Mark Morley-Fletcher


This Q and A is one of the most exciting I have done yet. It features Mark Morley-Fletcher, who is someone I admire a lot. His emails are always packed with unique insights and it’s clear to me he is a real deep thinker when it comes to teaching and sharing his wisdom with students. For that reason, I’ve got him on the Q and A. Enjoy!

Bands and Inspiration

Your favourite guitarist?

I don’t really do favourites. It’s impossible to choose between people – they’re all so different and brilliant in their own unique ways. But if I’m forced to pick one person, I’m going to go with Julian Lage. Amazing ability to play all sorts of great music. But, above all, I love the incredibly obvious joy that he takes in playing. That he’s totally relaxed – the music just seems to flow out of him. And that he’s hugely tasteful (even though he’s got obscene amounts of technique to burn if he wants).

Who’s the best band/artist you have seen live?

Again, I don’t really do “best” – it’s not a competition. But to pick one extremely memorable one: I had an incredible time listening to Gwilym Simcock and Yaron Herman do a piano duet gig. I had absolutely no interest in the “piano duo” format, but went along since they’re two of my favourite players. I was absolutely blown away by the way they interacted with each other and the incredible music they found. One of those “nice surprises” where you weren’t expecting too much from a gig but came away with WAY more.

What’s your favourite album? 

Again, I can’t pick a favourite. There isn’t even one that I think I’ve listened to more than others over the years – it changes all the time. One that appeals to me today (but also brings back happy memories of listening to it repeatedly long ago): Grace by Jeff Buckley.

Favourite song to listen to on a depressing day?

When I’m reaching for music that helps me lean into the beauty of melancholy: “Lover, You Should Have Come Over” by Jeff Buckley. Or Keith Jarrett’s version of “Shenandoah” (from The Melody at Night, With You).

When I’m after something to lift me up, though, a solid choice would be “Never Stop” by The Bad Plus.


You as a Guitarist

Most difficult thing you’ve ever learned to play on guitar?

There are so many different ways for a guitar piece to be ‘difficult’. What comes to mind first, though, are technically tricky solo guitar arrangements. Close second goes to Martin Taylor’s version of “Like Someone In Love” (which has been a staple of mine on and off for years). But the toughest has probably got to be “Propane Dream” by Ben Monder. Despite the fact that it’s probably the easiest of his solo pieces, it took me months to get to anywhere near like performance standard. I only performed it once. And I would have loved to keep it in my repertoire – but realised that would have meant too much work (practising it on an almost daily basis).

Who’s your favourite guitarist and/or biggest influence ever?

I’ve been lucky enough to study with Mike Walker a fair bit over the years. He’s had a huge influence on me through his teaching. And some of the best playing I’ve ever heard has been sat in workshops listening to him demonstrate all sorts of concepts with stunningly beautiful and original playing. So, I guess he neatly fits both of those categories.

What’s the first song/riff you ever learned on guitar?

I can’t remember the first song or riff I ever learned. But I DO remember the first time I got my hands on an electric guitar (at school). I spent hours bashing out the main riff from “Sunshine of Your Love”… To the point where friends in adjoining rooms eventually came over to complain that it had almost driven them crazy hearing the same short phrase over and over again for (what seemed like) hours.

Why did you choose to play the guitar?

Hard to remember a precise reason now. I think it was wanting to go from just listening to all my favourite blues and rock music and getting to the point of being a part of creating it instead.

What’s the first guitar you owned? 

My first guitar was a second-hand Yamaha steel string acoustic. I still have it. And – to this day – it’s the only acoustic guitar I’ve ever owned (though I’ve been through loads of electrics). I would have been about 15 at the time. I still remember my mum driving me over to the seller’s house to check it out. And then the excitement as she shelled out the cash and thinking that this beautiful thing was now ‘mine’.

Self-taught or formal lessons?

A mix of both. I started off teaching myself for a summer and made rapid progress. Then added in some lessons at school to speed things up (and probably also to mollify my parents). Once I got to university, I went back to doing things entirely on my own. After that, though, I started taking ad hoc lessons with some world-class players (shout out to Chris Allard, Mike Outram, and Mike Walker). Sometimes I’d have a period of months where I took regular lessons every couple of weeks. Other times, six months or more might go by between lessons. But I always found it so helpful to really go deeper.


 Your Music and Gear

What’s your most embarrassing moment on stage?

This was probably having a complete memory meltdown when playing Martin Taylor’s solo arrangement of “Like Someone In Love”. It’s a really complex and challenging piece, but I’d gigged it several times before, so I assumed I’d be fine without sufficient practice. I got about halfway through without any problems. Then I couldn’t for the life of me remember what came next. I flailed my fingers around for a bit, grasping at a few things that felt roughly right… But it swiftly became clear that I’d lost it completely. After a short but extremely painful period of just playing a string of horrible wrong notes, I gave up and jumped straight to the final chord of the piece.

Surprisingly, a lot of the audience didn’t notice much more than minor glitches. But I was so ashamed and embarrassed I could barely talk to anyone after.

The best moment of being a performer so far?

So many great individual moments to choose from where I just found myself onstage, lost in the music, locked in with amazing musicians.

But possibly one that stands out was getting a call 30 minutes before a drinks party I was invited to and being asked if I could play a solo guitar set at it. It wasn’t the best performance I’ve ever given, but the realisation that I had a solid enough repertoire (at that time, at least) that I could just turn up and play at the drop of a hat was so joyful and freeing. Really made me realise how much was possible – and how far I’d come (not that many years earlier, the thought of doing any solo guitar performing at all would just have been impossible).

Where do you find your inspiration for song ideas?

I try not to rely on inspiration. My attitude is much more to start writing – there are no bad ideas, just get everything down and explore it without expectation or judgment.

But I’d say that ideas that come to me when I’m not specifically “composing” tend to be sparked by other music. Usually, I notice some detail (a rhythm; one phrase of a melody; etc) and I start to wonder what would happen if I extended that (or did the opposite. Or whatever.)



Tips and advice

What does a typical day of your practice routine look like?

These days I’m not doing a lot of “official” practice. So, it’s varied and tends to be in very short sections. I’ve got a big focus on getting the basic fundamentals really solid (so working a lot on basic triads; simple rhythms; etc).

In the past, I’ve had extremely long and involved daily practice routines mapped out down to the tiny details – and loved the experience (and made huge amounts of progress). Either way can work.

Tips you’d like to share with other guitarists?

Practice more slowly than you think you need to. But regularly check that you’re doing things exactly the same way that you would when you play at full speed.

Greatest ever chord?

I’m a sucker for a nice major 9 chord. Favourite go-to voicing (from low to high): Root, 3, maj7, 9

Best advice for beginner guitarists?

It’s a marathon, not a sprint (Mike Walker talks about it being a “war of attrition” which is another great way to look at it). So, expect to have to grind away at things slowly. And don’t get put off when results seem to be coming slower than you’d hoped. Know that you WILL get there in the end if you keep chipping away.  [This NEVER stops being true. But it’s particularly helpful to know it when you’re starting out rather than only discover it years down the line].

The best tip or one piece of advice you were ever given as a guitarist?

It’s never been about one “best” tip. It’s been much more about a great teacher realising what I need to hear right at that moment and giving me the right information at the right time.

If I had to pick one thing, though, it might be about the importance of rhythm. It’s so easy to let that take a back seat to other aspects of technique. But it’s probably the single most important thing.


General thoughts on learning guitar for our readers. 

Lots of the non-technical aspects are just as important (or even more important) than your technique on the instrument. So, learning how to learn, general musicality, what’s going on in your head while you play. All that stuff is vital to work on. You can check out more on this in my article How To Get Better At Guitar.


Fun stuff

Song to romance your other half with?

Ideally, something you’ve written especially for them. If you don’t have that option, then “Corcovado” (Antonio Carlos Jobim) is a great one that needs nothing but guitar to accompany your singing.

Which superhero would make the best guitarist?

I’m afraid I don’t know much about superheroes. One with great taste and no ego, perhaps? (Are there ones like that?)

What’s next for you?

Going back and reviewing what I want out of playing music. I’ve made the mistake of getting stuck on past goals even when I no longer wanted them. And so, I kept on practising things, or looking for playing opportunities that made sense a couple of years ago but weren’t at all right for me now.

This stuff is always changing. And it feels like now is a great time to revisit that and get clear on what I’m really driving towards right now.


Leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of this Q and A. Also, if you are a guitarist who is interested in doing a Q and A, get in touch and let me know!


May 31, 2024 Reply

Great reminder about Corcovado. The bossa nova songs were a background for my teen years. Lovely music, “good vibrations”. Our flute group is working on Girl from Ipanema for summer gigs.
Karen, Wisconsin

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