my favorite musicians. Guys like Michael
Hedges, Eric Johnson, and Don Ross. At
some point several years ago, I just sort of
stopped working on learning tunes from
other players and started trying to write
my own. I still listen to those guys, as well
as some of the newer generation of players—guys like Antoine Dufour and Gareth
Pearson. But my inspiration usually comes
from other places these days, including my
family, my fans, and places I get to travel to.
Click here to see videos of Andy McKee
walking us through his gear and giving
a special backstage performance.
6The bass tones from your fan- fretted guitar (the one with a “G” on the headstock”) are amazing.
I assume this is because of the longer
scale length on the bass side. I’m about
to get my first fan-fret. Are there any
particular tunings that seem to come alive
with those guitars that you recommend I
explore? —John Turner, Dallas, Texas
Hey John. The Greenfields I own are amazing instruments. The one you are talking
about, a G4.2, is designed with the use of
altered tunings in mind. It works particularly
well with tunings that extend the lower range
of the guitar. Some of my favorites would
be B–G–D–G–A–D, C–G–D–G–B–E, and
C–G–E%–F–B%–D. Try ’em out!
8I love your playing and your style. “For My Father” absolutely blows me away. You have so many songs
that express so many emotions through
your guitar(s). Thank you for sharing your
talents with all of us. Here’s my question:
How does one get started with tapping
and alternative tunings? —Charlie Yontz,
Thanks for the kind words, Charlie. For me,
I first picked up a Preston Reed instructional
video and learned some of the techniques
and ideas behind tapping on the acoustic
guitar. After that, I tried learning some of my
favorite tunes by ear from records. I hope to
make an instructional video available of my
own in 2011. For altered tunings, it helps to
have a good understanding of chord construction to be able to come up with new
tunings. I personally do not take the time to
“master” different tunings. You could say that
I use altered tunings to create a different palette to paint with each time I use a new one.
I thought that, dynamically, it made sense
to fingerpick the verse sections and then
really kick out the jams during the chorus by
strumming. It took a bit of figuring out how
to finger the harmonies and the chord structures there, but perseverance pays off! For
the keyboard solo, I decided to use a Billy
McLaughlin approach by tapping the root
notes with the right hand and hammering-on/
pulling-off the solo lines with the left.
7Andy, your music is awesome. What inspired you to go from playing electric guitar to acoustic? For me,
it was a Tommy Emmanuel workshop in
Phoenix. He inspired me so much. Was
there a particular person or event that
prompted your switch? —Kent Ironside,
Apache Junction, Arizona
Yeah, Kent. For me, it was going to a
Preston Reed workshop in Topeka, Kansas,
when I was 16 years old. I had never
checked out steel-string acoustic guitar
music before and was blown away by
his use of altered tunings and wild techniques. I was also really drawn to the idea
of covering rhythm, melody, and harmony
all at once.
9Your version of Toto’s “Africa” is mind-blowing to me because you chose to emulate the band’s
familiar parts instead of just riffing off the
themes. Your ability to give the melody
lines that organic quality is amazing. How
did you approach that song and figure
out what you were going to do with it?
—Jason Wolf, San Francisco, California
Hey Jason, glad you dig the arrangement.
Well I started with that drumbeat at the
beginning. The trickiest part was figuring
out how to keep those dual rhythms going
between the drums and the keyboard part
in the intro. I play a bit of piano, and I think
that helped a lot with being able to separate
the two hands and rhythms there. After that,
10You’ve had success in major fingerstyle competitions but have also become popular
outside of the fingerstyle community—
that’s something that is more rare than it
should be. What advice do you have for
other fingerstyle players who’d like to
break out of that talented-but-small pond?
—Mike Thomson, Raleigh, North Carolina
Well Mike, I can only comment on my own
success in this field, and I would like to think
that it is because of the way I write music.
When I sit down to compose or arrange a
piece of music, the last thing that I am thinking about is how difficult or how impressive
the tune will be to other guitarists. What I am
trying to do every time is communicate something that is inside of me—a feeling, impression, or emotion—so that I can share it with
the world. As a musician, that should always
be your aim. If it is and you do it well, people
can’t help but appreciate what you are doing.
It also helps to put videos on You Tube. ;-)
For next month’s “Go Ahead and Ask,” head to
premierguitar.com/goaheadandask and let us
know what questions you’d like to ask the folks
at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2010 83