"Who's It For, What's It For?"

Apr 14, 2020
The studio where I've been shooting my new Youtube live streams is only ten minutes from my house. Last fall, when it was still a half-hour drive to work, I would get on various podcast jags, including Seth Godin's "Akimbo," which made for some pretty tolerable commutes. And one of the things he would suggest, over and over, was that anybody making work for other people to consume be able to answer this pair of questions: "Who's it for?" And, "What's it for?"

Since the fall, when it comes to my Fingerstyle Five membership, I've been pretty clear on who it's for: it's for fingerstyle blues guitarists who are just getting their groove together and want help with their right-hand coordination, and fingerstyle blues guitarists who already have a repertoire but want to know more about how to arrange tunes themselves and start improvising on them.

"What's it for?" has remained a little more elusive. But yesterday, while answering a question about the membership during the Youtube live stream, I realized I knew exactly what it's for. The answer has been there all along, but to explain what it is, I need to back up a little bit.

I had a Youtube channel for about three years before I started working on the membership, and one of the things that always bugged me about the channel was that it felt sort of random. I would make lessons about things I thought were kind of interesting or cool, and they tended to hang together stylistically, but there was nothing very orderly or progressive about them. You could put the pieces together yourself, but there was nothing to take you step by step through the learning process. I tried to solve this from time to time by making a few series that did walk you through a topic, like "Six Steps To Playing Fingerstyle Blues," but that was the exception to the rule. So by the time I was designing the Fingerstyle Five, I wanted it to be organized and progressive in a way that really distinguished it from the channel.

Because, while I knew people had questions about right-hand coordination, and I knew they had questions about arranging and improvisation, the question I got asked most often, whether via email, in person or in the comments on my Youtube channel, was: "How should I practice, and where should I start?" And that's what the membership is for: to help you know how to practice, and where to begin. A lot of memberships pile thousands of songs and lessons by dozens of instructors under one virtual roof, and let you loose. Which is cool, in its own way. But in my membership, we work on just one song each month.

You spend the first week of the month learning a simple or more advanced version of the tune itself – just the eight or twelve or sixteen bars that constitute the melody and chords of the tune, played fingerstyle. The next week, you get a half-dozen two-bar exercises directly related to the song at hand. They might break down a tricky syncopation, help you drill an unfamiliar chord change or give you extra practice with a new hammer-on. The third week's exercises deal with improvising on the song – how to grab the right pentatonic scale over an alternating bass, say, or how to play over the turnaround. Finally, in the fourth week, I hold a live-online class to discuss specific arranging moves for the tune and answer questions people have posted in the forum or are asking in the chat window.

The point is, it's a stepwise approach. It solves the problem of deciding what and when and how much to practice by laying out a week-by-week series of assignments. And those assignments are kept concise by design. It's much easier to sit down to practice when you've got just eight or ten measures to think about instead of some thirteen-page arrangement. And you're more likely to clean up the challenging parts to an arrangement when you've got them already isolated and made into a series of short, efficient exercises. Finally, if you've ever felt overwhelmed by all the songs you could be working on, the membership says, "Hey. Just focus on this song this month."

Today is the last day you can sign up for The Fingerstyle Five. If you want to register, you have until 11pm CST tonight to do so. You'll probably see a couple more emails from me today, which, if you've already signed up or you already know you don't want to, you can probably ignore.

I'll be back next week with a new Youtube lesson. In the meantime, here's the link to sign up for the membership:

Sign Up For The Fingerstyle Five

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