Of all the presents heâ€™s ever received, Andy McKee should be able to choose a favorite easily: the nylon-stringed acoustic guitar his dad gave for his 13th birthday. McKee, who since that day has flourished to become a world-renowned modern master of his finger-picking guitar craft, took the rest into his own hands.
â€œIâ€™m almost entirely self-taught. I had one year of lessons when I started, learning chords and scales, but the modern acoustic stuff I was learning all by ear,â€ says the Kansas native. â€œI think the advantage of learning that way is that it forces you to think creatively. You have to solve some problems on your own, whereas if you were learning from a teacher, there may be a more regimented [education].â€
McKee is anything but regimented, experimenting with unorthodox tunings and techniques for a style rife with melodic beauty (inspired by the likes of Don Ross and Eric Johnson) and a distinct percussive flair (for this, he credits his younger days as a metal-head). This attention to detail has made him a web sensation, with videos of his instrumental originals and a cover of Totoâ€™s â€œAfricaâ€ going viral.
â€œI donâ€™t really take the time to learn chord shapes or scales in these altered tunings. Iâ€™ll play around in that tuning and start to come up with progressions, riffs and beats, and as Iâ€™m repeating those things, I start to get melodic ideas,â€ he says before laughing. â€œThen Iâ€™ve got to figure a way to play them at the same time.â€
So far, he seems to have figured it out just fine.
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