“I’ll miss you most of all Scarecrow!”
Our journey together is almost over.
I’m gonna miss you.
It’s not THE END of course, but rather the beginning of something new.
You’re Luke Skywalker. Frodo. Dorothy. Neo.
You’re returning home after a long and difficult time away.
Only… your home is different now.
Because you are different.
The journey has changed you.
You now know how to use a metronome. Not in the conventional ways that your average guitarist (or even guitar teacher) knows.
No, you know how to use a metronome in the way that truly badass musicians––the kind who are out making their living in studios & on stages––use the metronome every day to further develop their musicianship.
You’re one of us now.
In this past week, you’ve gotten pretty damned good at feeling and playing eighth notes with the click.
Of course, eighth notes are not the only division there is, as you probably noticed each time you clicked on the Beat icon in Tempo:
We’ll talk briefly about each of these divisions today, but I want to spend most of our time talking about this one:
These are called triplets, and they’re three evenly spaced notes in the span of one beat.
Give them a listen. Set Tempo for 60 bpm, 1/4, the LED accented, and the Beat set for triplets:
When you hit play, you’ll hear those three evenly spaced notes per beat. The accented LED means you’ll clearly hear the first of each set of three.
When I hear this sound, I always think of Mexico.
The word is a perfect natural triplet: Mé-xi-co, Mé-xi-co, Mé-xi-co, with the accent falling on the first syllable.
Just like we did for quarters & eighths, we want to program this sound into your ears and hands. But we’re not content to have just any version of this sound––we want it to have good feel.
So we’re going to do triplet Bury The Click.
Tempo is still set up the way you had it a moment ago, but you’ll toggle the LED to unaccented.
There’s more than one way to strum this, but I’d like you to start with DownUpDown, DownUpDown.
On an even grittier level of detail, I’m strumming all six strings to put added emphasis on the first note, then just a few strings on the other two.
Don’t get too caught up in trying to strum this exact number of strings. Just trust your ears––they’re better now than they’ve ever been before.
Set the Tracker for 2 minutes, and do your best to lock in to––and bury––the click.
The other picking/strumming direction you’ll want to practice is strict alternate.
Strict alternate is what you’ll usually use for playing single note triplets, and for when the tempo is too fast to pull off DownUpDown triplet strums.
You’re going to do Single String Triplet Bury The Click.
Rock that out for another two minutes, getting as on top of the clicks as you can.
Once you’ve got the feel of the triplet programmed into your hands and ears, you’d be wise to start knocking legs off of your table, spending a minute doing Backbeat Two-Legged Table and a minute each with the four variants of the One-Legged Table.
From there, you might make it harder still by switching between DownUpDown strumming and strict alternate.
Or alternating between divisions, then running them through the OLT gauntlet.
What’s most important here is that you absorb the meta lesson––learning how to learn, internalizing the strategy behind the tactic.
- Understand the rhythm you’re trying to execute.
- Get the feel right.
- Take the training wheels away.
- Approach it from new angles, rubbing the rough edges smooth.
- Make it more challenging.
- Go deep in a narrow topic.
Like our friend Musashi said: from one thing, know ten thousand.
Also in the Beat section of the Tempo app, you’ll find sixteenth notes:
Sixteenth notes are when we divide the beat into four equal parts.
But you don’t need me to tell you that––you can find that out for yourself, simply by rolling up your sleeves and delving into Tempo.
Set the division to sixteenth, toggle the LED to accented, and you can hear quite clearly what these sound like.
- Strum or pick them DownUpDownUp.
- If they’re mixed in with eighth notes, play the eighths DownDown.
- Bring the tempo down low and play along until they’re smooth.
- Run it through strumming & single string Bury The Click.
- See if you can keep it together for the Two-Legged Table.
- Then all four varieties of the One-Legged Table.
- Play a little figure that alternates between divisions, and run that whole sequence again.
Find a tiny piece of a riff that doesn’t sound quite right to you, and run it through the sequence:
- Bullet Time
- Bury The Click
- Backbeat Two-Legged Table
- All four One-Legged Tables.
You are practicing like a badass.
This is what the pros do.
This is how amateurs become pros.
You got this.
Other Fun Things
Ok, so now you know about triplets and sixteenths. You understand the process behind drilling down on them and practicing like a pro. You took a couple of weeks and got them so dialed in that you sound like boss even when you play them without the click.
Also in the Beat section of Tempo, you’ll find two more divisions.
This one is kind of useful.
You’ll need to know it at some point. As you can see, it’s the first and last notes of a set of sixteenths.
It’s the kind of sound the percussion (not sure if it’s a cabasa or vocal) makes in the intro of this endearingly quirky song:
Again, you’ll encounter this eventually, which makes it sort of useful to study.
That other one, though?
This one is REALLY important.
It’s the first and last notes of a triplet, a sound we refer to as triplet swing, or swung eighth notes, or just plain swing.
It’s the sound of Blues. Jazz. Bluegrass. Country.
Let’s give it a listen. Set Tempo to 60 bpm, 1/4, accented, and triplet swing.
Hit play. This loping sound should be recognizable to you as the sort of rhythm you’d use to play this classic blues pattern.
Before we dive in to play this, take a moment to notice that although we’re playing something that sounds like this…
…it gets written like this:
Why? Because a whole page of this…
…quickly becomes tiresome to read. (And believe it or not, the entire purpose of standard notation is to be as easy as possible to read.)
So we write it with regular ol’ eighth notes…
…and then at the top of the chart, we write one of these two things:
Both are saying “give the first eighth note in each pair two thirds of a beat, and the second note in each pair one third of a beat.”
Ok, now that we’ve tended to those semantic issues, how do we become badass at playing this?
That’s right, we roll up our sleeves and get to work applying our many tools to the task.
We might set Tempo to play the division and try Bury The Click with a percussive version of this.
We might go all Bullet Time on it so we have time to swivel the camera of our attention around to focus in on the tiny details.
With that done, we might break out the TLT…
…or cycle through the four OLTs:
The process is known to you. You don’t have to decide how to practice, you just need to decide to show up.
And then keep showing up.
Use the Force.
Take the ring to Mordor.
Follow the yellow brick road.
Swallow the red pill.
You’re the hero of this story. This is your journey.
No one said that The Path would be easy to walk, but…
…that path is clearer to you now than ever before.
I hope you keep walking The Path.
Take me to lesson fifteen =>
For years now, this has been my dream:
Teach guitar like a real instrument.
Through sheer force of numbers, the guitar has pushed aside traditional music education in favor of something more native to our fretboards: shape-based methods of learning like TAB, scale shapes, & chord grids.
It’s not hard to see why.
Shape-based methods are naturally aligned with the great strength of our instrument.
Traditional music education is stuffy, outdated, and ill-suited to today’s music––especially for guitarists.
But why can’t there be a way to take those of us who learned guitar with the shape-based model, and teach us to think about music––and the guitar’s role in it––in the same way that badass working musicians do?
You shouldn’t need to enroll in music school in order to understand music in the way that “real” musicians do.
And if you are headed to music school, do you really want to show up years behind the students who play other instruments, simply because the inertia of the internet has pushed all of us guitarists into a shape-based methodology that’s shared by ZERO other instrument-ists?
It’s pretty damned hard to be world class at paint-by-numbers.
Velcro shoes are cute on a toddler, but a little alarming on a grown-ass adult.
No one wins the Tour de France on a tricycle.
What got you here won’t get you there.
But what if the choice between “be fairly good at playing guitar with TABs” and “spend four years in music school becoming a badass” was a false dichotomy?
What if you could be a musical badass without having to study the long-forgotten works of early composers? Without the theory classes that act as if nothing interesting has happened since 1900? Without taking a four-year time out from your life?
I don’t have to ask you to imagine it, because you just experienced a little taste of it.
These past two weeks are exactly the sort of thing I have for you going forward:
- Lessons small enough to be consumed in one session,
- teaching practical concepts the way actual working musicians think about them,
- put in an order that makes them all immediately useful,
- delivered to you daily.
A clearly marked path.
A yellow brick road.
A Fellowship of the Ring to accompany you to Mordor.
A friendly Droid smuggling a blueprint that shows you the only weakness of the almost-finished Death Star.
The red pill.
You’ve already shown that you can walk the walk. You’ve shown up for a string of days, putting one foot in front of the other, and you’ve expanded your skills.
The question is, do you take the blue pill? Do you go back to using the same ineffective methods that the rest of guitarlandia uses––haphazardly learning little bits and pieces in the hope that one day it’ll all make sense for you?
Or do you take the red pill, and see how deep this rabbit hole goes?
Only you can decide.
ps. You’ll find that red pill––aka the rest of GuitarOS––right here.