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Month: July, 2007

Andy McKee

28 July, 2007 (12:01pm) | Blog | No comments

In the mid-1800′s, Spanish guitarist and guitar maker Antonio Torres Jurado developed the first modern guitar. Before him, there were many variations of stringed instruments resembling the modern guitar, like the sitar and the lute, but most of them didn’t have all of the qualities of the modern guitar that make it so easy to learn, and so diverse.

A lute

The guitar quickly became very popular due to the many different things that could be done with it. Most other instruments were restricted to one style of music or other due to the nature of how they were made. However, because of the control the musician has over it, the guitar can be used to play almost any style you can imagine.

An acoustic guitar

When it first came about, the classical guitar was mostly used for mellow pieces by the musical masters of that time. By the nineteenth century (due partially to how easy the guitar was to play compared to, say, the violin) most non-”masters” of music were able to play well enough to write their own songs. Slowly, more and more people were able to release their music to the general public than were able in the 1500′s; and less and Less of the music floating around was as well written as in the classical era.

An Eddie Van Halen electric guitar

Enter the Electric Guitar. The electric guitar was first patented by George Beauchamp of Texas, but was made available to the general public first by Danelectro. The electric guitar and its signature distorted sound were made popular by bands like the Beatles and Buddy Holly. Guitarists like Eddie Van Halen were able to completely master the art, while other less talented musicians resorted to such “cheating” methods as power-chords, which did not require as much coordination to play. Many modern punk bands have completely destroyed the art of the guitar and even music in general by playing the same music as other bands in a last ditch effort to get famous. Music is no longer an art to be appreciated and respected, but has turned into merely a tool to become a celebrity.

A dumb punk band

But thanks to musicians like Andy McKee, the beauty and respect of music is being preserved. McKee was born in 1979, in Topeka, Kansas, and at the age of 13, was given an Aria nylon string guitar by his father. He didn’t settle for just learning how to play the popular songs of the day to impress his friends, but was continually seeking to master his instrument through inventing new ways to get sound out of the guitar.

Andy McKee

Andy McKee uses a mix of strumming, hammer-ons, harmonics, and even the wood of the guitar itself to get a full sound with many undertones. His style of presenting the music, which completely ignores the popular style of projecting oneself onto the listener, has won the hearts and ears of many snobbish music lovers who listen to music for the music itself.

One of the few innovative musicians of our times, McKee has succeeded in proving that there is more to the guitar than just learning what others have already discovered. You can always find more innovative and creative ways to play music. We should never settle for the easy way out. Always strive to learn more and to better yourself.

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13-14

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16 July, 2007 (3:41pm) | Blog | 13 comments

n 1984, Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen released an album called Various Positions. On that album was the first recorded version of a song that is considered by some to be the most beautiful song ever written, called Hallelujah.

The song contains many religions references to people like David and Bathsheba, and Samson and Delilah, and talks a lot about the shallow love between humans. Then the chorus comes in with the refrain “Hallelujah”. Is there really any way to compare the selfish love of one human for another to the righteous, holy, and pure love of God?

But, the beautiful lyrics of the song would be nothing without music that compliments them. Cohen succeeds masterfully. He captures the entire tone of the song with a hauntingly pure progression of masterfully written chords. The verses telling of the futile struggles of man are played in a slightly dark tone that leads into the pure major chord chorus, that contains feelings of triumph and beauty.

Even the mathmatics of the song are coupled perfectly with the lyrics:

“Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah”

He’s describing the chord progression of the song itself.

Here are the chords he is playing for one line:
“It goes like this (C major), the fourth (F major), the fifth (G major), the minor fall (A minor) and the major lift (F major)“.

C is the key the song is played in. This is the key of C:

1- C
2- D
3- E
4- F
5- G
6- A
7- B
8- C

This is the progression of that line:

(C major)(F major)(G major)(A minor)(F major)

(1) C major is the beginning of the progression, it explains how the song goes.
(2) F major is the fourth.
(3) G major is the fifth.
(4) A minor is the relative minor of C, you are making the C note drop (or “fall”) to A.
(5) The last F major is the creme da la creme of his genious:
-A minor, is made up of the notes A, C, and E.
-F major is made up of the notes, F, A, and C.
-To change chords from A minor to F major, you move the E up one note, (or “lift” it, if you will)


“It goes like this” (C major, the base chord of the song)
“the fourth” (F major is the fourth)
“the fifth” (G major is the fifth)
“the minor fall” (A minor – the C major is “falling” into A minor)
“and the major lift” (A minor is “lifting” into F major)

As for the rest of the line “The baffled king composing Hallelujah”, and the concept of a “secret chord”:

The kinnor, or lyre, was the instrument that David played the most, and was associated with joyful music only. Furthermore, because of the pentatonical tuning of the strings, David wouldn’t have been able to play the minor chords on it even if he’d wanted to. And even then, he wouldn’t because the tonal system that makes it possible didn’t exist for another 18 centuries at least. So, the whole concept of that chord progression was a “secret” to everyone.

It is a beautiful marriage of music and poetry, describing David himself composing “hallelujah”. A peice of music that he can’t even understand. For who can really understand Gods love? And who can truely say “hallelujah” to the Almighty without the Spirit enabled them to do so?

It truly is baffling.

“Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.”
– Psalm 145:3

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God?
Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?”
– Job 11:7

Note: The quintessential version of the song is Jeff Buckley’s cover from his 1994 album Grace. Listen to it.

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