When Stephen Dadaian first heard about Slash’s “Ultimate Guitar Showdown” held by Music Nation, he disregarded it. He figured that the contest, in which the famous guitarist would handpick the best submitted guitar solo out of thousands of entries, was not anything to be concerned about, and nearly shrugged off his chances of winning.
“I first saw the advertisement when I was looking up guitar music on the Internet. I thought it was spam,” Dadaian, junior psychology major, said. “But something told me to give it a shot anyway, since it would cost nothing to enter and I would have nothing to lose.”
On a whim, Dadaian decided to set up a camcorder in his room and perform a largely improvised, blistering guitar solo. Out of 2,000 entries, his solo claimed the prize, and earned him a new Gibson Les Paul guitar and Marshall Half Stack amp.
The solo consists of over two minutes of Dadaian using different picking and finger tapping techniques on his Parker Fly Mojo guitar, as well as a volume pedal to make the guitar sound like a violin. He also applies a technique called tremolo at the finale, creating the sound of two guitars playing simultaneously. The result is a mind-blowing display of musical craftsmanship that Dadaian said only took three takes.
“The funny thing was that I went in with the general idea of what I was going to play,” he explained. “Although much of the solo was improvised, certain passages were from two songs I had written on guitar prior to the contest. I decided to use those as a foundation for my entry, since I felt they best showed my technique.”
Dadaian admitted that when he first submitted the tape he was worried that the style would not resonate with Slash. The entry centered on a combination of electric guitar technique and classical guitar technique, and Dadaian worried that Slash, who plays more in the blues-rock vein, would not be as enthusiastic with the style of his solo. Fortunately, Slash was even more impressed by the guitarist for the originality of his submission.
“When I met with the staff of Music Nation, we were talking about what resonated with them the most, and they told me how the originality is what made my entry win,” Dadaian said. “Slash said he was impressed with the range of playing shown in the video. Although he said he does not play those styles, it is not to say that he still doesn’t appreciate them.”
A Cresskill, N.J., native, Dadaian has been playing electric guitar for six years and has been trained in classical guitar for four years. The only guitarist in his family, he used to practice for four hours a day, trying to accomplish a new set of goals each time.
Dadaian’s influences include guitarsts such as Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King. He talked about how important it is to become familiar with several different genres of music in order to master the guitar. He is currently working on a project that fuses hip-hop and rock.
“I’ve played in rock bands before, but I feel that pursuing different avenues of music is the best way to help me grow as an artist,” Dadaian said.
After winning the “Ultimate Guitar Showdown,” Dadaian has high hopes for his future musical endeavors. In the meantime, he offered some advice for guitarists still struggling to find their own identities.
“Listen to new genres of music, attempt new techniques and practice as much as possible,” he said. “Find what is unique about your playing and capitalize on that. Every player has something original to bring to the table.”
If you don’t believe him, you haven’t heard him play guitar.