Where all think alike, no one thinks very much. —Walter Lipman
The hardest strategy to change is a winning strategy. In physiological terms, the structure in charge of all strategy is the brain. And the brain is built to optimize. When it deems it has won, it is loth to change anything: this would entail coming up with a new path, and that means using the energy it is built to conserve.
I’ll put it another way: to the man who successfully wields a hammer, it is impossible to think of any problem as anything but a nail. Success within too narrow a set of constraints breeds blindness.
What does this have to do with the guitar? Everything. You see, as luck would have it, we live in a world with real paucity of intelligence when it comes to everybody’s favorite instrument: the guitar. There is more information now than ever, and more access to it, but sadly, it’s all repetition of the same dated way of thinking. In fact, it’s so ingrained, I would go so far as to call it dogma. And as with any dogma, it comes with its very own priesthood, which is there to defend the
timeless wisdom senseless fucking shit it sells.
The dogma of guitar is a three headed beast
As with any religion, the loosely organized church of guitar is built on a few preconceived notions:
First, that you must practice eight hours a day, and suffer through the pain to achieve anything worthwhile. This is only reinforced by that oldest and gravest of anglo-saxon values: no pain, no gain.
Second, the implicit belief that the fretboard is inconsistent and illogical, though nobody says this, lest they admit to ineptitude: writing or even using chord bibles and other such aberrations represents this belief, and implies not only ineptitude, but also confirmation of belief numero uno.
Third, given that understanding is out of the question at this stage, vis a vis belief number two, that technique is the road to guitar success. More pain, more gain!
The effect of this dogma, in terms of the people who perpetuate it and consume it, is two-fold. I’ll start with the dogma-spouting priesthood. They’ve solved their problem. They’ve established a whole industry around this, including the books and the magazines, the gear porn, the schools and conservatories, the crappy websites. They have literally zero incentive to seek more elegant paths. Zero incentive to discover and invent. Zero incentive to transform. Conservatism at its worst.
Then we have those who consume the dogma and succeed within its narrow bounds: it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. Once they achieve success in blinding themselves to the fretboard through incessant pain and technique, they’ve joined the ranks, they’re insiders; system-sanctioned dogma-spouters in their own right. Now they have a reason to be smug.
This is all reinforced by deep psychological factors, best illustrated by quotes from top researchers in the field:
We view a behavior as correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it. —Robert Cialdini
If everybody else is doing it, it must be right, right? Well… ask yourself: do you enjoy it? Are you any closer to your goals?
Commitment and consistency:
Once we make a choice or take a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment —Robert Cialdini
Ah, guilt. Yes. We’ve all felt it regarding the guitar. We’ve all felt inept, inadequate, but mostly unable to question those who define the very route that proves itself to be frustrating again and again and again. Time for a refreshing change, right?
With numbing regularity good people were seen to knuckle under the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe. —Stanley Milgram
In this case, we do it to ourselves. Stop the pain. Please!
So… what’s the alternative?
The alternative is: screw dogma. Do some thinking of your own. Challenge those beliefs. I have.
First and foremost, the idea that the only way forward is through endless hours of practice. In the course of the past two years and a half, I’ve vastly improved my musicianship through well designed sequences of minute-long drills. It’s become a habit, so it takes no discipline, no will power and therefore, there’s none of the associated pain, guilt or frustration. But don’t just take my word for it. I invite you to put this to the test yourself: I decided to share this approach, and give it to the world. Seven weeks of it. Sign up below to get started.
Second, that the fretboard is so chaotic that the only way to vaguely come to grips with it is through chord-bibles or pseudo systems that inject an extra step between me and my music. This is harder to explain in the context of a blog post, simply because of all the layers of abstraction it entails, and all the levels of perceptual and cognitive information that must coalesce in order for this to truly make sense. Again, I invite you to live the experience yourself and not take my word for anything. I’m not a dogma spouter.
Third, that technique is the only thing worth focusing on. Pseudo systems and blindness engendering beliefs weeded out, technique falls seamlessly into the place it should always have: a function of musicianship, not it’s surrogate. A bridge to express musicianship effortlessly. If you hate theory for the sake of theory, I’m with you. I tell myself I love it, but whenever I try to make myself do it, I fail miserably and then hate myself. So I developed a system that integrates the practical aspects of playing guitar with the understanding: seamless integration of theory and practice which paves a simple, enjoyable road to express whatever whatever music lives inside of you. That’s what it’s all about. Join me and countless others in transforming your experience of the guitar. Give yourself a chance to do this without the pain, confusion and frustration. Save yourself the pain: it’s time to enjoy the guitar!