Andrés. - beginner guitarist for 40 years saying Hi from Kitchener, ON Canada

Hi, my name is Andrés. I am from Cali, Colombia, but I have lived in Canada for 20 years. I live in Kitchener, Ontario (one and a half hours west of Toronto by car with good traffic).

Here is my guitar journey; hopefully my story is not longer than it should have been for an introduction to the community.

I have been a beginner guitarist for 40 years.

I remember the first two occasions that I had the opportunity to grab a guitar.

One was during a school trip to an archaeological park. There was a guitar in the lounge of the small hotel where we were camping and I started walking around the pool at night, kind of strumming it although I did not know anything about how to play a guitar.

The other one was because a cousin asked my mother to drop off a guitar to a friend of my cousin in our way home. I got in charge of holding the guitar during the short trip and I started to pluck the strings without really knowing what I was doing. From that short trip my mother got the idea of paying me some guitar lessons.

My mother convinced a retired guitar teacher friend of her to give lessons to her, my sister and I. My mother bought me through the teacher an inexpensive but good enough nylon string student guitar. I think I was fifteen at that time.

My mother liked to sing and wanted to learn how to play the guitar but she got one of her hands hurt cooking when we were starting the lessons. It was nothing permanent but unfortunately she lost interest in trying with the guitar.

My sister struggled with the size of the guitar but followed the advice of the teacher to play a Colombian instrument called tiple that is a smaller guitar shaped instrument with twelve strings grouped in four tripled courses. It is played mostly strumming.

We received lessons for about two years until I finished high school and went for the mandatory military service and also for a short period after my military service. We had with us in the lessons the son of a neighbour of the teacher and later also a high school classmate.

The classes were traditional Colombian and Mexican songs. The teacher played the melody using the bandola, a Colombian style mandolin, and we, the students, played the accompanying rhythm part. We had the lyrics and the chords written by hand in our notebooks. Some the songs had a finger style introduction written in chromatic scale ciphering that is a simplified tab notation. The guitar rhythms were played using a combination of main bass, secondary bass and chords played plucking the three thinner strings. One of the rhythms included arpeggios. We gave it a try to a couple of instrumental finger style pieces.

We, the students, joked that our musical group should be called “The Independents” because each one was playing his or her own piece. At the end we were not doing that bad and one day the teacher made a cassette recording of our repertoire that I still have. Here is one piece of that recording:

Feria de Manizales (Pasodoble)

I would say that I am not completely tone or rhythm deaf but I struggle with identifying notes and rhythmic patterns. I have never been able to tune the guitar by ear. Electronic tuners in the 80s were out of my budget so I had a pitch pipe tuner. Once I tuned the strings using that device and the teacher told me that all the strings were half tone above the standard tuning. Luckily the guitar survived the extra tension.

My second nylon string guitar was a birthday gift of my mother while I was taking the lessons. It was nice because I was not expecting it although my student guitar had a split top, even after being repaired, due to falling to the ground. I started opening the gift wrap and I thought that I was getting a case for my student guitar but to my surprise there was a new guitar inside. Both my guitars were from local luthiers.

My third guitar was an electric one. I am not sure of the brand. The name Teisco comes to my mind. I searched through the internet recently and some vintage Teisco ones if found look similar to that one, four knobs and two big, somewhat strange, pickup switches just below the strings in between the bridge and the neck. I bought it second hand and it was highly modified. I requested a third, supposedly distortion pickup to be removed. It was painted black with some white tape placed to resemble Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. I had it repainted all beige. Most of the time I did not play actual songs with it, just played to explore the sounds. I did not have an amp so I connected the guitar to the hi-fi that had two mic inputs and one of them had a guitar mode. I had to make my own cables for the guitar and for my Casio VL-1 mini keyboard.

My second phase of guitar learning was with the help of a magazine called “Canta Guitarra” (Sing Guitar [Sing]). Each issue included songs with lyrics and chords and one or two fingerpicked songs using the cipher method above mentioned. Each issue also included a song in English. I never mastered or memorized the songs, just played and sung them the best I could one after another for up to two hours. For some reason some of the kids of the condominium I was living liked to hang around on the ground level near the master bedroom balcony of my second floor apartment while I was playing (I could hear them below). One of them asked me for some lessons. Unfortunately not too much that I could teach him at that time but I gave him a couple of lessons anyway.

After getting busy with parenthood and having some employment setbacks that put me in Canada working seven days a week to meet ends and without a guitar, my guitar playing and learning got paused for several years.

One day my then brother in-law let me make some noise with his electric guitar and after that he and my sister gave me an Art & Lutherie Cedar GT steel string acoustic guitar as a birthday present. It is still my acoustic guitar.

About four years ago I was hanging around in a mall and I bought a Hal Leonard guitar method and started following it with a beginner’s mindset. I still have not completed Book 1 of the method but I do come back once in a while over some of the exercises for practice. This guitar method has given me a certain level of sight reading that I did not have at all before.

Three years ago my wife told me that her Christmas gift for me was an electric guitar. She did not buy it, just gave me a budget and let me look for it. After reviewing my options, I went for a Yamaha starter kit sold by Costco. There were some complains about the tone in the product comments but after checking with Yamaha that the Costco reference was equivalent to a Pacifica 012 and watching a YT video comparing a Pacifica 112 to a Squier, I went for it. So far I am very happy with this guitar.

I expanded the tone possibilities of my electric guitar with a NUX MG-200 modeller that includes also a built-in drum machine.

After getting my electric guitar, I started to look for YT videos to help me with some songs that I wanted to play. Between those videos, some Justinguitar videos started to pop up and grabbed my attention. After some hesitance, I started going to the website and finally signed up and started using the tools. I am currently at Level 8 of the Beginner Guitar Course [Classic]. My overall playing has improved a lot due to the structured practice the lessons and the tools facilitate. My progress has been slow but steady. It has not been faster just because I have not put more time on it. I am able to practice only a couple of hours during the weekend and an occasional short session during weekdays.

My breakthrough moment after practicing with the Justinguitar lessons was opening one of the Hal Leonard songbooks I had and never been able to use and taking a look to the “Yellow Submarine” tab and understanding how it could be played.

So far I can play from memory “Blowin’ In The Wind”. I have a video of my current playing and also a video compiling three previous videos of my progress. I am working on “Don’t Be Cruel” but I can only play and sing it if strumming with quarter note downs. If I try to do a strumming closer to the original record I cannot keep the rhythm and sing. I have to revisit “Yellow Submarine”.

Last December I took my acoustic guitar for a much needed setup and the playability improvement was significant. The lower action it now has, has allowed me to get a better sound with less finger pain that in turn has sped up my progress. I also bought two Justinguitar books to improve my sight reading skills and the Justinguitar/Hal Leonard “Easy Guitar Songbook”. So far I have practiced two songs of the songbook. I had never heard them before but, after hearing them a few times and practicing them a lot more times am getting a hold of them.

Nothing else for now. I expect to be as active as possible in the community.

Andrés A.


Hey Andrés, welcome to the community. Great to hear of your progress. I bought the guitar method book a few years and and before I knew it I could read music well enough to play twinkle twinkle little star. Ha. Such skill.

Keep up the great progress.

Thanks for sharing your story, Andres. Sounds like you have made good progress over the years and taught yourself well. I am sure that following Justin’s path at your own pace will be rewarding.

I enjoyed the recording you shared. Listening to cassettes with all the hiss and noise takes me back to the 80s.

Please do share the video you have of your playing. You can post a link to that in #record-yourself-progress-performance:audio-video-of-you-playing. One of the most popular and valuable sections of this Community side is that one, where we share our recordings and receive feedback and encouragement. People share from the earliest possible moment, when they know a few chords and strum a song.

Enjoy the adventure.

Great introductory write up Andrés. Welcome to the Community, glad to see you made it over here. It sounds like Justin’s lessons are going really well for you, the structured lessons and the huge number and variety of songs are great for learning. Keep playing!

Quiubo, Andrés

Greetings from Spain :grin: and welcome to the community!!

What an interesting journey you had so far. It’s great that you still have the beginner mindset to start over from basics :blush:. I struggle a lot too with singing while playing, but nothing that some consistency won’t fix.

Enjoy your progress and let us know about how are you doing with an AVOYP.


Hello Andrés
A very warm welcome to the community.
Thanks for sharing your story.
I hope you enjoy your continuing guitar journey and your time here.

What a journey Andres! Really interesting read, welcome to the community here. Look forward to you sharing your progress with us!

Hi Tony, thank you for the welcome. Yes the weakness of certain guitar methods is that you may lose steam in your desire to practice and abandon the project before achieving progress. Justin have a more friendly approach encouraging earlier to play songs, at least basic versions of them, and getting an earlier reinvigorating reward for your effort. I have not met Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (it should be in a more advanced section :grin:) but I enjoy playing the four lines of Ode to joy and three lines of Aura Lee I met so far.

Hi David, yes each brick laid is the foundation for the next and each technique, song, riff or tune learnt is a foundation for the next step. Even being able to fingerstyle Twinkle Twinkle Little Star can be at some point a huge milestone in the journey.

I am going at my own pace; whenever I am satisfied with some exercise, I move to the next. I also follow Justin’s advice of dedicating some time to just playing for fun whatever I already know how to play.

About the recording, I thought the introduction was a good place to share it as it is a station past some time ago. I had to buy a converter from cassette to mp3 and install Audacity to improve a little the quality but whoever has used a tape recorder is familiar with those characteristic sounds, including the clicking when pressing or releasing the record button.

Yes, I may post a video of me playing this weekend.

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Hi Mari, thank you for the welcome. Yes, Justin Guitar lessons and all that he has done to create a nurturing environment for learning guitar is helping me a lot in my learning. The best is that it never stops, you have always a new song to learn or a new technique to try or improve. Even someone like Steve Vai did recently a song to challenge himself with certain aspects of his playing that he was aware were not his top strength.

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Hey Andrés, welcome to the community. Great to hear about your progress you’ve made by using Justin’s course; it’s very well structured isn’t it?
Keep going with it and try to set yourself future aims to achieve, it all helps to give you enthusiasm to do it. You will get all of the encouragement, advice and support that you need from the community, we’re a pretty friendly lot!

Quiubo Edgar, thanks for the welcome. I find helpful the beginner’s mindset. It pays off. Would I have skipped the lessons about open chords I would have missed the exercises about ringing each string individually to check the quality of the sound of each chord or learning about alternate G chord positions. I listen to classic rock often but not much into playing it so far, just a couple of riffs.

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Hi Mark, thank you for the welcome.

Hi Darrel, yes, long, short term and those in between aims are important. The short ones are the joy of everyday but the long terms ones are the ones to provide the enthusiasm to overcome the difficulties of the day.

Andrés welcome to the party !

What a wonderful short introduction.

Loved that quote. :rofl: and the Pasodoble. You have some chops going on there my friend.
Glad you found Justin. In my 20 years as a beginner I went down the Hal Leonard route but decided learning to play the guitar was more important than learning to read music. Yes I was not enamoured with the score to Little Brown Jug. I mean Hal ? Get a grip.

If you are at Stage 8 of the old Classic BC you have made some good progress. As one of Justin’s students who learn via both the classic BC and the old Intermediate, I would strongly suggest once you finish Stage 9 and start working on Consolidation, visit the web site and work through the new Grade system. Grades 1 and 2 are the equivalent to the old Classic but have some added material that you had wish you had learned during the old BC - well I know I thought that going over the “new” BC. It will certainly up your game. And the currently being developed Grade 3 is an excellent bridge to the newly updated Intermediate Grades.

Whatever route you take, enjoy the ride. But don’t forget this community is here to help whenever you get stuck !



Hello and welcome to the community Andrés. :slight_smile:

That was a great read, so thank you for sharing. I loved the playing you shared as well.

Hi Toby, thank you for the welcome. Yes, Justinguitar lessons and this community provide a very motivating environment to overcome the roadblocks in the path that at some point everyone hits while learning to play the guitar. Thank you for the guidance about which route to take once completing the classic BC. I was about to throw that question to the community.

Hi Stefan, thank you for the welcome.