AUBURN — Like a magician with a rabbit, Hiroya Tsukamoto can summon a guitar pick from the crevice of his fingers. As a finger-plucking guitarist, Tsukamoto only calls upon the pick here and there, but even so, the sleight of hand trick had one group of local musicians in awe.
After performing at the Auburn Public Theater Saturday night, Tsukamoto returned to the downtown performing arts space Sunday to teach a workshop on finger picking and basic music theory.
In 2000, Tsukamoto came to the U.S. from Kyoto, Japan, after he received a scholarship from Berklee College of Music in Boston. Influenced by Latin roots, he would later go on to form Interoceánico, a seven-person group that churned pop with contemporary fusion.
At Sunday's workshop, participants were given hands-on lessons on basic scales, improvisation, finger picking and thumb placement. Attendees came from different experience levels, ranging from beginners to more advanced bluegrass guitarists who play once a week at an open mic night.
Tsukamoto likes to place his fingers right next to his guitar's frets (the lines that mark a guitar's neck) as he plays. This lets him press in on his strings using little effort. It also creates warmer tones.
When they're first starting out, many new guitarists exert lots of force on fretboards. Tsukamoto said beginners fall into this habit because they're not yet used to forming chords.
Tsukamoto also covered a few different guitar tunings.
"For a while, I was using the same standard tuning, and I found that many of my songs were similar," he said. "I understand the fretboard better in standard tuning, so I go back to it ... but changing it sometimes is nice."
Claire Brundage, who's been playing guitar for about five years, said she came to the workshop to work on her finger picking, but her favorite part was listening to Tsukamoto play.
"Listening to him play and learning a new tuning style will help me make up something on my own," Brundage said.
Tsukamoto has played all over the country. His next stop after his Cayuga County visit is in Little Rock, Arkansas.