End of Grade 1 progress video - please offer constructive advice

I’ve just watched the Consolidation module of Grade 1 this morning and plan to spend the next 4~ weeks consolidating what I’ve learnt so far before heading in to Grade 2. I thought I’d post a short video of my progress in case anyone with experience can provide a steer on what I should work on over my consolidation period.

(Enter Sandman is very rough, I only learnt it a couple of days ago and don’t really know how to mute properly). Also, sorry for the phone video, all I have available.

Help me improve
I really want to develop my skills as a guitarist and would appreciate any steer the community can give in relation to what I need practice on etc. While words of encouragement will always be appreciated, I’d much prefer constructive criticism to allow me to address any shortcomings. I’m not sensitive so please don’t hesitate to rip me to pieces! :slight_smile:


If that’s your least enjoyed consider cutting them short and play fingerstyle with just your finger pads. That’s how I play fingerstyle and I quite enjoy it. It doesn’t give me the volume I’d like, yet I prefer the sound. Nice thing is if you don’t enjoy it, they’ll grow back just fine.


I’ve been playing the bass notes using the pad on my thumb rather than the nail (because I can’t quite figure out a comfortable way to use my nail on my thumb) and I much prefer the sound with my nails. Having long nails is something I think I’ll get used to and it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make haha. :slight_smile:

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Hello Ryan. What a thorough and commendable log you have created for yourself here. Super impressive.
Firstly - well done in the all around sense, you are doing well and learning a broad range of skills, riffs, songs etc. Some comments on your play from your video - given in the spirit of critical review.

  • When strumming, at any tempo and with any strum pattern, you want your forearm / wrist to be in fluid and constant motion, swinging up and down in a rhythmic pulse like the pendulum of a clock. Regardless of whether the strings are hit on that particular up or down arc. Much of the time you have this but on occasion you stop the swing and wait for the next.
  • Playing at a steady tempo, no matter how slow the speed, is far more important than playing something at the ‘proper’ speed. This applies to songs and riffs etc. If you find that you are having to take a pause to go from one chord to the next or from one riff section to the next then you are going too fast. Learn and practice it really s-l-o-w, slow enough that you can play it with few errors and maintain a constant speed. Only go faster when you can do that when the errors iron out and you can play mistake free.
  • I notice that when you are playing finger style you have no anchor for your picking hand at all apart from your elbow on the guitar body. That is not stable enough to develop a consistently accurate style of play. Some people anchor their little finger on the guitar body just below the sound hole or near to it. Some people (and I do this) anchor by gently resting their palm on the bridge behind the saddles - so as not to palm mute but to give some hand stability. It is a very individual choice but I strongly recommend you find a way of anchoring so your hand is not vaguely floating somewhere above the strings.

I hope those help you.
Cheers :blush:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide & Moderator


From the video, looks like you are strumming faster than some chord changes. Otherwise a lot of good playing.

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That’s an impressive learning log entry/approach. I look forward to future updates.

In my experience, what works best is to keep the nails of your plucking fingers there, but relatively short, so that just a bit of nail shows over the tip of the finger. The exception is the thumbnail, which I keep longer. My pinky nail is also a bit longer than the others. Everyone is slightly different, though, so you may need to experiment to see what works best.

Also, I suggest never using nail clippers. Instead, use files (I use a set of glass nail files) to keep your nails at the preferred length. Avoiding clippers helps make your nails stronger and less prone to chipping or splitting or breaking. After filing, you can also smooth and polish the nails (the edge is the important part – not so much the whole surface of your nails).

You can also “shape” the nail with the files giving you “ramps” of nail. Very common in the classical guitar world.

While I agree with Richard’s other comments, I’m going to disagree with this one. Anchoring is fine, but I’d avoid anchoring if possible. I find that it affects the sound of the guitar (which makes sense, as your anchor on the top will reduce some vibration of the soundboard to one degree or another). It also tends to reduce your picking hand mobility, making it more difficult to do things like move your picking hand closer to the neck or closer to the bridge to change the tone and add to the expressiveness of your playing. Lastly, I find that fixing the pinky in place tends to add unwanted tension to my hand. I don’t think fingerpicking without an anchor makes it impossible to develop accuracy. There are an awful lot of very accurate classical guitar players who do not use an anchor. I don’t use an anchor.

Ultimately, though, it’s a personal choice. There’s no single correct answer or approach.


Great entry there Ryan, really like how you broke your practice log into little pieces, fantastic job!

Overall I know you are after some criticism and things you should do or don’t, but you really are doing well let me tell you first. Good chord changes, you feel the rhythm, your body language is showing that you enjoy it and this is a big step in playing in order to keep the momentum going. So whatever comments you get let me tell you this - you are doing fine and if you carry on with Justin lessons most of those issues eventually will go away.

If you want to be wary a few things from me:

  • play as much along the songs or along the metronome as you can. You are still early days so if you play by yourself without any backing track you might be out of times from time to time,
  • You have a pretty impressive amount of songs you have been learning. What I would like to see is a more focused approach moving forward - take 3 easy songs and nail them until taking new ones in. Record those only when you are happy with the quality, publish in AVOYP and we can tell you if we think it’s nailed :slight_smile: trying to learn 12345 songs at the same time can cause a headache and you might not learn a single song as close to 100% accurate as possible
  • now the anchor finger - Jason suggests you can go without anchor, Richard suggests some sort of anchor and in my mind there is no simple answer to this. Both are okay, do what is most convenient to you. I sometimes use small finger, but if I have to use ring finger to fingerpick I tend to loose the anchor. All depends on type of song I play really,
  • last - thumb position while fingerpicking. Try to keep it forward rather than curling it down behind rest of the fingers. My fav advice from @SS7 - this way your picking will be more accurate.

Hope this makes sense and will help you develop further :slight_smile:

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This makes sense, as does your other comment. I’m going to try not using an anchor finger.

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Sure, give it a try. Note that if you are used to anchoring it’s going to feel weird, at first, and take an adjustment period.

FWIW, there’s a pretty good video about the pinky and tension and such, below. It’s aimed at classical guitar, but the principles remain the same no matter what guitar or style you’re playing.


Ryan, congrats on the progress made and tip my hat on an excellent first Learning Log entry to reflect on Grade 1.

:+1: on your plan to consolidate Grade 1. My suggestion would be to set yourself some objectives for the consolidation phase and stay with it until achieving those, rather than just thinking about it in terms of a time window.

I’d also suggest considering more frequent updates to the Learning Log, perhaps after every module in the Grade rather than just at the end. I think receiving feedback more frequently will be beneficial. I expect you have already heard Justin say “Practice makes permanent (not perfect)”. More frequent feedback will firstly bring more frequent encouragement and also highlight aspects to work on sooner, help prevent perhaps establishing bad habits than can be harder to correct later if well practiced.

Similar to that, I’d suggest videos of you playing, either posted here or in AVOYP (may get more feedback if you post in AVOYP), more frequently.

Playing wise, you are doing well, much to celebrate. Pay attention to the feedback provided here. One specific I’ll amplify: Keep the hand moving, strumming without any pauses, which you achieve by slowing the tempo as much as is needed to be able to make the chord changes as you learn, then speed up slowly.

Have fun in the consolidation and look forward to hearing from you again soon.

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Thank you all for your responses! I didn’t expect to wake up to so many great comments!

I do know this and I do force myself to do it when I’m practicing strumming exercises. However, I seem to be in a bit of a catch 22 situation with it when playing songs - I can force myself to do this if I think about my strumming while playing, but as Justin suggests I shouldn’t be thinking about strumming I fall into the resting my hand sometimes when not thinking about it. I guess spending longer on strumming exercises during consolidation will help me make the pendulum movement more automatic?

I do this but I think my problem here is I practice until I can do it once at a speed without a mistake and then immediately increase the speed and practice there, what I might try instead is practicing at a slower speed until I can always do it without making a mistake at that speed before moving on.

I’ve noted further comments from others re fingerstyle anchor - I think what I’m going to do re fingerstyle for the moment is pause until Justin introduces it in Grade 2. I didn’t watch/read any material on how I should be doing it (other than the brief instruction Justin gives in the Mad World tutorial) before trying it so have no doubt there’s a lot of things I should be doing differently. I will make sure I try with both anchoring methods and without to see which I find most comfortable, though.

Yeah, my main reason for keeping the log is to keep myself accountable - I tend to procrastinate on things if I don’t set myself a schedule with targets/goals.

Feel free to take anything you like :slight_smile: If it helps, I’d happily share the spreadsheet via email?

I have been doing this, I actually watched a video tutorial on how classical guitarists shape their nails using a file - I may look into a polish as I’ve found the steel string seems to be making my ramps quite rough to the point I need to lightly file them again.

Sorry I skipped over your comments re the anchor finger, I addressed my plan re fingerstyle in response to Richard above. :slight_smile:

Thank you, Adrian. I do really enjoy it, I’m glad that shows in my body language. One thing I have noticed that I’d like to stop is I pull faces and suck my lip when concentrating haha…

I’m definitely going to start doing this, I currently only use the metronome during strumming exercises. Will work to include it when I’m doing song work too.

This is a great suggestion as you’ve pretty much nailed it! I can only actually do 2 of the songs I’ve learnt all the way through from memory (Eleanor Rigby and 505), for the others I have to refresh myself on what the chords and song structure are before trying them. One of the things I’m trying to contend with is a short attention span, I like to learn new things, I’ll be more strict with myself over my consolidation period.

Do you have an image or a video of what you mean? I find the thumb picking the hardest part of playing with my fingers, my bass notes come out really quiet and off beat.

I’ve skipped over your anchor finger part per above. :slight_smile:

After reading some of the comments here I’m definitely going to do this, I have a couple of items already;

  • Strumming hand always moves in a pendulum motion even on skipped beats without thinking.
  • Learn 5 songs all the way through without mistakes.
  • Play at least one song without looking at the fretboard.

I may do this, I was hesitant to post as I don’t want to place an expectation on the more experienced guitarists in the community to have to listen to my shoddy playing without being paid for it! :laughing:

Thanks again for the feedback, everyone!

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Hey Ryan.

Really enjoyed reading through your post and watching the vid.
If you picked up a guitar for the first time in November, then that is tremendous progress. You are off to a smokin’ start. Your super organisationed approach is pretty impressive too.
Only thing I can add is to heed the advice of these folk, particularly regarding tempo and strumming.
In my journey so far, I’m finding that rhythm is king.

Looking forward to your progress.

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Hi Shane,

I probably should have mentioned in my initial post, this isn’t the first time I’ve picked up a guitar. I did try to teach myself around 20~ years ago for a month or so, but back then there was nothing like Justin’s courses available and I didn’t have any real structure to what I learnt - I didn’t really remember any chord positions or anything when I picked it up again in November but what I was able to do was quite easily position my fingers without muting other strings - which was probably an advantage over someone who was starting for the first time.

I say post regularly. People can always choose to listen or not.

Personally while I hesitate to call myself experienced, given implications that come with that, I will say that I have been “paid” handsomely by experienced musicians listening to my shoddy playing :grin:

But seriously, the Community is all about supporting each other, so I’ll happily listen to support and encourage you, just hoping you’ll do the same for others. And we don’t have to be experts to do that (or I shall have to keep quiet myself)

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As @DavidP mentions, that is why this community is for. The point is to post your playing to receive both encouragement and constructive feedback. You’ll find a wide range of skill levels posting from earliest of beginners to sophisticated arrangements and everything in between.

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Here you go :slight_smile:


Truly excellent progress since you only started in November. It took me significantly longer to get anywhere that level. Good advice has already been given. Constant steady strumming is the key… later on you’ll want to add in more muted hits and it’s needed then. As others have said slow down and focus on learning songs fully so you can demonstrate to friends and family what you’ve achieved… oh and singing/humming etc will come when you suddenly realise your not thinking about the mechanics of playing the song I.e it’s automatic.

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I also don’t use an anchor. I’ve had several people advise me to anchor and I’ve tried it but just couldn’t get it to work for me. A few years back I attended a master guitar workshop led by a guitarist of some renown down under. Part of the workshop included a private session with him. I had noticed that he sometimes anchors and sometimes doesn’t so I ask for his opinion.

He said it’s very much a personal choice and said he thought he didn’t anchor at all. If anchoring works for you, go for it, but my view is don’t feel bad if you don’t anchor.

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This is serious progress regarding the fact you started only a few moths ago. Congratulations!

I really do agree with J.W.C here, experiment with the length of your fingernails if you are up for more fingerstyle. I keep mine something around 3mm and so far it works fine as long as the edge is really smooth. About the anchoring when fingerpicking, there are two schools, some people do, some people don’t. There is plenty of excellent guitarists that don’t anchor and as many that do. Find your own way, from my experience, the more I play the more I tend to not anchor.

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