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  • Writer's pictureJay EuDaly

Lipstick Stains on Left-Side Brains

Updated: Dec 17, 2018

"I have found the right-brain/left-brain distinction to be very useful to my teaching methods as well as my own growth as a person and a musician...I use it as a framework for defining different types, ways or modes of thinking/perception - I call them L-Mode and R-Mode.I defined L-Mode and R-Mode:

  • L-Mode: L-mode is linear, sequential and cannot multitask. It goes from A to B to C in order. It cannot perceive patterns; pattern recognition is R-mode. It is concerned with naming and defining things. It understands things in a literal, concrete sense.

  • R-Mode: R-mode is parallel processing. It is visceral, that is, emotional. It is intuitive and holistic; it can recognize patterns...It is associative and delights in discerning relationships between things. As such, it understands things in terms of symbolism and analogy. It is not aware of time. It is visual. It is experiential, not abstract. It doesn't care about names, definitions, chronology or the order of things."

I said, "Integration is the goal!"

I explained that an R-Mode-dominant learner (i.e. one who learns "by ear") has to catch the L-Mode up to the R-Mode, and gave some illustrations from my own experience on how that can happen.

In the 2nd post of this series I talked about the integration of L-Mode and R-Mode and how, when playing, L-Mode is sublimated and R-Mode is dominant. I described, as best I could, how I experience that.

In the 3rd post of this series I stated that what's needed to really play music, whether you know intellectually what you're doing (L-Mode) or not, is a cognitive shift from L-Mode dominance to R-Mode dominance. I shared a little of my own journey on learning how to make the shift consciously, at will.

In this post I will give L-Mode dominant learners some suggestions on how they might trigger R-Mode dominance, knowing full well that any method is, by definition, L-Mode. Ultimately, it's up to each person to figure it out for themselves.


Firstly, I need to reiterate the ideas on triggering R-Mode from the previous posts.

One of the most important things I did was dreamwork: keeping a dream journal, figuring out my own dream-language, and so on.

Word of warning; dreamwork can get very involved and will wind up being about a lot more than just playing the guitar. If you persist in this activity it will sensitize you to R-Mode. It can get uncomfortable and disorienting at times. Remember, it's not about one or the other dominating; it's about balance.

Relax - Anything you can do to facilitate relaxation and a feeling of well-being is beneficial; breathing exercises, meditation, warm-up exercises, prayer, some kind of ritual, whatever.

Inhibition Barrier - Ultimately, the inhibition barrier is best dealt with through experience and the confidence gained from it. Just do it! Just play! There's no substitution for jumping into the deep end!

Constantly judging yourself is also a big problem. It contributes to the inhibition barrier. I've talked in detail about this in other blogs: I'm In My Way! and I Trust Myself And Keep Playing. Judgement of any kind is a hallmark of L-Mode. R-Mode doesn't judge!

Use your imagination. Imagination is a wonderful and powerful tool when creating anything. You can bring imagination to reality. You can imagine the shape, color and sound of the music you want to create. Any Creative understands that the process of creation begins with imagination. Imagination is R-Mode; visual, holistic, not fettered to time. Imagination is a deep and powerful thing. Find things that will trigger, nurture and inspire your imagination - books, movies, art, nature. Learn how to follow your imagination instead of controlling it. You might be surprised where it takes you - where you take you!


In addition to the above, here are some things I suggest to my students when I see L-Mode dominating.

Facilitate a relaxing, safe and comfortable environment: lock yourself in your office, music room or man-cave. Turn the lights down, maybe light candles, incense - or not. Fry bacon. Whatever you need to feel relaxed, safe and comfortable. You want to be able to make noise without the fear or concern of being heard or bothering anybody.

When you're alone in your room;

No self-judgement: about how you sound, how you look, or about how good or bad your playing is. You're alone; nobody cares.

Forget what you've learned: whether or not you're using the right scale or fingering the chord properly. Don't worry about it; be happy!

Reconnect to the sheer childlike joy of making noise unencumbered by knowledge, education or expectations. Heck, just strum one chord over and over and get into the sound. FUN is the priority!

When you play, move your body to what you're playing the same way you move your body when you talk. You don't just talk with your mouth, you talk with your body as well. You don't just play the guitar with your hands, you play it with your entire body. Physical movement that corresponds to sound is something R-Mode loves. Cases-in-point: 1) the popularity of ballet, musicals and dance in all it's permutations. 2) The entire industry of writing and producing music for movies, commercials and other forms of video. The music has to integrate or correspond to the visual. Watch videos of your favorite artists performing - See how they move? See how everything they do is integrated with the music? Imitate that. Associative = R-Mode.

Keep it simple: It's a common thing to see students going out of their way to make things harder and more complicated. They over-think everything. Just two chords, over and over, played uninhibitedly with attitude and authority have touched millions of lives and made millions of dollars. People think it's harder than it is. The hard part is working through the psychological/emotional issues involved, not the actual playing.

Remember: this list is L-Mode trying to define and formulate a method to make R-Mode happen. L-Mode corresponds to the Masculine - it's initiatory and wants to MAKE things happen. R-Mode is passive. An R-Mode-dominant state of being is something you allow.

L-Mode has to give up control.

"Your lipstick stain

On the front lobe of my left side brain

I knew I wouldn't forget you

So I went and let you

Blow my mind.

Your sweet moonbeam

The smell of you in every single dream I dream

I knew when we collided

You're the one I have decided

Is one of my kind." (Train)


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Aug 13, 2018

That would be great. I try to find YouTube videos for this stuff but most of them aren’t very helpful.


Jay EuDaly
Jay EuDaly
Aug 13, 2018

Vertical Truth is mainly applied theory. The things you mentioned are, as you say, technique. We can work on those things separate from the book.


Aug 13, 2018

I spent most of my years playing guitar off and on, and in drop d tuning. I’m definitely able to play more in drop d, but I don’t know what I am doing as much (the whole step difference throws me off). In standard tuning, I have more knowledge than I have the ability to just play. It’s the opposite situation of my drop d playing.

I often wonder whether the vertical truth method will naturally result in my being able to perform specific techniques: like bends, Hammer-ons/pull-offs, etc. Would it behoove me to include exercises for these things in my routine, or is this something I should drop my concern over?


Aug 08, 2018

Basically, I just need to keep practicing and just let things flow. I can be guilty of trying to force things. These articles give me a ton of insight as to how I can get better. Sometimes I am unrealistic and I feel that I should be better than what I am. Patience is not necessarily my strength, however I do realize that I must put in the time and effort to improve.


Jay EuDaly
Jay EuDaly
Aug 08, 2018

So between last December and now your brain integrated the data relative to that song. The integration of R-Mode and L-Mode takes time and is a product of nature - you don't have conscious control of it, although inputting data in the most efficient manner (L-Mode) can speed it up and random data input can slow it down or sabotage it altogether.

There is also the issue of physical training, which is part of the data your brain must integrate. You've had 6 months of physical exercise on the instrument between then and now.

The time lag between input and integration explains why I sometimes go on to the next thing before you think you're ready. The integration doesn't happen…

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