I’ve watched tons of guitar instructional videos, yet still don’t know anything
Why choosing the right projects to work on is essential
I’ve decided to switch up the format of the newsletter.
I’m going to axe the Something to watch and Something to practice sections in favour of a tighter scope each week. I’d like to build upon ideas in sequence rather than providing a random presentation of ideas week by week and this will be a more effective way of doing that.
I think going toward a more informal approach to this thing will be good - think of your weekly email as the start of a conversation!
So with that said, reply in the comments or to the email itself and let me know what you think!
I’m currently developing a system of using projects to consistently and reliably improve your guitar playing - somewhere between a practice schedule and a to do list.
I’ll tell you about a new part of it each week for the next little while. This week, the question is figuring out which projects to tackle.
I’ve watched tons of guitar instructional videos, yet still don’t know anything.
I’d be curious how many hours of guitar instructional videos I’ve seen without my guitar in my hands.
I’m not sure why, but it feels productive. It feels like I’m becoming aware of something new so I’m improving.
But obviously, I’m not.
Just a few months ago, I came across a channel called Things I’ve Learned From Barry Harris (which is great, by the way). I wasn’t aware of this method of learning and playing jazz. It seemed to resonate with me so I got excited and dutifully started on episode 1. I learned the concepts and melodic lines and, instead of stopping to practice and really imbibe what I learned, I just plowed through to the next episode. Then the next. Then the next.
Did I have my guitar in my hands? Yes. But I was still simply watching instructional videos without really learning anything.
Even though I know better.
Steady improvement isn’t important to everyone. Some people are happy with the level they play at, and that’s great.
If you’re like me, though, you are mostly happy with the level you play at, but always have the yearning for improvement (even if you don’t act like it all the time).
The good news: I’ve found a way to avoid this problem.
Collecting project ideas
The most important part of dealing in projects is knowing which ones to tackle.
Since the process I'm developing is about consistent, reliable, and low friction improvement, the type of project you work on is one of the most important factors.
I can't stress this enough: this is a highly specific system and the right projects are key.
The projects in this system aren't supposed to encompass your entire guitar playing experience. It's not the same as playing what you already know for enjoyment or jamming with friends or noodling around or any of the other fun stuff we do with our guitars. It's about staying motivated to build and maintain new knowledge and skills. It's about specific projects that allow you to produce specific outcomes for consistent, incremental improvement.
So as you live your life, you constantly come across lots of stuff to learn. However, not just anything goes through my process. Since it incorporates a lot of review, the projects you complete will become part of your musical DNA more than what you work on passively. How can you slash out the noise to leave the highest impact resources?
Here are two things to guide the collection process:
A lot of research shows that you improve best when you work on techniques, concepts, or repertoire that is just on the cusp of your current ability level. It's a bit of a balance to find something challenging, but not too challenging. Once you find these types of resources and repertoire, the system helps keep you motivated with lots of small wins, but also keeps you out of your comfort zone enough to improve.
Sometimes you come across a lesson, article, or how-to that seems like it’d be really fun or interesting to learn. You need to be discerning about what you come across. Only choose the most fun and interesting things because you’ll be spending a lot of time with it. When you come across something you're thinking about learning, ask yourself, “What do I want to do with this information? Do I really want this to be part of my musical DNA?”
Here are some ideas to help you narrow down the possibilities:
What kinds of things should become projects?
Things you find challenging
Things you want to have in your musical vocabulary
Things that need a lot of practice
Things that feel just beyond your current abilities
Things you know you want to be able to do but can’t
What kinds of things shouldn’t become projects?
Techniques or repertoire you can learn easily
Things you don’t need new knowledge or skills for
Something you can pick up again within one pass
Things where it’s not that important to you musically
The more precise you can be with this step, the more effective the entire process will be.