“I’ve always listened to many mixed genres,” he says. “As much as I love fingerstyle acoustic playing, I’m also a fan of progressive rock like Dream Theater and Yes. Those bands inspired me to push for something unique.”
With his energetic and unique style, Woods was able to land a spot as one of ten international finalists in the Guitar Player Guitar Hero 2006 competition, ultimately wowing the crowd at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall—as well as celebrity judges such as Joe Satriani, Steve Lukather, and Richie Kotzen—to take second place.
“It was an unbelievable night,” says Woods, “and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
How did your style develop?
I took classical guitar lessons when I was in high school, so that helped me with my fingerpicking technique. I also played drums, so that percussive experience helped with the slap style. Michael Hedges opened the door to a new pathway with percussive effects on acoustic guitar. Then, Preston Reed went through that door, took what Hedges did one step further, and made his guitar sound like a whole rock band. They were the pioneers of this style. I have electric influences, too. Rush’s Alex Lifeson is one of my favorite all-time players. He makes his guitar sound so full and rich, and his rhythm chops are amazing. Joe Satriani was the first guitarist that changed my thinking from trying to be a rock star to aspiring to be a musician. He makes his guitar sing—almost like a human voice.
Do you have a particular approach to composition?
My goal is to write instrumental pieces that actually sound like songs, and not to just play a million notes per second. But I don’t have any sort of formula. I just take what I hear in my head, and translate it to the guitar.
What guitars are you currently playing?
I have two main axes that I use. One is a Wechter Pathmaker. It’s a double cutaway, and that’s pretty unique for an acoustic. It has a great tone—especially when it’s plugged in. Most acoustic 6-strings have a full-sounding low end, but the Wechter also has a very bright and shimmering sound. It sounds amazing when I really crash into the strings. My second guitar is a Santucci Treblebass—which is an electric with ten strings. The neck is about six inches wide, because there are four bass strings and six guitar strings on the same neck. I can play both bass and guitar at the same time without any overdubs. I use D’Addario strings on both guitars. I think they have a nice, crisp sound.
Do you ever use any effects?
My live setup is pretty simple, and I don’t use many effects. I route both guitars through an Alesis Nanoverb and a DigiTech chorus pedal, and I use a Morley A/B box to switch between guitars. My usual sound system is a couple of Mackie SRM 450 speakers and a Mackie 1200 mixing board.
What do you credit as the one thing that has improved your playing?
Over the years, it has definitely been performing. The more you play live, the better you are going to be at your instrument. If you’re not ready to play in front of an audience, all of those hours of bedroom practice will do you no good.
How did it feel to be first runner up at the Guitar Hero 2006 competition?
For a kid who has grown up in Indiana most of his life, this kind of thing can be very overwhelming. When I found out that Joe Satriani was going to be a judge, I was even more blown away. I was the only acoustic player, and the other competitors were so nice and down to earth, that I forgot it was a contest. When they announced my second-place win, it was like an out-of-body experience. I couldn’t believe it! To be in the top ten alone was enough of an honor. It definitely gave me a reason to keep going.