Hi, I’m Josh.
For the past few years, I’ve been working with some truly world-class musicians.
It’s amazing, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it, but…
I don’t really belong here.
The people I work with have multiple music degrees, Grammy awards, Questlove’s phone number, hits they’ve written for megastars, and gigs they get flown halfway around the world for.
I’m just a former bartender who couldn’t cut it in music school and dropped out after one sad semester.
Our tourbus just pulled up to The Greek Theatre in LA.
The tour manager wants to know if we’d prefer to get to SF a day early or spend our day off hiking Yosemite.
I’m boarding a plane, heading to NYC to play at BB King’s.
Tonight we’re playing with The Hornheads, the go-to horn section for people like Prince, Mavis Staples, & Larry Graham.
There we are, on national television… again.
How did this become my day-to-day life?
I’ll tell you.
I lucked my way into one really good gig. I felt like an impostor.
So I scrambled like mad to figure out what I needed to learn, relearn, and/or fix in order to keep getting those really good gigs.
This involved a lot of hard work, sure, but it also involved a lot of sneaky open-ended questions, trying to suss out what’s valuable to these folks.
What continues to amaze me is that the skills & knowledge that these world-class players value in other musicians aren’t even on the radar of most books, magazines, blogs, and youtube videos about guitar.
Where is the systematic approach to learning them?
If I can do it, why isn’t everyone working on these things?
Which Is Why
Because I’d like for my career to continue this unexpected upward trajectory, I’ve been surreptitiously cataloguing what these folks have in common––
What do they value, in their own playing and in others?
How do they think about music?
What’s the most important thing they look for in a fellow musician?
What was the most important thing they learned in music school?
What was a waste of time?
Obviously the guy who plays trumpet for Jay Z thinks differently about music than the Grammy-winning mix engineer, who values different things in a guitarist than the woman who conducts Broadway musicals, who thinks differently than the guy who writes brilliant horn arrangements for major artists, who has a different approach than the music director of a touring band.
But what are their commonalities?
What’s the overlap for this diverse group of successful musicians?
It Just So Happens
As it turns out, there’s a huge overlap in the way these diverse musical badasses think about music…
…and our conventional guitar pedagogy addresses almost none of it.
Because I’m super-nerdy about learning & pedagogy, I’ve been obsessively deconstructing and teaching myself these vital skills & this essential knowledge.
And now I want to share it with you.
GuitarOS: Update The Operating System Between Your Ears
There’s an epidemic in Guitarlandia.
A million guitarists just like you are stuck––spinning their wheels, not making significant progress, plateaued somewhere in the intermediate stages.
Their fingers more or less obey their commands, but there’s no clear path forward.
They’re stuck playing mediocre gigs with mediocre bandmates.
They’re working jobs they hate.
They’re feeling bewildered by the vague, intimidating concept of music theory.
They’re chasing after random tips & tricks on the internet, trying to find that elusive something that will make guitar click for them.
They’re wondering how it is that a yutz like me is paying his mortgage with just a guitar.
If you learned to play guitar in the last 20 years, you learned it using a host of shape-based methods––TAB, chord grids, scale shapes, CAGED, modes.
On one level, this is awesome. Legions of people who never would have built up this level of talent on (let’s say) the trumpet are able to pick up the guitar and play their favorite songs.
The trouble is, the system that lets almost anyone learn to play pretty well is the exact same system that prevents them from learning to play really well.
And all attempts to get past that intermediate plateau have failed because of one simple fact:
While we were learning where to put our hands to get a certain sound, the people who studied the trumpet, the piano, and the cello were doing the unsexy work of learning to think like a musician.
In those early months & years, while we were rocking out to songs from the radio, they were trudging their way through Hot Cross Buns, Aura Lee, & a pile of boring ass etudes.
And until now, for an intermediate guitarist to cross the chasm into being an advanced guitarist––into thinking about guitar like a real musician––he or she had to go back to square one and play through all of that boring music that we got to skip.
Because the operating system that we guitarists have installed in our brains (the one that relies on shapes instead of names) is incompatible with the way that music theory is taught.
It’s incompatible with the way that badass musicians think about music.
It’s incompatible with how working musicians communicate music to each other.
The players who already are where you want to be have an operating system that’s based on knowing the names of notes, of understanding the context of those notes, and of knowing what the rhythms they’re playing look like on paper.
They have a mental framework that naturally organizes the massive amounts of information inherent in every piece of music.
They get to interface with music theory concepts directly––it’s written in their language, so it’s far easier for them than it ever is for us.
(Ever see a book with a title like Music Theory Made Easy For Cellists? Me neither.)
We’re trying to make sense of something in another language, but we’re still thinking in our native language.
When we hear some tidbit of music theory, or read some tiny piece of music, we have to translate it first.
We’re trying to run OS X on a Windows machine.
We’re trying to hold a press conference in Spanish.
We’re trying to write left handed.
Sure, it can be done, but it’s slow, sloppy, and prone to crashing.
GuitarOS: What’s In It For You
How would you like to:
- know your way around the fretboard like a pro?
- be able to point to any note and know its name like that of an old friend?
- find any chord in any position?
- play with great time & feel?
- have an ear that’s well-tuned enough to quickly learn anything?
- be completely unintimidated by charts, sight reading, or music theory?
- have the ability to write charts for your own repertoire so you can hire world-class musicians to back you up?
- be pro enough to step into someone else’s gig and get paid for it?
Sound good? Get it here while it’s still free.
Not convinced? Read on…
Can We Really Install A New Operating System In Our Brains?
Damn straight we can.
This used to mean being so driven that we were willing to go back to square one, to playing those antiquated folk melodies and etudes with corny names.
It’s what I did, and it’s what guitarists the world over do shortly after enrolling in music school. It’s a sink-or-swim thing.
Hey kid, you’re pretty good. But what got you here won’t get you there.
The conventional method doesn’t work for most people.
It doesn’t work because it fucking sucks. Most people aren’t thrown into the deep end without a life vest, so they aren’t forced to learn to swim.
(And just because some small percentage of those people who are thrown in do eventually learn to swim doesn’t make it a good method. Measuring the success of the people who don’t fail is called survivorship bias, and it’s BS.)
So Can Ordinary People In Ordinary Circumstances Install This New OS In Their Brains?
Through dumb luck and sheer pig-headed persistence, I managed to ditch the shaped-based OS and switch my own brain over to a new & better OS, one that let me continue making my living by traveling around the country making music I love with amazing musicians.
Then I began devising ways to “install” this new OS into my students’ brains.
I came up with exercises for them that were actually fun, that tapped into their creativity, and that let them use the hard-won skills they already had.
We saw some success, but nothing like I was sure it could be.
It’s Not Just The OS, It’s The Format
It was around this time that I started touring regularly with a band, and could no longer teach weekly lessons.
I started using the “flipped classroom” model––using videos & PDFs to explain things to students on their own time, so when we did finally have lessons, we could spend that time troubleshooting things that required in-person assistance.
From there it was a small leap to breaking bigger topics into smaller, more easily consumed daily lessons, and from there into using an email service to deliver them each day.
The Perfect Format…
Once that happened, it became laughably easy for people to “install” this new OS in their mind.
And every time we did, that student turned a corner:
“I wish I would have recorded myself soloing before I started this. Honestly, I could be your before/after poster boy already, and I am only on day 9.” -Dan C, Chicago.
“There is no school, university, professor or expert I have attended or been taught by in any field, that comes close to what you did there in terms of clarity of explanations, simplicity of wording, progressive learning curve and focused discourse.” - Simon B, Switzerland.
One-on-one guitar instruction is a wonderful thing. Fixing problems as they arise, learning songs the student is interested in, answering questions, and tailoring lessons to fit the individual’s needs are the province of traditional guitar lessons, and I have no intention or desire to replace or change this.
But it’s the wrong format for installing this new Operating System.
That requires a shorter-but-more-frequent format…
TPSD: Tiny Practical Sequential Daily
Tiny, as in one email, covering one piece of the puzzle.
How tiny? Small enough that each can be consumed and applied in fifteen minutes or less.
Practical, as in useful stuff that gets used in the day-to-day act of learning, understanding, communicating, writing and performing music––not some bullshit about plagal cadences and phrygian modes.
Practical, as in we did away with all the “now go practice this in every key over the course of the next two weeks,” and replaced it with explicit instructions that can be completed that day: “today, do this one small thing.”
Sequential, as in I thought long and hard about putting all this information into the right order so it would always make sense to you (and never confuse you).
By putting these tiny lessons in an order that is both logical and sequential, we eliminate any sense of overwhelm.
It’s not just that we want only one thing at a time: it’s that we want only the NEXT one thing at a time.
Unlike scouring the internet for answers to your questions, the information appears at the exact moment you can make use of it.
Daily, as in you get an email each morning.
If you’ve never been able to sustain a daily practice habit, I can help you get there (or as close to “there” as it makes sense given your personal situation).
More About The GuitarOS Format
GuitarOS also features built-in review, so nothing slips through the cracks.
We use super slick methods of internalizing the huge amounts of essential information, methods that utilize the deep science of how your brain is wired.
There’s gentle prodding for
if when you fall off the practicing wagon.
We’ll tap into your creativity instead of stifle it. I’ll teach you how to think, not what to think.
[What you’ve read so far is longer than all but the longest GuitarOS daily lessons. If you cared enough to read this far, you care enough to completely change your guitar playing life. Try it. It’s free (for now).]
Every shred of music you ever play (or even hear) has loads of data hiding in it, just below the surface.
The key, the progression, the function of the chords, the rhythms, the arrangement, the names of all the idiomatic “moves” the musicians are playing…
With the standard shape-based OS you’re currently using, you don’t get to access any of these things.
But once you have the proper OS installed, you have a framework for organizing all of this data.
This is far more important than you might realize.
It’s the difference between a pile of laundry and one of those beautiful closets you see in a catalog.
It’s the difference between a stack of unlabeled mix tapes and your searchable iTunes library.
It’s the difference between writing a book in a word processor and trying to write a book by dictating it into a microphone.
It’s not a difference of degree––doing more of what you’ve been doing won’t get you here.
It’s the difference between occasionally finding what you need in a huge, messy, intimidating pile of busted crap…
…and the sense of calm that comes from knowing that every single thing you own is put away in its own perfectly organized storage bin, waiting for you whenever you need it.
The difference is about as subtle as using an airhorn for an alarm clock.
- You’ve plateaued as an intermediate guitarist.
- You don’t know what to do next.
- You’re spinning your wheels endlessly.
- The random assortment of tips, tricks, tabs, & licks that you’ve found online aren’t making you noticeably better each day.
- You want to think about about music in the same way that badass professionals do (either so you yourself can be one of those professionals or simply because you want to dramatically improve your music-making)
Then You Need:
- clear, concise instructions,
- a daily format,
- a tiny time commitment,
- the clear sensation of progress,
- a framework for organizing all the musical information embedded in every piece of music you play
- help with getting out of your own way––with defeating the distinctly human psychological hurdles that get in the way of practicing regularly,
- a small community of like-minded individuals,
- a means of review that ensures that you’ll retain the theory behind it… forever.
And more than anything else,
- you need to know what ONE THING to work on NEXT––the things that are intensely valuable for actual working musicians.
If you’re the sort of person who thinks that spending 15 minutes each day (less time than you’ve spent reading this far!) isn’t too much to ask to be able to think about and understand music in the way that professional musicians do, then GuitarOS is definitely for you.
A Thousand Tiny Epiphanies
The fact is, once you start to organize your musical thinking inside this new OS, your days will be filled with little aha! lightbulb-over-your-head moments.
A thousand tiny epiphanies await you.
The things that you need to make steady progress, to truly understand music, to sound amazing in a wide variety of settings, to get work as a sideman, to live a better-than-a-rockstar life…
…are completely neglected by 99.9% of guitar lessons, books, courses, videos, & teachers.
These things aren’t even on the radar of most teachers, let alone being taught regularly, in the right format, in a way that prepares you for the rest of your musical life.
You and I can reprogram your brain so that you think about your instrument in a new way: the way that professional musicians do.
The shape-based methods we all used to learn guitar were awesome for allowing us to skip ahead to the fun stuff.
While the band & orchestra crowd was still playing Hot Cross Buns and Simple Gifts, you & I were playing Hot For Teacher and Simple Man.
It seemed like a great deal at the time, but it’s come at a cost––the methodology that let us skip the tedium early on is the same methodology that now prevents us from progressing further.
GuitarOS is designed to teach you how to think about your instrument in a new way, so you can interface directly with practical music theory concepts, without having to translate back and forth from your current shape-based OS.
GuitarOS is available for free for a short while longer. I’m still tidying up some details before I put it on sale, but I’d love to have you onboard as a beta user.
This isn’t some prescriptive course where I tell you what’s right.
This isn’t some collection of licks for you to learn.
It’s a framework that covers all of the things you absolutely need to know, while still leaving plenty of room for what is uniquely you.
Sign up here (while it’s still free).
See you soon,