The symbol for shoshin.

Photo by Robert Boni

Undoing the belief that mastery is the goal can enable you to truly unleash your creative potential.

The great Zen master Shunryū Suzuki once said, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s, there are few.” Reflect for a moment on how we spend the majority of our lives constantly accumulating, winnowing, and refining, with the majority of our efforts geared towards attaining greater and greater efficiency through massive repetition, which in turn deeply ingrains habits. This is considered to be the path towards mastery. But it is also the path towards fewer and fewer choices, an unconscious reliance on those ingrained habits (the good and the bad), and diminishing creativity.

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Photo by Franco Monsalvo

Open-string licks, hand-wrenching bends, blazing double-stops, and much more.



  • Learn how to incorporate outside notes to a Mixolydian scale.
  • Understand how to phrase in both traditional and modern country settings.
  • Create a deeper vocabulary over dominant chords.
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How many times are you paralyzed by the sheer number of options you can play over a dominant chord? It’s probably one of the only chords where nearly anything works if you land correctly. One of the most common sounds to use is the Mixolydian scale, which is simply a major scale with a lowered 7. But let’s add on to this sound by expanding our musical Mixolydian palette with a few blue notes and some chromatic embellishments.

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With a few minor fingering adjustments another world of musical expression can be unlocked.



  • Look at the pentatonic scale in a new light.
  • Understand how to navigate diagonally across the fretboard.
  • Use this newfound knowledge to create more musical phrases.
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Likely the first melodic device any improvising musician learns is the pentatonic scale. It’s a simple pattern to learn on guitar, it’s easy to play, and it always sounds “correct.” It contains mostly the “good” notes and usually you don’t need to think too much about which notes to avoid. What’s not to love? After a while, however, a certain sameness begins to emerge, and one begins to wonder, “Is there something more here?” Well, it has much more to offer than what you see on the surface.
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