We are explorers. To really know something, we discover it for ourselves. We make decisions based on our own understanding because we believe in ourselves and our process. We are following our own musical path which we discover through musical exploration. This continually renews our practice. We are tapping into our own confidence, intuitive abilities, and artistic sensibilities.
Our goal with our systems is to be an 'open method'. This means that we explore the materials of music at its most basic level. It also means that we aren't defining our guitar studies only through existing music, style or styles. Playing known things is obviously included, yet this is in parallel with experimentation with the given musical elements. Each of us decides how information can and will be applied; how our style unfolds.
This keeps our process always evolving. When we practice through this lens, even playing a cover tune for the thousandth time can be just as fun as the first.
You are your own best teacher. From my experience as a guitar coach for over 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that we are all seeking the same experiences, which are to train and jam, to become competent and reliable musicianers, to have positive musical experiences, to make connections with others, and to share. Yet, we do these things in ways which are unique to each of us.
Any qualified coach knows that they are only a guide. You navigate the actual path. Take charge!
Mapping and music theory are often confused. Knowing the difference is an important part of our studies.
Mapping is getting to know our fretboard. We can do this in many ways. Using fretboard grids with symbols is a common method.
Music theory is understanding the relationships between tonal content. It also provides naming systems for these relationships.
These are two distinct ways of understanding our tonal system and how things are arranged on the fingerboard. And, when we know both, we can describe fretboard configurations in theoretical language, and apply theory to the board.
Beginning is advanced and advanced is beginning. There is always a more difficult and easier version of any and everything. When we do beginning type things, this is advanced. When we do advanced type things, it always includes beginning. They are not mutually exclusive, but mutually interdependent. This is a fact.
Better descriptors for levels may just be density & depth. This is an evolving view I consider daily. To read more on my views on learning guitar, check out the site author page.
Everyone can become a functional musician because all of us are musicians. There are degrees and shades to all experience, yet, all of us can make music. Everyone can do it and it is never too late to start.
Our overall experience as a musician is our core focus. It is not just that we are doing things, but we are becoming compentent musicianers.
Over my years as a coach, I have witnessed folks that start from zero and become excellent joyful musicians. I have also seen folks that give up, saying that it is 'too hard'. Our mindset determines outcomes because it directs the quality of our activities and our ability to self-evaluate with care and precision.
We are caretakers of our emerging musicianer self. In this regard, we take our time, balancing all of the dimensions of our experience.
Our method is to explore the materials of music, using the guitar, with minimal stylistic limitations. It is impossible to be totally free of existing styles because just the physical act of playing resonates as known things. Yet, by framing our studies in this way, we are seeking to explore sound and the guitar in the purest sense possible [with the least interference].
Our method is discover our path through experimenting with sound, rather than studying and playing only what has been done on recordings [which could be called 'guitar store learning' - song learning should a part of a larger learning framework!]. We seek to train beyond what it takes to play any given tune, and don't try to play things that are so far above our current playing ability [accuracy/tempo/feel] that it creates an imbalance in our learning system; possibly even leading to us quitting. Challenging ourselves in a sensible way leads to steady improvement.
Our method is to build style [our sonic signature] over time by giving ourselves space and a path for its unfolding. The element of surprise - we surprise ourselves! - is a piece of the picture which can keep things fresh and interesting.
Style can mean a lot of things. How an artist represents her or himself – whether in image, import, lyrics, and/or musical expression, among many other things – is their style. For learning to play guitar, we come to understand commonly accepted styles by what types of chord voicings, rhythm, melodic ideas, tone, and presentation are employed. We often build our style through known styles, yet we can explore in a manner which is somewhat free of stylistic boundaries. Even when we do this, there are still, of course, commonalities and shared tonal devices. Through this process, we can actually discover how stylistic idioms come about.
Our method is to learn these common stylistic devices, while maintaining a free exploratory approach simultaneously and as our core practice [it is nearly all I do to create I Love Guitar content]. We will call this Experiential Exploration.
If we are seeking study in specific styles [Classic, Jazz, Rock, Blues, etc.], there are countless resources and institutions which provide education in all of them [maybe check out JamPlay or Jamorama]. Our track on this site is to experiment, as individuals, in creating meaning and sound through our own experience [our sonic signature!].
We honor all styles, methods, and all of our ancestors, while using experimentation as our core practice.
Experiential Exploration is learning through discovery. Experimentation is ultimately at the heart of all sonic production. To create our own style over time, we experiment. There are myriad ways to go about this. Our experiences always shape our views and the meanings we derive from them. Experiential style building means that everything we experience shapes our style. Our choices and actions determine our trajectory. And, the path weaves and dips and peaks and plateaus. There is very little that is linear about it, save that we are getting better; learning, expanding.
New styles will emerge. They always have. Existing styles emerged through experimentation. There are many variables to how styles develop, including cultural, mental, emotional, physical, and social [even economic].
For any given set of tones, we work the materials in our own way, in our own order, at our own speed. Even if we are learning a song or a solo, we can use the materials of that song or solo to be inventive.
For any and everything we do, we explore and invent. We make stuff up with whatever it is we are working on. The materials of music are equally available to all of us. Everyone shares the same level of access. Some folks find making up stuff to be an effortless organic process, while others can struggle with it. No matter how much ease & access we may currently have this type of exploration, as we invest in it, the process can deepen & we can learn to enjoy it with enduring vitality. Over time, it can become as central to our musical life as playing other folk's music. And, when playing other folk's music, it becomes more meaningful [much like an actor that knows themselves, therefore they can play a role that much better].
At the core of experimentation are primary practices. These are the things we do to exhaust possibilities. To us, primary practices are modes of practice. Two basic modes frame our practice time: training and jamming. These two modes can ultimately blend into one unified experience, yet we can shift between them as primary approaches to our guitar practice.
Training is a mindset where we are focusing our attention on specific aspects of our playing system. Example: we play a scale. We repeat playing the scale with different points of focus, such as different facets of our fretting hand and then picking hand, our body, our thoughts, and so on. We don't just keep playing the scale thinking about anything or everything or nothing. Rather, we shift our awareness to specific details of what it takes to play it. This way, we aren't training mistakes and we are always improving. A metaphor: falling down the steps gets us to the bottom for sure, yet could we recreate the fall exactly? Doing something doesn't mean we are doing it the best way. We figure out how to walk down the steps successfully and recreate that experience accurately. When we train with awareness, we avoid training mistakes.
Jamming is a mindset where we let go and just play. We aren't considering how are hands are working [we reserved that for training], rather, we are simply being musical. This is where our mindful training trustfully pays dividends. When jamming, each of us have a source of inspiration: the melody, rhythm, harmonic texture, our heart, our vision, thinking of others or colors or nature, and so on. We aren't thinking "now my hands do this, then this." In contrast, we may be thinking [singing] the melody or "how beautiful or rocking, this sound" or "I love that or her or him or it or them so much." There are as many feeling-tones as there are particles in the universe.
Again, training and jamming mindsets can merge into a unified experience [they become one beautiful thing]. And, in a way everything we do is training and jamming. Yet, we discretely exercise these modes to find out how vital correlations co-mingle.
Exploration is at the heart of musical production, innovation, and the development of new styles. We just keep evolving.