mode mentality

Here are two more interesting emails I have got lately.

Both are very interesting for various reasons…


Email #1

“I have enjoyed your emails and the fingerpicking book! I have a story for you. 

This set me back and made me question why I am learning guitar. 

I have been trying now for 6 years, steady hour a day at least.  I enjoy what I am doing and feel that my playing has improved.  I am playing an acoustic guitar and strumming and learning fingerpicking. I like to strum and sing. 

I have a relative who is very good at guitar and plays jazz. He tried to help me but got me so confused talking about the different music scales, Ionian, Dorian, etc. And that I should give up the “cowboy chords” and singing and learn the scales and the associated chords so I can play without my songbooks.  Well…I just didn’t play the next day, felt hopeless. Then I thought no I play because I like it and it makes me feel good. I like to sing and strum. So, I started again. 

Your thoughts?”



My thoughts…


These. People. Drive. Me. Mad.

Not Cheryl, of course, but her relative.


This is what happens when a jazz player wants to teach a more casual player.

People like this mean well, but often cause more harm than good.

These sorts of folk often think:

“I have this method. It worked for me and my way of learning. You need to get better, I’m excited this might help, so I’ll get you learning it even though it’s probably not what you want and has zero relevance for you, especially at this moment in time.”


When put like that, it sounds silly.

…But there are lots of people who think like this (even though it’s with good intentions most of the time).

This sort of “mode mentality” of pushing intermediate and advanced stuff on beginners who just want to play songs is terrible…


In fact, I think guitar students learning from friends or others should sign a disclaimer saying:

“I promise not to bash you over the head with the guitar if you patronise or confuse me” haha

Anyway, to Cheryl, I say well done for quickly getting back on the horse.

Keep at it and glad you’re back on the right path.


Email #2

“Hi Dan, 

I have been teaching myself acoustic guitar for 5 months. This year I turn 40 so decided to get on and learn.

I don’t have a teacher as I live in Chad, Africa and there are no teachers that I know of. I was looking for a guitar podcast and found you and then looked around on your website and books. I plan to buy the Fingerpicking 101 book when I visit the UK next month.  

I would like to experiment with a different pick, as the ones I have often slide around while I’m playing. I find it much easier to hold with my thumb and middle finger, which isn’t how you are taught to hold it. Is it ok to do that or should I keep trying with my thumb and index finger? 

I have looked through the free stuff you sent and look forward to trying out those fingerpicking patterns this week. Thanks for the resources, they will be a big help.”



Ah, Chad.

That’s interesting for sure and Matt is probably the first person I know of on this email list from Chad… so welcome aboard.

(And do spread the word, I hope to hear about how Fingerstyle 101 becomes a hit when you take it there, haha).


In terms of the pick issue, you simply have to do what works for you.

Some people will hang you by your B string for even asking the question, they are such sticklers for “rules”.

…But there might be a super valid reason why this works.


Things such as the length of the middle finger compared to the index finger, the type of pick being used, a finger injury, or something else.

There are lots of possible reasons.

My general rule is that if something works, keep doing it, but always keep asking if it’s ideal, or if it can get any better, etc…

If you were a speed metal player who needs laser precision, it might be different, but if you’re a casual player who isn’t worried about a 0.1% difference, don’t worry too much – keep doing what works for you.


Anyway, for help with pick issues, strumming, and becoming a more musically rounded player, check out the paperback version of The Ultimate Guide to Strumming.

Inside you will find my most important lessons and tips on the art and science of strumming….

Get your copy of The Ultimate Guide to Strumming


…And if you have it already, I would love it if you leave a review on Amazon. You know that would mean the world to me.

Thanks, and have a great day of practice!

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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