About

If you play by ear (like most guitarists do), how do you know where to put your fingers? Hi, I'm Kevin McFarland, and this deceptively simple question has intrigued me for decades. It has also led to a checkered past of experiments and failed startups (like "GuitarVision", circa 2002). I've worked at Google for the past 10 years but I'm still intrigued.

Guitarists learn differently (interesting research article). There's a strong visual aspect. Different shapes and patterns are moved along the neck based on the underlying key or chord. Visually at first, then musically over time, they may develop subconsciously what trained musicians are taught: intervals, and relative pitch.

The problem is, beyond chords and scales, these patterns usually don't have a name. This is where a lot of guitarists get stuck. They learn basic chords, maybe power chords or barre chords, maybe a few scales, then think: "now what?"

"Building Blocks of Rock" is an attempt to marry how guitarists think (visually) with the next step: to go beyond just simple chords and scales, and help them begin learning some of the common riffs, licks, shapes and patterns that are found in so many songs. I haven't seen anything else like it (but let me know if you do!)

It's just a start. There's a lot more work to do, like filling in the song examples (it's easiest to learn with context). Maybe even name the patterns (they're just placeholder names at the moment). Call them what you will, the name doesn't matter. Playing by ear is visual. Stay tuned! Its a work in progress.

-Kevin