Magazine article Guitar Player

El McMeen: Irish Ears Are Smiling

Magazine article Guitar Player

El McMeen: Irish Ears Are Smiling

Article excerpt

THE STIRRING and lyrical Irish guitar style of El McMeen was no overnight revelation. When McMeen started playing acoustic guitar during his 1965 freshman year at Harvard, he used the alternating-bass, six-stroke fingerpicking pattern that he'd learned, in part, by listening to Phil Ochs. But by the mid '80s McMeen had moved on, taking lessons from Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop and embracing traditional Irish music.

From Dave Evans' arrangements of songs by the Irish troubadour O'Carolan, McMeen discovered the unusual C, G, D, G, A, D tuning, which yielded a resonant, atmospheric quality perfect for the misty Irish melodies he had grown to love. "With the low-C tuning, these melodies just came under my fingers, and I was much more creative," says McMeen, who has worked out nearly a hundred arrangements of Irish tunes in either C, G, D, G, A D or D, A D, G, A D. He also adopted Evans' harplike right-hand arpeggio technique, which he combines with a Claptonesque left-hand vibrato. …

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