By Strings Direct – 29 August, 2023
"For me, playing the guitar is a way to say things that I do not have words for. It's a way to connect with people, and they could be from a completely different culture in a different country, but music speaks to everyone. The guitar is a way to tap into that universal language."
A. McKee for musicradar.com
It’s a time for new beginnings and what better way to break into 2022 than discovering something new and trying or doing something you never normally would?
Unique has to be at the forefront when we think about this weeks player in the spotlight; a man who builds himself on polite extravagance. A musician so expressive and creative that it’s somewhat revolutionary; an original YouTube sensation that took the world of musicians by storm with his self-taught methods and techniques, these highly technical and original playing styles have lead to viral YouTube fame!
The focus and appreciation brings us to an acoustic guitar hero 🦸♂️ Mr Andy McKee 🎶
Journey Of A Tube Star 📺
The timeline begins back in 1979, 4th April to be precise when Andy was born in Topeka , Kansas 🇺🇸. As he himself states he is a fairly normal guy from a fairly normal upbringing.
Guitar playing became a passing interest at the age of 13. His father purchased him a classical guitar - an Aria nylon string to be precise. 😉
In the early stages Andy was very much underwhelmed and uninspired by his guitar lessons, but soon after he obtained an electric guitar. This was the stage when he really began to dig into guitar playing and started to learn the songs and the techniques of his idols. Learning the music of bands and artists you enjoy listening to is always a great incentive and inspiration to play and develop on your instrument . ✌️
In those early development years he was very much into shred based music and inspirations included Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Metallica, Dream Theater and many others.
A truly inspirational and pivotal moment came when he was asked on his 16th Birthday by his cousin if he wanted to go to a gig/guitar clinic... with Preston Reed!
McKee bought an instructional videotape soon after from Reed and began to precisely cross examine and learn these flamboyant and highly technical acoustic techniques. Guitar playing began to take a front seat in his life going forward, with his mother’s permission he gained a GED to enable himself to finish his studies early so he could focus further on his guitar development.
Flowing from the standout inspiration of Preston Reed Andy went on to discover guitarists; Michael Hedges, Don Ross, and Billy McLaughlin, all whom he considers as his primary musical influences today.
Andy developed his own interpretation of these very individual and technical styles to formulate the artist we know today, along with his astonishing technical ability he has developed a beautiful ear for image melody and composition 🎵.
"Most of all, I hope my music communicates something to the listener. I don't want to just play music with a lot of skill. I hope listening to my music is an emotional experience!"
A.Mackee - Last.Fm
At the age of 20 he released his first CD 'Nocturne' in 2001. He began to compete and appear at a number of guitar competitions - mostly finger-style based. He began to travel around the world and became involved in these types of events quite frequently.
A defining moment in his musical journey and his career, was when a live performance of one of his signature pieces "Drifting" became a featured video on the very early formations of YouTube.
15-years down the line and almost 60-million views... The power of social media and YouTube can be life changing and Andy is a perfect example of how it can discover phenomenal talent at the click of a button. 💻
String Development & Discovery
"This way of playing the guitar as a soloist, you can't really fake anything up there. You have to be a genuine sort of person for people to connect with it, I think, and to be able to express yourself the right way."
Andy McKee - Ernie Ball String Theory.
Looking at his requirements as a player he is clearly in need of a strong string that is very durable and reliable.
Andy is continually shifting to many alternative tunings along with using the guitar as a percussive and rhythmic instrument, the strings need to be able to take some punishment 💪
The string choice he is set on and has been for many years he is extremely interesting, he has been on these for many years as his older videos display.
Examining his String Theory interview with Ernie Ball is amazingly interesting and what he has to say has really pushed me into trying the strings.
As a well seasoned and top-line player he is describing everything you want to hear in an acoustic string.
“Back when I was playing the electric guitar, my first strings were Ernie Balls and then when I dove into the acoustic for some reason I guess I just didn't quite realise that they made acoustic strings as well. But then I met Brian Ball, who's running the company, several years ago in Paris at a concert I was doing there. So I got a set of the Everlast medium gauge and put them on and noticed that they sounded great, but then as the days when I noticed that the tone was still there and also actually they were holding up to all the bizarro tunings that I like to use. These days I'm also using the Aluminum Bronze strings. They have a more balanced tone I think across the whole spectrum of the string gauges. You get the warmth down here and then the higher end points they can still cut through if you're doing some plectrum work. I've got a couple of tunes where I use a pick as well.”
Andy McKee - Ernie Ball String Theory.
So as we can see from this overview Alumin(i)um Bronze strings really have their place and if utilising the right way I can really add to a players sound and delivery.
For further reading and information on these incredibly unique strings check out our previous experimental blog 🤘.
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