Neck and neck

Guitarist Mark Kroos wows at Canal Public House

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Mark Kroos will perform Sept. 5 at Canal Public House

Some things have to be seen to be believed. That certainly seems to be the case with North Carolina guitarist Mark Kroos, who has played every style of music from ska to country, and now has a genre of his own – simultaneous twin guitar neck play (or something like that). You see, Mark has mastered what most guitarists would deem difficult, unlikely or just flat out impossible, and now his virtuosic ability to play on two guitar necks at the same time has become his claim to fame and calling card.

But guitar wizardry has not always been a can’t-miss path for Mark Kroos. He began playing guitar at age 12 and grew up playing in punk bands in Lansing, Mich. He studied jazz guitar at Bowling Green State University, but things didn’t really go according to Mark’s plan.

“I was the worst guitarist in the program,” Kroos said. “I left the music school to play in my ska band, but as it fizzled out I started working on instrumental guitar music, listening to guitarists like Michael Hedges, Phil Keaggy, Andy McKee and Don Ross, and composing some of my own material.”

By 2010, Mark had begun working on his now-signature dueling twin-neck guitar style, and in the meantime he lived out of his car while playing any type of venue that would have him – trying to get by while attempting to make a living as a professional musician. Such sacrifices and hardship would help inform his pursuit of playing guitar in a way virtually no other musician had done before.

“I was writing some songs I was not able to play on one fingerboard because my hands were getting in the way of each other and I was not able to produce the amount of sound I wanted,” Kroos said. “I set up another guitar lying flat on a keyboard stand in its case with the case open and used my right hand to play that guitar and used my left hand to play another guitar I was holding in standard form. It was clumsy, but it worked and I figured I should try it on a double-neck [guitar] with half of the strings taken off of the 12-string neck, so it would be two identical six-string necks. This was a lot easier to perform and travel with.”

So now we get to the big question – how exactly does he play those twin-neck guitars at the same time? What’s his technique?

“The technique is a mix of hammer-ons and pull-offs or ‘tapping’,” Kroos said. “It involves doing the normal job of the left hand fretting the strings, with both the right and left hands and keeping the energy or vibrations going in the strings. It certainly helps to have a guitar that is set up well for it so the strings are closer to the fretboard.”

Since mastering the simultaneous twin-neck playing style, Mark has gone on to not just wowing unsuspecting audiences at bars and coffee shops, but also wowing judges in guitar playing contests. Mark won Guitar Player Magazine’s 2011 International Guitar Superstar Competition and his flashy-yet-skilled style of play has since won him endorsement deals with Ovation Guitars, D’Addario Strings, Planet Waves Cables, Genz Benz Amplifiers, Kyser Capos and Kopf Percussion. But still, his gigging and live show are his bread and butter, and no matter what city he is in, musicians and fans alike come out not just to hear, but to see his acrobatic guitar performances of songs from his albums of original music, including his most recent release, 2012’s Down Along the Lines of Joy.

“The live show is very flashy and high energy,” Kroos said. “The show will be completely solo and the music itself will not be very different from the album, but there will be more foot stomping, shenanigans and guttural noises punctuating it. Also, I will sing more live. I love to sing and play, and it helps to give some variety to the show. I realize not everybody listens to instrumental guitar music, but I want this to be a show that everyone can enjoy.”

Despite all his success, Kroos hasn’t forgotten the early days of struggle, and he is deeply appreciative to everyone who helped get him to where he is today.

“I saw a lot of human kindness in that time and a whole lot of grace from God,” Kroos said. “I feel so blessed to be where I am right now. I’m a DIY artist that is able to make a living playing original guitar music with loving and supportive fans. I have to ask, ‘How does it get any better than this?’”

This Dayton City Paper event will be held Friday, Sept. 5 at Canal Public House, 301 E. First St. The Show begins at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door. For more information, please visit

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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