Hailing from Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, a city rich in arts and cultures, Padet Netpakdee has garnered a well earned reputation as being one of the nation’s leading young classical guitar players and musical composers. Padet started taking formal classical guitar lessons at the age of ten and four years later was already proficient enough to win a gold medal at the (all instrument) Thailand Youth Music Competition. This was followed by five consecutive first prizes at the Yamaha Thailand Music Festival from 1999 to 2003 and many more awards have been racked up since.
Padet went on to study music at Mahidol University in Bangkok before being offered a scholarship at the Conservatorium Maastricht in the Netherlands, where he received tutelage from guitar maestro Carlo Marchion. He has since gone on to study with legendary Brazilian guitar player Sergio Assed at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in the USA and he currently teaches at Princess Galyani Vadhana Institute of Music in Bangkok.
In the lead up the 2016 Pattaya Guitar Festival later this month, the Pattaya Mail caught up with Padet to ask him a little more about his musical background and aspirations.
Pattaya Mail: At what age did you begin to play guitar and what made you choose to play classical guitar rather than any other musical instrument?
Padet Netpakdee: Actually, my first experience with the guitar was with the steel string version. My mom used to play the guitar when she was young, so we had an old one in the house. But my first contact with musical instruments was the Thai traditional type. I took a couple traditional Thai music courses when I was 8, and I used to be in the school band for 3 years. It was not until I turned 10 years old that I first started to strum a few chords on the guitar. A year after that, my dad took me to the Yamaha Music School and that was the first time I was introduced to the classical guitar.
PM: Who would you say were your main musical influences/mentors and inspirations in your early guitar playing career?
Padet: Speaking of the classical guitar, my initial inspiration of came from my first teacher, Pracha Jaitae. I remember the first moment he played a tremolo piece for me – I was just blown away by that kind of effect coming from one guitar. Then, he gave me a recording of Agustine Barrios’ music played by John Williams, which kept me listening all day. Later on, I found the recordings of Andrés Segovia, and I was really amazed by his beautiful water-like tone. I still remember the days I was trying to imitate that kind of tone.
After Pracha left, I entered Manoon Ploypradab’s class, who was my mentor for more than 6 years. He taught me a lot, not only guitar playing, but also how to analyze chords from the piece and arranging.
PM: How many hours a day on average do you practice?
Padet: Nowadays, it also depends on how many lessons I have to teach, plus I have to arrange music for my students sometimes. Since the workloads are there, the practicing hours per day fluctuate, maybe around 4-6 hours. Anyway, I try to practice efficiently no matter how much time I have. But I would not practice for more than 2-3 hours without having a break.
PM: Do you have a favourite style of guitar music that you like to play?
Padet: Even though I am a classically trained guitarist, I like jazz music a lot. I’ve been learning how to improvise in this style just because I like it, and also to open myself to other musical ideas. With regard to the classical genre, each style interests me in different ways, but to play Baroque would be my most favorite one.
PM: Did living and studying in the Netherlands have any major influence on your musical outlook?
Padet: Definitely, living in Europe and studying there totally changed my mind set. Carlo Marchione’s class was always filled with high-talented guitarists and everybody was giving comments and encouraging each other. Studying with Carlo really widened my horizons and totally changed the way I listen to and play music. I also got to meet a lot of new friends there from around the world – it was one the best times of my life.
PM: You had the opportunity to study in California with the great Brazilian guitarist and composer, Sergio Assad. Did you draw inspiration from this meeting?
Padet: It was in San Francisco where I was studying with Sergio. I took a one year program, but honestly, I wish it was for longer. Every classical guitarist knows Sergio Assad, I love his pieces and I already learned one before meeting him. On my first lesson, I played him “Aquarelle” (his first solo guitar piece also) and I was a little nervous of what he would say. After finishing the last movement he gave me some applause and it was a huge relief to know that he liked it. Then he gave me many ideas and insights and it was a great first impression for me. He has been very kind and supportive and even lent me his guitar for a GFA (Guitar Foundation of America) competition!
PM: You have moved on from just playing guitar to also composing and arranging music, and now teaching at the Princess Galyani Vadhana Institute of Music. Which of these gives you the most enjoyment and satisfaction and how would you like to see your musical career progress from this point?
Padet: There was a time when I was just focusing on my guitar playing and technique, but I found that I was still missing something musically until I started to really write something myself. Then I realized what I needed to fulfill my connection with music. I took orchestration and composition instruction in San Francisco and the processes from both classes gave me the best answers for what I required. Back to your question, I think everything should be connected, playing, arranging and composing. I believe a good, well-rounded musician comprises all these elements. Therefore, my most satisfaction is when I know that I can do more than just playing the guitar.
Now, I would like very much to develop my career in the education field rather than performing. I love sharing what I know and to watch my students improve. I’m currently teaching students ranging in age from 8 years old up to the university level and I’m always aiming to become a better teacher in the process.
PM: If you could give one piece of advice to any beginner or up and coming classical guitarist or musician, what would it be?
Padet: To listen very consciously to what you play. Classical music contains so much detail and what we play is mostly polyphonic music, so it is very important that you pay close attention to each voice you produce.
Note: Padet Netpakdee will be performing with a host of other top guitar players at the Pattaya Classical Guitar Festival, being held at the Siam Bayshore Hotel on Saturday, October 29. Tickets are on sale for 400/200 baht (festival pass). Call 038 428 678 for details.