The Instrumentalists

Beyond the land of words, the Instrumentalists reside, telling their life stories with musical notes and carefully timed interludes. To play or to create instrumental music is like reciting poetry. Patience, discipline & "at one'ness" is required.

We chat to instrumental musicians to learn more about that other worldly musical experience.


The world beyond words.

We'll also have Tutorials, video discussions etc too...

Michael Mackay - Instrumental Guitarist/Tutor

From Yngwie Malmsteen to country pickers like Chet Atkins, Edinburgh guitarist & professional guitar tutor Michael Mackay tells us more about his styles and why he's a guitarist. 

Q: How did you become involved in music, and why guitar - what was the inspiring moment ?


"My dad plays guitar so there were loads of acoustics in my house growing up. I do remember really wanting to learn the acoustic part to Stairway, and a few Bob Dylan songs. From there everything snowballed and I am still learning all the time."


Q: What's your musical background, predominantly instrumental works or any previous ventures into other genres ?  

"I have had quite a diverse musical background, which I think has been very beneficial. I have played in various original bands (rock, metal, blues, alt rock, rap), cover bands, teaching, jazz bands, theatre shows etc. Each of these ventures has allowed me to develop as a player, as well as gain industry insight. Its very important for the modern working musician to be as flexible as possible in terms genres and styles, as it results in more work."

Q: What was the most arduous or difficult thing in your experience, learning guitar and developing the instrumental aspect ?


"I found it hard to use my thumb and play in the 'Hendrix style' chords that he used. I now prefer them to barre chords because you can add notes with the pinky and its less of a strain on your hand. However I did have to work hard to make it something that felt comfortable. I also found it really hard to learn the notes on the neck. This is probably because I did not do any sight reading in my formative years." 



Q: You've invested a lot of time in what you do. Are there any guitar styles you wish you had more time to develop/learn ?


"To be honest, if something interests me, I will find time to learn it. I do wish I had a pedal steel guitar though. I stumbled across Robert Randolph on Youtube recently and thought he was brilliant."


Q: Is it predominantly Metal/Shredding & Chet Atkins picking you developed and now play ?


"I try to play everything through my week. Mix up electric, acoustic and piano. When I started it was just acoustic, then I only played metal for a good few years. If I get too one dimensional with one style, I feel like my playing overall suffers slightly."

Q: How have you coped mentally and also professionally, during lockdown - no gigs/concerts etc ?


"Its not been ideal, but many musicians and people in general have had it much worse than me. I tried to look at the positives, such as more time to practice, write, develop ideas. I managed to do a good chunk of teaching online. But I cannot wait to get back to it all! The thought of live music coming back is really exciting, and something I will never take for granted again."


Q: What are your plans now for the rest of the year ?


"I have a new band and we will be releasing our 1st EP in June. I plan on trying to get some of my gigs back again and do some playing. My Instagram page is now up and running too, so I also want to build that up a bit."


Q: Yngwie Malmsteen (shredding) to Chet Atkins are quite far apart from each other musically. What's the attraction to both styles ?


"Yngwie’s playing is just brilliant. I love the percussive nature of his picking, the classical influences that are scattered throughout, and his vibe. If you asked a sketch artist to listen to his music and draw what he thinks Malmsteen looks like, he would probably draw a big, long long haired Viking with sunglasses! Chet Atkins is kind of the opposite. Far less wild in his playing and stage presence, but equally as technical in his own field. They are interesting people who have been such important figures in the music industry."

Tutorial Video

Michael's bluesy finger tastic Tutorial on his Freshman

Q: What advice would you give for guitarists out there who wish to pursue instrumental skills/abilities ?


"Sorry for my unimaginative answer: Practice! Get yourself out there, make social media accounts, get into bands, write songs, play with people, play gigs, release music. But in-between all of that, find time to practice!"

Freshman Guitars wish Michael every success

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