Discovering Michael’s Music

by | Sep 21, 2021

Sep 21, 2021

Like many teenagers who start playing guitar, I was initially inspired to pick up the electric guitar. I was really into hard rock and heavy metal at that time and had recently heard the instrumental guitar music of Eric Johnson. Although I had already been into instrumental music from a young age, I felt like there was something about the expressiveness of the guitar that made me want to learn how to play it. I wanted to express things that might be impossible with words.

I ended up playing guitar a lot and often skipped school so I could stay home and play along with CD’s of my favorite bands. I spent a few years playing with friends in bands and got pretty good at playing lead guitar, but I still felt like there was something more to the guitar that I wanted to do.

black and white photo of Andy McKee playing on stage with eyes closed

When I was 18, I started looking through a guitar magazine collection that a cousin gave me. It was something like 200 issues of Guitar Player, Guitar World, Guitar For The Practicing Musician, etc. I had recently become interested in the acoustic guitar after watching a workshop with Preston Reed and had even learned a couple of his tunes from an instructional VHS cassette he had at the time. While looking through the boxes of magazines, I found a few that featured Michael on the cover and my curiosity was piqued.

In one of the magazines, there was a small record called a “SoundPage” that had Michael playing “Because It’s There” on one side and a Steve Vai tune on the other. I was instantly stunned by the music. It was rich, sophisticated, expressive and technically baffling. I couldn’t understand what he was doing as a guitarist, but I felt the music in a powerful way. I continued looking through the other magazines with Michael and found a transcription of his piece “The Naked Stalk”. I tuned my guitar to DADEAB and started to play it.

I was utterly consumed by the music. I rushed out and bought all of his albums that I could find that night.

Andy McKee headshot

That night, my life was changed due to my encounter with Michael’s music. The last 24 years of my existence have been dedicated to trying to express myself with the guitar in creative and meaningful ways. I’ve been fortunate to have had some success in reaching people and making them feel what I feel by writing and playing what is truly inside of me. The greatest lesson anyone can learn from Michael is to be yourself and be honest with your music. I will ever owe him a debt for showing me the way.

Andy McKee playing harp guitar on stage

My latest release is an EP called Symbol and it is a collection of tunes that really inspired me as a musician. I decided to open with my interpretation of “Raggamuffin” from Michael. It’s a tune that I tried to learn by ear several years ago and as a result, I ended up doing some things a bit differently than Michael originally had. I can recall watching a video of Michael doing a masterclass and he had said something along the lines of doing your own thing while teaching the class.

With reverence for that, I decided to present “Ragamuffin” in my own way rather than copying it precisely as Michael had played it. I hope you will hear just how much Michael’s music means to me when you listen.

Learn more about Andy McKee on his website at AndyMckee.com

FROM TAPROOT:
Stay tuned for upcoming Learning Resources and Videos from Andy McKee

Andy McKee’s cover of “Ragamuffin,” by Michael Hedges, appears on his latest album, ‘Symbol’, an EP of new interpretations of songs that have inspired him. Andy says “Michael was not only a revolutionary guitarist on the technical side, his ability to compose for solo guitar was also genius. Most importantly though, he was able to search inside of himself and consistently pull up very human and evocative themes that made him a true artist. I’ll always be grateful for his music.”

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