A Little Story: Part 3
In Part 1 of this little story I shared some of my own history as far as learning how to play the guitar is concerned. The point of Part 1 is that without a systematic, guided approach to learning music and the guitar, you will remain in limbo, learning by a laborious, time-consuming and random process of trial- and-error to whatever you happen - by chance - to have heard. It is the most inefficient, suboptimal way to learn that exists.
Conversely, if you find a teacher who has a methodology, a systematic approach to the entire history of western music, and knows how to apply it to your instrument, you will save literally decades of time. In just a few years, you will have attained to a level of knowledge and playing that you could not have achieved on your own, even if you worked at it your whole life.
I know this is true because I've done it both ways.
Part 2 concerned two things:
Firstly, the methodology, i.e., the system for applying a thousand years of musical development to the guitar that I received from John Elliott, works in real life. I've proved it over and over in my own life, as did John in his, and hundreds if not thousands of John's students have also proven its effectiveness. John taught players of all instruments, not just guitarists. Check out some of his former students and what they have to say. You might recognize some of the names there.
Secondly, the story of the creation of my method book, Vertical Truth: Chordal Mechanisms for the Guitar which owes much to John. As I said, “Basically, I follow John's method, although there is a lot of “guitaristic” aspects to the book that I didn't get from John, simply because he wasn't a guitarist. But the methodology is certainly John's, and a great deal of the content I got from John.”
I emphasized that the book is not designed to be a self-teaching method but requires a knowledgeable instructor. It's basically an outline and leaves all kinds of room for individual application at the discretion of the teacher.
Now for Part 3:
A couple of years ago I decided to make a move into an online-based teaching business model. I do not intend to quit teaching personal students, but I feel like the business model of teaching 60-80 students a week out of a local music store is going away – maybe not completely – but it is certainly contracting. I want 15 or 20 (at least) more years of relevance and that means adapting the method to an online environment.
Since the book was designed for one-on-one instruction and requires a qualified instructor, it is not sufficient to just reformat it as a PDF and throw it out there – it was never designed for that. That would be doing it an injustice, and besides that, I know what John would think of that!
Secondly, the online environment presupposes large numbers of students/customers/clients – whatever you want to call them – going through the method. Far more than I can personally oversee. To me, this is THE biggest issue. In my experience, most people do it wrong the first time. No matter how clearly I explain it, no matter how much I demonstrate what it is they should practice and how they should practice it, they come back the next week and they've done it wrong. I then correct them, explain how they've missed it, demonstrate it again, and then they come back the next week doing it correctly. After a period of time, they begin to get the concept – the method – of how the system works and they start off doing things correctly each week.
taking the lesson>doing it wrong>being corrected>doing it right>
taking the next lesson>doing it wrong>being corrected>doing it right...
I call this process a feedback loop. The student is getting feedback from the teacher every week concerning what he has done the previous week and the teacher is getting feedback from the student on how best to present the material conducive to that student's learning style. The longer the student studies with me and the more advanced he/she gets, the less necessary the feedback loop becomes and the more self-sufficient the student becomes. Once the student attains to a certain understanding of the method, all I have to do is point them to the next lesson and off they go!
So how can I provide a feedback loop for potentially thousands of students who purchase online or downloadable guitar lessons from me?
Well...I don't know. I have some ideas, but I really haven't worked it out...yet. I'm not going to go into what my ideas are at this time but I do know this; it's the absence of the feedback loop that bugs me the most about the whole online lesson thing.
BUT...I have to have actual product available before I deal with the feedback loop issue anyway, right? So I'm going to let today's trouble be sufficient for today, and cross tomorrow's bridge when I come to it.
To adapt my method book to an online environment requires a complete overhaul. In other words, I've got to rewrite the book. If you are reading this from a networking site like FaceBook, Google+ or LinkedIn, you may have already seen some teaching videos I've been posting. These videos are only part of a lesson. The other parts consist of explanatory text (lots of explaining) and all kinds of graphics; pictures, fretboard diagrams (lots of fretboard diagrams), music notation, etc. I post the videos on social networking sites basically as teasers. I'm soliciting people who are interested to sign up as site members to MasterGuitarSchool.com.
If you are already a site member (and have been opening your newsletters) you understand that the lessons are more – much more - than just videos. You should know this because you receive a newsletter once or twice a month and almost every newsletter has a new free lesson in it!
Creating the content for the lessons is something I love to do. I would be happy just sitting at home creating content. I love the look of a fretboard diagram! A logical, well-put-together system is a thing of beauty to me. As far as I'm concerned it is an end in itself. Monetizing it is something secondary to me much like playing gigs is secondary to me. I love to play the guitar and would do so anyway even if I had no gigs. Of course, I have to make a living and if I can do it with the guitar so much the better!
I love gigging and I love teaching guitar because I love to play the guitar. It's the guitar playing that drives everything else from a motivational viewpoint. Yes, I still sit at home, alone in my studio, and play the guitar, learning new songs – just like that pencil neck geek 13-year-old kid in the basement with his guitar and the radio so many years ago.
The lessons that I've been giving away for free in the newsletters that go out to site members have been me figuring out the mechanics of how to create content – what software I want to use, how I want it to look, what website host to use – things like that. If you've been a member and followed me for the last year or so you've seen a progression in how the content has been presented. Improved graphics, improvement in video quality and sound, and so on. Thank you for being my guinea pigs! On the other hand, you've been getting a ton of great content for free. Win/win!
I am going to recreate my book for online consumption. However, this is new territory (at least as far as this method is concerned). I don't think John could conceive of how to do it. The idea of “teaching” without the personal interaction – the feedback loop – between student and teacher I think would be completely foreign to him. So I'm on my own here. I'm kinda excited about it. The challenge of adapting this method to an online, en masse environment is something I'm excited to try. I believe in this method – I've used it and refined it for more than 30 years in my own performing and teaching activities – and I believe it deserves to be preserved and have wider exposure (John didn't seem to be concerned about the preservation of his method after he was gone).
The book is divided into units. There are 10 units. These 10 units I sell to students separately, one at a time, as they progress through the method. There are several reasons for doing it this way but the main reason is for the benefit of the student; looking ahead is counter-productive. As John once told me,
“You know what happens when you buy a book? You look at the last page first, that's what happens!”
This way, the student can only look at the last page of the unit he's on. There's no danger of a student who is struggling with triads flipping the book open only to see a page of altered dominant bitonals and being completely intimidated and discouraged.
The first two units I've been giving away as free lessons. They are just pages on my website, albeit available to members only (doesn't that make you want to sign up?). The content is beginner-type stuff you can find all over the place – first position chords, bar chords, 12-bar blues, Minor Pentatonic scale patterns, etc. However, it's organized so that it dovetails with the good stuff! (There's some very advanced soloing material up there for free as well.)
So here's where I'm going in the immediate future, and I'd like to have your help:
The first redesigned unit of the book to be made available will be Unit 3: Triads. At this time it is in a beta stage – meaning it's done but may be tweaked before release. I've been working on it for almost a year. It is a downloadable PDF file. It has:
217 fretboard diagrams
18 music notation examples
24 demonstration video links.
If those stats seem overwhelming and intimidating to you, don't worry. It's all laid out one step at a time. The great jazz musician Bill Evans said,
“It is true of any subject that the person that succeeds in anything has the realistic viewpoint at the beginning and [knows] that the problem is large and that he has to take it a step at a time and that he has to enjoy the step-by-step learning procedure.”
The lessons are laid out one step at a time, and each lesson will result in a practical and immediate benefit to your playing. Thus, enjoyment of the “step-by-step learning procedure.”
At this time the price-point is still under consideration but I can tell you two things for sure: it will be waaay cheaper than several months of private lessons with me, which is how long it would take us to go through this material (if you really work at it), and secondly, site-members-only will be able to get it for half-price the first week it's released - before it goes up on the site at full price. That's a pretty sweet deal!
Furthermore, what I'm looking for right now are a few guitar players who are interested in taking their playing to the next level, whatever that may be, and who are willing to go through this method as I release it, one unit at a time. I want an online feedback loop. I want people who will communicate with me via the Contact Form on my website, my Blog, on my various social media pages or just plain old email. I'm not opposed to a Skype consult here and there but I want to see how well this works without a consistent feedback loop. Any Skype consult would be motivated on my end by me ascertaining whether or not you're doing it right without regular supervision. In other words, can you follow directions?
I want to do this now, from the beginning, while the numbers are small enough to be manageable. Right now I have hundreds, not thousands, of members, but there are some things in the works and there is potential for much more looming on the horizon. I would like to have beta-tested my content and infrastructure while being a site member is a relatively small club and I can personally oversee a few people through the process.
So if you are one of those who would like to participate - on any level but especially the "feedback loop level" - here's what I would like for you to do:
If you're not already a site member, sign up! It's free. You will then have access to the Members Only section of MasterGuitarSchool.com. You will receive the newsletter every month, sometimes more than one a month, and through the newsletter you will be informed beforehand of the release of each unit and have access to it at a greatly reduced price.
Please communicate with me: I want to hear from you regularly as you go through the material. I want to be on a first-name basis with you. I want to hear your questions, comments and criticisms. All will be taken into account for the creation of future Units. I intend to maintain this process all the way through. You could start this process even before Unit 3 is released. Talk to me about what is already up on the Free Lessons page. Leave comments on the Blog, and my FaceBook page. Let's get a conversation - a feedback loop - going!
Make sure you've got the prerequisite requirements under your belt.
Refer people you know who may be interested to the Sign Up form on MasterGuitarSchool.com. Word-of-mouth buzz is the best advertising there is!
The conclusion to Part 3 has yet to be written. Let's see what happens!