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Brennan McShane: 5 Albums That Made Me

Brennan McShane is passionate about music education and finds inspiration from even the youngest of students. He has taught thousands of music lessons and played hundreds of shows as a guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist with bands of all styles.

In 2012, Brennan graduated from University of Miami Frost School of Music, where he studied jazz guitar under the tutelage of renowned educator Randall Dollahon (Steve Morse and the Dixie Dregs, Jaco Pastorius Big Band) and performed with Frost’s DownBeat award-winning R&B Ensemble. 

Ahead of his upcoming Instructor Concert on October 13th, we sat down with Brennan to hear what records have inspired him and contributed to the development of his musical style.

1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles

This was the first album I distinctly remember hearing cover to cover, spanning the entire drive home from my grandparents house when I was about 5 years old. The distinctly rich arrangements, which paired 60’s rock and roll instrumentation with orchestral and world music elements cascaded through the cassette deck of my father’s 1995 Toyota Avalon, instantaneously awakening my ear for music.

After hearing this record, I became enamored with the Fab 4, and would take a deep dive into the other works from their catalog. Also, Paul McCartney’s collaborations with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder opened the door to exploring more Motown and R&B in my early childhood.

2. Smash Hits – The Jimi Hendrix Experience

This album was a pivotal work in my path to picking up the guitar as a youngster. I remember hearing these songs on the way to Ocean City as an elementary school aged kid, and later rediscovered the magic of Hendrix’s guitar work as I moved into my teen years and more of my friends started picking up instruments.

“Red House”, “Purple Haze”, and “Foxy Lady” were particularly influential to me as a budding guitarist and sparked many an air guitar session in my room back in those days. I confess that 13 year old Brennan may or may not have indefinitely borrowed this record from my parents’ CD collection without permission (sorry Mom and Dad!). 

3. Early Days & Latter Days: The Best Of Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin

This was another formative staple in the earliest years of my fledgeling guitar exploration. I got this compilation album as a gift around the beginning of high school and instantly was hooked, trying my best to emulate every iconic Jimmy Page lick that I could.

“Since I’ve Been Loving You”, “Achilles’ Last Stand”, “The Lemon Song”, and of course “Stairway to Heaven” were in very heavy rotation my freshman and sophomore years as I cut my teeth as a guitar player.

4. The Dark Side of The Moon – Pink Floyd

This album became a favorite of mine towards the end of high school/beginning of college. I was making more original music at the time and loved the idea of such a well-constructed concept album that flowed so seamlessly from start to finish.

Gilmour’s legendary phrasing on the guitar coupled with masterful arrangements, groundbreaking synth work from Rick Wright, and timeless and universal lyrical themes took me to another world upon hearing this masterpiece in its entirety.

I especially loved the lush guitar and piano harmony on “Us and Them”. The iconic prismatic album cover was easily the first piece of decor I would put in my dorm room upon entering college.

5. Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

After performing “Valerie” with the band I played with in college, I took a deep dive into this album and became obsessed. Amy’s gritty and melismatic vocal stylings instantly struck a chord, and I would listen to this record on seemingly infinite repeat. I vividly remember staying up all night attempting to recreate the instrumental of “Addicted” with MIDI instruments in Logic, which was a major landmark in my early attempts at music production.

Falling in love with her most successful studio album was also a catalyst to check out her older and less popular work and live performances, which would consume much of my evenings in my senior year of college. Her sense of phrasing and the feel and instrumentation of this album were a huge influence on everything I would do in the years ahead.

By: Brennan McShane, Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, and Piano Instructor


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