I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep up with the flood of books, podcasts, videos, & articles that get recommended in the newsletters I subscribe to. They linger in my inbox & make me feel kinda guilty.
You seem more interested in the synthesis of what I’m consuming than you are in a collection of links to the source material, so…
This is an experiment with a new newsletter format:
Riffs, Recs, Charts, & Smarts.
- Riffs: Tiny little rants. Like an essay, but so short the whole thing fits on your phone’s screen (without scrolling).
- Recs: Recommendations. Again, not many of them. And these recs will always be self-contained—click the link if you want to, but I’ll summarize the idea, podcast, book, or trend in the email itself.
- Charts: Sheet music. I write a chart for almost every song I learn. I have a huge library of charts, and it seems silly not to share that with you. I’ll hook you up with the PDFs and the XML & Sibelius files so you can tweak them and/or convert notation into TAB.
- Smarts: Granular little guitar & theory lessons. Probably on a month-by-month theme.
I’ll send one out every Wednesday. If that’s more than you want to hear from me, I understand. Go ahead and unsubscribe—it won’t hurt my feelings.
Let’s try it!
10 Rules For Learning An Instrument
Learn real songs.
Don’t play guitar. Play songs. Endless backing tracks are fun, but they’re a dead end.
Learn them by ear.
Train your hands to do what you hear in your mind. Start small, and never stop.
Perform them in time.
The hardest bad habit to overcome is crappy time & feel. Play with a click, drum beat, or recording at least three times as much as you play without.
Make an externalized model of the song.
Write a chart, lead sheet, or transcription. Or shoot a one-minute video explaining the song to Future You.
Have a system…
“Learn a song” is vague. Create a highly specific workflow. Write down the steps (and the keyboard shortcuts) so the laziest version of Future You can do this without thinking.
…but follow your interests.
A system isn’t a prison you force yourself into, it’s a tool you use to explore.
This instantly raises your standards and tightens your feedback cycle. You don’t have the bandwidth to listen critically while you play; recording lets you separate the two.
Let the songs tell you what to improve.
Don’t learn a technique just because, learn it just in time.
Practice fundamentals daily.
What are you performing poorly? Turn it into an exercise. Practice it for five minutes each day. Move on when it’s no longer a bottleneck.
This raises the stakes and forces you to learn songs and genres that you wouldn’t otherwise.
[view this as a Twitter thread here]
Seth Godin on the way forward.
I’ve really lost my appetite for people shouting political slogans past each other. Leave it to Seth Godin to show us a better way.
Seth says culture can be boiled down to these seven words: people like us do things like this.
“The truth of our culture, of who we are as a people, is not reflected in what we see on cable TV.” Cable TV understands that you’re the product, not the customer. They serve their real customer (advertisers) by making us panicked & angry (so we watch more).
“If we want to heal our culture, our job is to do it over lunch, one person at a time. The opportunity here is not to be a beleaguer-er, and not to shame another human, but in fact to shame behavior. To say ‘people like us don’t stand for behavior like this from you or from me or from anybody else.'”
https://youtu.be/he1Vji1n8z0 (7m video)
Nat Eliason on “creator towns.”
My favorite internet thinkboy has an amazing new project: building a town for creators outside of Austin.
“A creator town is one whose primary source of new wealth is the creative class.”
Instead of continuing to concentrate talent in major cities, knowledge workers might move to a small town, bringing their location-independent incomes with them.
I’m deeply excited about this, and find it encouraging that he’s aware of the risk of wrecking what was good about the small town to begin with.
https://www.creatortowns.com (two articles, 4m total read time)
This month in GuitarOS: The System, we looked at songs with “borrowed” chords. Next month we’ll look at capos & transposing.
Chris Stapleton’s Second One To Know checks both boxes.
It’s in the key of C, but he capos at the third fret and plays it with chord shapes from the key of A.
(I’ve also included the XML and Sibelius files if you want to open this in your own notation software and play around with it.)
You can see the correlation between Second One To Know’s real vs capo’d keys in this table:
If you haven’t grabbed your own copy of this spreadsheet, you can find it here (along with some other goodies).
See y’all on Wednesday,