Comments By Professionals in the Music Industry



JazzTimes Magazine (Review of Acoustic Paintings CD, Nov. 1997 by Duck Baker) “Auten is recommended to those who like fingerpicking guitarists with bravura chops and a steady compositional sense… A player to watch.” 

Dick Whitehouse, (Record Producer - Lyle Lovet, Wynnona Judd Etc.)
You're terrific...what can I say, your guitar playing is with out par...It's brilliant"  

Chet Atkins, (World famous guitarist and former Vice President of RCA - Nashville) In front of a crowd of guitarists
..."D.R. here is a great guitar player... have you all heard him?" In a letter to D.R. - "D.R. thanx, it was good to see you again... let up, you're too good already!  

John D'Agostino, (Music critic for the Los Angeles Times)
..."Auten is an exceptional singer. Indeed fans of his guitar work are blown away when they hear his voice, which seems to blend the emotional delivery and sensitive phrasing of Kenny Loggins with the dulcet, tenor of Vince Gill."

San Diego Union Tribune, (San Diego's largest newspaper) CD review of Acoustic Paintings By: Robert Hayhurst
..."This dazzling instrumental blend of styles will attract acoustic guitar fans from classical to rock. Auten hones his Predominantly finger-picked style to artist perfection on his second album. His playing is complex, weaving both emotion and heart into the songs...Auten is an impressive vocalist

Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine, (One of the most informative and progressive magazines on guitar playing) CD review of Acoustic Paintings By: John Schroeter
..."A hearing of his music will make an unforgettable impression.... Hot jazz, blues and country licks-all played with consummate musicianship and imagination."

The Daily Californian, (A west coast newspaper) Live performance review by: Robert Hayhurst
"...Some of Auten's uncanny guitar skills include the ability to mimic a meowing cat, a runaway train-and whistle, a frog and a set of bagpipes."

Slam Magazine, (A west coast music magazine) Live performance review by: Philip Dawdy
"...the player's player, the one all the other guitarist speak of with a bit of wonder in their voices. He players jazz, blues, country, bluegrass, and folk with aplomb...his touch is beyond deft-his dynamics are so sensitive that you're left with the impression that you're listening to a piano player."

Acoustic Guitar Magazine, (the most popular authority on acoustic guitar music) CD review of Acoustic Paintings by: Dylan Schorer
"...Fans of hot fingerpicking take note: this album is not to be missed! ... switches effortlessly from Mach-speed Travis picking to single-line chicken pickin' shows that he can tear it up with the best of them."

Guitar Player Magazine, (Featured article in the 1996 July. issue of, Acoustic Paintings) CD Picked as “Album of the month.”
"...Sculpting a cool contour through Chet-style country pluck, Celtic balladry and ragtime, D.R. Auten crafts enviable acoustic tones imitating trains, cats and frog sounds. The fingerstyle pieces display terrific contrapuntal independence, stunning chops and a strong sense of melody."

SpinRecord.com, (foot notes)
"...A multi-style guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer, and author, Auten has truly mastered this beautiful instrument. From blues to country, folk, pop, R&B, classical, jazz, and Celtic, no style is beyond Auten’s fingers."

Tommy Emmanuel, (World famous guitarist from Australia)
..."D.R. I just had breakfast with the Chief (referring to Chet Atkins), and your name came up. Chet shook his head & said, “D.R. is a hell of a guitar player.” Tommy said, “Chet knows D.R., Chet knows!”

 Kix Brooks, (Brooks and Dunn) Many times Country Artists of the year)

"...Your playing amazes me - you are a great musician. ...You are a fine artist and deserve any breaks you get...your a great singer too by the way...I wish you all the best and keep wearing out those strings - kb







 ~ N E W S ~




D.R. Auten picked as one of the

100 Greatest Guitar Players


Click Here for more info 




Gibson Guitars Sues Activision

over "Guitar Hero"


D.R. Auten was the inventor of a 3D system

he created while working for the Gibson Guitar Company

 in Nashville, TN in 1995


US Patent:  5990405


Click here for more info






Major Motion Picture Release


Move Score Written by D.R. Auten

MGM Releases a Major Motion Picture



Sigourney Weaver-Gene Hackman-Jennifer Love Hewitt



Features a song written by D.R. Auten


"If I Only Had Wings"






Mel Bay Publishing

Interview with D.R. Auten by:
Mel Bay’s, Stephen Rekas

Artist Interview: D. R. Auten


Author, recording artist, songwriter, composer, and fingerstyle guitarist - Don R. Auten approaches the guitar from the unique perspective of being both a performer and a luthier. He was one of the original guitar builders for the Taylor Guitar Company where he focused on neck design and construction. He later became a designer with the Gibson Guitar Company where he also served as a photographer, technical illustrator/graphic artist, and performer. While at Gibson, he conceived a virtual reality experience that allows the user to feel what it's like to jam with a band in front of 23,000 screaming 3D fans. Auten's resume also includes mention of formal music training, a degree in civil engineering, plus experience in photography, graphic art, and a second-degree black belt in karate. For all of his accomplishments he considers himself

-just an average person who by loving something found the energy and drive to accomplish a number of things- not from talent, but rather from an intense excitement and interest in things... This is an energy source that we can all tap into. The secret to opening that door is in loving something with a passion, and this requires action. You can't just feel it in your head...true love requires action and involvement.

As a performer, D.R. has shared the stage with: Muriel Anderson, Joan Baez, Thom Bresh, Johnny Cash, Asleep at the Wheel, Chuck Berry, José Feliciano, Ricky Lee Jones, Roger Miller, Leon Redbone, Three Dog Night and many others. He has performed at major venues in North America and Europe including the annual Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention in Nashville and- by invitation of the late Marcel Dadi- at the Atkins/Dadi Guitar Convention in Issoudun, France.

Auten's recordings include: Hold on to the Moon, Acoustic Paintings (Album of the Month in Guitar Player Magazine's 30th Anniversary Issue - July 1997), Songs from the Heart, The Boogieman, and a cut on the Narada anthology - Guitar Fingerstyle. His most recent recording is part of a highly original self-published book/CD/story/coloring book package called Guitar Toons, available worldwide through Mel Bay Publications.

...the player's player, the one all the other guitarist speak of with a bit of wonder in their voices. He plays jazz, blues, country, bluegrass, and folk with aplomb...his touch is beyond deft-his dynamics are so sensitive that you're left with the impression that you're listening to a piano player.

 by Philip Dawdy, Editor for Slamm Magazine


GS: Before we get into the usual biographical details, tell us about your new self-published book/CD, Guitar Toons. What inspired this project? What do you hope it will achieve for the buyer/listener. Why did you include a coloring book?
DR: I have a fascination with the tonal capabilities of the guitar, so I experiment with sounds. While doing this I stumbled on several special effects that reminded me of different animals. I composed tunes around these sounds and grouped them together in a project called Guitar Toons. As I was working on the project, other elements came to mind, including a short story. The story features each of the animal characters portrayed in the tunes working together to achieve a bigger dream then they could have reached as individuals. Each character possesses a different talent and accomplishes a different task. There is a playful side to each tune that lends itself to visual imagery. It just seemed natural to include illustrations for each arrangement. [Graphic artist and luthier] Bruce Kunkel helped me with the project and did a great job illustrating each composition. I included the illustrations and story in a coloring book for kids to enjoy on their own or in the classroom.

Each song is written in standard notation that can be rendered on the piano or guitar, as well as easy to read guitar tablature. These songs are a blast to play! I recorded the CD using my Taylor Jumbo guitar. I hope the Guitar Toons music book, coloring book and CD get the attention they deserve. The compositions are such that some of the best guitar players around are learning them. These pieces contain unusual techniques and special effects that are fun to play.

GS: Who or what events inspired you to play the guitar? Was music a part of your household when growing up?
DR: My family is from Russellville, Kentucky and until age eight I was partially deaf due to inner ear problems. After my family moved to California, my ears opened up as a result of the dry warm weather. All sounds were pretty spectacular to me at that time. Just before we moved, my Uncle Donald gave my Mom and Dad a little stereo, and three albums: Fire on the Strings (Joe Maphis), The Travis Guitar (Merle Travis), and Stringing Along with Chet (Chet Atkins). These were the only albums we had. I would listen to them every chance I could get.

GS: How old were you when you began to play?
DR: My Uncle Donald moved to California when I was 14, and brought his guitar. This was the first time I had ever heard the guitar live! I started to pick up the guitar at this time.

GS: Do you feel that your starting age is a critical factor in playing your style?
DR: Not so much the age, but more the previous events and surroundings. My grandpa was known for his 'thump' style of guitar playing, but he never recorded anything. Each of my uncles inspired me in different ways. My Uncle Sam lost his thumb when he was a little boy, so he had a very specific influence on my style. He told me "Donnie, you have a thumb. Use it!" My Uncle Donald left his guitar at my house so that I'd have something to practice on. My Uncle Ray was a lead guitarist, and he taught me some cool licks.

GS: Any formal music training?
DR: Yes, I began a music major in college but did not like it. Everyone was being taught the same stuff year after year. I was and am more interested in the "new stuff" that you have to discover on your own.

GS: What styles interested you when you first began to play? How do those early preferences influence your current music?
DR: Classical, jazz, blues, country - but mostly fingerstyle in general. The overall influence is that I like to blend styles together in my own way. I use different nuances of tone and technique to keep it interesting.

GS: Any teachers or method books of note? How about influential artists?
DR: I am self-taught for the most part, but various people exerted a great influence on my music in the beginning. I bought a Mel Bay guitar book and my first chord was C. I tore the book apart and made A the first chord. Now I realize why Mel Bay introduced the key of C first - it has no sharps or flats. I was just trying to put the keys in alphabetical order!

Although I already knew how to play the guitar, I started to learn a bunch of fingerstyle tunes from a fine guitar player named Tommy Turman. He was quite an inspiration. Some of my good friends were inspirations as well, including Jim Soldi, Tom Boyer, and Peter Sprague. Among the well known recording artists who influenced me, I should mention Roy Bucannan, Joe Pass, Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. I don't listen to many guitar players nowadays. I am too busy doing what I want to do and writing. It has been kind of funny, as I am going through my own evolution on the guitar, just trying to make up for having left it once for eight years. I am currently studying jazz and have been listening to Bill Evans (piano), Stan Getz (sax), Buddy Emmons (pedal steel), Benny Goodman (Clarinet), and Stephane Grappelli, (violin).

GS: What other instruments do you play? Any advantage or disadvantage to being a multi-instrumentalist?
DR: I play harmonica, banjo and the violin. I played the piano while I was a music major, but I don't play it much these days. The guitar is kickin' my butt too hard right now! There is an advantage to learning more than one instrument. Yes, it's true that you may spend less time on your main instrument, but you are compensated with fresh inspiration, and overall musical growth.

GS: What musical avenues do you wish to explore in the future?

DR: I want to find a bass player and drummer so I can expand on some ideas and songs I have written. This will give me more opportunity to improvise and jam.

GS: What keeps you interested in the music business?
DR: Sound... wonderful, clear sound.

GS: Have you ever had to weather a creative dry spell in your playing or composition? How do you overcome writer's block?
DR: No dry spells, but there has been periods of frustration in not finding other musicians who wanted to play just originals. I don't have any fun playing cover songs. I am very stubborn in that now I only want to do originals. I quit playing the guitar for almost eight years in my refusal to play cover songs. Since that long break, when I pick up the guitar, new music comes out as fast as I can write it. I am happier now.

You have to keep you self turned on with life. Do what makes you feel creative and puts you in the ZONE. Find the surroundings, the situations, the good luck ring, whatever works - and stay there! I can't write when I am playing cover songs - so, for me, doing only my own original pieces keeps me in the zone. If you are a tune writer or composer, you are no longer a consumer; instead, you are a producer of what others consume. Most good guitar players still listen to and play a variety of cover songs. I can't for now. Let's just say it is a weakness in me. I think young guitar players should hear and learn everything they can get their hands on, but be careful... you don't want to be a clone. Be wise and selective.

GS: Which of your albums would you recommend to someone buying one of your recordings for the first time.
DR: All of them, and in mass quantities (laughs). Seriously - Guitar Toons and Acoustic Paintings.

GS: Career high/low?

DR: The low time was when I quit for eight years. I just could not do cover tunes anymore, and I was not a soloist. I was a band member and I could not find a band that was willing to do original songs only. I checked into college and got into civil engineering, surveying and computer aided design. The high time is now. With my new book and CD... I think right now is the best time.

GS: How has your family affected your music?
DR: My Mom and Dad have all ways encouraged me to do whatever I wanted. They love guitar music.

GS: Current activities and tour schedule?
DR: I just came out with a new book and CD called Guitar Toons, and one of the songs in this book will appear in the forthcoming Year 2000 Fingerstyle Guitar Anthology from Mel Bay. I am just now setting up a nation-wide tour of music stores, bookstores and other venues.

GS: Do you teach or act as a mentor?
DR: Yes, I do teach. I have had various students from time to time and want to teach more. I am learning as fast as I can, just to have more material to teach. My website offers details on contacting me for lessons.

GS: Describe your practice routine.
DR: I am studying jazz at the moment, and what I do first is play some major scales very slowly to warm-up, then some arpeggios. Next, I work on chord clusters: Major, Minor, Dom7 and Altered. When I am warmed-up, I play through chord changes and try to make it as melodic as possible.

GS: Any particular teaching/learning techniques, such as maintaining a log of practice time?
DR: Play very slowly, and try to be as musical and play with a good groove. IT DON'T MEAN A THING IF IT AIN'T GOT THAT SWING... got to have a good groove! No log; I love it too much to worry about it. I play every moment I can.

GS: What are your technical strengths and weaknesses?

DR: Physically, I have always been able to play as fast or complex as I have wanted. So my hands and fingers are my strength. Knowledge of jazz harmony has been my weakness in the past, but I am working on it now ...I've have declared war on my stupor!

GS: Do you read music? What's your opinion of tab vs. notation?
DR: Yes, this last year I have picked it up. I can read well enough to learn new tunes and write, but I'm not up to speed for sightreading in tempo. I am pretty slow as a music reader. I think both tab and standard notation are useful. Standard music notation is a great universal way of communicating music on paper while tablature is "specific" for the guitar. Both work well. I prefer to have both on the page and that is my method of writing my own songs down. I created my own blank notation and tab manuscript paper and just write them both out simultaneously.

GS: What do you do to keep your repertoire fresh-sounding?
DR: My memory is bad, so even though I play my songs over and over, they always have a sense of freshness because of this problem. Also, I add new songs to my repertoire as I write them. This seems to work.

GS: Are there any areas of Classical/traditional repertoire you would like to explore?
DR: I only do original songs now, but there was one piece that I have always wanted to play from the first time I picked up the guitar in high school. It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. It was a personal vendetta of mine to learn it, but I could not play it until I learned to read notation. I finally learned the tune this year! It's the Valse Venezolano No.3 by Antonio Lauro.

GS: You play fingerstyle on steel strings but I don't believe you use a thumb pick. What advantages or disadvantages are there in not using a thumb pick?
DR: One advantage of not using a thumb pick is that you don't loose them. There must be a pile of sunglasses and picks somewhere in a black hole because I have lost thousands of them. I did use a thumb pick in the early days as well as a flat pick. Now I use a combination of everything. One advantage in using a thumb pick is the clarity of the bass notes plus the fact that it leaves your other fingers free to play. By contrast, when you hold a flat pick your thumb and first finger are all tied up.

GS: What brands and models of guitars/strings/amps/recording equipment do you use? What is your preference as far as construction materials, models, dimensions, vintage vs. new instruments, etc.?
DR: I have a great carved-top guitar by Gibson, a Fender Stratocaster, and a Jumbo Taylor acoustic. I am lazy at this point, and will use whatever is close at hand for amplification. I use GHS Strings.

GS: What microphone setup do you favor for solo guitar recording?
DR: Any accurate high quality condenser is fine for me for micing the outside of a guitar. I use one mic right at the hole for the low end, one mic near the soundboard for the high, an under saddle mic for the midrange, and one mic inside the guitar for the out of phase stereo split and fatness.

GS: Which acoustic pickup, pre-amp, EQ, amplifier?
DR: I am using a Fishman pickup in my acoustic guitar with a $20 lapel mic from Radio Shack. This mic is weak in the right places, and strong in the areas where needed. The inside of a guitar sounds bad! The better the mic, the more accurate this bad sound is reproduced. So, the cheap Radio Shack mic is just right! I just go straight into the board. I don't like carrying an amp.

GS: To what extent have you explored guitar technology, acoustic pickups, amplification of the acoustic guitar, pedals and effects, software, MIDI guitar etc.?
DR: I like using a volume pedal, smooth reverb and EQ for fat bass response. Not much beyond this contributes to my sound. Midi guitars are very cool, but I like the sound of a guitar. That is why I play it; if I wanted to sound like a piano, I would play the piano.

GS: Any advice to beginning musicians?
DR: Guitarists - Originality over speed, taste over complexity.
Songwriters - Write what you think not what you think others want to hear.
Composers - Stop imitating and start creating.
All the above- Don't quite your day job unless you have work lined up in the areas of choice. Learn all you can about everything. Keep yourself turned on with life. Side-step roadblocks to your creativity.

GS: Tips on career development as a teacher, professional musician or concert artist.
DR: Like a canvas is to a painter, so is recording to a musician. Record, Record, Record! Capture your own music in a form that you can package and sell.

GS: Ideas about professional management. Pros and cons of managing ones own performing career, or forming an independent recording company.
DR: It is always good to have someone who can help you with your career. No one makes it on his or her own, NO ONE! But be careful, just as a bad marriage can drain you of your creative edge and take away years of your life, the wrong management can do the same.

GS: How can one best prepare for making a living with the guitar?
DR: Learn to read well. Learn music theory. Study all styles of music. Get yourself into recording studios ASAP, and surround yourself with people who are talented and have a good positive spirit. You will be working with these people the rest of your life.

GS: You play in a few open and alternate tunings. How do you decide which one to use on a given piece?
DR: The tunings come by way of the guitar telling me or leading me. Sometimes I will tune my guitar to an unknown chord that I like and fiddle with it until a song jumps out!

GS: Short term/long term personal goals?

DR: I just want to continue to write, record, teach and tour. And I want to expand my publishing efforts, and record company.

GS: Aside from the guitar, what do you do for fun? Other creative endeavors?
DR: I have a second-degree black belt in karate and try to stay in shape with this sport. I like to fish, camp, and chase women! I am still looking for a special lady.

GS: Tell us about the Chet Atkins connection.
DR: I have appeared at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention for the last five years and have had the opportunity to talk with Chet several times. He has been very complimentary. I have always wanted to go to his workshop, but that has not happened yet. He is one of the greatest! Meeting Chet is as close to meeting God as us mortals get.

GS: Which artists would you most like to collaborate with in a recording or tour?
DR: Bonnie Raitt. I would also love to play with Bela Fleck, Victor Wooton, Futureman and Howard Levy.

GS: Any advice to young performers just breaking into the industry?
DR: Be unique, cleaver and singularly yourself.

GS: You have the unique perspective of being both a luthier and an accomplished fingerstyle guitarist. How did you get your start as a luthier? How have the two disciplines influenced one another?
DR: I started making guitars in my garage in about 1973-- a few years before I started working for the Taylor Guitar Company. The first guitar I made was a classical, the second was an acoustic steel string and the third was a carved top/back electric. These totally different instruments were an extension of my earlier interests in learning everything about the guitar.

GS: What contributions did you make while working for Taylor guitars, and later for the Gibson company? Tell us about your custom Gibson Chet Atkins Tribute guitar.

DR: When I first met Bob Taylor in 1993, he was working at the American Dream guitar shop. I came in looking for some materials. I brought with me one of the guitars I had built. Because I was an electric guitarist I made the neck very thin compared to American Dreams, Gibsons, Martins, Guilds, etc. of the time. Bob Taylor looked over my guitar and said with a smile, "Nice neck!" I think in some way I may have contributed to the thinner necks one encounters nowadays, but Bob Taylor is very capable of making up his own mind and executing his own ideas. He is a great guitar builder, and a very talented craftsman.

I left Taylor in 1996 and started working for the Gibson Guitar Company in Nashville. I had the pleasure of working on guitars to be included in the collections of the Country Western Hall of Fame and the Smithsonian Institute. I was part of the design team working with my good friend Bruce Kunkel, who is a very talented wood worker, luthier and artist.

In 1998, Gibson came out with a Guitar called the Chet Atkins Super 4000. I requested one to be made with the same basic body shape of a super 4000, but customized a bit to suit my tastes. I added two custom pickups, a finger-adjustable tailpiece, and shot it with a different color. This is a great guitar!

GS: You experienced a musical hiatus for a time; what brought you back into the fold?
DR: I was a Civil Engineering Designer in Temecula, California and was bored to death with life at the time. I got the bug to play the guitar again, after the eight-year hiatus I mentioned earlier- but this time just for fun! All of the guitars I had constructed were in storage in San Diego, so I just went to a music store and bought a guitar. I started to work on my own song ideas. I made a pact with myself to do nothing but my own original compositions. I was not planning on playing in front of people or any thing like that, just to have fun for my own personal enjoyment. After a year or so of that, and a few new songs under my belt, I felt like playing at a new coffee shop that was opening in town. I thought I might meet my future wife by doing it as well. I recorded a demo to audition for the job and was planning on duplicating it to sell at the coffee shop.

GS: Could you tell the story of hearing Muriel Anderson play for the first time, and the effect it had on you and your music?
DR: I was buying guitar strings and the owner of the store said "Hey Don, there is this girl guitar player named Muriel Anderson playing in Fallbrook Saturday night. She is into Chet Atkins' stuff." There was not much live music happening in Temecula, so I went to Fallbrook to check it out. When I walked into the room, I saw a beautiful angel playing the guitar as though it were a harp. I fell in love in an instant. As Muriel played, I felt she was doing something that she loved doing, and not just doing a job. It was her spirit that made such an impression on me. I still yearn for the time when I can do what I want to do full time-- play the guitar!


Last Modified: Feb-03-2007
Copyright © D.R. Auten 1994-2007 All Rights Reserved.