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An Open Letter to Anyone Thinking About Learning the Guitar

With this lesson below, anyone with 30-45 minutes a day and a desire to learn can now effectively teach himself the guitar using a simple, proven practice trick and a free piece of software. (Of course, individual results will vary)

by Johnny Lee

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved music.

Rock, blues, country, folk, classical, jazz… all kinds of music. I had no illusions of becoming the next Jimi Hendrix… but I desperately wanted to be on stage somewhere, jamming on guitar. Even just the local university or coffee shop.

But unfortunately, I had little hope of ever doing that. For one thing, I knew as much about playing music as I did about rocket science. Nada. I studied music only once in my life (for school), and I did terrible. And learning guitar as a busy adult, my chances seemed even worse.

I didn’t grow up in a musical family. Nor did I have friends who knew how to play the guitar. And sad to admit, I never had the good fortune of being born with musical talent either. My first 3 years of learning the guitar… I couldn’t play a single song cleanly from beginning to end, no matter how much “practice practice practice” I put in. On the other hand...

These are the exact reasons why I was eventually able to discover a far more powerful way of learning the guitar for myself.

Because I HAD TO. I couldn’t fall back on my natural gifts or be careless in my approach to guitar or rely on anything else that didn’t get solid results for normal people like you and me.

In fact, when I shared what I’m about to talk about below with a fellow struggling guitarist named Joseph Czeiszperger, he later had this to say:

"[These lessons] give the missing information on learning to play the guitar. I've been playing since I was a teenager and believed I could never play well enough to be considered good. I've learned more from reading and applying the concepts in [these lessons] then I've learned since I started playing and I am 71 years old. Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks!" (Of course, experiences vary. Some do better, some worse.)

What's the big lesson in all this?

If you're having trouble learning the guitar... if you're practicing consistently but still can't play great sounding music... or if you're seeing improvements happen slower for you than for other people...

It probably has nothing to do with having enough "innate talent".

Yes, obviously having talent is a huge advantage, but NO, it's not a requirement. Because talent or not, you can still enjoy the rewarding experience of playing the guitar for fun, and become damn good, even if you're just an average guy (or gal).

The truth about why most people will never succeed in learning the guitar

If you're putting in time but still not improving much, I'm willing to bet you're doing a few specific things wrong that you probably can't even see. In fact, you’re probably making the same mistakes that I was... that almost everyone is... and just need to make some simple adjustments. (I'll get to how in a minute)

But this goes beyond merely fixing bad habits. It's about taking a whole different approach to guitar entirely. An approach most books, DVDs, websites, and even guitar teachers, will never tell you about because it would mean less profit to their bottom line... and yet works better than everything else I've ever tried.

I’m living proof of this. My first 3 years, I did things the typical way and got nowhere, even after studying all the books and videos and taking lessons from 4 different guitar teachers (including one who wrote for Guitar World magazine).

But as soon as I corrected-course like I'm about to show you, I immediately saw my playing begin to improve fast, in spite of my initial lack of talent.

Let me say that again: My lack of talent did NOT stop me from improving fast at guitar, once I made these few simple changes. I began making progress more consistently while spending far less time and effort than before. Within 3 months, I was even able to put on my first live performance ever at a local cocktail bar (and was soon welcomed back to perform weekly and to give the owner guitar lessons). Today, I am able to learn whatever I want at my own pace, jam with others, and enjoy the fun and excitement of playing my favorite music with ease.

Are these exceptional results? Of course. And that's exactly why I'm not asking you to believe anything. I'm inviting you to look at the facts, see if it makes sense, and then prove for yourself that this method can work for you as well.

If that's alright with you, let's continue.

Here's the secret to extraordinary progress:
Look at what the best guitar players actually DO... not what they teach

Consider the facts:

1. We now have books, DVDS, online videos, skype lessons, and even VIDEO GAMES that claim to teach you the guitar (completely ridiculous, by the way)... all instantly available for nearly any budget.

2. Yet there is still an unbelievably high 80% guitar failure rate. (source: John Sizemore, founder of GuitarZonline and 20 year veteran player)

How is this possible? Because at the end of the day, guitar companies (and teachers) all know they can continue milking the guitar-lesson cash-cow if they never do one thing:
Show you how to learn using the songs themselves.

Let's really think about it...

What do we usually see being sold as guitar lessons?
Answer: Techniques and theory. Chords... scales... picking techniques... finger exercises... fretboard theory... "hot licks"... etc... They can sell you this for YEARS by repackaging the same content under different labels such as "blues", then under "country", then under "rock", and so on.

What do we almost NEVER see being taught in any guitar lesson?
Answer: The PROCESS of learning from music itself (where the techniques come from).
Because this process can't be sold more than once... but is actually far more powerful than any technique you'll ever learn. And that's exactly why they don't bother to teach it.

But understand this: Techniques and theory divorced from music cannot possibly lead to learning the guitar.

If you were learning a new language, would you go try to memorize random words without using them in sentences? Of course not. And that's why no amount of "memorizing the dictionary" will get you there with guitar either. You need to learn the language of music. And that's impossible without using real music as examples (NOT techniques and theory alone).

And if you continue to make this mistake, whether you realize it or not... you've basically doomed yourself to a lifetime of hard work and frustration.

How to master the guitar faster and far more easily by going against the common advice

“That's when I started... I used to listen to Ricky Nelson records and pinch the James Burton licks, learn them note for note perfect.”

—Jimmy Page
1977 Interview for Trouser Press

Now, let's talk about a completely different approach to what's being recommended by most guitar teachers.

Take a look at the greatest guitarists who ever lived: Masters like Stevie Ray Vaughan... Clapton... Hendrix... B.B. King... Jimmy Page... and almost anyone else you can think of...

What do they all have in common?

1. NONE of them had access to thousands of websites, books, DVDS, software, and videos... nor did they need to.

2. ALL of them had mastered how to quickly and effectively train their hands to perform new movements in the CONTEXT OF REAL MUSIC (allowing them to recognize and absorb MUSICAL PATTERNS at the same time, effortlessly).

Once they understood this, they continued to apply this ONE-SINGLE lesson, over and over, for many different songs and techniques. That's basically ALL they knew how to do (extremely) well, and they each became one of the most admired and respected guitar players in the world.

And that's worth repeating...

Your first job as a guitarist is to figure out how to properly "train your hands" to play the type of music you want to play

NOT memorizing theory...

NOT practicing scales...

NOT doing finger exercises...

NOT learning chord formulas...

NOT learning guitar tricks...

... and NOT doing any number of things you'll see recommended in all the common guitar approaches.

Don't get me wrong. Those things are all extremely important to any serious guitarist. But they must all come later, AFTER you lay a true foundation in music. Learn to properly control your body first, nail down the process, get a few tunes under your belt... THEN you can begin worrying about everything else.

See the difference in approach?

3 reasons why most of what you've learned is not only awful advice... but could even permanently damage your chances of playing the guitar if not corrected soon

Prove it for yourself. Most guitar advice you get will tell you (intentionally or not) to commit these 3 MAJOR guitar mistakes:

  • BLINDLY follow the "practice, practice, practice" mantra. Cram as much practice as you can possibly can into your busy schedule, with no regard to the effectiveness or appropriateness of that practice for your current level.
  • Disregard CONTEXT. The most valuable tool you have for learning not just guitar, but MUSIC, is the proper understanding of context, which applies to any instrument. But instead, you are usually told to blindly focus on techniques and theory in isolation from real music. Dumb.
  • Ignore STRATEGY. How you actually go about organizing your practice and creating your own routine ON THE FLY as your abilities improve. Most people have no real strategy. They end up knowing lots of intros to 100 different songs, but almost never the full song.

Along with a whole slew of other easy-to-make mistakes, especially for beginners.

Trust me when I say that, if you follow the wrong approach, even if it comes from a guitar teacher with good intentions, you'll almost certainly end up more confused, more frustrated, and more disappointed than ever. You'll blame your lack of talent and maybe even decide to give up. (I did briefly, and more than once)

There's a better way...

How I discovered the single biggest advantage in learning the guitar faster than most people realize is even possible

So what's the solution? How did I manage to finally separate the wheat from the chaff?


Briefly, here's what happened:

A few years ago, I was sitting down, exhausted at the Broadway Boxing Gym in South Los Angeles, California. I had been training for only 3 months with the legendary trainer, 70-year old, Dub Huntley. Most people know him as the real-life inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” and as the former-trainer of Muhammad Ali’s daughter, four-time undefeated world-champion, Laila Ali.

But amazingly, despite being completely new to the sport, I had made what some would call, pretty incredible progress. And in only 3 months. Even more amazingly, Dub was now encouraging me to compete professionally against other boxers, some who have been training for years. Scary, to say the least.

And yet, surprisingly, my rapid success had nothing at all to do with any innate talent I had for boxing (I was a skinny engineer)... and everything to do with the advanced physical learning techniques Dub had put to use in training me after refining his formula for over 50 years.

What did Dub know about training the human body that most ordinary guys don’t even have a clue about?

Going back to what I said earlier...

Beginner guitarists from around the world all struggle with one MAJOR initial problem: Training their "hands"... something every great guitarist without question understands how to do.

(Actually, the fingers, wrists, arms, and shoulders all contribute when playing the guitar).

And yet... over the years, the human body has been studied, analyzed, and literally dissected in every which way imaginable, so that we could learn it’s biggest secrets.

In fact, today, athletes, dancers, gymnasts, boxers and many other competitive performers… all understand how to train their bodies to perform extremely difficult, complex movements… completely at will.

Now, while these activities may appear unrelated to guitar on the surface, you'd be wrong to assume this.

Consider what cognitive psychologist Dr. Gary Marcus says in his book Guitar Zero: The New Musician and The Science of Learning (where he describes how, at age 39, he went from total beginner to performing on stage after only one year):

"Music shares with virtually all sports the need for carefully coordinated muscle control. Like chess and many team sports, music demands rapid pattern recognition (especially when improvising live with an ensemble), and it even requires insanely strong fingers... Guitarists may not need big muscles, but playing the guitar is truly an athletic endeavor with the same rigorous demands for efficient and accurate performance."

Furthermore, consider the fact that ALL movements, whether throwing a punch, doing a backflip, hitting a baseball or pushing down on a guitar string... ALL of these are controlled by the brain.

To "learn" something in the science of Motor Learning means to "remember" how to perform the same movement again later: muscle memory. And muscle memory is formed when the brain creates new neural connections. Neural connections are created when we trigger the brain by repeating the same movements again and again over time (when we practice). And this means that the fastest learning will occur when we practice in a specific way that triggers the largest number of neural connections to be created in the shortest amount of time.

To be sure, this is the exact learning process world-class teachers, trainers, and coaches have perfected through generations of trial and error, to create olympic level performers. A learning process science has only recently proven.

So the more you look at it, the more you start to ask yourself the obvious question: Why aren't guitarists everywhere using these exact same learning methods?

What would happen if we applied these advanced learning secrets to teaching our hands and fingers the guitar?

I needed to find out. So, to put this idea to the ultimate test… I took every useful idea I’d learned in my research and training, translated it over to the area of guitar and music... and applied them all on a certified “hard-case” guitar student: MYSELF

The result?

I improved more in the next 6 weeks than I did in the previous 6 months while... believe it or not...

Practicing LESS.

That's right, less.

And, not only that... for the first time ever... I was able to learn my favorite songs, COMPLETELY, from beginning to end. I was learning the intros, verses, solos, chords, strumming patterns, fancy tricks… all of it... for different songs... and burning them all into my hands. For the first time, I was playing my favorite songs effortlessly for my friends and family, who were totally shocked. They even started calling me “talented.” (HA, are you kidding me? ; )

And yes, amazing as it sounds, I was actually practicing LESS.

How did I do it?

Let me show you...

PIT-STOP PRACTICING: The biggest advantage in learning the guitar faster than most people realize is even possible

Here's my biggest guitar secret: I call it “Pit-Stop Practicing.”

And you wanna hear something astounding?

In my over 10 of years studying the guitar and nearly 5 years teaching... I have NEVER heard of anything similar to this being mentioned anywhere else before, ever. And know this: I’ve studied A LOT of material on learning the guitar during that time.

And the reason for this is because, as I've mentioned, I didn't pick this up from any guitar book or teacher (I've had 4 in total, including one who wrote for Guitar World magazine).

Instead, like many other great human discoveries, the secret behind Pit-Stop Practicing's astonishing effectiveness actually comes from an entirely different discipline: Performance training.

Before discovering "Pit-Stop Practicing," I would practice for hours upon hours everyday in my bedroom, and actually see almost no real improvements from week to week. At one point, I was so disappointed and frustrated, I put away my guitar and nearly quit learning it for good.

Since discovering Pit-Stop Practicing, I’ve been able to consistently master new songs... steal my favorite licks... and pick-up new techniques on the guitar, almost effortlessly... week after week... no matter how difficult they used to be

I went from struggling with chords and strumming in my bedroom… to confidently performing LIVE at a local cocktail bar... again, all in about 3 months. And things took off even more from there.

Hey listen, I never made it to the cover of Rolling Stone, but c'mon... that's still pretty incredible! Plus, to be honest, I never actually believed it could happen for me, not in a million years.

Anyway, the good news for you is: All it really takes is knowing how to apply a simple, easy process, that you can probably learn in a few hours.

No matter what style of guitar you play, or what type of music you want to learn (blues, rock, counry, jazz, funk, flamenco, classical, metal, etc.)... IF you apply what I'm about to share with you... you'll be able to master new guitar techniques and difficult songs like you've never imagined possible.

To this day, I continue to successfully apply this amazing secret to every single thing I learn on the guitar, almost universally. And to this day, it continues to multiply the effectiveness of pretty much everything I learn.

How does "Pit-Stop Practicing" actually look like?

According to my personal experience, what I've learned from teaching others, and everything I’ve been taught about training the human body… here’s what correct practice ACTUALLY looks like:

1. Practice few things…

2. for short amounts of time…

3. and repeat enough times without exceeding your body’s ability.

Not rocket science, right?

Right. However, the thing is…

As simple as this sounds, it can actually be tricky to APPLY correctly, unless you’ve been shown how by someone "in the know." And, like everything else… going from theory to practical everyday use is easier said than done. There’s a few more important details you need to know (but once you do, it’s a piece of cake).

If you want to learn the EXACT way that I’ve been taught to do this, how I currently implement this, and the way I’ve taught others (that’s getting amazing results)… Now you can learn about this entire process in a book called: