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"I'm the Guitar Center guitar champion of San Diego," says Greg Vaughan, winner of the San Diego Guitarmageddon competition -- a nationwide contest presented by Guitar Center.

"On the day of my [preliminary] performance, I picked up my new guitar," says Vaughan. "I call it the 'Sacred String.' Fred at the Repair Zone spent 13 months making it.... On the night of the competition, I had an army of about 18 of my guitar students there, most of whom were wearing T-shirts that said, 'Way of the Sacred String.' "

The competition's three judges rated seven areas of skill: musical composition, originality, technique, dynamics, continuity, stage presence, and audience response. They picked six players as finalists.

"There must've been a couple of hundred people there [at the finals]," says Vaughan. "The La Mesa Guitar Center is a huge store...." Vaughan won the San Diego finals, but he lost the district competition in Los Angeles.

Practice Trax provided a CD of 15 recordings without vocals or melodies from which the contestants chose their song. The contestant wrote in their guitar tracks and then performed the song in front of the audience.

"The song I picked was called 'Classic Rock Key of A (In the Style of Led Zeppelin),' " says Vaughan. "A lot of players picked that song. It was weird how some of us, in our heads, heard [similar] melodies or arpeggios in those practice tracks. All you've got is a rhythm track to go on, and these guitarists who don't even know each other [came] up with the same ideas."

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