Today we’re joined on the show by John Hatcher, the founder of Blues Guitar Institute, a website and YouTube channel devoted to teaching acoustic blues guitar with a simple straight-forward approach.

John was the winner of TrueFire’s Next Top Guitar Instructor contest and over the last several years has been steadily growing a devoted following of keen blues guitarists. We have been struck by how John incorporates theory and ear training into his teaching and makes a genre that’s often seen as very specialised and exclusive into something welcoming and accessible – so we were keen to invite him on the show to share more about learning an instrument in a balanced way, and how to explore the blues.

In this conversation we talk about:

  • Why chasing flashy instrument technique can harm your development as a musician
  • What the earliest blues musicians would have to say about the idea that you need to be “born with the blues” to play it
  • His innovative “Microlicks” approach to breaking free from formulaic solos and being more creative when you improvise

Naturally this episode will be of particular interest to guitarists and blues fans but there are lots of interesting ideas here for any musician, so we hope you’ll enjoy the conversation as much as we did.

Listen to the episode:

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Transcript

Christopher: Welcome to the show, John. Thank you for joining us today.

John: Thank you for having me, Christopher. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

Christopher: So blues is a genre that’s often steeped in backstories and interesting characters and I’d love to hear your own origin story in music. Where did John Hatcher, leader of Blues Guitar Institute, come from as a musician?

John: Well, I think as far back as I can remember I’ve loved music but I think the, sort of, the drawing point that kind of drew me in with guitar and really exploring music deeper was I was, I don’t know, I was a kid, maybe I was ten or twelve or so and I found an old, beat up acoustic guitar in the back of a closet that was my dad’s from his college days and I knew he had played but seeing that thing was, I don’t know, it was just , like, a spark and for me and I remember kind of sneaking away, opening the closet and reaching back there and kind of plucking the rusted strings a little bit and I was, just, mesmerized by the sound of it and then at some point I had the nerve to ask him, “Hey, can I play that thing?” and he pulled it out and put some new strings on it, taught me G, C and D chords and I was kind of off to the races from there, never really, never really hung it up after that.

Christopher: Fantastic. And was your dad, it sounds like your dad wasn’t still playing at that point. Was there music in the house?

John: There was, I mean, I can remember, you know, riding around and he would have a lot of seventies classic rock stuff on which is why I think I really fell in love with in my early days playing, which is kind of a direct, to me it’s a direct connection back to the blues. A lot of the 70’s guitar icons just, really touted a lot of old, older generation of blues players, so , but, yeah, he had quit playing for the most part by then and, you know, it was, but I think it was good for him. It was good for both of us, really, to, just, drag it out and start strumming again.

Christopher: Very cool. And so he just showed you G, C, and D. What came next? Did you continue learning guitar from there?

John: Well, he went to, let’s see, he and I went to the store and we bought a poster that had all of the guitar chords on it. He circled a few, I mean, G, C and D were, like, it, you got to know that. Then he circled a few minor chords, I mean, it’s, like, you know, “Check these out. Learn these. Get these down and then we’ll move on.” It gets a little fuzzy from there but I definitely remember that poster and, just, you know, having those chords circled and just trying, like, day and night to get those things under my fingers.

Christopher: And did you continue learning with your Dad? Did you take lessons? Were you self-taught?

John: No, I, self-taught but with an asterisk. My good friend, William, at the same time he was, kind of, coming into guitar. He inherited a really nice Gibson acoustic guitar from his grandfather and we were friends from school and I think he told me about it and we were actually playing baseball in little league together and at some point I remember sneaking away from baseball practice with him and going to check out this guitar that he’d brought along and we were both, just, supposed to be playing baseball, supposed to be practicing and we were, just, drawn to this old, acoustic guitar, couldn’t take our eyes off of it and same thing, just strumming the strings, doing what we could do and, I don’t know, we just fell in love with that guitar, specifically, but then, you know, sort, of the greater idea of making music and it was way cooler to me than being poor at baseball, which I was, so.

But so he ended taking some lessons from the local guitar teacher and so he would go and learn a few things and then I would get together with him and just kind of pick up what he was picking up and so we kind of were self-taught but together in a way.

Christopher: And you mentioned making music, there. When you got together with your friend what kind of stuff were you doing, you know, would you situation with a particular song and try and figure it all out? Were you just making it up? Were you jamming back and forth? What did that look like?

John: I think maybe some of all of the above. You know, from the moment that you get a good chord to sound we would end up just kind of writing something, just jamming on something. It was horrible, I mean, you know, don’t mistake it for any magic or anything but it was fun and we had a lot of fun and I don’t, we obviously wanted to sound really good but we just had tons of fun, Christopher. It was, just, it was what kept us coming back, you know?

And then eventually we started learning some tunes that, you know, this was in the 90’s so we were playing some Nirvana songs and things like that and there were definitely some easy strummers in that catalog and so we would strum those along and then, you know, friends would come over and listen and strum a couple of songs, and, you know, we just felt like, I don’t know, like, amazing that we could, kind of, create this music. It was good.

Christopher: Cool. And how did things progress from there?

John: I think we probably stayed in that phase of just kind of hanging out and playing for a little while, longer than we should have. At some point, though, I think we did start to take things a little more seriously but we really started to focus on heavy metal and the thing that we definitely connected on was Metallica. We were huge Metallica fans and it was, just, so, it was a raw music form, it was fast, it was loud.

We were both, you know, teenagers or almost teenagers at the time and it just appealed to us and it required a lot of dexterity, a lot of practice, a lot of technical, you know, facilities to be able to pull it off and he and I bought tab books for most all of their albums, at least, that were out to that date and just started learning nothing about music but learning how to replicate what we were hearing on their records and formed a band and started just doing covers from that and, like, you know, the classic metal stuff, you know, Black Sabbath and things like that that we dug as well, so it definitely, like I said, I wish we would have, like, maybe paid a little more attention to, you know, musical things, you know, learned a little bit about theory and how this stuff works but instead I think we were just focused on getting the sounds to come out of the amplifiers.

Christopher: Cool. Well, you know, let’s not short-change the value of just getting together with friends and playing the songs you love but I’m super interested to hear more about what you mean by that. You said, you know, you didn’t learn much about music, you just learned to replicate the songs. What were you missing back then that maybe now, in retrospect, you can see could have been or should have been a part of that learning?

John: Well, I think just having a basic knowledge of, you know, how chords fit together, harmony, it would be one side of it for sure and then rhythm. I’m sure that when we formed out first real band and got together with a drummer who was practiced and trained, that we were probably driving him nuts with it. And I shouldn’t lump William into that so much as me because I know that I just didn’t have it, you know, I could, I think I could play along with the CD okay but, you know, with a real environment with a real drummer who could actually keep time I didn’t do so well, you know.

So I think that learning the basics of rhythm, learning the basics of harmony or just even, you know, how chords fit together in a key, that kind of thing, it just, it would have been nice to know then. I guess I’m okay now with that. I learned it when I learned it and I know it now and I’m okay with that but I think starting out that was definitely something that we missed.

Christopher: Interesting and when did that start to become apparent for you? Did you have any glimpses that, oh, that might be something you hadn’t quite tapped into?

John: Yes, I’d say there were some other local bands and we were all just, you know, good friends and would hang out and their music was way different. It was technically less complicated but they were writing original material and it all sounded like a song, it sounded like a complete thought and I could never really do that and, you know, every solo that I wanted to take just sounded like, you know, some metal guy rip-off, you know, there was not, there wasn’t a real original thought and I really admired those guys because they could do that and maybe if it wasn’t my style I still could appreciate the fact that they created it on purpose and if I ever created anything up to that point it was completely by accident, you know, and I think I started to understand that if I knew a little bit more about how things work on the bigger picture that maybe I would come out of the keys to put this thing together, you know, unlock some doors.

Christopher: Okay, so you saw in them some of the elements that might be missing so far for you.

John: I think so, yeah.

Christopher: How did you start to take steps in that direction? Because it sounds like at this point you consider yourself, kind of, a fully fledged musician in all of those regards. How did that transition take place?

John: I don’t think it was until William went to recording school. We loved recording, we loved audio, you know, that never really left and you know, he took the plunge and went to a recording arts conservatory and I remember him calling me and he was just bumping into good musicians that knew all of this stuff left and right out there and so he would call me and he would tell me in, kind of, not too dissimilar from the way I learned how to play guitar in the first place, which was through him, but he would call me and tell me, like, this little nugget of music theory and I just remember light bulbs going off. I’m like, “Why haven’t I ever heard this before?” You know?

And now that I’ve heard it, it just made, something made sense, you know, whether it was cowboy chord strumming songs and things like that, I was, like, “Oh, that’s why that fits together. I bet I could write one now,” you know, things like that and it, just, really, getting those little bits of advice from people he was bumping into really helped and it really, kind of, let me know that there is something to this and that I should probably spend some time getting serious because I love this stuff. I love music. It’s my passion, that I should probably get to know it a little bit better.

Christopher: Terrific. Well, maybe, just, explain for anyone who doesn’t know what that cowboy thing you mentioned is.

John: Yeah, so basically those G,C and D chords on a guitar, they’re, just, like, the big open position chords that you’re going to hear in countless songs and, I don’t know, I kind of call them cowboy chords just because you can come in and hear that strumming and kind of picture a cowboy riding a horse away in the sunset, you know, like, so your Roy Rogers kind of stuff, but just that easy going strumming.

Christopher: Gotcha, and you remember off the top of your head any other examples where William called you up and shared a nugget that then kind of opened your mind in a new way?

John: Yeah, I think the biggest one was when he called and told me why chords fit in a key, you know, and he told me the pattern, the, you know, the major, the minor, you know, that whole thing about how it comes from harmonizing a scale, so I remember getting on the phone and, you know, like, I would write it out and he told me, like, “Write a scale,” so we wrote the C scale and then we, you know, harmonized the scale so we layered the different tones on top and then you could kind of see the chord tones popping out and, you know, why the one chord and the four chord and the five chord really sound good together and that just, it stuck with me. It was a huge key and it was really a turning point for me because then, like I said, I could kind of put some chords together or when I was trying to learn songs by ear off of a record or something all of a sudden these are my choices, for the most part, you know? Figure out the key and then these are my choices and it just simplified things and it started to kind of help me build a framework, or really get a glimpse at the framework that was already out there.

Christopher: Very cool and it’s not easy for guitarists, like, hearing you describe that. for a piano player the idea of harmonizing a scale kind of, it’s going to click more easily because they’re used to looking at the keyboard. They can look at the notes of the scale and see how the chords fit on top. Guitarists are used to thinking in terms of chord shapes. That’s not an easy leap to make, so, yeah, it must have taken a bit of mental work to, kind of, connect those dots.

John: I think so. The way I say it is that I probably spent as much time unlearning some things about the guitar as I did learning the guitar and I think that there’s probably a way to do it where you can kind of, you know, learn music and learn the guitar at the same, you know, and get to a greater place a lot faster than I did and if you take a more holistic approach rather than just an, you know, instrument-focused approach.

Christopher: Gotcha. So this maybe touches on something else I was keen to ask you. You have this great video on the homepage of the Blues Guitar Institute and you begin it by talking about things that are fundamental but often overlooked and I think you give the examples of having great rhythm, having a good ear and having thumb and finger independence if you’re a finger-picking guitar player and I’d love to hear you talk a little bit about why you think those are overlooked. If they are fundamental, if they are central, why, for example does developing great rhythm or having a good ear get neglected in the journey of a lot of guitar players?

John: Well, I think, first of all, I mean, it happened to me, you know, I neglected those things and if, I don’t totally want to extrapolate my reason but I think this could be, part of it is that when we’re drawn to guitar sometimes it’s because the big sounds, it’s because of the flash, it’s because of, you know, the wild and crazy noises that you can get out of the guitar and so you just want to do that, you know?

It’s just so alluring, like, I’ve got to learn that and then it’s on to the next trick and guitar is full of tricks and those sort of trick sounds but I think that if you just focus on that you’re going to miss this whole other piece of it, which, I think, builds a great guitarist and it’s just, what you said, it’s the having a rock-solid sense of rhythm, having a great ear, you know, being able to really hear things in your head and translate it to the guitar, just those, to me, fundamental aspects of being a musician, not necessarily just a guitarist but a musician.

Christopher: That was really well put. And for someone listening who is, like, “Yeah, those other things sound interesting but I really just want to learn my Metallica licks from the tab,” can you give any examples, maybe from your own story or from students you’ve worked with of activities or impact on their musical life from filling in those other pieces that they might not have realized they’d been missing out on?

John: If I look back over my time playing, I think I just felt this huge pain moment, we kind of talked about it before, where I realized that other people who, if I’m being honest, I didn’t think that they were any better of a musician, you know, and certainly didn’t spend as much time practicing and things like that but they could do some things, just in the music in the moment that I couldn’t do and I think that paying attention to some of these, you know, basics, these fundamentals really kind of gives you the ability to create and to, kind of, own that moment and I think what I teach at Blues Guitar Institute, I try to balance the technical stuff because it’s fun, you know? It really is and you need it to pull off certain things in great music but I try to balance that with the theory, you know, and kind of move together in lockstep and explain why, because you can learn something out of a tab book but it doesn’t mean that you can recognize that and the next thing if you don’t really understand it, you know, and for me it’s just part of, you know, me having that framework of those basics, those fundamentals.

It helps me recognize things. It helps me recognize patterns, it helps me learn things quicker, its helps me, not feel like a complete idiot sometimes if I’m sitting in a jam circle. I’m like, “I can at least get through this,” you know? So I don’t know if I totally answered your question, there, but I just think that this stuff is very important to learn along with those crazy, cool things from the tab books, you know?

Christopher: Fantastic, and so I’m obliged to ask, then, how do you go about learning them? If we think about music theory or we think about developing a good ear, can you share some of the ways you have worked on those things or maybe some of the ways you helped students at BGI work on those?

John: Sure. For me I think that it’s just kind of, in my instruction, it’s just kind of baked in at all levels. So if we’re going to learn a finger-picking blues piece, we’re going to talk about how important it is to have that steady quarter note pulse with your thumb and so we’re talking about the technique side of it and we’re also talking about the rhythm and we’re going to spend a lot of time, in fact it’s my first lessons for anyone who wants to become finger picker, is just hitting the six string, that low E string, with your thumb along to a metronome. That’s it, you know, there’s nothing fancy, there’s nothing flashy about that but it can be very difficult and a lot of folks find that it’s difficult not because, well, some find that it’s difficult because the thumb is now learning a new skill so that’s the technique aspect of it but it’s also because their sense of time was never really developed and so that’s an exercise that we go through, just a very simple basic one to try and develop that and we do that as we build to some sort of classic example of blues. So I try, try to bake it in, you know, as you go along.

Christopher: Fantastic. I love that it’s integrated in that way and that you’re kind of, I don’t know, implicitly conveying how valuable the theory side is and those inner skills. Thinking about the ear, specifically, do you do any exercises? You know, I know that, particularly in the world of guitar, ear training can be a, kind of, anti-hero than something that’s looked on with, um, I’m trying to put this diplomatically, it’s often not front and center in a guitarist’s studies. How do you approach ear training or think about it yourself?

John: I guess, for me, myself, I decided that I needed to have a better ear at some point on my journey and I bought a course and I just went, you know, headlong into it and really, just, kind of, memorized a lot of the intervals and then just did these monstrous ear training exercises and they’re not fun, you know, but they work and they help and, I think, in terms of what we do with the Guitar Institute instruction in there, it’s always trying to point out how different tones relate to each other and even just talking simply that, you know, this bass line is written in a third and not saying that it’s this fret and that fret and we try to move the conversation from the guitaristic view of frets and strings to notes and intervals and I think that that helps, at least, in a basic way of making people aware of waking up their ear a little bit and just pointing it out as they’re playing it can be helpful.

Christopher: Absolutely, yeah. I’m thinking back to my own guitar experience as a teenager. I really wish, in retrospect, my teacher had, you know, just sprinkled a little bit of that explanation along the way because, you know, for me I was learning guitar which was almost purely about technique and alongside I was learning music theory and studying things from the ear and not really the ear but certainly the theory perspective and the two worlds never mixed, like, I had almost no connection between the two so I love that you’re really, kind of, integrating those tightly at Blues Guitar Institute.

John: Yeah, and I think it’s probably good for me to do that for two reasons. One, for the students and to make sure that they don’t, you know, fall into that trap which I definitely was in. I mean, I absolutely said, “I don’t want to know theory.” I was on some sort of, I don’t know, weird mental trip that I thought that if I learned musical theory somehow it would tank what I could do on the instrument. That’s, believe it or not, that’s a commonly held thought, you know, that if I learn this, you know, sort of, academic approach to what I’m doing, it will lose its heart, it will lose its soul and I think opposite is true and I think it kind of gives you, I think, an ability to put the puzzle together in a way that’s uniquely years and, like I say, I try to make sure that that, kind of, follows through almost everything we do at BGI because for me it was, like, this hard stop.

One day I had that moment that I knew I needed theory and then I started learning it, much like you were talking about with your, you know, learning it as two very separate things. I did that and I think that that’s an injustice in a lot of ways.

Christopher: Interesting. And so I’m sure a lot of people watching or listening are curious to know, we’ve talked about your backstory, we’ve definitely talked about guitar but we’ve talked about, you know, 70’s rock and Metallica and metal and then we’ve also talked about Blues Guitar Institute. We’re going to have to join those two up for people. Where did blues enter the picture and how did you come to be so devoted to it that you are now leading one of the most popular websites and Youtube channels for it?

John: Well, I think, for me, you know, I definitely enjoyed playing contemporary music, like, thinking to when I was in high school in the 90’s and all but I always, maybe because of what was on my dad’s radio, I always had such a huge appreciation for that 70’s music stuff and so, like, Eric Clapton was a huge guy, you know, I heard his music around and when I was really trying to get into guitar the Eric Clapton Unplugged album came out and it blew my mind, you know? It was nothing like this Metallica or this Sabbath stuff that I was working on. It was very different and very impressive.

I mean, it really was. Like, there is just, for a lot of it, there’s one guy and a guitar, and maybe a little ensemble behind him but, just, pulling off some beautiful stuff and I remember hearing his cover of Big Bill Broonzy’s “Hey, Hey” on that album and just going, “I’ve got to figure out where this stuff’s coming from,” and so I kind of started, like, listening back and finding out his influences were, like Big Bill, Muddy Waters, that kind of stuff. I mean, you can go back earlier. You can get, like, Robert Johnson, you go back and you get Charlie Patton and then you start to realize that those aren’t the only guys, that there’s a ton of other blues musicians that kind of created what we would now know as blues that a lot of folks don’t know about outside of blues circles like Blyman and Jefferson, Blond Blake, Blond Boy Fuller, those guys, and you listen to their music and it’s amazing, you know, it’s, a lot of it’s got ragtime influences and things that are so far from where I started but I think, just, kind of, peeling back the years and, you know, through Clapton, like, go on back and looking at some of his heroes and then their predecessors you, just, kind of, get to the birthplace of it and I’ve been obsessed with that era, really, ever since.

Christopher: Cool. So tell us more about that and where you ended up in terms of the kind of blues you appreciated and the impact that it had on your playing and your musical life.

John: Well, I think I have an appreciation for a lot of it, for a lot of different styles of the blues than what you would think of, like, the chicago or electric sound. That’s cool. I love it. Stevie Ray Vaughan, all of that stuff, I love it but I’d say that a lot of what I’ve been focused on over the last several years would be in the country blues genre. So whether it’s delta blues like your Robert Johnson or, you know, Pete Mon or east coast blues, that have some of that ragtime feel to it. That’s the acoustic blues and from that day and age is pretty well where I love, where I love to study, love to learn, love to listen and we do a lot of it in Blues Guitar Institute.

Christopher: Terrific, and it sounds like you just kind of got sucked down the rabbit hole, there, in terms of learning more about blues and listening more to blues you liked to play but I know that at the same time, maybe not to such an extreme as jazz but blues can be a genre where people kind of feel like, “I’m not a blues person,” or “If I haven’t gotten into it, it’s just not for me.” It sounds like you didn’t have any kind of barrier or hesitation when it came to adopting the blues like that.

John: Yeah, I, there’s definitely this thought out there that you’ve got to be born with the blues or you can’t play the blues and I run into it online a lot and I don’t think that I ever really felt like I couldn’t get into the club, so to speak, but I can guarantee you that there’s guys from the early, you know, formation of blues and of the style. I between they didn’t feel like they were some sort of exclusive club that they couldn’t get into, you know, and I definitely want people to know that the blues is something that’s accessible, it’s a raw art form, to me.

It can be refined in a lot of different ways for sure but, you know, you get back and listen to some of those records from the 30’s and you’ll find people kind of inventing the slide guitar sound, or at least in America, with a butter knife, I mean, just, like, whatever was around. I mean, it was crude, it was raw but it was honest and I think that all you’ve got to really have is the passion to learn and you can play the blues. I mean, I don’t think it’s got to be something that you’ve got to feel, you’ve got to, you know, those things help if you’re lucky enough to be born down at the crossroads but that wasn’t me. I had to work at it and I don’t have a lot of mojo but I try to earn it, try to work for it and I think that that’s what the blues is all about to me. It seems like, you know, some people say you can’t do it, you can’t learn it, you’ve got to be born with it but I think it’s the opposite. I think that it’s so true and so honest that we can all at some level step into it.

Christopher: And do you have any particular pointers for someone who’s listening and being, like, “Oh, yeah, I should get more into blues music.” Where would they start?

John: Well, the way I like to start folks out is whether or not you’re going to play acoustic blues or whether or not you’re going to play more electric you’ve got to learn the iconic twelve-bar blues format and so that’s where I like to start introducing people to the blues and so a song like “Sweet Home Chicago,” or something, which is, you know, kind of, that, that huge song’s been covered a million times but something in that form it really can help you to kind of categorize a lot of blues, I think and it’s a skill that you’re going to need to know whether you do, kind of, work backwards in time like I did and head to the early, you know, sort of, founders of the blues, of the style and get into the ragtime. It helps to have that basic twelve-bar blues framework and, like we were talking about before, we immediately start talking about one chord, four chord, five chord and so we, kind of, bring in some of that musicianship at a very early point even through something like twelve-part blues.

Christopher: Awesome, and I love the point you made before, too, about how, you know, blues is one of those few, kind of, genesis genres in a lot of ways. Like, you can trace a lot of modern music back to the blues in one way, shape or form and so I think the point that you just made about understanding the twelve bar and understanding the music theory behind it, you know, that’s going to empower you even beyond the blues, I think.

John: I think so and, you know, even if you move through the twelve bar blues and you decide that you want to do more, great, but I think that that will help you. Yeah, I view it as a, kind of, springboard or a launching pad into the blues but, like you just said, I think it gives some of those basic, fundamental elements that can help you no matter where you go.

Christopher: So you were immersed in blues and this passion was clearly growing in you. At what point did you decide you were going to start Blues Guitar Institute and help teaching other people these things?

John: Well, I think that the site’s been around for seven years. A fun little side fact, I bought the domain the day before my daughter was born so I always know…

Christopher: That’s fantastic.

John: …yeah, so I always know how old the site is but I think I knew that I had to go deeper myself and then I had this love for this music and I was also listening to these folks that were never in the pages of my guitar magazine of the month, you know, and I just felt like, “Hey I want to share this stuff and bring it to other people and what I started finding is, I think, more people knew about the older generation of blues than I thought in the beginning so now we’ve, kind of, created this really cool community of people and just today even somebody mentioned a blues picker and I’m like, “I’ve never heard of that person,” you know, so it’s such a diverse sort of landscape when it comes to the artist that I just, I like being sort of in the middle of it and sharing what I know and then also being on the receiving end of some really cool recommendations for music.

Christopher: Awesome, and there was one bit in the description of BGI that really jumped out at me and resonated and I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this. You were talking about how there was a tipping point for guitar players where you’ve learned all the pentatonic scales and blues scales as everyone else but you don’t know what to do with them. You can’t use them in a jam setting or you always sound the same with them and you talk about BGI helping people break past that plateau. I’d love to hear how you do that, like, what’s different from the traditional technique-focused training that just gets you to that plateau and frustrates a lot of people?

John: Well, I think one way that I try to accomplish that is, you know, I take little bits and pieces of things and one of my most popular lessons here is called “Microlicks,” and so it’s just a set of, like, three or four notes that you play in a certain way. You can pick it up really quickly but it sounds really bluesy. Then we start straining the microlicks together and then we start, kind of, plugging it into a twelve-bar blues and then we say, “Okay, well, now you can take this and alter it this way and that way and now you create something of your own,” and all the while kind of referencing where we’re playing from a blues scale, where we’re hitting that flat 7 where we’re doing, you know, those types of things and so I think it kind of, you know, reinforces maybe some of, maybe not reinforce but sort of brings to light, maybe, some of the scale tones, the important ones that maybe they already know.

Christopher: Interesting, and you talked, too, about practicing smart and I’d love to hear what you mean by that. What are people doing if they’re not practicing smart already?

John: Well, then they’re practicing like I used to practice which is, you know, we’re guitarists, like, we do, we love those loud, crazy sounds or, you know, figuring out how to tap and do that kind of stuff so, you know, we can really get lost in noodling a lot, you know, and by that I just mean kind of fruitlessly wandering around the fretboard and I think when I say practice smart I really mean, like, sit down with some intention and I think it’s okay to build in some free time and some fun time into your time with the instrument. I think you have to do that, really, to kind of remain connected and really want to keep going, you know? It can’t all be work, right? You’ve got to have some fun along the way but sitting down with a goal and deciding that I want to work on this technique or I want to really understand, you know, this bit of harmony or how to play this chord and actually progressing through it. Not that you’re going to get there in one session but that you’ve got a goal and you stick to it until you get there.

Christopher: Interesting, and is that something you help people with at Blues Guitar Institute or just, kind of, an embodying principle behind it all?

John: Well, I hope it’s an embodying principle but we do try in the courses to make it, sort of, known what that goal, what that end goal, is and as people progress lesson by lesson, hopefully, by the end, if you’ve stuck with it, whether you need to stick on one part longer or breeze through something that you already know, hopefully by the end you’ve focused on something and that’s the goal of the course and, ideally, you accomplish that goal.

Christopher: Fantastic. Well, there have been lots of really interesting ideas in this conversation and I just want to wrap up by saying a big thank you for joining us on the show today. If someone watching or listening is a guitarist and wants to get more into blues or develop their blues playing further, where can they go to learn more about Blues Guitar Institute?

John: Well, the website, bluesguitarinstitute.com and then the Youtube channel. There’s a lesson, a free lesson coming out every Tuesday so you can check that out at youtube.com, Blues Guitar Institute.

Christopher: Fantastic. Well, you know, I’ve so enjoyed learning more about the site and your teaching. I’ve admired you from afar on YouTube but I think understanding more of what goes into each of your lessons and what’s going on behind the scenes at BGI is just fantastic and I really applaud the way you’re drawing together the musicianship as well as the instrument technique. I think that’s definitely the way forwards. So, a big thank you for joining us on the show today, John.

John: Well, thank you for having me, Christopher. I appreciate it and I appreciate what you’re doing and I’m just happy to be here. Thank you so much.

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