From 1888 to 1891, French impressionist artist Claude Monet painted over 20 portraits of the same thing: haystacks. Normally, a bunch of paintings of dried grass piles would be mind-numbingly uninteresting, yet Monet manages to render each one unique and captivating in its own way. The changes in light, atmosphere, mood, and season give each portrait a distinct feeling, and the true beauty shines through in the nuances. Watching Beau Diakowicz play guitar he evokes aspects of Monet’s haystacks. You can see the same meticulous study, only, in the form of a musical self portrait.

Is it ridiculous to compare one of the greatest impressionist painters in the world to one of our favorite musician’s Instagram profile? Probably, but here we are.

Beau’s videos are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the ear. In almost every one we see a stoic guitarist, face hidden by a messy mop of brown hair, wearing a vintage-chic shirt, and playing a high-strapped electric guitar against a light blue background. Apart from his lightning fast fretting hand, Beau hardly moves in his videos, further contributing to the appearance of a moving portrait.

His subject of study is a jazzy blend of neo soul improvisations over sometimes lo-fi, genre-bending beats with electronic elements. The sounds he gets out of his guitar are mesmerizing – beautiful neo soul voicings, a flurry of delicate fret taps and slides, and a seemingly effortless use of the entire fretboard that can only come from endless hours of musical exploration.

Of course, Beau does much more than make Instagram videos. He’s a session guitarist, educator, and producer who previously brought his unique style to Zoology, an R&B-electro collaboration with Canadian singer-songwriter Emily Krueger.

We sat down with Beau to learn about his influences and thoughts on the philosophy of guitar. Here’s what he had to say:

Who are your biggest influences?

Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead was my first big influence as a guitarist. I was really into his unique approach and how he could make the guitar sound like a completely different instrument. Since then, I’ve gone through a lot of phases, listening to indie artists like Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsom as well as a lot of jazz and soul artists like Bill Evans and Robert Glasper.

For some reason, I’ve more recently been enjoying laid back music like James Blake, Jono McCleery, and Nick Hakim. I’ve also been making a lot of music with some of my favorite musicians, which is always a huge influence and source of inspiration.

What does your practice routine consist of?

I’ve honestly never really had a decent practice routine—just hours of exploring usually. If there’s something I can hear in my head that my fingers can’t play, then I find it’s best to just slow everything down and focus on getting each note to sound good.

What do you do when you’re feeling stuck in your playing?

Sometimes it’s nice to stop and have a day off then come back with a fresh mind to look at things from a different perspective. Taking time out to find and listen to new music is always a great way to find new inspiration as well as playing or learning different instruments.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to fellow guitar players?

Just learn everything you like the sound of so that developing your own sound and expressing yourself becomes a more natural and enjoyable process. I remember always being amazed by Michael Jackson’s backing vocals and learning how to recreate them on guitar, which helped me discover more tasteful voicings and transcribe piano lines on guitar.

I think finding and developing your own style is so much more important than making sure you’re the best guitar player. If you’re enjoying what you’re playing and you’re playing what comes naturally to you, it’s always going to sound better.

What’s the most important aspect of guitar playing that’s often overlooked?

Listening to what’s going on around you and playing what the music deserves. Whether it’s writing, recording, or playing in a band, it’s important to complement the music even if that means not playing. Also, don’t think too much.

Author: Kyle Sparkman