Chad’s Blog

My First Music Lesson

Last night, I had my first real music lesson. I have taken a couple bass guitar lessons before, and I knew the very basics. What the name of each string on my bass guitar is named. That’s about it. E, A, D, and G.

I’ve taken just a handful of lessons before, I never stuck with them. I’ve been thinking of taking them again, as one of my themes I’m working towards and with is Performance. Four years ago, I turned 45 years old. I opened up to try the things I always wanted to, but was too afraid to.

Things like:

  • Improv
  • Standup
  • Making and sharing personal projects more consistently
  • Skiing

I studied improv comedy and performed a couple of times between 2017 and 2019. In early 2020 I studied stand up comedy and performed once. Then the world went to shit. I’ve performed that same standup set from early 2020 twice recently (outdoors). I’m hooked. What was so terrifying before - standing up in front of people and creating an experience - is now like medicine to me.

Back to the music. I realized what I’m really looking for in my bass/music study isn’t to be Flea, or Claypool, or Jaco. I’m not seeking to be a technical and creative master of the instrument. I want to learn to make music, with the bass guitar as my tool. I want to be good of course, to be able to express myself through writing and playing music. To collaborate with others to make a shared experience for ourselves, and whoever may be watching and listening.

One can draw with a pencil, pen, computer mouse (not recommended), digital stylus, or their fingers. The tool isn’t the focus. Same is true for the bass in my case. I love the sound of the bass and how it can keep harmony and rhythm going throughout a piece of music. It’s my favorite tool at the moment. But my goal is to be able to play music, with multiple tools. I’d like to get to the point where I can improvise with other performers, just like with Improv.

Luckily my teacher has a strong interest in teaching music theory and an improvisational background. So we’re a good fit, straight away. Plus he’s a friend.

I made a sketchnote of my first lesson. It helps me to remember what I learned when I get it out of my brain and onto paper. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to ask for the kind of lessons I have just started taking. I would not have the ability to do even a simple sketchnote like this. Or express all these things in writing.

What will you be able to do in five years, that you would struggle with today?

My sketchnote selfie from

Personal & team mindfulness. A sketchnote and some thoughts.

I was going to update this sketchnote digitally. To clean it up and play with some colors and lettering. Now I think I’ll just let it be. Analog is fun. This is from the wonderful book Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks.

A sketchnote from Joshua Kaufman’s “First Twenty Hours” Ted Talk.

First 20 hours

Reminder to myself

I made a Sketchnote today and you can too

This is a post about my thoughts on Sketchnotes, and an example of how I made this one today.

I learned a lot about Sketchnoting from Chris Wilson and Mike Rhode’s books. As well as many other people and places online.

I am a beginning Sketchnoter so I’d like to keep practicing to get better with layout and typography in particular. My hope is that with practice my analog versions are better in those respects so I don’t have to rely as much on the digital tools, in time.

What is a Sketchnote?

There is debate about when something is a sketchnote and when it’s an illustration. For this post, and my opinion in general is it doesn’t freaking matter.

My definition is that a Sketchnote is a visual representation of ideas. Captured and finished live in the moment, or planned out an illustrated over time. Or a combination of both. The person seeing the sketchnote probably doesn’t care how it was made. And for me, the creator, it’s a way to take notes that will resonate at a deeper level for me, and be retained in my memory longer.

My example in this article is that combination. I found a video I wanted to watch. Then:

  1. I Sketchnoted it live with pen and paper
  2. I took a picture of it with my phone to digitize it
  3. I brought it into the Procreate app on my iPad to take it further

Call it whatever you will, but that’s what I did.

More on the sketchnoting process

Front matter

Some layout decisions, and typically the “header” of the sketchnote can be made before hand. Reading the abstract of a talk you’re going to attend, or the description of the video you’re about to watch for the first time should give you clues as to what layout to use.

Here are some examples, the titles are made up.

  • “Four steps to make an awesome cake” (Your layout will likely be in four parts)
  • “The process of making a lightsaber” (We don’t know the amount of steps but we think of a chain of events here)
  • “Mindmap of the average frog” (Indicates a central topic, and connected nodes)

You can picture the layout, the title, speaker, and some other details in your mind before experiencing the event itself.

I’ve observed sketchnoters working on the Header while waiting for a talk to start for example.

Your visual library

Many Sketchnoters develop a style or styles for their work, just as artists do. Along with that it’s wise to have a visual library. Every time you have to draw the concept of any particular idea you can represent it the same way, or in a very similar way. This is useful to reduce the amount of decisions and cognitive load while in the moment of working on the Sketchnote.


Doing the work on the header and layout ahead of time, and having a visual library of concepts that you can quickly draw upon allows you to be fully present while making the Sketchnote.

Mindfulness and Sketchnoting go hand-in-hand. If you want to take these visual notes, one must set themselves up ahead of time to be fully present. Free of distractions and focused. That is refreshing!

Sketchnoting is Design Thinking

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

So, that might be a stretch as applied to Sketchnotes, but hang on a minute.

A key concept of Design Thinking are the Divergence and Convergence thinking cycles.

So reading the talk abstract ahead of time allows you to diverge to think of and create choices for layout, fonts, the header, etc.

Then when Sketchnoting, you capitalize on the items in your visual library as well as the decisions you make in the moment. That converges to create the Sketchnote.

Definition and image from IDEO

The walk through of today’s sketchnote

Here’s the final digital version again:

This is how I started. I read the talk description and set up the header. I didn’t spend too much time detailing it out, just eluded to font size and style in the header

Then I pushed play on the video and created the Sketchnote. This is the first pass, the picture taken right after the video ended. I knew there were four things, but I didn’t know what they were, or how to draw them before I started.

I knew it was going to be in four parts, just from the title. I added the small drawings from my visual library, while Sketchnoting. Although I had trouble representing step 2 (what do we need to do) and step 3 (How to achieve it / our values) right there in the moment.

So I opened a tab and went to the The Noun Project to get ideas. This is where I wound up after searching the noun project for a couple minutes

I also reflected on the notes I took, and what I remembered from the talk, and came up with the take away. This wasn’t explicitly stated by the speaker, and I omitted the really moving example he gave, simply because I couldn’t draw it in the moment. So after, I thought through what this all meant to me, and wrote the take away in my own words. For me, this is the process of moving from note-taking to note-making. It’s really powerful in my opinion.

Next I started adjusting for some font sizes:

And the last analog bit was to add some color and shadows:

I next took a picture of the Sketchnote and brought it to Procreate app on my iPad to do the digital pass. You’ve seen the end result, but here it is again, in context fo the creative process:

I didn’t take screen shots as I went through the digital creation process. If you’re curious, Procreate has an amazing feature where you can produce a video of all the work you did. Here’s that video for this Sketchnote:

Some notes:

  • I used fonts for size and placement and consistency
  • Then drew over them to make it feel a little more organic
  • I like to use a separate layer for color choices, then just grab them as I need them

You can do this!

I’m happy to hear your thoughts on Sketchnoting. I encourage you to give it a try. You don’t have to know how to draw to start!


  • It’s not about making art, it’s about representing ideas
  • Stay simple, and two-dimensional
  • It’s not about rendering it is about capturing
  • All you need is something to write with, and something to write on. Don’t get stuck on the tools

Leave a comment if you’re a fellow friend, or email me your thoughts.

Updated the initial sketchnote over lunchtime.

metacognition is being aware of your awareness when learning and practicing a new topic

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

  • Maya Angelou

Thank you, @chrisjwilson - You’ve made me feel inspired by your awesome sketchnote quotes!

Micro Challenge Quotations 💬

Progress On learning some abstractions for Sketchnotes and visual communication

Today’s 20 Second Daily Doodle…


Draw don’t shop :) Check out Black Ink Friday for more.

Just about wrapped up with 7 days to start sketchnoting from @chrisjwilson

Been a fun way to get ramped up into sketchnoting. I’ve got to clean these up, but here are my draft sketchnotes of a short ted talk called “less is more”.

2019 Week 11, Weeknotes #05

  • On Wednesday I had lunch with the team from work, and found out that one of the newer folks on the team used to work with a friend of mine. This reinforced that it is indeed a small world.
  • Improv has been going well, and I’m starting to understand that in “short form” you play pre-arranged games in scenes, where in “long form” you play scenes and arrange the games on the fly. Insert mind blowing gif here.
  • I signed up for a beta of a new Sketchnotes course and I am woefully behind. I hope to catch up this week.
  • I missed last week’s weeknotes. Doh.