CGC 008 : John Williams Interview

//CGC 008 : John Williams Interview

CGC 008 : John Williams Interview


I am really excited to bring you this interview with John Williams. He is an inspirational musician and for many of us, the reason we started playing classical guitar in the first place. John offers some invaluable insights into his approach to music and I found myself listening to the interview several times.

As mentioned in the introduction you can find out more about the online workshop Guitoberfest here:

2015-10-30T17:31:43+00:0015 Comments


  1. PDL August 3, 2015 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    I live in the UK and 30 years ago I got to watch John Williams play live at a local school in a place called Ashington in the North of England, blink and you would drive by it. At the time I was amazed that he would play at such a humble venue, I was told that his daughter and the school masters daughter were at university together and they bullied their ‘Dads’ to put on a show for a local charity.

    He was giving then as he is giving now… some things never change!

    Well done Simon for pulling this off, what a great insight.


    • ryan burrell August 3, 2015 at 8:48 pm - Reply

      John Williams, although I have never met him in person, has always struck me as a very humble and approachable person. I enjoyed the interview and really took home the point that it is ok to
      find your own way as it pertains to playing and learning music. The rigid style of teaching that I
      have been exposed to myself seems only to limit an individual from finding their full expression and potential on the instrument. Well done Simon and John.

  2. Law August 3, 2015 at 10:52 pm - Reply

    John Williams is one of the great 20th century guitarist and he presented us with many new music compositions for the guitar.
    He taught students with an open concepts and offer the players with many options. and also improvisations of music. He played the guitar with great musicianship and in depth understanding of the pieces of music.

  3. Law August 4, 2015 at 1:32 am - Reply

    I think John mentioned that a performer or player should able to teach as good as performing skill. However, in actual world it does not seem to match that statement well. I can see that John Williams seldom teach individually besides his teaching for the ensemble group in summer school. he is much involve research new music and play and record new music for guitar.

    • Peter Lovett August 17, 2015 at 9:53 am - Reply

      He has taught extensively in the past with teaching posts at the Royal College of Music in London and the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester with whom he still maintains some links but with increasing age he has contracted the time and contact hours that he used to maintain.

      His ideas on teaching are somewhat different from a lot of guitarists which means his ideas have not always been appreciated, least of all by some of his students who complained that he was getting them to play ensemble rather than having one-on-one sessions with him. It led him to resign his position with the Royal College of Music.

  4. Gerard August 4, 2015 at 1:58 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for this interview Simon. It’s always great to be reminded of the fierce individuality and commitment that John Williams brings to his life pursuits (including interviews!). A pleasure to hear him play on his albums, and a bonus to get the opportunity to hear his opinions as well. Thanks again mate.

  5. ed August 4, 2015 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Great chat with the great man! Intelligent and inspiring as ever… thanks

  6. TonyS August 5, 2015 at 11:04 am - Reply

    Wow what a great interview. I have been trying to get time to sit and listen to this interview since it came out and I’ve only just managed to do it. John Williams was the first guitarist to really inspire me when I was a kid and it’s thanks to him I picked up the guitar in the first place. Listening to his views and insights was excellent. Thank you very much Simon for taking the time to organise and conduct the interview. It is very much appreciated.

  7. Ruth Radford August 9, 2015 at 2:27 am - Reply

    I esp liked John’s point about making decisions for yourself. Methods, theories are a starting point with learning. And there is a whole lot beyond the starting point. I think the finer point behind this is the concept of The Master and The Student. In our contemporary culture, “just following the Master” is a tough sell. I think that the focus on wanting to play music has more longevity: technique, principles, practice, feedback, and asking a lot of questions… that’s what makes a smart and accomplished learner.

  8. Rob Scholl October 17, 2015 at 4:35 am - Reply

    Thanks for a great interview. John Williams is my favorite guitarist. What was the modern piece he mentioned that started with an N?

  9. Sarn Dyer February 11, 2016 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Well, I have news for John: I learned a lot from looking at his fingernails. I don’t mean that everyone would learn something but if your concept of the guitar is similar to his (I mean naturally and not from any wish to imitate him), it’s certainly possible. Retrospectively and having studied various methodologies, it seems to me that he had intuitively, or maybe by luck, understood something about the three-dimensional geometry that applies to his (and to my) way of playing. So thank you John and thank you for the master classes that I was lucky enough to attend. And please don’t mind showing your fingernails to students – every now and again, it might help someone!

    • Finn Wandahl March 30, 2017 at 2:55 pm - Reply

      Hello Sarn,

      I havn’t heard anything from you for decades, but here I am – once again. I have taken a break from guitarplaying for about 20 years, but then some 4-5 years ago I took up plaing again. But something had changed inside me. I no longer liked my Reyes (Cedar/Brazilian) as it seemed my ideals about sound had changed. So I sold the Reyes and in 2015 I got an axcellent Kenneth Brögger ‘Bouchet’, Then again – being very satisfied with the Bouchet, I also got myself a Kenneth Brögger ‘Torres’ SE 144, Both are excellent guitars – excactly to may taste.
      Sarn, what have you been doing all these years? I was going through some of my old notes and found a number of transcriptions and even compositions that you gave me bach in the early 80s. I am going to play it.
      If possible, then please send my a few words. My email: [email protected]
      Best regards

  10. George Condover March 28, 2016 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    As ever John Williams the consummate professional and a very orthodox guitarist,for me its Julian Bream as Mr Williams says he and Mr Bream are like chalk and cheese when it comes to playing technique.i think i have my facts right that Mr Bream is mainly self taught although he did work with Segovia and apparently they didn’t get on, was it because of Mr Breams unorthodox style of play?..a maverick,that’s what draws me to Mr Breams work.
    I advise any level of classical guitarist to watch these two geniuses Mr Williams and Mr Bream duet,my favorite is Albeniz “Bajo la Palmera”…a lot to be gleamed from watching them bounce off each others playing style….

  11. Vic April 16, 2016 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Your own objective of teaching the student to gradually be the driver of their learning process chimes well with the mindset of John Williams.
    The other very important point I got out of the interview is to LOVE playing the guitar as the basis of all my current and future learning.
    Lastly, I’m inspired to be open-minded, curious and encouraged to challenge tradition and to keep exploring different repertoire and types of music.
    Especially with the internet and on line teaching, Simon, the musical world enjoys greater cross fertilisation than ever before.
    Thanks for the invite to listen to this interview.

    Vic Lee

  12. Michael Steinbrecher April 24, 2017 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    This is a great interview. I especially like his connection to Joe Pass. I read and listened to numerous interviews with Pass in the last 15 years or so of his life. He said much the same type of things about exploring the instrument, enjoying playing it, and breaking free from the ideas that one play only according to formula.

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