Return of the Horizontal Three-Step

Mar 31, 2020
We've got a rainy week here in Austin. For late March, that's good news, because it's going to get super hot here in a matter of weeks. The cats are going bonkers out on the porch, because they're not so into being inside with the dog but we're not sure about letting them run around the neighborhood right now. Chopin, our glossy black fourteen-pound mascot, has a habit of ingratiating himself with various neighbors, and we used to worry when he would disappear for a couple of days at a time. Now we've learned he's like the proverbial sailor with a honey in every port – there are homes down the block he wanders into on a regular basis, and front porches he's evidently been sidling up to like clockwork for al fresco meals. So we're trying to re-acclimate him to domestic life, but it's a little dicey with the aforementioned hound, who just wants to play. Alas, no fourteen-pound cat wants to shoot the breeze with sixty-five pounds of unruly fur, so canine-feline relations remain strained as of even date.

Cats are editorial by nature – you know what they're thinking just from the way they walk away, tails waving. Most have perfected the slow saunter, that one that says, "While your company is acceptable, there is a moving object over here in the corner – possibly a wayward insect, or a mote of dust caught in an updraft – that more urgently wants looking into." Humans are, of course, not always so direct, which can be problematic. In fact, if we were more direct, there would be no sitcoms, which on some days seems like it would improve society more than somewhat. But in these particular times, I'm consuming at least my fair share of archival comic relief, if not more, to the delight of my not-really-in-school offspring and the rarely-entertainment-averse Ms. F.

Plus, I've felt more empathetic towards purveyors of serial entertainment since launching my Fingerstyle Five membership last September. When you're putting out the goods every month, you're walking any number of tightropes: trying to keep things consistent without repeating yourself, making things accessible yet challenging, working close enough to deadline to keep things timely and fresh without getting too stressed out or behind schedule in the process. At least it's just me here. I think if I had to deal with executive producers, chief financial officers or sulky divas, I'd fold. It's bad enough I have to work with me: I refuse to start work until I've had my espresso, I won't play guitars with strings less than two years old, and I enforce a rigorous studio dress code of pearl snap shirts, grey denim and retro millinery.

And yet, as difficult as I can be to keep on task, I do enjoy the ongoing job that is the membership, and fortunately, the hundred-plus people who've been enrolled since last September seem to be enjoying it too. Like cats, these members have their opinions; here are just a few comments that have turned up in the private forum over the past few months:
"I freaking dig this. It explains a simple way to to practice a particular part without having to eat the whole enchilada...Some changes are tougher than others, so these break downs will help. Earth-shattering stuff here, Dude. :-)" – Dean M., Florida

"I have had a great time with this tune and am really feeling the various improv ideas coming together (even if my fingers can't keep up with my ideas).  Prior to September when I signed up...I would have been stuck on the tab and just kept cycling through. A few months later I am finally feeling comfortable with a little improv!" – Bruce B., Washington

"This whole theory section is the best explanation of scales, modes that matter and how and why we get there that I've come across in years of music study." – J. Ladds, U.K.

"This was so good I don't know where to start...I wish I could give up the day job and just spend my time on this." – M. Senior, U.K.

You may have found me through my Youtube channel, or you might have one of my Truefire videos, or even one of my instructional books.  And there's a good chance right now you're thinking, "Seriously, enough about this membership already. Is there a new Youtube lesson this week or what?" If this is you, the answer is yes, and I'll be sending out info on that this Thursday as usual.

Because I'm an optimist, however, I'm reckoning at least some of you may be thinking, "Hmph. I wonder if this membership is something I would dig?"

If that's you, I have a three-part series starting today you might want to check out. Part One, available now, is called The Horizontal Three-Step, and it's all about how to take a fingerstyle blues arrangement, break it down into the bass line, melody and chords, and put it back together again with more conviction, expression and groove. The lesson includes tab to my steady-bass arrangement of the eight bar blues "Trouble In Mind," and you can watch it by clicking the link below. Right-hand coordination is one of the big things we work on in the membership, and the twenty-minute video below is a complete, stand-alone lesson you can check out for free to see if this approach works for you:

The Horizontal Three-Step

I hope you enjoy it! Stay tuned for the next lesson in the series later this week, and of course, the next installment of my Youtube series on Travis picking the blues.

More soon,