New eBook: Beyond Guitar (In Only 15 Minutes)

I decided to write this little eBook during my 2011 Holiday Vacation. It was a “fun” little project that took me a few days to get together, send around to my friends, get their input.

As of right now, it’s only available on Amazon Kindle Publisher Select for only 99 Cents. It’s 2500 words long. It only takes 15 minutes to read.


Guitarists of all levels: this eBook is not for your fingers. It is for your mind.

It contains simple, yet counter-intuitive musical concepts that many professional guitarists fail to understand after playing for 15 years. But you can discover them here in only 15 minutes.

I offer you no sweep-picking exercises. No scales, no chords, and no “tricks.” I am leaving out all of the specific data and techniques that you would typically practice and commit to memory while taking guitar lessons. But I promise you that the most creative and accomplished guitarists in the world have mastered these high-level principles of musicianship.

At the time of writing this eBook, I have (intentionally or otherwise) studied the guitar as a tool of artistic expression for 24 years. My experience as an eccentric musician called Sir Millard Mulch took me as far as an invite-only audition with Steve Vai. But I never trained to be a musical soldier in someone else’s army, so I continued to make my own albums with guest musicians such as Virgil Donati, Marco Minnemann, Devin Townsend, and many other unique creative geniuses.

I have personally directed approximately 3,000 guitar instructional videos for—regularly working with some of the most talented graduates and private instructors from Musicians Institute and Berklee College of Music.

However, if you’re like me—ready to break free of the limitations of a traditional guitar education—this short guide is for you. And to my knowledge, you cannot find this information compiled anywhere else.

I challenge you to question all of these ideas, and apply them to your guitar-playing at your own risk. Each idea will be accompanied by a musical example, which I encourage you to seek out and listen to (and I mean really listen to) on your own.

Buy It Now:

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Two Books You Should Read Right Now. I’m Serious.

(I said TWO, not Four! Ugh.)

Okay, let’s talk about Tim Ferriss.

He’s written two books. Both of them were #1 NY Times Bestsellers.

Not by popular demand. Not on accident. 100% on purpose.

He didn’t write two masterpieces that enraptured the populace. They didn’t spread from person to person by word-of-mouth, lighting imaginations on fire. He set out to exploit a system, followed a series of steps, and positioned himself as the winner of a little game. Hooray.

When I hear anyone talk about Tim Ferriss, the focus is not on the content of his books, but on Tim’s contrived, self-aware career.

“You see, that’s what you have to do. You have to use your mind and come up with some really great idea like that and you never have to work again! The guy made a million dollars.” -Office Space

Tim doesn’t sell a lot of books because he’s a great writer or thinker. Are these classic books that will be read for centuries? No. They’re disposable widgets that encapsulate our society’s cynicism and short attention span. He’s no Philip K. Dick, Robert Anton Wilson, or Neil Postman. He’s not even a Kevin Smith. He hasn’t gotten to where he is through years of obsessive philosophical contemplation, dedication to his craft, or even by being an interesting guy.

He cut corners, took a shortcut, got famous. The end.

Lately, I judge philosophers (including myself) by the art they create. The abstract or fictional stuff that has nothing to do with getting “rich and famous.” The music, the stories, the paintings. The back catalog of creative credentials. It’s becoming increasingly popular to focus entirely on theory / technique and never make a fucking thing with it. Career coaches, experts, consultants, gurus who don’t “live it everyday” as Phil Anselmo said.

If there’s anything that’s killing artists, it’s all the self-promotion and strategizing. If we were to spend more time on our art than we do on promoting it, we would find that our art might be strong enough to promote itself. Otherwise, all we have, at best, is an imitation of greatness. A pseudo-event. And wouldn’t you rather at least have a chance at experiencing something real?

It’s strange, if you think about it. Tim Ferriss is selling his books to the people who fell for his tricks and bought his books, and they still love him for it. He appeals not to the best within us, but the worst: greed and laziness.

I know, because I read his first book. Tried to, anyway. Didn’t like the vibe of it. The essence of the book didn’t make me like the jock who wrote it:

1.) Be inaccessible.
2.) Do as little as possible, outsource all your work to India.
3.) Spend most of your time on vacation.

Sounded a lot like my boss at the time! It made me wonder — isn’t this book just encouraging everyone to become the oppressive CEO we hate? Isn’t it the “Me Pharaoh, You Slave” pyramid scheme that is destroying our economy? Do we really need more of that “you do all the work, I keep all the money” bullshit?

The gist of the whole Tim Ferriss phenomenon is, “This guy figured out the trick. I wanna know what the trick is.” The problem is that by the time “the trick” is published in a book and shared with millions of people, it won’t work anymore. That itself is the trick.

Tim has announced he’s having a seminar in August. He’s going to share every detail about how he did what he did — which itself, self-referentially reveals how he did it: Charge between $7,000 and $10,000 per ticket, limited to 200 people. “Just like TED and similar high-end events…” it says.

Yeah, except for the “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world” thing that almost makes TED cool.

My advice: Save your money, stay home, read these two books instead:
The Image: A Guide To Pseudo-Events In America by Daniel J. Boorstin
Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Let me know what you think.

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Why Book Stores Are Closing

[Photo from Oxford Daily Photo.]

This morning, I was horrified to see several large signs in my neighborhood:


What a HUGE mistake.

(Because now I won’t be able to walk down to the corner and see my new book on the shelf, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Really.)

I do know Borders had been planning this closure for a long time, but I was in denial. I noticed probably a year ago that they did a store-wide inventory — they even put a total dollar value on each shelf. Never a good sign.

But the businessmen behind Borders were wrong about one thing all along.

A book store is not about selling books. “That’s the simpleton’s view,” as Eman Laerton would say about other topics.

These aren’t just widgets we’re talking about here.

A bookstore is An Environment For Discovery. A Gallery of Written Ideas.

For those of us who have been disillusioned by formal education, book stores have offered an escape: a place to stumble onto new shit.

Since way back in high school, when I’ve needed creative juice, I’ve take a random stroll through a book store… to raise my awareness, study independently, and find inspiration in unexpected places. I’d sit down with 4 or 5 books at a time and dig through them. I’d usually go home with at least one.

I’ve purchased around 500 non-fiction books in my lifetime. I can’t put a price on how much I’ve learned from them. It’s millions of dollars worth of knowledge. And it wasn’t only the time I spent turning pages and moving my eyeballs. It was the time I spent staring into space, sitting on the floor of the book store, digesting alien ideas, wondering if this was the book that was going to reveal its secrets to me.

Say what you want about how “books are old media.” But there’s still something special about printing words on paper. It says “these words deserve to be here.” Anyone can make a PDF. It’s when you realize that even the copied words are worth killing a tree or squeezing an octopus.

But it’s not just the book, it’s the experience of being in the book store that matters. Instantly ordering and downloading exactly what you want with one click is not the same — and if you think it is, you’re one step closer to living in the fucking Matrix.

So long as people have physical bodies, GOING TO PLACES and DISCOVERING NEW THINGS THAT YOU CAN TOUCH will matter. That can’t happen when everything is linked and indexed and blurbed and reviewed and meta-tagged into sterility. 5,278,945 people Like this? Who cares?

Chaos must be involved. The element of surprise.

Me? I go to the book store to find what I’m NOT looking for. I want the book that I see out of the corner of my eye, just a few letters of the spine showing on the top shelf. Way up there, hiding from me. Probably in the wrong section, something I’ve never heard of. I don’t know who else has read it, and I don’t care. (Coincidentally, while writing this blog entry, I used some writing techniques I learned from The Art of Nonfiction by Ayn Rand — which I discovered during the above experience last weekend.)

If I only read books that I’m looking for, they’ll tell me what I already know. What good is that?

I admit… that was getting harder to experience, because there are too many published books to keep in one store. Only the cheesiest, pot-boiling easy-sellers were kept in stock. I’d see several square miles dedicated to a bullshit biography on Lady Gaga (or some other pseudo-celebrity that’s “famous for being famous”) while anything published more than a week ago was in Clearance. That is, unless it happened to be on a required reading list — and we know all those books are time-honored crap for conformists.


Why not go to the library, then? Because their collection is made of whatever people decide to abandon, stuff they couldn’t even give away.

There must be a solution, right?

Boutique shops like Writers Store in Burbank have figured that one out. Nurture a community (give seminars, panel discussions), stock the best products and tools for a particular profession (writing), and most importantly — make people feel inspired. I always think, “Just by walking in here, I’m a real writer.” Makes me wanna go home and get to work, but not before I buy something to thank them.

I think Private Libraries are another fantastic business idea. Old books, new books, it doesn’t matter — as long as they’re personally-selected for a devoted audience. Instead of coffee shops, why not pay to hang out in a media library personally selected by the Coen Brothers or Kevin Smith? Go there and study all day. I think we’ll be seeing those popping up in the future. If I’m lucky.

Let’s hope that the businessmen behind book stores grow to understand what a book store is really about, and can turn this all around. I repeat: it’s not about selling widgets. I’d hate to see book stores go extinct because they can’t understand that simple premise.

R.I.P., my local Borders. It’s too bad you couldn’t make it work. You were a corporate whore, but I loved you.

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5 Ways To Look Stupid Doing 5 Things

Every art form has a learning curve. When you see these clichés, you don’t have to look any further to know someone is an amateur.

Film & Photography

  • The 180 Rule – Imagine an invisible line drawn between two actors who are speaking. This is the line of action. Don’t cross it. Keep the camera on only one side of that line.
  • Rule of Thirds – Divide the image into 3rds, vertically and horizontally. Place your subject along those intersections.
  • Focus – To draw attention to the subject, keep it in focus, let everything else be out of focus.
  • Cropping – Crop to the action. Unless it’s for a special effect, get rid of useless space.
  • Action – Non-moving, directional objects (guitars, swords) should face the center of the page. To convey motion, face it towards the outside of the page.
  • Performance

  • Speaking – Don’t lick your lips, clear your throat, adjust your hair & clothing, or say “um.”
  • Hide – Don’t go out on stage until you’re ready to start performing. It ruins the mystique.
  • Surprise – Don’t noodle the first few notes of the song before you play it. Don’t say the song name, either. Let the audience react in the moment. Unless you make a gag out of it like Ween: “This song is called Fat Lenny. By Ween.”
  • Tuning & Testing – Don’t tune and test your gear in front of the audience, while everyone waits. Don’t tap the mic and say, “Check. 1, 2. Testes. Can you hear me?” Have someone else do it before you go out there.
  • Mind Your Own Business – Avoid looking at your bandmates while playing, especially when a mistake is made. Nothing screams amateur like, “Everyone ready for the change? Here it comes… and…” If you’re a drummer, don’t do that “leaning back and getting ready to sneeze the chorus on everyone” face.
  • Typography & Layout

  • Scaling – Don’t stretch your type horizontally or vertically.
  • Drop Shadow – Never use it, unless it’s necessary to separate the element from its background or to add depth against something. Black type on white background = please, just leave it alone.
  • Unity – Use fonts in the same family. Never mix more than two typefaces, unless you need to “break the reality” of the page. It’s acceptable when you need to quote an external work, such as a screenplay.
  • Contrast – Vary the sizes, weights, and tints & shades of your elements. On the art board, size is relative. Big is only big when it’s next to something smaller.
  • Never, ever, ever use Comic Sans, Papyrus, or Hobo. When you can help it, avoid Helvetica, Times, Impact, or any font that is installed by default.
  • Writing

  • Use sentences of different lengths, so people don’t get bored. Like this. See?
  • Don’t repeat yourself.
  • Avoid adverbs. Choose a verb that doesn’t need decoration. “Tony ran really, really fast all in one single, quick, instant burst, like a hungry, starving, desperate cheetah after prey in the brutal wilderness” becomes “Tony sprinted.” If the action isn’t inherently interesting within context, tell a different story.
  • Don’t bold, italicize, underline, and colorize every sentence. If your writing is concise, you won’t need to make the important sentences stand out from all that crap you wrote.
  • Don’t try to sound smarter and more professional than you are, especially if you don’t know what the words mean.
  • Music / Audio Recording

  • Trimming – Unless it’s intentional to add charm, attitude, or humor, trim the beginnings and ends of your sound files to get rid of pops, swallowing noises, your fingers rubbing against the strings, and extra breaths.
  • Posture – Don’t cock your head down and sideways to look at your hands when playing guitar.
  • Effects – Only use them on purpose to create… an effect!
  • Melodic Contour – Melody should have peaks and valleys, and only hit the highest note ONCE. It’s called The Focal Point. Ever notice that a vocalist sounds like a pro when singing a cover song, but their originals hit the same 3 notes? (It’s usually the tonic, b3 and b7 over a major chord. Ugh.)
  • Scrubbing – Don’t strum the guitar strings up and down for the duration of the song. Vary your rhythm. Hold some notes. Leave some space. Drummers also commit this sin, and it’s called Double-Dribbling. Don’t alternate between the Snare and Kick on every 8th note as if they’re of equal value.
  • Of course, these can all be broken, but only on purpose. (And at the risk of looking like you made a mistake.)

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    How To Capture An Alien

    Religious fanatics and Atheists make the same mistake.

    Creative inspiration, the paranormal, God — these things can’t be analyzed, systematized, controlled.

    They’re faster than light, don’t like eye contact, and our logic is the fence than keeps them safe from us.

    (Ah, see what I just did?)

    So put away your Monster Manual. Let the mystical be what it is. A collection of experiences beyond our understanding.

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    Pfizer: New Pill Cures Introverts

    I wish this was a typo by a web designer.

    Since it’s not, here are the problems I have with it:

    1.) Introversion is already a term widely (often loosely) used for something else, and has been for almost a hundred years. It’s not a Disorder. And it has nothing to do with how “socially-aggressive and indiscriminately friendly” you appear to be in public.

    2.) The criteria listed are an extreme generalization for something that doesn’t really exist, like the “War On Terror.” This text is turning people who are dominantly Introspective into The Boogeyman. Who wrote this stuff? I feel like I’m back in high school, being mocked by athletes.

    3.) Agenda? This is probably motivated by a pharmaceutical company that will soon announce a Wonder Drug that will “cure your Introverted child.” Taking the conspiracy theory one step further, this plan clearly targets people who are capable of divergent thought — so they can be wrangled up and fed to Sarlacc. Think I’m crazy? Andrew E. Skodol, the man behind this nonsense, has disclosed “significant interests“, specifically “Stock or other financial options” in Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Eli Lilly. (You’d think that since he received his psychiatric training at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine he may have realized that Albert Einstein was an Introvert.)

    4.) If you’re going to include Introverts, then include Homosexuals, Bodybuilders, Monks, Police Officers, and Celebrities — anyone with less-common social roles and lifestyles. If 70% of the population aren’t exactly like you, watch out!

    5.) If Introversion is measured on a spectrum, why is there no entry for Extraversion? I could certainly write an equally colorful set of criteria (for a share of the profits, of course).

    The fact that this is even open to debate, that it even made its way onto the ballot, that it is seriously being considered by experts (38,000 physician leaders in mental health?), is solid proof that Idiocracy is a documentary.

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    The Cowboy Talks About Class

    There’s sometimes a town.

    In that town, there is a correlation between wealth, altitude, and the direction of psychic energy.

    The Upper Class live in the mountains, where it’s clean and quiet. Many of the houses are concealed by complex landscape. No straight roads, lots of contour and curves. Unusual architecture. Surprises around every turn. Exotic trees and plants. A view of the town and ocean below. The only cars are the expensive ones parked in driveways. Obviously, the inhabitants like to be left alone. They plan their time and energy years in advance.

    On the way back down to Earth, things get more depressing and mundane.

    Halfway between the Mountains and Beach are the Middle Class. Their world is flat. The places they live in are smaller, cramped together, and surrounded by activity. Traffic on the streets. Less plant life. Competition for space. Noise. They are cyclical consumers. Most of the money they make is spent at Best Buy and Restaurants on the illusion of abundance. They see about a week or sometimes a month into the future.

    The Lower Class congregate at sea level, around The Beach. Beggars, derelicts, punk rockers, street musicians, drug addicts, criminals. Graffiti and trash everywhere. Loud music from every direction. Those who have a home will refuse to stay inside — and will even leave their front door wide open. They never stop talking, yelling, and banging on things. The conflicts they focus on will never improve their lives, even if they win. They see about an hour into the future, if that.

    Stop for a little second and think about it. Can you do that for me?

    Common sense would say that all of the money, power, and freedom is up by the Rich Introverts living in the Mountains. Let’s just say that if you want to improve your situation, go towards them.

    Now you will see me one more time if you do good. You’ll see me two more times, if you do bad. Goodnight.

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    Got Married Today

    I didn’t have time to write one of my brilliant blog posts this morning.

    I was busy getting married to a beautiful Argentinian female named Belén. She does complicated things with computers, is an excellent vegan cook, and actually likes my music.

    No kidding.

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    Why I Forget Everything

    I have a poor short-term memory.

    Tell me a phone number and it’s wiped from existence by the time you reach the last digit. Concepts are my life raft in a sea of splashy facts. I don’t remember names, birthdays, or what I was doing ten minutes ago.

    Unless I intentionally commit something to memory, chances are, it’s gone. I never even learned the entire multiplication table or the names of the notes on the guitar neck. I don’t even know the names of the streets in my neighborhood where I’ve lived for 2 years, and only last month I found out the name of the city I was born in. When someone asks me details about my life during small-talk, I usually go blank. It takes some mental hunting to remember where I went to college, what my dog’s name is, and much less what I do for a living.

    Most of the time, it’s because I don’t care.

    (NOTE: I’ve never used drugs. I’ve been this way since I was a kid.)

    I daydream like crazy. My internal world is so abstract and philosophical that I’d be a wandering, homeless nut if it weren’t for my ability to micromanage and control my own habits.

    I’ve designed strict systems for keeping track of things that matter. For my freelance business, everything goes through Gmail. If I don’t have to respond, it gets Archived and disappears. If it’s not there, it officially doesn’t exist. It’s why I don’t answer my phone. It’s just better for everyone, when the specifics of the discussion (instructions, agreements) are literally literal.

    But The Game of Telephone is very real, and it even happens in email. As concise and clear as my writing is, people still see what they want to see. It takes one to know one, and I have no tolerance for people who haven’t overcome memory deficiencies by getting their shit together with all of the available tools.

    Of course, I don’t hoard data, either. (The thirteen external hard drives on my desk are all work-related, I swear). I don’t have much interest in old stuff unless it serves a purpose. Sentimentality is for teenagers who are afraid their identities will disappear if they don’t cover their walls with everything they like.

    Computers have made it possible to document your entire life in multimedia — and to a narcissist, it’s tempting to live in The Truman Show. What’s the next step, recording yourself looking through the junk, so you can again look back at that later?

    If you’re not The Weatherman, obsessive documentation is pointless.

    Last year I went through a Myspace account from 2003 and couldn’t believe the stupid stuff I had done and said. I may as well have been reading someone else’s secret repository of petty drama and personal problems. It was as boring and unproductive as watching people on television.

    So unless I’m working or attending a seminar, I don’t document. I’d rather be in the moment, experiencing life as it happens. I think people who spend more time aiming their camera than their eyeballs are crazy.

    Lesson: forgetting is a gift.

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    Milk Is A Vegetable?

    Standard Definition is no longer Standard. And we’ve already outgrown High Definition. EP is supposed to mean Extended Play. When are we going to stop using relative names for technology?

    We only end up looking stupid.

    Progressive Rock now means music from the ’70s. In the ’90s, Alternative became more popular than Pop. MTV Unplugged wasn’t unplugged, or we wouldn’t have been able to watch it. Jimmy Kimmel Live isn’t liveit’s shot in segments during the day in a studio.

    Why are they called Conservatives if they waste resources? Why do Liberals want more laws and controls?

    And if you’re a Vegetarian, that means you eat cheese? Galaxy Foods sells a line of products… Veggie Slices, Veggie Shreds, Veggie Topping. Someone in their marketing department obviously made a mistake. If I want a vegetable-based alternative to cheese slices, why would I buy a product made of milk?

    “Wait a minute! How did this happen? We’re smarter than this.” -Obi-Wan Kenobi

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