Great Track, Great Lesson: 3 takeaways from Andy McKee's Baritone Tune, "Ebon Coast."
A Great Composition from a True Baritone Virtuoso
As guitarists and musicians, most of us are always on the lookout for ways to push the limits of our creativity and playing. Thankfully, the internet has made it easy to find lessons from master level musical mentors. In this post, we've dug up one such youtube session with solo instrumentalist and baritone artist Andy McKee.
Read on to watch Andy Mckee's performance of "Ebon Coast" and his short lesson on playing techniques and songwriting. After the video, we will highlight three takeaways for every baritone player.
Andy knows a few things about creativity and technique. In the following live video performance, Andy offers an excellent rendition of "Ebon Coast," a track that showcases his unique style on baritone guitar. The video concludes with Andy taking time to explain his playing technique as well as some of the composition practices he uses when writing.
Essential Lessons & Takeaways
We've lined up three solid takeaways from this performance and short lesson, most of which are applicable to any baritone guitar artist.
Lesson one: Blend interesting chords with interesting transitional phrases.
Andy McKee builds many of his songs using two distinct ingredients: beautiful chord selections and artful transitional phrases, arpeggios, and short licks used to connect his well-select chords.
If you want to develop your playing and incorporate this songwriting technique into your own toolkit, consider expanding your chord vocabulary. Once a week or once a month, learn a new chord shape or chord voicing. You can download various guitar chord charts or pick up a guitar chord encyclopedia book from Amazon, most can be had used for around a $1.25.
With any online or printed chord resources, you will need to do some transposing when playing on baritone. However, it's a small price to pay to expand your horizons as a player. Even if you only learn and apply one new chord voicing a month, you will go a long way toward staying out of a songwriting rut and keep yourself growing as a player.
Lesson two: Use harmonics thoughtfully.
I have met some players who sprinkle harmonics liberally throughout their playing, using pinched, tapped, or plucked harmonics in the same way a bad cook uses ketchup - as a gimmick to make something bland seem interesting.
In actuality, there is nothing wrong with harmonics (just like there is nothing wrong with ketchup). However, you need to be intentional. At 7:30 sec into the video, Any McKee offers an excellent example of intentionally selecting a tapped harmonic in order to complete a musical phrase within "Ebon Coast."
As a songwriting challenge, consider intentionally selecting one harmonic (tapped, picked, or otherwise) as a part of a planned musical phrase. You may just find that this little bit of intentional song craft goes a long way.
Lesson Three: Try it on baritone.
Andy McKee has been a friend of the baritone guitar for sometime now, recording many of his instrumental tracks on baritone.
in the video, Any McKee explains that "Ebon Coast" started out as a standard guitar track. However, once he tired the song on baritone, Andy knew that "Ebon Coast" was meant to be played a perfect fourth lower than a standard guitar.
When was the last time you dusted off a standard guitar tune and tried it on baritone? Switching from standard to baritone will change the voicing of songs you thought you knew and understood, breathing new life familiar tracks. After reading this article, dig through your mental vault of songs and try a few standard guitar tunes on the baritone. For an extra challenge, consider taking a song that is typically performed an entirely different instrument (ex: piano) and developing baritone guitar rendition.
Share Your Insights
Thanks for taking the time to watch this video and read through this post. I hope you found something worthwhile that will inspire your playing or augment your technique. If you have any insights or feedback, please share them with the world wide baritone community in the comments section below.
Finally, please click on the following links to check out additional baritone guitar articles and reviews.
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Matt is a musician, educator, and baritone guitar enthusiast living in Washington state.
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