Charlie's Learning Log

Here we go! :bomb:

My background: I’m 43 and based in the UK so whether right or wrong I cannot fail to have been influenced by the Indie scene over here in the 90s and the wider Grunge style of the era. So my musical tastes have a footing in predictable artists of the time: Blur, Oasis, Radiohead, R.E.M., Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Audioslave, Sheryl Crow, The Cranberries etc.

I’m also a fan of KT Tunstall. I think she’s still really underrated and some of her newer albums have seen her stray from her more mainstream roots into something really quite special. I may also be one of the biggest Mark Knopfler fans around; what a man. I love his feel for music and his storytelling. Albums like Sailing to Philadelphia and Shangri-La are real favourites of mine.

My dad was a massive Blues and Jazz fan with an extensive collection of recordings which I’ve been lucky enough to get hold of and really it’s Blues which I have the strongest connection with and ultimately that’s the kind of playing path I aspire to follow in time. I love a bit of Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King in particular but really pretty much everything Blues-y appeals to me.

More recently I’ve got into the likes of Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile and I feel that their music also fits nicely with the sort of direction I want to go in; a sort of hybrid of folky, bluesy storytelling.

I’m going to update this thread periodically to keep me accountable and to enable me to visualise my progress. Whilst I fumbled about and learned some basics 25+ years ago, I’m starting again from scratch to erase any bad habits and establish some new good ones.

Today I have Justin’s three “Beginner” books arriving and, somewhat importantly, my first new guitar since an unwise investment in a humongous Crafter 20 odd years back (no idea where that is now, I think I gave it to a friend to “look after”). Maybe I’ll get that back once some day :laughing:


Welcome to the forum a nice looking guitar for sure. Looking forward to more contributions from you.

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Why did I go for a “travel” guitar (it’s a Taylor BT2) - because I’m short (5’ 7") and want to remove as many barriers as possible to nailing technique. I figured that a smaller body will enable me to focus more on my left hand on the fingerboard than I would be able to if I had any issues getting my right arm comfortable on a regular sized guitar.

Now I know that isn’t a huge issue in reality as I’ve played regular sized guitars before, but this is how my head is wired. I tried a couple of travel guitars in a local music shop a couple of days ago (a Martin LX1E and a Tanglewood TW9) so I knew that the sizing of these 3/4 guitars felt right, but I just wasn’t taken by their sound. You’re never going to get the same sound as from a full body but those two sounded way too bright to my ears.

So the BT2 was a bit of a punt as I didn’t get to play it beforehand and was relying on YouTube reviews to judge the tone of the guitar. And I’m pleased to say the punt was worth it. It definitely feels warmer than the ones I tried and that was exactly what I wanted, so I now have the tools I need (and that little headstock tuner is ace!) so now it’s on me to get this show on the road.


And I’m instantly learning stuff within a matter of minutes. I’ve started Grade 1 Module 1 and first learnings are:

  1. I was really sloppy with a D before and when you break it down note by note I definitely need to place my 3rd finger in a more pronounced way as it’s impacting the note from the 2nd. Lesson: Take time. Be intentional and deliberate about finger placement as it’s critical. Listen to each note; don’t just mask it by strumming the chord and hoping it hangs together.

  2. I was playing an A “wrong” in terms of finger placement. I had no clue about the idea of positioning the 1st finger in the middle of the three to enable the switch to D more easily.

This is already a big leap from my self-“taught” fumblings back in the day. Such basic stuff and so important. This is how I guess bad habits are formed but Justin’s style of teaching is relaxed but so informative at the same time. Great stuff.


Welcome, Charlie! You cannot go wrong with a Taylor (just my humble opinion). Your journey is beginning on a good note and there is plenty enjoyment ahead!

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And you’re off, Charlie. Thanks for the pics and in due course you’ll be playing the blues!

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Great stuff, Charlie. I ended up with a Taylor Academy 12e, which is about 7/8 scale and plays great. I have to admit that the Academy isn’t as beautiful to look at as that BT you chose. You need to get a stand for your guitar and leave it out so that you are tempted to stop and pick it up for a few minutes at a time. Don’t get too carried away at first and tear up your fingers; work into it with short practice sessions and build up.

Happy NGD!

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Thanks all. Coincidentally I’ve literally just ordered a little stand so that should be turning up tomorrow @Dave911

I’m pleased to say that quite a lot of my chord memory from way back is still in my head somewhere, so aside from switching my fingers from 123 to 213 for an A, the D and E have been relatively simple resurrections.

I’m calling it a day practice-wise but have done two sets of One-Minute Changes as per the book (D to A, D to E and A to E). The A is definitely my bogey-chord at the moment and aside from rearranging my fingers, the core of it is that actually it isn’t a chord I like the sound of.

I was convinced I was butchering my fingerwork (and I am a little) but even when I don’t strum and play each individual string in order just to check my technique they are generally ringing true, so actually I just don’t like A :sweat_smile:

The fingertips have had a good workout and I’ve got my 3rd finger issue on the D mostly ironed out and the E is as ever a doddle, so I just need to keep at it to get these chords consistently executed. In the OMCs I was getting 60+ per minute right off the bat and they’re maybe 75% well played, so it’s a solid start.

I’ve probably put an hour in today, what with fiddling about with tuning, the OMCs and general chunks of practice with each chord.


Welcome to the forum and your renewed journey with guitar! :grinning: Looks like you’re off to a great and enthusiastic start!

The guitar looks great and I like the Lego VW Camper just inching into shot! :smiley:

Thanks for the comments on artists and albums - some I hadn’t come across and will have a listen thanks.

Looking forward to hearing more updates!


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The Guitar is great, I had a used 214e but couldn’t handle it so ended up with a smaller one; could have kicked myself because a Bt was also one I fancied, but couldn’t find a used one and a new one was too expensive for me :frowning:
The Lego camper van is ace, I always wanted one until I found out the cost of getting one :joy:.
I think that you’ve got the right idea of how to go forward, keep plugging at it and have fun!

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It seems you’ve made a great start to your learning and your learning log Charlie.
Steady and slow, from the beginning on through is the way to go.
Those blues will come to you in good time and by developing with properly laid foundations you’ll be good and ready when they do.

Likewise … he is probably my favourite songwriter / guitarist / artist.
My favourite solo album is probably Get Lucky but the others don’t trail behind too much.

I listened to a lot of B.B. when I was learning the blues using Justin’s lessons. Not Live at the Regal though. I don’t have it. I listened to Singin’ The Blues (I love track 1 Please Love Me … it just rocks, rolls and grooves as much as anything that came after, and it was recorded in 1953) plus compilation album Spotlight On Lucille.

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Welcome Charlie. You’ve got the goods, now to enjoy the exploration. Take your time with Justin’s course and let us hear how you’re progressing.

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I like Privateering and the album he made with Emmylou Harris

Privateering has Red Bud tree on, doesn’t it? That is definitely a good album.

It’s an odd pivot from Knopfler to KT Tunstall but I can’t recommend her music highly enough. I can’t stand some of her albums but there are some real highlights like Invisible Empire:

KT Tunstall - Invisible Empire

There’s a song with just her and a piano called ‘Yellow Flower’ which is also pretty special on that album.

And she did a small acoustic session up on The Isle of Skye with a couple of real stand-outs. Maybe not the most challenging tunes but they’re beautifully written and her voice is so good to my ears:

KT Tunstall - Gone to the Dogs

KT Tunstall - Throw Me A Rope

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This morning I’ve finished the videos in Beginner Grade 1 Module 1 and that has allowed me to set up an 20ish minute practice which I’m going to do a couple of time a day if my fingers can hack it. I’m finding myself doing anchor work quite often as that doesn’t need the fret pressure and is helping me rewire my finger placement on an A.

I’ve noticed that the website and book content diverge a bit as the book covers A, D and E initially whereas the site only tackles A and D in Module 1. I’ve built my practice around the website structure so I’ll skip E for now.

I’m going to do this for a few days and see how I’m progressing. It was actually really useful to follow Justin’s tip of looking at the Nitsuj sessions to gauge what his own definition of “good enough to move on” is, as it gets you to a pragmatic level rather than an absolute perfectionist tier which would be really impractical.

My practice just focuses on the standard bits - 2x3 minutes of chord practice to nail them, 2x2 minutes of anchor transitions, 2x1 minute OMCs and then 5 minutes each of song practice with Dance The Night Away and You Sound Good To Me. The practice assistant looks pretty useful so I’ve used that and just have a timer on my phone to keep me on track.

The Beginner’s Songbook has ten A and D chord songs so I’ll probably mix up that song practice to keep things fun. Again referring back to the Nitsuj stuff, it’s a real confidence booster as Justin isn’t perfect but he’s good enough and you can see that practice will gradually move “good enough” into “even better” territory.


Hi Charlie that sounds like a good plan to get those chords memorised and chord changes down whilst having lots of fun.

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Smart plan, Charlie, slow and steady. Over time you’ll develop endurance and practice longer.

If the book you refer to is the Beginner Course Book then it would be based on what we now call the classic beginner course. Over the ladt year or so Justin has revamped that. I suggest follow the website and flip around in the book to find the matching lessons to supplement as you go.

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Just so. It is all good and thousands of people learned just fine using it. Justin wanted to update, improve and expand the beginner course however which is what now sits prominently on the website. He even tested it by teaching himself to play left handed using the lessons. Nitsuj progress log.

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Yeah it’s the Beginner course book. That’s becoming my bedtime reading just to imprint chord diagrams in my brain and generally reinforce what I’ve learned online.

I’m glad to have bought that and the two volumes of Beginner Songbooks to make some sort of contribution to this course.


Two practice sessions in the bag today and there’s clear progress with the D which has more or less wiped out issues I had with my third finger buzzing the first string. A is also getting better but some way behind the D. Some of the instinct of rearranging my fingers to the traditional method is fading but it’s still a little clustered on that second fret to feel natural and comfortable so there’s work to be done.

Today was the first day that I added the Song Practice in and it’s a nice break from the focused work of Anchor transitions, Chord Practice and OMCs. I mean it is basically the exact same as those things but in the context of actually “a song”, so it is a nice way of framing the practice in a rewarding light.

I’ve also found myself introducing bespoke practice exercises where I set myself a task of transitioning from D to A 3 consecutive times “blind” (not looking at the fret board) and each note being clear and buzz-free. If I hit any issues I restart from zero again. It really makes me focus on things in the same way as standard Chord Practice but somehow feels sufficiently different by adding a pressure element to add more variety. The session can’t stop until I land 3 in a row error free.