To explain how this video came about from the beginning, I’d have to go back to my near-disastrous debut with the Boston Pops which was saved by emergency musical intervention — and that’s a story I’ll tell you sometime — but in short, the lesson I learned was: when you’re doing something new in public for the first time, get as much hands-on training as possible in advance, from an expert.

So when I found out a few months ago that I might be touring with one of the world’s greatest living rock guitarists this fall [see my blog “I’m gonna be in a rock band!“],  I remembered that Berklee Music Online  actually has a 12-week course in the guitar techniques of Steve Vai  … who happens to be the actual legendary rock guitarist I’ll be touring with.

This kind of luck doesn’t come along every day.  So it was a no-brainer for me to sign up for that class – (plus I’m a fan of  Berklee Music and wouldn’t even be blogging but for one of their courses) –  but first I had to find out if instructor Scotty Johnson, who designed the Vai course, was open to me taking his rock guitar curriculum on harp.

And he was!  (Thank you Scotty!!)

So I joined a group of Vai-hungry guitarists from all over the world for 12-weeks of intensive Vai-ness.  And, frankly, I would recommend any musician take this course. 

Why?   Vai, being who he is, is very transparent about how he does what he does — so the lessons are revelations about everything from musicality to practice techniques.  

That’s already very cool, but then Scotty Johnson took the next step of taking Vai’s ideas and breaking them into bite-size exercises we can integrate, and into homework assignments that are challenging but not hopelessly daunting.  Translating those ideas to another instrument is just an added creative exercise – and there’s no wrong answer for how I do that!

So the course is a combination of meta-ideas about music, practice, focus and mindset  – plus very practical technique training: That sweet combination of big ideas with small steps for integrating them into your life.

And my big challenge every week is to figure out how to take those techniques and translate them to my own instrument so I can submit the homework – as we all do – as an MP3.

But a couple of weeks ago I realized that my classmates had no idea how I was creating the sounds on my MP3s, so I made this 60-second video to show them how I actually played Week 4’s homework … then I added a little intro to put it in context:

Let me know what you think!  Meanwhile I have homework to do!


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