Johnson’s piece is a borderline-insane whirlwind of speed and complexity – the perfect challenge for lead guitar aficionados or musicians in general looking to push the limits of their ability. Cliffs of Dover also serves as an excellent specific representation of the wider challenge of rapid skill acquisition and accelerated learning, which is to quickly learn anything in the shortest amount of time possible.
First Jon established an environment conducive to the process; he prepared food ahead of time, cleared his schedule, downloaded the backing track, printed out the music, and took care of his physical needs to facilitate focus and endurance.
Before even pretending to jump into the elements of actually playing COD, Jon sat down, chopped it up, and memorized it. Through the use of mnemonics, blocking, linguistic metaphors and more, he mentally acquired the song in its entirety.
The last fifteen minutes of the sixteen hour marathon were used to record performance takes. Ultimately Jon had mixed feelings about the result; on the one hand there was significant satisfaction to be had in how much progress had been made in such a short time, but relative to a “perfect” performance there remained room for improvement, particularly with the virtuosic fluidity and expression Johnson displays in his own performances.
Though perhaps the goal of a “perfect” performance after just sixteen hours of practice was audacious and the result fell short of this lofty expectation, Jon was now close enough to know that with a little more effort he could clean up the weak areas and get to a level of performance any guitarist would be happy with. He chose to push through for a few more days using the same methods of focus, discipline, and rapid skill acquisition, and by the end of the week – at the beginning of which he had zero experience with COD – he was playing it at pace, skillfully, purely from memory.