The Jimmie Vaughan School Of Economics

Dec 03, 2020

I basically missed the 1960s, except for being born and starting kindergarten, but the older of the two kids next door had a band for a while, so for one summer in the early '70s I fell asleep each night hearing "Smoke On The Water" drift in through my bedroom window, the one main riff mixing with the rise and fall of the crickets and cicadas in the dark. A few years later, the amps and instruments got sold off to fund an exotic animal collection, which is how I wound up paying five bucks for my first "electric" guitar, a brown paisley Egmond acoustic with a soundhole pickup.

A couple more kids lived on the other side of the "Smoke On The Water" house, an older brother my age and his younger sister. After A) the teenaged kid from the band draped his boa constrictor around the sister's neck and B) a piece of pipe in the basement fell on the brother's skull, sending him to the hospital for stitches, our parents banned all of us, including my older sister, from the band/reptile house. It being the '70s, there was still plenty of action outside, including C) the lawn dart that landed in my sister's foot and D) a jug of gasoline that caught on fire – a motorcycle was also somehow involved –  though, amazingly, no explosions or fatalities ensued.

So now, when I hear the kid in the next block practicing the drums or warming up his SG in his parents' converted garage, I get a surge of nostalgia. He's been over to our house sporting an AC/DC t-shirt, so I'm pretty sure he could bust out some Deep Purple on request. But his teacher recently hipped him to Stevie Ray Vaughan, and hearing him practice the opening to "Texas Flood," it's clear what a musical kid he is. It doesn't hurt that the gear you can get your hands on now feels and sounds about fifty times better than what my friends and I started out on, but even though we're talking about someone barely into junior high, it's obvious this kid gets how music is supposed to sound. As I've told his parents, who both have legit professional careers, they're basically screwed: their son has the innate instincts, burgeoning facility, and work ethic to really go for it, so unless he's sophisticated enough to make some serious lifestyle choices before he's twenty, there's a good chance he'll pursue music rather than apply to med school.

Of course, no one really knows. Besides, I don't especially dig the whole starving artist narrative anyway. I've always admired the economic philosophy of the other Vaughan brother: asked about the Fabulous Thunderbirds' success with their hit "Tuff Enuff," Jimmie responded "Well, I always figured if you made records, you might as well sell some, too." Sometimes I picture readers of this newsletter sitting around like characters from the film High Fidelity, saying things like "Yeah, Dave's alright, but his early lessons were better, before he sold out and went commercial." Maybe I'm the only one thinking about this, but I can understand feeling mildly hoodwinked if you signed up to score some free tab to a Youtube lesson, started reading the newsletter, then found yourself fending off invitations to part with your cold, hard cash on an increasingly regular basis.

So I try to keep the commerce down to a dull roar, because no one wants to hear about the next T-birds record every other day. Of course, you can always unsubscribe, and people do, but if you're still here, presumably you want to know about my new material as it becomes available. So with additional courses, workshops and registration for the membership all slated for the coming months, I feel it would behoove me to clarify how the membership, workshops, downloadable courses and Youtube channel all fit together.


The Youtube channel and the newsletter aren't going anywhere. I know the majority of folks may just groove on those two things and leave it at that, which works for me because the channel and the newsletter are fun to do, and I get a huge kick out of the idea that anybody pays as much attention to either of them as people apparently do. Also – fun creative fact – some of the best ideas come from making free stuff, because with no transaction at stake except time, there's more room to play and experiment, with fewer concerns for the consequences if you screw up.


The Fingerstyle Five membership, humming along for over a year now, is meant to answer the familiar question "What should I practice, and how should I practice it?" The material comes out in small weekly doses, and moves you step-by-step through a new tune every month. After presenting both a basic and more advanced blues instrumental in the first week, we move through a set of tune-specific exercises in the second week, some improvisation exercises in the third week, and a live-online arranging lesson and Q&A session in the fourth week. Some people take the month just to work through the basic tune; others are posting full-blown arrangements after just a couple weeks. Within the monthly structure, it's pretty self-paced, and since the process starts all over again the next month, there's really no such thing as falling behind.

That said, I've heard from plenty of people who find the idea of regular weekly lessons too much of a commitment. I've also heard from people who'd like to try the membership but feel they still need some basic skills in place to get the most out of it. The new workshops and downloadable courses are meant to address these two issues.


Workshops, like the recent Chord Substitutions class and the upcoming Improvisation class (December 12th – stay tuned!) are aimed at intermediate players and above, and cover a specific topic in a single in-depth, two-hour session. You get the PDFs for the lesson as soon as you register and three months' access to a replay afterwards. If you can't be there live, you can register anyway and just watch it all afterwards. So if you want to learn about things like improvisation, arranging and other topics I cover in the membership, without the monthly commitment, you can opt in for the workshops that interest you, skip the ones that don't, and take part as much or as little as your time and inclination permit.


Foundations courses, like the recent Six Steps to Playing Steady Bass Blues in E, are aimed at fingerstyle beginners or anyone who just wants to get their basic skills on a more solid footing. The material, as the name suggests, is very step-by-step, to make sure you can't get lost or fall through the cracks, and since the videos and tab are downloadable, you can spend as long as you like on each lesson, and even work on the material when you're offline. Vocabulary courses, like the recently renamed Swing And Jazz Vocabulary For Steady Bass Blues In E (formerly Fingerstyle Blues Vocabulary in E) are a more intermediate version of the same idea.

So about the Youtube channel: this week, my One Thing About Fingerstyle Blues series continues with a short lesson on how to play a 5-4-6-4 alternating thumb bass in A. You can check it out here:

One Thing About...The 5-4-6-4 Bass In A

You can download the tab for the entire series here:

Get The Tab

But if you want to learn any Ritchie Blackmore riffs, you'll probably have to go someplace else. Dunh, dunh, duunnh; dunh, duhn, dunh-nuunnhh; dunh, dunh, duunnh; DUNH, duh-dunh....