Mark Lettieri is both an extremely versatile guitarist and a very busy man. As a highly sought-after session player capable of recording in practically any genre, he has been an in-demand hired gun and has toured with a wide variety of major artists. He is a full-time member of both the Grammy Award winning Jazz/World juggernaut Snarky Puppy and the virtuosic funk project The Fearless Flyers. As a solo artist and leader of The Mark Lettieri Trio, he has released five studio albums since 2011. In addition to his skills as an instrumentalist and performer, Mark is an accomplished composer, producer, and instructor. Recently, Mark and PRS teamed up to design and release an all new signature guitar, the Fiore. Learn more about Mark and his recent projects in our Q&A with him below.
PRS: Congratulations on becoming our newest signature artist! Tell us a little about the development process behind your new guitar, The Fiore.
ML: Thank you! Well, for starters, when Paul Reed Smith asks if you’d like to design a guitar with him, you say “yes!” It really was an honor to work with such an inspired mind, and team. A tremendous amount of work went into building the Fiore, and I’m very proud of what we developed. PRS understood my sound - essentially what I “hear in my head” - and that sound factored in along every step of the way. The pickups, bridge, scale-length, wood choice, neck shape - all the components were designed so that any player could pick up the guitar and feel no limitations. I had never done anything like this before, and as a result learned a ton about not only building guitars, but also about myself as a person and a player! It was the first time I had ever named a guitar as well. That was a fun process, along with formulating color and creating a theme around the flower concept. I am very excited to see how the future unfolds for the Fiore.
Below, watch Mark discuss more about the development of the Fiore:
PRS: You are known for having an impeccable sense of rhythm. Do you have any tips for players looking to improve their timing or does it simply boil down to disciplined use of a metronome?
ML: Working with a metronome is always great practice - I wish I’d done more when I was younger, frankly. But I also encourage players to transcribe and play along to rhythm parts from their favorite records. Doesn’t even have to be a guitar part! Learning bass lines, for example, is very beneficial. Lastly, don’t forget to play with other people. Even just a guitar duo jam can really shed light on what you need to work on with regards to time-feel and tempo consistency.
PRS: What techniques and styles are you currently focusing on the most during your own practice sessions?
ML: I’m still trying to answer to the inner “shredder” in me. A long time ago, I consciously moved away from that vocabulary in favor of other styles and techniques. While I am very thankful for the kind of player I’ve become as a result, it meant that I chose to spend less time on alternate picking, or serious legato chops, for example. Now, I’m finding myself wanting to go back and rediscover the fundamentals there.
For a more offbeat Q&A with Mark, watch his episode of "Feedback Loop," filmed onsite at the PRS studio.
PRS: You have been a huge proponent of the baritone guitar. What are your preferred string gauges and tunings?
ML: On longer scale baritones (27” and up) which I tune to A Standard, I use 14-68. On shorter ones which are tuned to B Standard, I’ll go for 13-56. In fact, I have a Fiore prototype which I’ve “converted” to a B-tuned baritone, and it’s sounding awesome.
Mark’s new album Deep: The Baritone Sessions Vol. 2 drops on April 16th. Click here to Pre-order.
PRS: Do you have any unique pre-gig rituals or conditions that must be met before you feel totally comfortable performing?
ML: It depends on the night, really. Oftentimes I’m running around making sure the merch is set up, or the guest list is handled, all the way up until showtime - so in some cases, the music is the last thing on my mind! If I’ve got some “me time,” however, I’ll try to get in a quick warm-up, or go over some parts by myself. But I always make sure I’m hydrated, say a prayer, and then go for it.