Welcome to a new Monday email with 3 random thoughts on all things guitar, music, and life, including thoughts on the benefits of grades, the importance of listening back, and why simple still beats complex.

Here we go…


#1 – ‘Alternative grades’

Back when I used to teach students in person full time, a good chunk of them disliked the idea of doing grades.

I could totally see why, and I was never one to push graded exams on people.

Far from it.

My take was and always is, “If you want to do your grades, that is great and I’ll of course help you.”


…But although most students were not interested in grades, many loved the idea of how the grade system worked and how powerful the structure of it was.

I.e., for grade 1, you’d need to learn a simple scale, a few chords, a small amount of theory, and a little more stuff.

Grade 2 would take this further.

The grades were useful, but they had their drawbacks, including no focus on songs, complex aural exams, the need to read music, etc.

So, what I would do is adapt the grade system and make my own light-hearted version.

It worked really well.


…And lately, I’ve been thinking of some cool ways to bring this idea to my online world of tuition.

…And unlike the sometimes “stuffy” grades, it is going to be a lot of fun while giving you a whole lot of super solid structure and clear goals to aim for.

Plus, at the end of it, you won’t just get a certificate, but something very special too.

I’ll share more on this soon.


#2 – Listening back

When I prep new lessons for the Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy, I usually sit down, write the parts, create the audio for the lesson, and save it in Guitar Pro.

A little while after creating the tracks, I go back to them with ‘fresh’ ears.

Each time I do, I learn something new about the piece I have created.

This happened last week.


A while back, I created a couple of 12-bar blues jams for the October lessons.

One was very simple.

One was more complex.

Which one did I prefer when I listened back?

No doubt about it – the simpler one.


It sounded melodic, exciting, and is pretty easy to play.

Those are great criteria I try to hit with every arrangement or piece of music I create.

It’s easy to forget, but you can’t get away from the fact that simple often works better than complex, and this brings me on to my next point…


#3 – No listener ever cares how complex something is to play

Back in the day, when I was starting to get decent at guitar, I wanted to learn more and more complex stuff.

I was studying and playing around with harmonic minor scales, the Phrygian mode, minor 7b5 chords, and more stuff like that.

All of these things have their place in music…

But one reason I was learning these things was because it made me feel a little smart.


In actual fact, it was not all that smart.

A good example from that time was when I was playing these fancy things on the guitar while relaxing at home with a girlfriend.

She was just chilling, playing a computer game, and she didn’t look up once when I was playing the complex stuff.

…But when I jammed a couple of simple chords with a nice groove.

…She quickly looked up, and with a small smile in the corners of her mouth, said something along the lines of how cool it sounded.


I was thinking, “What! That was just a boring old major and minor chord! How can that sound so good compared to the Dorian mode!”

Well, she was a music lover, but she wasn’t a musician, so she didn’t care one bit for the fancy-Dan stuff!

Deep down, I knew she was right.

That was a simple lesson which highlighted that it doesn’t matter how complex something is, what matters is you enjoy the sound of it and you love playing it.


Anyway, I hope you enjoyed those three random thoughts.

If you want more help from me, then you might want to check out the Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy.

On the 1st of October, I’ll be releasing some exciting new lessons, including the blues piece mentioned above.

But you don’t have to wait until then to begin…

If you join today, you can get started with the ‘Kickstarter’ lesson, which is a short video that will show you 7 of the most important things you can do to fix bad habits and sound more musical starting today.

Here’s the link to find out more about the academy:

The Dan Thorpe Acoustic Academy


Have a great week ahead!

Dan Thorpe

Guitar Domination


P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.

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