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

www.michaelmackaymusic.com

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."

Michael MacKay.jpg

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

Mark Spragg_Guitarist.jpg

Mark Spragg - Instrumental Guitarist

 

www.markspragg.co.uk

We chat to Classical/Flamenco/Jazz guitarist Mark Spragg about his love of the guitar, musicianship and his lovely Freshman  FJ2 Jazz Guitar, which is a stunning thing to behold. 

 

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

 

"For me it has always been about the guitar. When I was about 9 my parents took me on holiday to Spain. On one evening we went to see a flamenco show and that was it, I was hooked and obsessed! After 12 months of my constant nagging my parents bought me my first guitar and arranged for guitar lessons, I have played ever since."

Q: What's your musical background, predominantly instrumental works or any previous ventures into other genres ie Rock, Pop, Blues, Country etc ?

 

"I started as a classical guitarist, ultimately achieving grade 8, but I have always enjoyed all genres. Being bought up in the West Midlands, in the late 70’s, I saw the rise of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with bands like Judas Priest, which introduced me to new sounds and techniques. Once I bought my first electric guitar and amplifier I was off, playing in whichever band needed a guitarist from Beatles cover bands, punk and rock groups, jazz bands and even some work in the orchestra pit for musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar."

 

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

 

"Playing any instrument takes practice, particularly some of the more challenging guitar techniques such as tremolo and rasgueados, but the most difficult thing is training your ear not just to listen for the notes but more importantly for the feel and pulse, to create real music."

Mark performs Adelita by Francisco Tárrega

Mark & his Freshman FJ2 Jazz guitar (no longer in production).

You've invested a lot of time into what you do. Are there any guitar styles you wish you had more time to develop ?

 

"Over the years I have played most styles but never country guitar. I don’t know what it is about the style, but the hybrid picking and banjo roll techniques just seem to be very difficult, possibly because I am used to playing with my right hand thumb and fingers."


 

Q:  Is it predominantly Jazz & Classical you've developed and now play?

 

"I spend most of free time playing classical and flamenco guitar these days, particularly as I perform at weddings and events and need to keep my repertoire up to standard. I tend to pick up the jazz or gypsy jazz guitar when I want to relax, to play free from the constraints of the classical guitar score or the flamenco compas. I also play in function band called Artistic License."


 

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

 

"I would say, make a start and enjoy it. There is so much great material out there from arrangements of popular songs through to more advanced classical or jazz pieces." 


 

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

 

"I think lockdown has been challenging for everyone, but I have been lucky in many respects, my family have all avoided catching COVID so far and we live in a beautiful part of the world on the west coast of Scotland. I have really missed performing and of course finances have been more challenging, but I have thoroughly enjoyed having the time to get into my studio and learning new pieces and recording techniques."

 

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

 

"I am really looking forward to the next few months as we hopefully continue to come out of lockdown. I am playing classical guitar at a number of weddings over the summer, and I am working with the bass player and vocalist from Artistic License on a trio format, we are preparing for a wedding, it is sounding really nice with the guitar and a double bass, and I have no doubt we will be doing more with this slimmed down line up. Finally, in November I am organising a guitar retreat focusing on finger style guitar techniques. The retreat will be held at St Blanes House on the Isle of Bute and I am really looking forward to welcoming delegates to this beautiful location."

www.markspragg.co.uk

Freshman wish Mark every success