You cannot create experience. You must undergo it. —Albert Camus
This was my mistake. I once wrote an awful little book on guitar theory, you see, failing to understand that the gap between concept and experience is as vast a void as whatever lies inside the skull of many a politician. It’s a great book, mind you, in terms of the concepts in it, and I don’t just say so myself. But somewhere between it having been written, as books are, from the point of the author’s experience and how hard it is to grasp concepts in the abstract, I failed.
“It’s very clear, as long as I persist with it.” Said one reader. That’s fantastic… but. What Rodney said to me implies he needs to apply pressure on himself to do it. As long as he’s disciplined, that’s fantastic. But high-pressure systems such as these are bound to break down sooner rather than later. Moreover, that requisite discipline does not exactly make for a joyous experience. I had failed.
My goal isn’t only to fully convey the system I have worked so hard for so long to develop, but to succeed in getting it across to a critical mass of people that will tip the scales and transform how the guitar is seen, used and understood in the world. I’m thinking 300,000. Yes, it’s a big goal.
The reason? It’s a fantastic system. It demonstrates that the fretboard’s layout is built with mathematical precision: a multi-layer symmetrical system that, although it eludes the untrained senses, is plain to see to the knowing eye. How, then, to get that understanding across, intact? I wrote the book on the very first steps toward that, and although some people get it, the vast majority are mystified. With abstractions so intricate and specific, if I were to put the whole thing in writing, I’d end up with a full encyclopedia, and bore the poor fucks that read it to death. Nobody wants that.
So the next question is, how do I get it across in a way that’s enjoyable, so that the greatest possible number of people take it up? How do I get it across so that, in the process of achieving my goal, I may contribute enjoyment and not frustration to the human experience? To your experience taking up the instrument?
With time, I came to realize that the gap is in the doing. And not in my doing. I needed to test everything from the point of view of somebody who has had no previous training, assume nothing, and reference each step to previous experience, building, building, one step at a time. I’ve tested a number of approaches with people of varying degrees of knowledge and ability for over two and a half years. Success.
The result of this experimentation, all of which is registered on video and processed as part of the iterative design process, is a series of tiny experiences I’ve designed and share with Fretboard Addicts, one at a time. Each one builds on the last and paves the way for the next in seamlessly flowing sequences of drills. Each experience is tightly focused and designed to maximize inputs of sensorial and cognitive information, in order to compress time and magnify the impression that’s left on one’s brain. What happens is truly amazing.
The first effect of bypassing cognitive overload while saturating the senses is feeling successful, along with the energy that ensues. Already, this makes Fretboard Addicts different from any other approach I know of, all of which seem to be unwittingly designed to frustrate the student at every turn, as I did before.
The other pitfall that Fretboard Addicts avoids is boredom. Every week there is something new to chew on, so it’s always interesting, by design. But, and this is where the testing comes in, there must be only just enough new material: any more and frustration sets in, any less and it’ll be as dull as the next program.
Just enough repetition means that all the information sinks in, readying the hands and mind for the next morsel, one week at a time. Through laser-sharp focus on one thing and one thing at a time only, Addicts truly master one concept each week, before being handed the next. Since each link builds on the last, there is just enough overlap to create a powerful chain.
Each tiny experience pretty much explains itself, and is always straight forward, kinesthetically. What this means is that, placed on well designed tracks but left to its own devices, the brain fills out the gaps on its own. The goal, and it is a single goal each week, is placed well within reach: with the tracks in place, there’s no way around it. Barring physiological disfunction, success is guaranteed. Nothing is left to chance: you can’t but succeed. The effect is twofold. First, the residue is experience of your own, not boring crap some tit put in a guitar theory book. Second, it’s as rewarding as eating cornflakes.
The result of maximizing sensorial and cognitive inputs while compressing time is that vivid images and sensations are left in your mind’s eye throughout the day. I call this time leverage. One minute became hours.
This is just the cognitive aspect of Fretboard Addicts; but bypassing your psychological barriers to practice (aka ‘excuses’ to some), through habit design, is just as integral an aspect of the journey as this. I’ve written extensively about that here and here and here.
In a nutshell, what making this a habit means, along with the drills being so short and simple, is that motivation and willpower are effectively weeded out of the equation: Fretboard Addicts just keep going regardless of what’s going on in their daily lives, through highs and lows, busy times and times of hardship. By tethering this habit to your habitual structure, it becomes deeply ingrained into the fabric of your everyday life, to the point that it becomes as much a part of who you are as brushing your teeth.
An addict recently said “It’s a great start to the day. Now, when I’m in a rush, sometimes I leave the house without drinking my habitual cup of tea. But I don’t leave the house without playing my drill!”
This is a very powerful combo, a one-two hack to your brain through habit and cognition that makes for an endlessly fun and challenging process. It’s like playing pac-man, to the point of addiction, of always wanting to eat more and more of those delicious things pac-man can’t get enough of.
Oh, and by the way. The minute a day promise? That’s just to get you started, keep you going, keep you moving forward. Most people soon find that they’re playing more and more, to suit their needs and personality. To each his own. This is a path of freedom, discovery, and individual creation. See you inside!