Hello, all visitors—especially all guitarists!
I’m Tuomas Kourula. I’m a Finnish classical guitarist, classical guitar teacher, once (and future!) guitar maker and composer of classical guitar music. NewCenturyGuitar.com is my website.
I’ll tell you a little about myself.
My father’s radio
My earliest musical memories are of classical music playing on my father’s radio. I remember vividly John Williams playing the Bach lute suites; they made a lasting impression. I can still recall exactly where we sat on the living room floor.
Later, when I got a cassette deck of my own, I had a cassette tape of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Karajan conducting, playing Beethoven’s Symphonies 5 & 6 and Egmont overture. I listened to that cassette tape in a loop, turning it over again and again.
I was lucky to have been born in a family that valued music and took me to a music school, when I wanted to start playing guitar.
Many teachers, many lessons learned
I have a master’s degree in classical guitar performance and pedagogy. I’ve had many guitar teachers, and each of them taught me something important that I’m still using in my teaching.
My first teacher was Petri Anttila. He taught me that you should have faith in your student. My next teacher I won’t name here: he taught me how to stifle your student’s enthusiasm. Fortunately, after him came Kari Härkönen, who showed me how to relate to your student as a fellow traveler on the way to understanding.
After that, I started my studies in Turku Conservatory of Music, where I now teach myself, and my teacher there was Seppo Kallio. He made me see that humor is as essential in teaching classical guitar as it is in life, and that you should always try your very best. After him, Timo Suominen taught me that you should know what you are doing and how to work deliberately (I’m afraid I was a hard-headed and lazy student!)
Later still, Ismo Eskelinen made me see how powerful your passion for music can be and how to keep your ears and heart open to feel and use that passion. Andrzej Wilkus brought with him a conversational, warm and open approach to teaching and the teacher-student relationship.
Finally, Timo Korhonen opened up a world of ideas and hidden meanings behind the surface of sound and sheets of paper. He revealed the beginnings of the path that I’m still travelling, getting to know music through the smallest musical atoms and gestures, the all-important building blocks of expression.
And of course every one of my teachers taught me many other things as well – and also great many things that I could not grasp and learn at the time, sadly!
Writing music of my own has always held a special interest for me: my earliest attempts at composing music can be found in my first notebooks. While I was studying classical guitar, right from the very beginning I also studied different aspects of composing music. Every lesson in Music Theory, Harmony, General Bass and Counterpoint, and finally Composition, revealed important and fascinating things about the inner structure of music, knowledge that’s necessary to be able to write music.
I worked as a luthier in 2006-2008, and I built over 20 classical guitars. The eight-stringed guitar that I’m holding in the picture at the head of this article is one of them. You can hear that particular guitar in some of my videos, for example Paper Plane on YouTube. Another one, a padauk guitar, can be heard in this video, Travelling Still.
I’d really love to return to making guitars some time in the future, if I could only find the time for it! But even if that will not be possible, I’ll still count myself lucky to have had the experience. Not only is guitar making an extremely rewarding and creative activity, it also gave me a deeper understanding of the construction and workings of classical guitar that anything else could have done.
I’m a teacher…
I’ve been lucky enough to work as a guitar teacher for about fifteen years at the Turku Conservatory of Music in Turku, southern Finland. My wonderful students at the conservatory were the ones who inspired me to start writing educational music for guitar and to eventually publish it.
I love being a guitar teacher; it’s a calling for me, really. In a sense, I get the deepest and most profound insight to music, when I search for its hidden meaning with a student in my classroom. I feel I get to hear the music through the fresh ears and unjaded enthusiasm of my student.
…and also a composer
Among my dearest memories are those of playing for my parents. I now realize that I did it far too seldom, since they really took pleasure in every note I would play. Unfortunately, my parents are both gone now, and so is my chance to play for them.
But I can still pay forward their musical heritage. I can compose new music for the classical guitarists of today—the kind of music that I would have liked to play myself when I was growing up and learning music. The rewarding activity of composing music allows me to combine my love of music and my desire to write music of my own with my pedagogical love and my work as a teacher.
I consider myself a typical, almost quintessential classical guitar composer. I write music for guitar: the instrument is both the inspiration and the medium. It is both the idea and its expression. And of course the educational side of my compositions is essential as well.
I sometimes like to flatter myself, and think of myself as a direct, if very minor, descendant of the likes of Carulli: a guitarist, writing music to fulfill a direct need, in a style both classical and popular.
My goal is to inspire!
As the website name NewCenturyGuitar.com implies, I want to compose music for our particular time in history. I want to include musical influences from all over the world, from many different kinds of music and from many musical traditions.
The one composer who inspires me most in my quest is Johann Christian Bach, often called “the London Bach.” Despite Johann Christian’s considerable age difference with his famous father, Johann Sebastian Bach, he was still a product of the immensely strong Bach musical heritage. However, Johann Christian didn’t compose his music in the baroque style of his father, but in the galant style of his elder brothers, reflecting the new era.
A successful fusion of different musical idioms and ideals is an important part of J.C. Bach’s music, and I also seek to write music that fuses together different styles. A major ingredient is always going to be classical music, but there is film music in there too, and pop music, and folk music, and so on.
Composing music for guitar is very exciting and enjoyable, and seeing people get pleasure from my music is great: most of all,