My Journey to the Foundation Modules

The WARRENMUSIC Series is launched.

My origin story

My first musical memory came in pre-school. I was three years old. There was a piano in the hallway, and someone was playing it. Between activities, I wandered through the hall and found myself standing there, mouth open, totally enthralled. My tiny brain tingled with fascination and wonder. The music had power over me. I eventually begged my parents for piano lessons. And at six years old, these lessons were the beginning of my identity as a music maker.

But there were twists and turns in the journey: I struggled with sight-reading sheet music. Teachers would stress the importance of it over my ear, and I eventually quit piano.

My parents then enrolled me in a choir where I was exposed to four-part harmony and opera. But I only had so much of an appetite for the classical music of Western Europe. When it came to the academic canon of what constituted Music, I noticed a growing disconnect between me and the music I was learning as teachers the class on the Mozart/Bach/Beethoven path.

Other genres caught my ears: I took a year of jazz drum lessons, and started to teach myself folk guitar and gospel bass. I joined a gospel choir in college, and got re-acquainted with piano, trying my best to emulate various musical idols along the way.

But I was thankful for my institutionally-acquired skills: I was taught to count and clap, and introduced to solfège. Both skills, especially in conjunction, enabled me to follow the music I actually wanted to learn more closely. I also eventually came to see these fundamental listening skills–also known as beat awareness and relative pitch–had become the engine behind my becoming self-taught.I could predict what sounds would come from the frets and strings of a guitar before I played them. I could visualize the patterns in the drum grooves I wanted to replicate.

I still felt safer playing the music of others but upon discovering more “alternative” or “indie” music, especially a small band out of Oxford called Radiohead, and I was finally motivated to come out of my fearful shell. And so I started a band, and began making covers and tutorials on YouTube.

People got something out of my tutorials, and I was beginning to operate out of a place of deep conviction: “If I can do it, then so can others!”


YouTube: 2007

Look at that hair...

My channel grew steadily. I still remember when we crossed 9000 and I could finally post the Dragonball Z meme.

Couchsurfing and VOX

The channel opened doors I never could have imagined, from meeting my YouTube followers in places all over the world to private lessons via Skype (in pre-pandemic times!) and being interviewed and featured for my music analysis.

As my musical self was emerging, it slowly dawned on me that my YouTube audience was having a very different experience from my private students. Not everyone had a teacher to help them cultivate these skills I found so empowering. And for even a subset of those, some were certain they were incapable of developing them. To learn to hear, identify, understand, and interpret sound, to parse the wiggly air, and make sense of it would be the domain of the experts, surely not me! For these people, their relationship to music would only grow one guitar tab, one piano songbook at a time. I felt I was in a position to do something about that.

This became the crucial step of my own journey I focused the content of my series on, the step I believed everyone could take–to go from frustrated enjoyer of music and functional musician to active observer and fluent musician–that step deserved a series and a home on the web. A place where people could address the acquisition of beat awareness and relative pitch, and what comes after. Without insisting on sight-reading, and enabling us to go beyond beyond single songs as a community.

The fundamental skills that sharpened every musical impulse I had weren’t mine to hoard, but to be shared. And standard notation, something I knew I wasn’t alone in struggling with, would never be an exclusionary obstacle.

In 2012, I began thinking about what it might look like to help people play by ear. Three years later, I announced it and got to work.

I wish I could say the rest of the journey was smooth. Once I had figured out my calling, or something like that, I just powered through and slew every obstacle in my path. It’s more like I limped past the finish line. It was difficult, isolating, and it nearly broke me. I saw all of my worst tendencies for perfectionism and avoidance come out. I lacked executive functioning. I wasn’t able to draw boundaries. I finally understood how much emotional labor it required to birth it one day when I read a book about food and I wept from simply reading the book’s acknowledgments section, where the author thanked his family, friends, and editor. I also strangely felt like I understood George R. R. Martin:


I couldn’t have done this on my own, though. I had so much help. I owe huge thanks to Kevin who volunteered with the Melody and Harmony Modules, my friend and developer named Josh who I bounced so many ideas off of at so many steps along the way, my patient and supportive wife who bore with me, and a community both IRL and online. It is absolutely insane that I got to this point. And now…

Now there is room for what comes next.

Today, I am proud to announce the launch of The WARRENMUSIC Series: Foundation Modules.

Getting the Most out of Private Lessons

I’ve been teaching private lessons for 14 years. I’ve been a student of music for longer. I’ve taught guitar, bass, drums, piano, and voice. I’ve been in jazz bands, rock bands, church choirs, and Italian operas. I have studied western and world music theory, electronic music composition, recording and mixing, songwriting, and arranging. And through all of these things, what I have found most rewarding in my relationship to music is not the time spent learning any single instrument, style, habit, or from any one book, teacher, or method, but in an earnest devotion to something bigger… and that is Musicianship.

What is Musicianship?

Musicianship is a word that summarizes some big ideas: fluency in the language of music theory, a good handle on a primary instrument, a posture of active engagement with the music around you, but above all, a special level of attention paid to your own musical expression. The result of Musicianship is a quiet confidence, knowing that in any musical situation, you know who you are and you know what you can do musically.

Musicianship does not come passively, obviously. It must be developed with intention. It comes long in more concrete ways with a teacher. But the bulk of the development does not happen in the lesson. It happens at home, in your own room when no one else is watching. It takes place in the application, the wrestling, the continual journey of musical self-assessment. It is a fluid process more than it is a fixed goal. With that said, there are real habits to implement, real world markers, tests, and accomplishments to be observed along the way.

Classical training vs. being self-taught

I started with one foot in the classical world, and another in being self-taught. So I can relate to students with backgrounds in both academic and informal music education settings.

I know firsthand the experience of having my musical aptitude judged according to my ability to sight-read sheet music. I know the frustration of going through tabs only to find out how little there was to be gleaned about  music in general from them. I also know the value of learning music I love, and the deep kind of solitude and even feelings of inadequacy that come up when learning it when no tab, tutorial, or sheet music is there to rely on.

But what has kept me hungry and interested in developing my musicianship long-term was finding ways to make the music I loved somehow belong to me, ways to internalize it and make it my own. At different times that was the music of this composer, this song, this particular version of this song, this artist, this band, this album, style, this tradition, this instrument, or this method. Sometimes I had formal instruction (classical piano, jazz drums, choir, ear-training, music theory), and other times I have had to direct my own learning (I am self-taught guitar, rock drums, bass, non-classical piano, voice, music transcription, Ableton Live, synthesizers).

Each area of study has become a footnote in my journey; the depths to which I dove into each has become ingrained in my musical identity in some way. And a healthy kind of obsession was sparked with each new discovery and period of crazed devotion; I knew it was healthy when it energized my love of the craft, and made me want to come back to it over and over again. To this day I can name songs which have become personal unicorns (songs I keep chasing even if I know I can never get there)! But it isn’t about achieving what my favorite artists have achieved, at least not in any specific way. I may never accomplish what Eric Clapton, The Eagles, U2, Jars of Clay, Buddy Rich, Jaco Pastorius, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pedro the Lion, Derek Webb, Dave Matthews, Radiohead, Bon Iver, The National, Grizzly Bear, James Blake, and Jai Paul have accomplished. But what I can do is internalize something deep about the music I love, make it my own, and allow that to inform the music I make, and take steps to put my musical expression out there.

On developing Musicianship:

All of this is made possible with a combination of three important parts: good habits, musical transcription, and a sober presumption that Musicianship is a process. Dedicate yourself to this process (more below) and trust that results will come–whether you see an immediate payoff or experience longer periods without a breakthrough–by putting in the work and learning to find the reward within the work is the true goal. The reward that comes from this Musicianship pursuit is one of the rare things in life that are not for anyone else, for school, nor for work… but for you.

Good habits include:
  • having a comfortable space that is devoted to making music, with good headphones, an audio source, and your instrument(s) easily within reach, i.e. not inside its case or locked in a closet
  • setting aside a reasonable amount of time 3-5x weekly of making music at a high level of focus. Try 10-15 minutes three times a week to start (there is no need to play the same song for four hours at a time… this is how you flame out)
  • listening to new music, old music with new ears, or fresh re-interpretations of old music
  • paying attention when live music is happening around you
  • noticing what you like and dislike about the music happening around you
  • writing your own music: fragments of ideas, fragments you eventually assemble into larger cohesive musical expressions you find satisfying (songs, instrumental pieces, works for other creative projects, etc.)
  • recording yourself playing, listening back, and identifying areas for improvement
  • breaking down difficult sections into manageable, bite-sized pieces, and repeating those difficult sections until they are as smooth as the easy sections
  • for improvisation: playing over chord changes once, re-writing/tweaking here and there, scrapping bits of it, replacing/upgrading those bits, and repeating this entire process many, many times until you are satisfied, and when you aren’t satisfied, going for a walk, coming back, and repeating it again.
  • putting it out there in some way, either via uploading it, or sharing it with someone else whose musical opinion you respect and who respects you for the purposes of accountability and/or perspective
Musical transcription is:
  1. recognizing what’s happening in the melody, harmony, and rhythm of the music you’re studying (ear-training)
  2. understanding the ideas that are in the music but also bigger than any one song (music theory)
  3. writing it down so you don’t forget it, you can analyze and interpret it, gain deeper levels of insight, and make it your own. I have developed a system for myself and my students which I believe is optimal for learning transcription. It is based on the Time Unit Box System, Moveable Do, and Roman Numeral Chord Analysis, and it is called the WARRENMUSIC Grid. More on that below.
The simple (but not easy!) three step process I rely on when it comes to developing Musicianship is:
  1. listening to and learning how to play music you love note-for-note,
  2. breaking it all down, gleaning insight from it, thinking about what musical ideas are in it, and recognizing what musical ideas are in it but also bigger than the song itself, and ultimately,
  3. re-contextualizing it (doing something new with it). This can be through a cover of a song you love but done in a way that honors what is in the original but does not copy superficially, or through an theory exercise prompted by creative constraints taken directly from the original song or multiple songs, or through some other kind of remix or re-framing of the original music.

In private lessons, I personally guide you through any/all of this.

While I take my active role in your journey seriously, the greatest truth I want to impart is a deep security in the knowledge that, above all, the investment you make in your own Musicianship is the main thing. And it will never let you down. Making music is a lifelong pursuit. Not only will you never reach the bottom, you will never regret developing your own musicianship.

Standard Notation–which is now ubiquitous in music programs everywhere as well as the jazz and classical worlds–was invented a few hundred years ago as a way to help composers more efficiently and effectively convey detailed technical instructions to performers who were part of a tradition of music based in Western Europe. It did the job it was made for beautifully. But despite its prevalence, it is not without its problems. Standard Notation relies on esoteric symbols and italian words to be decoded, as well as time signatures that don’t mean what they say, a small number of the many pitfalls that come from inheriting a system increasingly unfit for the needs of students of music today. As popular music is increasingly written, performed, and produced by different communities of people with different musical priorities, and music production methods are increasingly electronic, synthesizer, sample- and software-based, and in bedrooms, attics, and basements rather than symphony halls, why is Western European Classical Notation still called “Standard Notation?”

Tabs and YouTube tutorials have become the de facto Internet standard of learning the guitar. With someone showing you where to put your fingers or fixed-width fonts to help keep things orderly, it’s never been a better time to learn guitar, with regard to access. But when the tutorial ends, or in the event that the tab is inaccurate/doesn’t exist for the song you want to learn, progress usually stops as well. Because no matter how good the tutorial or tab is, as long as the primary focus of these formats is on what our fingers are doing on the fretboard, specific to only that one song, any musical features and ideas within them remain hidden. Musical concepts and principles are even farther away. Nothing is generalized, everything to be gained is limited to one riff, one section, and one song. Learning a new song via tab or tutorial is an entirely new undertaking each time, and any advancement in recognition or appreciation of musical ideas (ear-training and music theory) is shallow. Because tabs promote a visual, paint-by-numbers approach to the guitar, they do so at the expense of furthering Musicianship.

What we need is a theoretically instructive, listener-centric alternative for our modern purposes. Enter, the WARRENMUSIC Grid.

The WARRENMUSIC Grid, based on the Time Unit Box System, is intuitive, fast, modular, and communicable. Embracing cipher notation (Scale Degrees) as a means of introducing relative pitch, and chord numerals to make chord progressions and harmonic analysis easier, the WARRENMUSIC Grid is my attempt to bridge the gap between the best of the music theory of the Western European Classical tradition, world music theory, and the new music of today.

The Grid isn’t just for students. It’s for me, too. It’s how I learn new songs, and how I share what I learn in a digestible way with others. It’s one of the reasons I was able to learn and teach Radiohead songs on YouTube the day they came out.

If nothing else, TUBS is simple, and unassuming. It is more universal, as both seasoned musicians and beginners can grasp it intuitively. Scale Degrees can be replaced with note names, Chord Numerals with chord names, and the system is flexible enough to accommodate any kind of music.

And now that you are taking lessons from me, it’s all yours.

“It’s all yours.”

I’ll finish this with a personal anecdote I come back to again and again. It’s the story about a guitarist and songwriter named Derek Webb, and specifically the three fingerstyle songs he wrote when he was a member of a popular Christian folk/rock band called Caedmon’s Call.

The friend who introduced me to one of these songs on a burned CD had surmised that they were all played by one man. But the first time I heard these intricate fingerpicking techniques, melodic motifs, unusual chord voicings, rubato, modulations, and harmonics, I was flummoxed. “How…?” I thought.

I discovered the next two of these three songs buried deep in the tracklisting of some obscure unreleased, fan club only CDs called The Guild Collection: “Down Around You,” “Seagull Song,” and “Revelation.” Since this was the early 2000s, I had scour eBay for them and have them shipped to my college dorm room.

At the time, I was in my first year at UCLA, and a teacher asked everyone to transcribe a song note-for-note to the best of our ability for our world music theory class. I chose one of these songs, and that choice led me down a very unexpected path.

What happened over the next week or so were hours at a time spent in an aural world where nothing existed but the song I was trying to figure out. There was no, there was no YouTube, there was no piano/vocal/guitar songbook, no instructional DVD. At first, I thought I had set myself up to fail. Later, I realized, I set myself up to succeed. I put myself in a corner where the only way out were my ears and my understanding of what I was hearing.

The first song frustrated me until I figured out the tuning. DGDGAD. Wow, what an unusual tuning, I thought. But from then on, the whole thing gained steam. I learned not just the first song, but the other two as well. I learned them note-for-note. I learned every hammer-on, double pull-off, broken chord, and key change.

I played these songs for months, each round of with more detail, more nuance. Eventually, it became impractical, with only one guitar, to tune back to standard tuning every time I wanted to play a “regular” song. I had signed up to play guitar for church, and these songs were all in common keys like C, G, D A, E… and so I thought to myself, instead of tuning back to standard tuning every time and risking my strings breaking, why not just stay in DGDGAD and learn how to play families of chords in this new tuning instead?

I learned more about how the guitar works over that time period–how to apply the sounds in my ears and in my head to the fretboard–better than ever before.

Fast forward nine years, when I was deciding what to share next with my audience on my young YouTube channel, I pulled these three songs out of the closet and dusted them off.

Play Video
Play Video
Play Video

The reception upon my uploading of these covers was mild. My Radiohead tutorials and covers had garnered much more attention, especially since my early series of videos on In Rainbows made me “the Radiohead guy” for most of my subscribers.

But one day out of the blue, Derek Webb left me a comment on my video. The Derek Webb himself. Apparently, a fan of his and his band Caedmon’s Call had stumbled upon one of my covers and pointed them out to Derek himself on Twitter.

He wrote this on the video page:

“i am BLOWN away by this. no idea how you found, let alone learned this song. but i’m sure i couldn’t play it anymore. so it’s all yours. very well done.”

And this on Twitter:

Unless I read the first comment wrong… he made me the honorary writer of the song. Which is absolutely nuts. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine an artist I looked up to saying this to me. Similar to the recent movie about The Beatles’ music disappearing from the universe, and only one singer/guitarist remembered their catalogue, a similar scenario happened to me. One artist forgot how to play his song, and I honored it as closely as I could. In 2001, I had approached these songs as if I were making them mine, and then it literally (or figuratively?) happened.

I don’t dare to hope for this to happen to me again. I still hope Derek Webb plays the song again one day. But the important lesson I learned that day was a confirmation of something I knew all along… that the value was the work. What I put into those songs–the time invested in hyper-focused ear-training and technique, the little space I turned into my sacred guitar cave (my dorm room)–all of that work would not go to waste. Even if Derek Webb never saw the covers, all of that work would still have value. I later connected with him on Facebook, and he shared more words of praise for me. But what I came away with was so much more valuable than the words… it was the awareness that it’s the quality of the time spent in your music cave that matters more than anything, and that is when all of the music you learn becomes yours.

OK Podcast

Since my last video interview with Prof. Brad Osborn (check that out here in case you missed it), I’ve been blocking out the noise and working hard on the Rhythm Module, a video course that introduces ear-training and music theory — a.k.a. musicianship — as it relates to Rhythm. It’s the third part of a three-part series (following the Melody and Harmony Module) that explores ways to build a lifelong bridge that connects The Music We Love with The Music We Make. Stay tuned for when that drops!

Today, I’m writing to share something I managed to squeeze into my incredibly tight schedule, which vacillates between dreading the release of my video series and complaining about the weather here on the East Coast: an appearance on “OK Podcast” by Sean Perrin of Clarineat.

Sean is a great interviewer with crazy podcasting experience as his other podcast on the clarinet has proven (it has listeners in 90 countries), and it shows. He’s also a huge Radiohead fan, and I was thoroughly amused to hear that he learned a few Radiohead songs from my tutorials.

So when he asked me to be the inaugural guest on his new podcast, I was super hyped and honored. Going at this YouTube thing now for 10 years plus, these kinds of things are still unreal to me (that people read and watch and listen to something I am shouting into the Void). But then I remember that, yeah… this passion we have for music connects us to something bigger than ourselves. Duh. Still pretty unreal, though.

Sean breaks down all of the topics we touched on in the podcast’s blog entry. Go check out OK Podcast and show him your support if you dig it!

“Lift” by VERYDEADLY feat. Warren Lain

A timely tribute given Radiohead’s upcoming OKNOTOK, a 20th anniversary commemorative album that promises the unreleased cult-favorite, “Lift.”

I rarely make music with other people.

“What? You totally did a few with your buddy Brian.” Yes. But he’s a childhood friend.

“You had a band.” Yes, and it was awesome. But so weird for me at the same time. And it really sucked when we disbanded. It troubled me for years. That was a rare group and a really interesting season of my life.

“But what about that Bon Iver cover with Vincent?” Have you seen Vincent? The dude is really chill. Huge props to him. But me? I was on edge the entire time.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me. Or maybe you can relate. But here are a few random facts about me you probably didn’t know:

  • For someone who likes to play guitar a LOT, I don’t enjoy playing “Wonderwall” or “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” “More Than Words” is okay.
  • For someone who likes to improvise, I am very uncomfortable with the idea of a jam session. Getting together with some other dudes casually while I pour out my heart musically is not my idea of fun.
  • For someone who is very outgoing, friendly, and confident in my own musical expression, I feel really weird performing in front of others, or even releasing my own music. (I don’t like being in the room when other people listen to my stuff.)

Making music — with sincerity — is a really private area of my life. I have a strange relationship to it. Am I the only person like this? I somehow doubt it…

So when Joel (a.k.a. VERYDEADLY) reached out to me a few months ago and asked me if I’d be interested in contributing to his cover of Radiohead’s “Lift,” I was skeptical.

I mean, who covers “Lift” and gets away with it? Naturally, the song choice had me intrigued: an unreleased Radiohead cult favorite, I knew a proper cover of such a beautiful song was, inherently, a tall order.

So I took a deep breath and clicked. And I’m so glad I did.

When I actually listened to it, I immediately realized that Joel possessed rare talent, as both a brilliant musician and a gifted songwriter/producer in his own right.

In a most serendipitous turn of events, we both learned that Radiohead themselves would finally be releasing their long-awaited studio version of “Lift” as well. I mean… talk about timing!

So it is our sincere hope that you’ll enjoy our little tribute in advance of what is sure to be a very cool, global listening party for Radiohead fans.

Huge credit to Joel for this beautiful track (on which I played only a small role), and for considering me in the first place.

And without further ado, I present to you:

A Sober Self-Assessment

Motivation, Musicianship, and Being Holistic About It.

This was taken from the 20th or so video I filmed for my recent cover and topical video on Radiohead’s “Videotape.”

Some days, I just get into a funk. I start to feel very un-motivated. When this happens for too many days in a row, I start to stress out, thinking about how little I’ve accomplished. Then, when I begin to look at my next task, I just shut down (even when the task is a small one). Simple challenges feel convoluted and impenetrable. And there I am. Stuck.

Call it anxiety, depression, frustration, writer’s block, procrastination, whatever you like. We all know the feeling. Anyone with a goal or hobby does.

Maybe you’ve experienced it while learning guitar, or writing a song, or recording an album. We know these pursuits are worthy of our efforts and time… but sometimes, we just get overwhelmed.

I’ve been in this place many times. Most recently, with numerous failed attempts at covers, challenges in the production of the WARRENMUSIC Series, and even the simple act of getting through the day in the wake of monumental changes in my personal life (I got married and moved across the country). Each of these things took an emotional toll, and together, molehills quickly became mountains.

I got the old band (Phonofield) back together. Ellen sang backing vocals!

I’ve seen it in my students, too. They get down on themselves after flubbing a few notes or chords, as if it were a mark on their character. They beat themselves up when they can’t finish writing a new song, and start to backpedal on their intention to write new material. They feel frustrated at themselves for “wasting” our time because they didn’t practice that week, and cancel their lessons. In the worst times, they even bail on their musical goals entirely. We usually recover and move forward, whatever it is, and quickly. But sometimes, when warranted, we go deeper; we really explore the problem, and work together to describe the real issue, the thing that’s keeping them from moving forward. And it almost always comes down to one thing: their view of themselves — the ways in which they (don’t) feel up to the task, or the ways they see the setbacks as evidence of the underlying negative view they have of themselves.

Lots of cancelations. Some of them from feeling burnt out.

I know both from personal experience and from working with students over the years that ignoring setbacks or dismissing negative attitudes does work… for smaller tasks. Writing a song with soul-baring lyrics or putting together an ambitious live set, though — or even pursuing any project that comes at significant personal cost, for that matter — is difficult work in part because it flows from the intangible depths of one’s emotional world. And so, casually brushing aside a more persistent feeling of incompetence or overlooking a pattern of getting stuck when it comes to more significant musical goals is a mistake that can even worsen the issue. Hoping to gloss over deeper issues is only natural, to be sure, but ignoring a lack of motivation only delays and deepens the problem.

What is needed is a sustainable solution. Something holistic. A sober self-assessment.

Forlorn Ambition

Last night, a student told me about a $1500 acoustic guitar he purchased on Craigslist. A vintage guitar of about twenty years, it was being sold for half its original price by a gentleman who was clearing out his garage. In his garage, there were other musical possessions he had accumulated. They seemed largely unused. When asked if there were any problems with it, the seller confessed to having picked up the guitar a total of three times for the three guitar lessons he took over the course of twenty years. He confessed that he couldn’t get over his fingers hurting and realized that it wouldn’t be as easy as he initially thought. And so the gentleman considered it a forlorn ambition, and my student became the beneficiary. When he told me this story, it struck me as one of the most sadly mundane stories I had heard about learning the guitar.

1264 guitars for sale… how many sales are the product of forlorn ambition?

Without knowing more about Craigslist Guy, I surmised that he simply didn’t have the motivation to get over the hump, and sniggered arrogantly. As a guitarist, I felt a strange mix of happiness that my student got a great deal and stab of pity for the guy who never got to experience the joy of playing guitar. But when I turned it back on myself, I had to wonder: Am I so different from this guy? When it comes to the tasks I find overwhelming, don’t I also put them aside, take a break, come back, go at it, get frustrated, stress out, and quit for a longer period?

In Search of a Solution

I’ve listened to podcasts from successful people, read fitness blogs, talked to entrepreneurs, and even consulted faith leaders in search of a more sustainable and holistic solution to the motivation problem.

I loved hearing that people who were aspiring marathon runners that struggled with motivation started their training by making their goals easy, like sleeping in their running clothes, or putting the alarm clock on the other side of the bedroom. “Yeah, that’s good stuff,” I thought.

I learned about S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely); I debated punishment vs. reward as conditioning for behavior (there was no clear winner); I made “Just Do It” and “‘Done’ is better than ‘perfect’” my motivational mantras.

I laugh at these motivational posters, then ponder their messages deeply, then laugh at them again.

I remembered another story about a fitness blogger who instructed his friend to make a donation to a hate group on his behalf if he didn’t publish a new blog post every week. “Too extreme,” I thought.

I turned to friends and asked them to hold me accountable. I tried being more transparent with customers over email. I posted publicly about my goals.

But none of these things brought relief. I would eventually fall back into the awful cycle. Productivity would grind to a standstill again. And through all of it, I found my view of myself and what I was capable of sinking under the weight of it all.

A Sober Self-Assessment

It was at this point (well, multiple points, really) that I realized that I had a big problem with how I was viewing myself.

Whenever I had a rough day of writing, I found myself wondering whether I could really accomplish this video series I had in mind. Whenever I saw that sales had slowed down, I felt myself getting hesitant about my goals, and whether they were truly attainable. Or whenever I read a negative comment on a video of mine, I noticed a sliver of doubt over whether my community could really be relied upon for support. I became less and less certain of my abilities.

Warren Lain’s identity had gotten tangled up with WARRENMUSIC.

Any perceived flub of my brand became a stain on my person. Any setback in my project made me wonder if I had aimed too high.

You would think that someone who is constantly in the business of motivating others might recognize the same problem in themselves. And you’d be wrong.

So I began to ask myself questions that I was almost afraid to ask:

Did my work suddenly change and become more difficult? Are my goals really so unattainable? Did my community, my base of supporters really desert me? Did I somehow become less capable?

The answer to these questions was a resounding, “NO.”

It wasn’t the work that had changed in my periods of high and low productivity, it wasn’t the goals that were somehow too lofty, it wasn’t a fickle community of supporters around me that had come and gone, it wasn’t that I had somehow become less capable.

By any objective measure, none of these things changed. What had changed, and changed very subtly, was my perception of myself. I found that I was in need of some sober, self-assessment.

Keep It in Perspective

I’m just one guy. But I am a unique mix: I love explaining things, I love deep analysis, I nerd out over music theory, I am passionate about making music, and it energizes me when I see the light come on for others. All of these things are true. I also struggle with deadlines and organization, I obsess over tiny details in my creative work, I find it incredibly difficult to be brief, and I go numb when looking at raw numbers. All of these things are also true.

Being fair-minded about it, I am a normal person with strengths and weaknesses. Naturally, my brand will reflect those things as well. But what can I do about my weaknesses without punishing myself for them? How can I see my weaknesses more clearly, and not regard them with suspicion, as if they make me less of a person? And how can I celebrate my strengths without getting cocky? And what can I do to structure my working habits so that they highlight them?

I’m still looking for the answers to these questions. I’m trying new things. And while I still have a ways to go, I’m encouraged… because I don’t feel stuck anymore. And I think that’s what’s different. I can draw a harder line between my setbacks/failures and who I am as a person.

Though it took a much deeper level of self-reflection, I find I am more able to move forward, and try something different. I feel more free to try out new ways of structuring my work, new ways of approaching a project, new ways of strategizing for business. Setbacks and failures are starting to lose their sting. But I am still the same music theory nerd who obsesses over details.

When the Tutorial Fades Away, Hear This

Let’s talk about your musical goals.

Everyone desires something from their musical journey.

Many of you started your musical journey by learning your favorite songs. But as you continued to progress in your skills, you began to realize you wanted more: to write your own songs, to write better songs, to improvise, or to gain more insight into the music you love, or play by ear. Some of you want to become a better bandmate, and to be more musically fluent and aware of what’s going on during band practice. Some of you want to make music more freely, jumping from musical idea to musical idea, eliciting and expressing emotion sonically, with conviction and intensity.

All of these are GREAT GOALS!

But allow me to be very direct for a moment.

The hard truth is that none of the above will happen for you if where you turn to first is a tab, a tutorial, or song-by-song lessons from a private teacher. It won’t even happen for you if you understand some things about music, but don’t have an ear for Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm to pick up on the things you’re hearing in your favorite music. It definitely won’t happen if you have an ear for Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm, but lack the musical insight to process any of it or make something new.

If any of the above describes you, it simply WON’T happen for you, unless you make a change.

The main problem with learning music today isn’t that there aren’t enough tabs, tutorials, or teachers. In fact, there are tons. And tons of great ones. I know this firsthand. I make tutorials, after all!

The problem is hoping that tabs and tutorials can do anything more than teach you single songs. They can’t. Or the problem is finding a great teacher who is affordable. Good luck…

Ask a tab to do more than teach you that one song. It can’t. Ask a tutorial to show you how to improvise the way the artist does, to play the song differently every time while retaining its essence, or give you general insights into songwriting, or how the song relates to other songs like it, or how to make the ideas in the song your own. Odds are, it can’t.

Most private music teachers would probably LOVE it if you ask them the about deeper stuff like music theory, ear-training, how to think about and how to approach music the way musicians do, how to communicate better with your bandmates, how to create new arrangements of existing songs, how to find inspiration to write music. But few of these teachers would be very affordable. I also know this firsthand.

But there’s another way: Invest in yourself.

Invest in building your own musicianship. Not in more tabs and tutorials. But in yourself.

And be smart about how you invest. If you can, sign up with a great teacher at the best value you can possibly find.

Musicians can play by ear, compose, improvise, write inspired songs, and find ways to continually grow because they did one thing above all: they prioritized the development of their own musicianship.

Start building the bridge between the music you LOVE and the music you want to MAKE.

The WARRENMUSIC Series will give you the tools you need to grow your musicianship, to train your own ear, and build your own understanding of music. Invest in yourself today.

Pre-order the Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm Modules together at a discount*.

Get ready to UNLEASH the musicianship within!

*Rhythm Module is available as a pre-order. Melody and Harmony are available for access today.

The Sidewalk Test, Revisited

WARRENMUSIC Intro Module, Episode 06 — “The Sidewalk Test”

If you recall Episode 6, which was first published back in July of 2015, it introduces what I call “The Sidewalk Test.”

In this video, I demonstrate how I play by ear, how I pull the melody, the harmony, and the rhythm out of a song… on the spot.

So what is “The Sidewalk Test,” exactly?

The Sidewalk Test is two simple things:

1) Identify the melody, harmony, and rhythm of a song without outside help
2) Reproduce it ON THE SPOT.

You pass the test if a stranger who knows the song walking down the street would recognize it as they pass by.

Would you pass the test?

If not, then today you can do something about it. You can invest in your own musicianship. Learn music theory. Develop your ear. Build up what is worth more than all the tabs, tutorials, and sheet music in the world.

You can pre-order the Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm modules now.

And until then, watch a new cut of Episode 6, now live.

The Trajectory Of the WARRENMUSIC Series

WARRENMUSIC Series Intro Module, Episode 04 — “The Trajectory Of the WARRENMUSIC Series”

Wow, we’re buzzing ahead, now three videos in. The fourth episode is now live!

Where does this series begin? How will the course content be structured? What about really strange, creative music? Will we talk about that?

In Episode 4, “The Trajectory Of the WARRENMUSIC Series,” I walk you through a visual representation of what it will look like to come along for this musicianship ride…

The vision of WARRENMUSIC, through my covers and tutorials, chord charts, and now this video series has been and always strives to be simple: to help people get more out of the music they love. This website represents the latest and greatest attempt, by providing an approach to music that helps connect the gap we all experience between the music we love and the music we make through music theory, and ear-training. In the near future, we hope to bring you an amazing ear-training and theory app to help you develop your musicianship like never before.

And here in the WARRENMUSIC Blog, it’ll be similar. I’ll be posting useful resources I find for the benefit of your ear and your insight.

All the best,

The Power Of Musicianship

WARRENMUSIC Intro Module, Episode 03 — “The Power Of Musicianship”

Episode 3, titled “The Power Of Musicianship,” is now live.

What does musicianship actually look like?

Musicianship is the difference between just regurgitating someone else’s pre-packaged instructions and making the music you love your own. It’s the difference between just following a tab or a tutorial and using your own ear and musical insight. It’s the difference between faking it and thinking/behaving the way musicians do.

In this video, I take you through a few examples of what musicianship looks like in the real world. My hope is that you’ll be inspired to go beyond tabs and tutorials, and seek out, no, DEMAND a more substantial connection between the music you love and the music you want to make.

See what musicianship can do for you! And while you’re at it, catch a snippet of a previously unreleased song from my forthcoming album…

Introduction To the Bridge

Watch Episode 2 of The WARRENMUSIC Series now:

If you recall our first video, we talked about the GAP that exists between the music we love, and the music we make. This video speaks to the BRIDGE between those two things: Music Theory, and Ear-Training.

Quickly defined, Music Theory is a language that describes the connections, patterns, ideas, and larger concepts in music across songs, albums, artists, and genres. And Ear-Training is pretty self-explanatory: it’s getting our ear to the place where we can identify what’s going on in the music we love.

When we combine the two, there is an explosion we call musicianship!

Stay tuned. We’ll soon explore exactly what MUSICIANSHIP can do for you.