crash to the green carpeted floor with a jangling ssshhching as Vicki Genfan yanks a West African talking drum from the waist-high partition that separates her bedroom from a makeshift studio in her Fairview apartment.
“Bum-bwap-bata-bom” announces the drum as she taps at it, vaulting dust from its stretched skin up toward an unfinished ceiling of exposed pressboard. “Bata, bata, bwuum, bata, bum.”

She pounds away.

If you’ve seen her perform, you know the hand motion — a pulsing spasm of bops, taps and slaps that somehow seems both erratic and precise. It’s an enchanting motion and a familiar one — it’s just weird to see her do it on a drum.
“This isn’t just a string instrument,” said Genfan, performing a similar technique on her acoustic Luna six-string guitar — strumming and tapping around its hollow body with a free-spirited charm and confidence that permeates her every move. “The wood gives you so many sounds. It’s truly a drum. That’s what I really love about it.”
Since her early childhood in Washington Heights, N.Y., Genfan has been “experimenting” with music. At age 3 she asked for piano lessons, or so her parents told her. At 5, she wrote her first original song on the guitar, and later, when guitar wasn’t an option in school, she traded the strum-a-dum-dums of its strings for the heavier broom-room-brums of the trombone, which she played proudly despite seeing it as “a boy’s instrument.” Yet nothing could keep her from guitar. And by her late teens she began to write “strange songs” regularly, influenced by outside-the-box guitarists.

“Joni Mitchell was a huge influence. She was tuning her guitars wacko,” said Genfan, who started as a singer-songwriter inspired also by James Taylor and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. “That style spoke to me, I guess … now I have 29 different tunings when I play.”

After years of toiling with “strange tunings,” she eventually developed the aforementioned playing technique to complement them. She calls it “slap-tap,” and it’s accomplished by holding chords traditionally with the left hand and using the right to strum and pluck while also slapping about the fretboard. With fast, seemingly simultaneous movements — strums, plucks, jabs, bops, flicks and smacks — she’s able to evoke a sea of sounds from the guitar, essentially playing bass, percussion, rhythm and lead melody nearly at once.

It’s comparable, she confesses, to techniques used by older folks like Michael Hedges, Leo Kottke and Preston Reed, as well as Reed’s younger follower, 29-year-old Kaki King, whose guitar technique was featured in the 2007 film “August Rush.” Still, while Genfan hails from this campus of guitarists, she’s not a proper student of the tradition.

“I came up with what I came up with in a vacuum. During those seven or eight years I basically stopped listening to guitar music,” she said. “So when people say, ‘You sound like Michael Hedges’ or ‘Hey, you sound like Kaki King,’ I laugh. These people have had more visibility than me over the years, but when I came out of my little woodshed with my technique, I didn’t know who these people were.”

And it hasn’t been easy, said Genfan. Before becoming a self-sufficient musician recently, she was forced to work a series of odd jobs to supplement such musical noodlings. She clinkity-clanked through years of bartending jobs, worked as a body worker in polarity therapy and even had a stint in her younger days building grain elevators. But slowly, over the past eight years, her style gained the attention of her peers and some fans. And so she ran with it, gigging, practicing and recording non-stop. In 2006, she released her most well-known work, “Up Close & Personal,” a two-disc collection of instrumentals and lyrical songs. Now as her latest cover album, “UnCovered,” is set to be released, she’s building momentum, backed by a win at Guitar Player magazine’s annual contest last month in San Francisco.

“At first, I left that contest thinking, ‘I have to learn how to really play electric guitar,’” said Genfan, who was the contest’s only female finalist and one of the few acoustic players in a field dominated by male rock-and-roll shredders. “And then somebody said, ‘Don’t change what you do.’ And that was good for me to hear. In the end, it was really nice for the judges to recognize my music for what it is.”

And yet, despite the foothold of her recent recognition, there are still obstacles to surmount: marketing “outside-the-box” music, making a living solely as an artist and, most difficult for the 49-year-old guitarist, overcoming the dreaded G-word.

“I grew up with the phrase ‘good for a girl,’” said Genfan, who took exception to some of the media coverage of Guitar Player’s contest. “Something like [the award] makes me feel like there’s hope, but it’s still frustrating.”

Now, Genfan sees her place as a “female musician” as a double-edged swo - North Jersey Record


"Open Secrets: Vicki Genfan Shows You the Techniques that Helped Crown Her GP’s 2008 GUITAR SUPERSTAR by Chris Buono"

ON THE NIGHT OF SEPTEMBER 13TH, 2008, AFTER WITNESSING HER mind-blowing performance of an original composition entitled “Atomic Reshuffle,” a panel of guitardom’s elite dubbed Vicki Genfan Guitar Player’s 2008 Guitar Superstar. Contained within the 3:57 acoustic tour-de-force was a combination of playing techniques that produced not just chords and melodies, but also bell-like harmonics and percussive rhythms. Genfan’s approaches to composition and playing stem from her desire to capture dense harmonic ingredients, her affinity for open tunings, and her dream to groove like Earth, Wind & Fire’s Verdine White. Dedicating the last 30 years to cultivating an individual style, Genfan has emerged with a playing technique she calls “slap tap,” which features alternative means of producing harmonics and groove-approved thumb slaps. This approach integrates nicely with her sizable collection of open-tunings, which currently includes over 30 variations (see sidebar on this page). “For me, open tunings are like a new palette of paints—every day is like working with a different color scheme, and that keeps my playing and writing fresh,” she explains.


As with many guitarists, it was the music of Joni Mitchell that got Genfan started down the road of altered tunings. “Trying to play those beautiful 9th and sus4 voicings I heard on Joni’s records with my tiny 11-year-old hands was really hard,” she recalls, “so once I learned that you could choose a chord and just tune to it, I began experimenting. From there, I discovered I could get a lot of mileage by combining open chords with harmonics and ideas played on the bass strings.” The following examples are based on a D7sus4 tuning (D, A, D, G, C, D low to high), so grab an acoustic guitar and get ready to give your playing a reshuffle of atomic proportions.

THUMB SLAP

“I began to incorporate my own version of a thumb slap to satisfy this urge I had to play bass. I keep my hand in a handshake position and use my entire forearm while striking the string with the bottom portion of my thumb near the first knuckle,” says Genfan as she demonstrates Ex. 1a. To give the notes the tight, crunchy tone Genfan is going for, don’t be shy about applying a slight, cylindrical whipping motion that derives power from both your wrist and elbow. Once you have a grasp on the basic technique, it’s time to develop some hand/eye coordination and aim for other strings, while incorporating some fretting-hand action such as the hammer- ons in Ex. 1b.

ADD A DASH OF HARMONICS

Starting to add harmonics to the picture, Genfan shows off Ex. 2a, which incorporates the fretting-hand 2nd finger gently tapping directly above the 12th fret following open sixth-string thumb slaps. This succession of eighth-notes conveys an interesting octave-displacement effect courtesy of the alternating timbres of open slapped notes and tapped harmonics.

Turning to the triplet feel heard throughout her song “Kali Dreams,” Genfan drops Ex. 2b, which features an alternating slap/tap technique. That’s followed by a radiant example of 12th-fret harmonics played on all six strings. For a subtle, yet very cool modulation effect, Genfan will sometimes grab the headstock and push and pull the neck while anchoring her picking hand on the guitar’s top near the cutaway.

Taking the cue from Ex. 2b, which is the first bar of “Kali Dreams,” Genfan carefully plays the repeating section of the intro to the tune [Ex. 3]. In addition to the 12th fret harmonics, Genfan hits them at the 9th and 7th frets as well. At the final eighth-note of bar 3 going into the downbeat of bar 4, Genfan introduces her take on a hallmark alterna- tive acoustic guitar technique—body slaps. “I used to call it ‘body percussion’, but somehow I got into calling this technique ‘body slapping,’ which sounds a little bit dirty,” states Genfan, who uses both right and left hands to make use of nearly every slap-able part of the guitar. “I always wanted to be a hand percussionist, and the rhythmic aspect of music always came easy to me, so I started to experiment with different ways to get that across in my playing.” She alternates between striking the guitar with the entire bottom of her picking hand, using just the thumb, making use of a ring, or bringing over the fretting hand for a whack, as demonstrated here.

SINGLE-NOTE HARMONIC TAPPING

When slapping, Genfan usually makes contact with the strings on the neck, close to the 12th fret, and there are many instances in her technique where single-note harmonic tapping is used. These harmonics are produced by tapping a string precisely on top of the fret, 12 frets (or seven or five) above either a fretted or open note. “I usually tap with my 1st and 2nd fingers, but more so with the 2nd,” says Genfan as she plays Ex. 4, letting all the tones ring into one another creating a collage of crystal clear overtones. If you’ve ever tried to cop the intro to Van Halen’s “Women in Love,” you’ll have an - Guitar Player Magazine


"Open Secrets: Vicki Genfan Shows You the Techniques that Helped Crown Her GP’s 2008 GUITAR SUPERSTAR by Chris Buono"

ON THE NIGHT OF SEPTEMBER 13TH, 2008, AFTER WITNESSING HER mind-blowing performance of an original composition entitled “Atomic Reshuffle,” a panel of guitardom’s elite dubbed Vicki Genfan Guitar Player’s 2008 Guitar Superstar. Contained within the 3:57 acoustic tour-de-force was a combination of playing techniques that produced not just chords and melodies, but also bell-like harmonics and percussive rhythms. Genfan’s approaches to composition and playing stem from her desire to capture dense harmonic ingredients, her affinity for open tunings, and her dream to groove like Earth, Wind & Fire’s Verdine White. Dedicating the last 30 years to cultivating an individual style, Genfan has emerged with a playing technique she calls “slap tap,” which features alternative means of producing harmonics and groove-approved thumb slaps. This approach integrates nicely with her sizable collection of open-tunings, which currently includes over 30 variations (see sidebar on this page). “For me, open tunings are like a new palette of paints—every day is like working with a different color scheme, and that keeps my playing and writing fresh,” she explains.


As with many guitarists, it was the music of Joni Mitchell that got Genfan started down the road of altered tunings. “Trying to play those beautiful 9th and sus4 voicings I heard on Joni’s records with my tiny 11-year-old hands was really hard,” she recalls, “so once I learned that you could choose a chord and just tune to it, I began experimenting. From there, I discovered I could get a lot of mileage by combining open chords with harmonics and ideas played on the bass strings.” The following examples are based on a D7sus4 tuning (D, A, D, G, C, D low to high), so grab an acoustic guitar and get ready to give your playing a reshuffle of atomic proportions.

THUMB SLAP

“I began to incorporate my own version of a thumb slap to satisfy this urge I had to play bass. I keep my hand in a handshake position and use my entire forearm while striking the string with the bottom portion of my thumb near the first knuckle,” says Genfan as she demonstrates Ex. 1a. To give the notes the tight, crunchy tone Genfan is going for, don’t be shy about applying a slight, cylindrical whipping motion that derives power from both your wrist and elbow. Once you have a grasp on the basic technique, it’s time to develop some hand/eye coordination and aim for other strings, while incorporating some fretting-hand action such as the hammer- ons in Ex. 1b.

ADD A DASH OF HARMONICS

Starting to add harmonics to the picture, Genfan shows off Ex. 2a, which incorporates the fretting-hand 2nd finger gently tapping directly above the 12th fret following open sixth-string thumb slaps. This succession of eighth-notes conveys an interesting octave-displacement effect courtesy of the alternating timbres of open slapped notes and tapped harmonics.

Turning to the triplet feel heard throughout her song “Kali Dreams,” Genfan drops Ex. 2b, which features an alternating slap/tap technique. That’s followed by a radiant example of 12th-fret harmonics played on all six strings. For a subtle, yet very cool modulation effect, Genfan will sometimes grab the headstock and push and pull the neck while anchoring her picking hand on the guitar’s top near the cutaway.

Taking the cue from Ex. 2b, which is the first bar of “Kali Dreams,” Genfan carefully plays the repeating section of the intro to the tune [Ex. 3]. In addition to the 12th fret harmonics, Genfan hits them at the 9th and 7th frets as well. At the final eighth-note of bar 3 going into the downbeat of bar 4, Genfan introduces her take on a hallmark alterna- tive acoustic guitar technique—body slaps. “I used to call it ‘body percussion’, but somehow I got into calling this technique ‘body slapping,’ which sounds a little bit dirty,” states Genfan, who uses both right and left hands to make use of nearly every slap-able part of the guitar. “I always wanted to be a hand percussionist, and the rhythmic aspect of music always came easy to me, so I started to experiment with different ways to get that across in my playing.” She alternates between striking the guitar with the entire bottom of her picking hand, using just the thumb, making use of a ring, or bringing over the fretting hand for a whack, as demonstrated here.

SINGLE-NOTE HARMONIC TAPPING

When slapping, Genfan usually makes contact with the strings on the neck, close to the 12th fret, and there are many instances in her technique where single-note harmonic tapping is used. These harmonics are produced by tapping a string precisely on top of the fret, 12 frets (or seven or five) above either a fretted or open note. “I usually tap with my 1st and 2nd fingers, but more so with the 2nd,” says Genfan as she plays Ex. 4, letting all the tones ring into one another creating a collage of crystal clear overtones. If you’ve ever tried to cop the intro to Van Halen’s “Women in Love,” you’ll have an - Guitar Player Magazine


Discography

Outside the Box - Independantly Self-Released 2001
Vicki Genfan - Live - Acoustic Music Records 2003.
La Guitara - Compiliation of Female Guitarists, Vanguard Records 2005
Up Close & Personal - Harmonic Touch Records, 2006
UnCovered - Acoustic Music Records 2008

Photos

Bio

Every now and then an artist comes along whose music reaches out and touches the soul of all who hear them…virtuoso guitarist, singer and composer Vicki Genfan is among those artists… Drawing from folk, jazz, pop, soul and world music, Vicki is redefining ‘singer/songwriter culture.’ With a mastery of the acoustic guitar that borders on pure alchemy, audiences are mesmerized by the waves of sound Vicki creates with just two hands and her voice. Using 29 alternate tunings and the percussive technique she calls 'slap-tap', you'll find the addition of her pure, expressive vocals that dig deep and stir the heart to be the perfect accompaniment on many of her songs. Vicki writes and beautifully sings her own brand of music and lyrics while putting her unmistakable imprint on familiar tunes like the Beatles’ Norweigian Wood. An evening with Vicki is far more than a concert; stories, warmth and humor come gift wrapped in an unforgettable evening of music that leaves the audience always wanting more.

Perhaps Vicki's most celebrated award came in the form of first prize in the 2008 Guitar Player Magazine's 'Guitar Superstar' Competition. Judged by guitar idols, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Elliot Easton, George Lynch and Brendan Smalls, here's what Jim Fusilli of the Wall Street Journal had to say about her win:

"It's a stunning victory, a barrier shattered. Guitar Player is a male-dominated domain -- the only photo of a woman musician at work in the current issue is a microscopic shot of bassist Rachel Haden with her back to the camera. The magazine is often a tribute to speed, power, volume and gear. Ms. Genfan plays an acoustic guitar without effects."

Vicki has been recognized among the world’s greatest guitarists and musicians at festivals such as The International Montreal Jazz Festival, Germany’s Open Strings Guitar Festival, Italy’s Soave Guitar Festival, as well as at venues and Performing Arts Centers across the US and abroad. In 2005 she was one of the featured artists on 'La Guitara', the first compilation CD featuring female guitarists from around the globe, released by Vanguard Records. With several additional ground-breaking recordings behind her, recent acquisitions of the 6 string banjo, 12 string and baritone guitars, high demand at clinics and music camps and an ongoing European presence, Vicki continues to reach beyond musical borders and into new territory.

“I understand completely why the audience applauds and whistles so wildly...this is fiery, living music.”
- IndieMusic.com

“I have to open my eyes to make sure that only one guitar is playing and that Vicki Genfan – so the name of this fascinating woman – only owns two hands.”
- Spurren Magazine, Switzerland

“Vicki has brewed her own style that has no name...and created a new kind of singer-songwriter culture.”
- Frankfurter Allgemeine

“Genfan is carving a niche in the acoustic music world which few can fill.”
- www.minor7th.com