If you’re signed up for GuitarOS, you’ll be using the slick Anki flashcard app to help you internalize the (somewhat massive amounts of) information.
Here’s a brief primer on how to get it all set up.
World’s Best Flashcard Software
Anki is a thoroughly badass piece of software that takes advantage of two very cool aspects of your brain.
The first is active recall––forcing your brain to retrieve information.
Contrast active recall with “passive review,” the perennially-popular-but-useless form of studying that consists of little more than repeatedly going over your notes in an effort to cram the knowledge into your head long enough to be tested on it.
Having to supply an answer to a question makes stronger, longer-lasting memories than passive review does, and it also does a better job of uncovering your weak areas.
Active recall trumps passive review every time.
Another cool hack for taking advantage of the way your brain is wired is called Spaced Repetition.
Most things that you learn are quickly forgotten, and that’s (usually) a good thing. Do you really need to remember what you ate for lunch last Tuesday?
There is a predictable amount of time that your brain will hang on to a piece of information before “deleting” it. But if you’re forced to recall it just before it’s forgotten, your brain will hang on to it longer.
And not just longer in total, but for a longer period of time with each successive recall.
In other words, the time-to-forgetting gets longer each time you have to recall it. Recall it enough times, at the right times, and you will remember it forever.
What makes Anki so cool (besides the $0 price tag) is that these two inescapable facts of human memory are baked right into the software.
Flash cards are active recall by their very nature, but these ones also figure out the best time to show you any given card so that your retention is optimized.
Enough Talking, Let’s Install This Thing (And Use It)
Head over to the Anki site and download the software.
It’s available for every conceivable operating system, and they’re all free (with the exception of the iOS app––more on that later).
Once you have it downloaded & installed, you’ll set up an account.
To Download a “Deck”
Click “Get Shared”
Search for whatever you want to study:
And download it:
Double click on the deck and it should pop up inside the Anki software.
You’re almost ready to begin quizzing yourself. But first…
Tweaking The Settings
There are some settings we can adjust to get the most out of this.
Click on the little gear icon on the right, then “options.”
For most of the decks that go along with the GuitarOS course, you want Order set to “show new cards in order added.”
This will keep Anki from asking you about stuff you haven’t learned yet.
[For “Guitar Note Names w/audio” though, you’ll want to set it for random.]
You’ll also want to set “new cards/day” to 12.
If you set it much higher, two things will happen.
One, you’ll start seeing cards for things you haven’t learned yet.
Two, you’ll start to avoid doing your Anki because it’ll take too much time.
Keeping it 5 minutes or less prevents the lizard brain from rearing its ugly head.
(You can also reverse-engineer this: find yourself avoiding your Anki homework? Try lowering the number of new cards per day.)
If you want to adjust the settings on a deck-by-deck basis (instead of adjusting the default settings),
you’ll need to add a new options group:
Ok, let’s use this thing.
A Word About Using Anki
Anki will give you the “front” of the “card” and you’ll answer (out loud or in your mind.)
Hit the space bar (or click the button), and it’ll show you the answer.
This part is important: You need to tell Anki how well you did.
If you got it wrong, click that left-most button and it’ll show up again in the next few minutes.
Other options (Hard, Good, Easy) will bring it back to you at the appropriate times.
And as you repeat it and feel more confident about it, those times will get longer and longer.
[Notice that for the first example, in a deck that was brand new when I snapped the photo, the time until Anki shows this to me again ranged from “less than a minute” to “four days.” In the second example––in a deck I’d been using for a couple months when I snapped this photo––the range was “less than ten minutes” to “three months.” Spaced repetition based on how well we remember!]
The iOS App
Anki runs on every operating system I’ve ever heard of, and several that I haven’t. They’re all free except the iOS app (which pays for development on all the platforms).
At $25 it’s kind of pricey compared to most other apps.
But when you stop comparing it to Angry Birds and start comparing it to other educational tools & experiences, it’s kind of a bargain.
My advice to you is to use Anki on your computer for now.
In a month’s time, if you’re a power user feeling constrained by not being able to study your decks while waiting for the train, pull the trigger on the app.
You’re Almost Done
This is a crucial step that you’ll be tempted to skip. But your results will be MUCH better if do it:
Put a daily alarm in your phone reminding you to do your flashcards.
It only takes a few minutes each day (and as your intervals get longer and longer, that study time will go down).
All The GuitarOS Decks
Here are all the decks that we’ll use in GuitarOS, all in one place. You may be tempted to download them all and jump right in.
While having all the decks downloaded is cool, I’d avoid studying decks before it’s time.
Memorizing that (for example) the ii chord in Eb is Fm is pretty much useless without having the understanding of what that actually means.
That’d be sort of like trying to learn a language by reading the dictionary. You need the larger framework.
(What? You’re not a part of GuitarOS yet? You’re gonna want to check that out.)