Are You the 1%?
Updated: Aug 25, 2019
In the previous blog post, 4 Disadvantages of Self-Teaching, I summed up the disadvantages thusly:
1) No feedback loop
2) Learning by ear, i.e. trial-and-error (very inefficient)
3) Use of tab as a primary learning tool (sabotages knowledge of the fretboard)
4) Random acquisition (no systematic, logical method for inputting data)
I qualified my negative view of these self-teaching strategies:
I'm not saying that those "self-teaching" devices have no value; they do. If you are really interested in and committed to the guitar you will be doing all those things. But if that's your primary strategy for learning how to play, you are selling yourself short.
The "primary strategy" should be under the personal guidance of a teacher who knows what he's doing. The self-teaching devices are used in relation to that.
So...my goal is to apply my approach - my Vertical Truth guitar method - scaled to the internet environment without sacrificing the mentor/apprentice model for teaching and learning.
How can I do that? How can I adapt my approach to the internet environment without compromising the method or my integrity as a teacher?
That's an interesting dilemma because the internet is not conducive to the mentor/apprentice model.
I've given this issue a lot of thought. All the negative aspects of self-teaching - no feedback, trial-and-error, use of tab and random acquisition - are all inherent within the internet environment.
If I was 10 years older my attitude would probably be,
(Cranky old-man voice) "Sonny, if you won't or can't show up at my studio every week for a one-on-one, in-person guitar lesson I don't want to teach you! Damn kids nowadays think looking at a video is a real guitar lesson! Now get off my lawn, dammit!"
But...I want at least 15 or 20 more years of relevance and the internet is the way things are going. I accepted that fact quite a while ago - but not without some kicking and screaming (obviously!).
So, the following is what I've come up with so far; and these are always subject to change as I get further along and have better ideas. I regularly solicit feedback from site members, students and customers to help me improve my approach and my products. Also, the potential for advancing technology to fundamentally change the game is always present.
1) The right kind of student/site member
The main thing I look for in a prospective student/site member is the ability to recognize the value of a systematic approach that requires commitment to a process.
Almost all my promotion and marketing is aimed at that kind of person.
Yes, I know I'm limiting my market by not appealing to the masses, but I'd rather make less money and be happy. Teaching something in a way that is deficient just for the sake of bigger numbers and more money would not make me happy. Teaching something I believe in, in the way I believe is best, is what makes me happy; I know myself.
I'm not interested in selling a random approach of learning this song and that song, or one thing one day and another thing the next day with no connection between the two. Everything I teach has its proper place in the big picture and all lessons build on previous lessons.
If you only want to learn songs by rote I'm not your guy. If you just want to learn a lick here and there by rote I'm not your guy. If you want me to transcribe a solo so you can learn it by rote I'm not your guy. I could do those things; I have done them, but I wasn't happy.
Besides, all these things can be found all over the internet for FREE; why pay a guy like me to show them to you?
Notice the common thread among all these, "I'm not your guy" statements? It's "by rote." I'm not interested in teaching "by rote."
Is the Guitar Fretboard a Mystery to You? Are you tired of the hunt-&-peck, trial-&-error, random YouTube approach? Are you beginning to think there must be a better way?
If so, YOU are the kind of student/site member I'm interested in. And I'm the kind of teacher you need.
It doesn't matter if you're a complete beginner or have been playing professionally for 50 years - it's the attitude and commitment to the process that I'm looking for.
Go to the website and read To Prospective Students. Especially the section called, "Conceptual Learning.
2) Rewriting/Reformatting the Lessons to be More Internet-Friendly
The original work, Vertical Truth: Chordal Mechanisms for the Guitar, is not designed to be self-teaching; it is basically an outline. It requires a knowledgeable, qualified instructor to apply it to each student.
So it won't do to simply reformat the books as PDFs and just throw them up for sale/download. The whole thing has to be rewritten and redesigned from scratch. It has to be as self-teaching as possible.
That "as possible" qualification is important because self-teaching, no matter how great the content, is always sub-optimal to one-on-one mentoring by a teacher who knows what he's doing.
Oh yeah, "knows what he's doing" is also an important qualification.
Nevertheless, "self-teaching" is the inherent nature of learning from the internet, thus the necessity of redesigning the method.
This is a long-term project and I'm already well into it, but still have a loooong way to go. I'm rewriting everything with text, graphics and videos that contain the stuff I would teach my students verbally and by demonstration, based on the outline provided by the book.
I present the same material in different ways - explanatory text, fretboard diagrams, pictures and other graphics, as well as demonstration videos. All this is attempting to cover the different learning styles people bring to the table.
Plus, I'm taking this opportunity to codify TONS of material that I've developed since I first published the book in 1999; stuff that's not in the book. That is an exciting aspect of this project to me.
I'm launching each chapter of the method as I complete it.
All this is one of the main things I plan on continuing to do in my "retirement."
So a clear, sequential and systematic approach is built in; you start with the 5-Lesson Foundational Series, and move through the subsequent lessons in order.
Everything you need...except personal, one-on-one oversight, guidance, correction, feedback and accountability. Which it just so happens is THE main thing missing from the do-it-yourself strategy.
Which brings us to the 3rd component of my approach, which is an attempt at compensating for this deficiency:
3) Providing a Feedback Loop
The feedback loop consists of, by definition, one-to-one communication with me. There are many options but the ones I want to emphasize are the ones specific to site members.
As far as the general public is concerned, I have many social media pages, both personal and as Master Guitar School. I'm not going to list them all. All of them are potential mediums of communication. But they function for the most part to funnel people to MasterGuitarSchool.com - to the end that those people sign up to become site members.
Site membership is free, and site members will get one email - a newsletter - per month. Most newsletters contain a free lesson not previously published. You will not get slammed with daily or even weekly emails. I do publish a blog every week; if you sign up for that you will be notified most Mondays that a new blog has been published. All my social media pages link to the blog each week. The blog is public; site membership is not necessary to access or subscribe to it.
As a Site Member you have access to the Members Only area of the website. This area has dozens of free lessons, access to all previous newsletters, Members-Only Discounts on downloads and most pertinent to this discussion, Site Members will have priority when it comes to my responding to emails, scheduling one-on-one, in-person guitar lessons or personal Skype or FaceTime lessons/consults.
I'm speaking to site members here. I want to hear from you. I want to be on a first-name basis. I want you to feel free to contact me with questions, comments or to request some oversight concerning any lesson content - actually, anything guitar or music-related. You can contact me through the Contact page on the website, directly by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can schedule a one-off Skype or FaceTime consult, or if you are in the Kansas City area, a personal lesson or consultation.
I am willing to spend my own time responding to emails, doing quick Skype consults and so on - I'm willing to give Site Members some free time - schedule permitting. I want to nurture those folks who understand the value of committing to a process (i.e. the right kind of student/site member - see #1 above). I can provide limited instruction, guidance, oversight, accountability and feedback through the afore-mentioned mediums.
Obviously, I can't do this if I have 10,000 Site Members. But I'm nowhere near that number yet. So far, my membership list is small enough that this is feasible. Allow me to be transparent and give you some stats:
Roughly a little over 20% of my list is somewhat engaged; these are the people who regularly open the monthly newsletter and presumably read it. About 5% of the list will click on a link in the newsletter - typically, links that take them to the free lesson or a blog post. Those folks are more engaged.
When I launch a new product (roughly 2-3 times a year), there are daily emails for about a week - and 3 to 5% of the list will actually buy - they're highly engaged.
It's that 3 to 5% that clicks on links in the newsletter and buys/downloads product off the website on whom I will spend my own time - following up, answering questions, helping and guiding people through the method.
So we're talking roughly 4%. Most of those 4% have never contacted me personally; I've actually heard from 25% of the 4% - that's 1% of the full list - and a few of the 1% I've heard from enough that I recognize them when I see their name in my inbox.
However, the list is growing steadily and inevitably the time will come when that kind of involvement on my part will no longer be feasible.
But it may be more time than you think. Statistically, the larger the list is, the smaller the engagement rate is. So just because the list size doubles doesn't mean the engagement