Heart of Gold - work in progress, 80% tempo

I asked you lovely folks last week about how to approach speeding up the chord changes in this song I’m trying to learn, and applied your advice. Here’s where I am so far with it.

I’m up to 80% tempo. I’ve watched Justin’s video lesson on the song, and I’m attempting some of the variations in strumming, on the most basic level so far.

I’ve chosen this song because I’ve always liked it, it’s not too hard, and my husband plays the harmonica, so I hope one day we can play it together :heart:

My questions:

  1. I’m finding the simple constant down-strumming very repetitive and boring. Is it ok to venture off and try things like I’m doing in the video, even if I’m not really doing it well? Justing says in his lessons to try different things, but am I making bad habits for myself?

  2. My pick travels all over the place in my fingers!!! I have a very thin pick, one with the textured grip thing on it. But still, it turns constantly and I’m always having to readjust it mid strum! Sometimes it goes clear sideways! Grrrr :confounded: is this normal? Justin says in the lessons that the fingers will learn to juggle it into place, is that what I’m experiencing? It seems so distracting.

  3. Dynamics. I’m playing around with it, but it seems just outside my reach. Is that normal at this point in the learning process?

Thank you all, I truly appreciate your time and advice.


Heather you are doing amazing for such a short time learning to play a guitar, bravo! Your changes are mostly accurate, the more you work on the song the smoother they will become and it is gonna make the song even better. To answer your questions:

  1. Absolutely its fine to venture off, as Justin says if it feels good it is good. To me you are overly familiar with the song so you just feel it and you know what to do to make it sound good. And thanks to that your ventures were noticed and appreciated, they sounded really good. By looking at your play I think you just need to play this song over and over again to become more comfortable with chord changes. Once you get comfy with those it will be even easier to do some tweaks to strumming to make it more interesting as you are already well familiar with the original :slight_smile:
  2. It is natural and takes time for your brain to control it itself. Be concious of it happening, try to think sometimes what is the best way for you to keep pick in the same position, but at the same time it will all become more automatic at some point. I think Justin had a lesson about rotating pick and how he handles it: I think that’s the one.
  3. It’s because you still need to think about the chord changes and your mind can’t process changing dynamics at the same time. Chord changes need to be more automated so your attention can go elsewhere, in this instance dynamics.

Keep on practicing and you’ll see it all becomes easier and manageable, you are really doing great so far! :+1:


I agree with Adrian, you are doing great Heather! I watched your video before reading your entire post and I was impressed with the variety in your strumming patterns, and the single notes, at this stage. So that answers #1! I also thought you seemed to be settling in and becoming more comfortable as the song progressed, and then your 2 thumbs up at the end confirmed that. It’s nice to see a bit of a comfort level with videotaping yourself, that’s a hard one for me and then it mucks up my playing.

Re picks slipping away, that’s a typical issue, it comes up fairly regularly. People have different ways of dealing with it, the way I did was to punch a hole in the pick and that solved the problem for me. Thinner picks are usually easier to start playing with, and they’re pretty easy to punch a hole through.

Re dynamics, well good on you for even thinking about it. There’s a lot going on when you’re learning, when you’re more comfortable playing the song you will find it easier to naturally add those dynamics I think.

Great song to be working on. It’s good to be playing along with the slowed down song, good way to make sure you’re keeping the rhythm. I like your plan to get your husband in there playing harmonica with you, hope that we get to see that version when you work up to that.

Thanks for sharing the song :smiley:


:champagne: bravo Heather. I concur with comments from Mari and Adrian.

You are doing GREAT … keep on keeping on, doing what you are doing.

All I can add that may be helpful is to have a watch of your video. It looks to me as if there is some hesitations in the strumming action. If you also see it and feel it then you could try changing the arc of the strumming, extending the length of the strum even slightly may be helpful to keep the hand moving without hesitation to get back to the start position and stay in time. I have found in other situations that it helps me to become super observant of where I am finishing my down strum.

As for the rest, like pick control and fancying up the strumming pattern by adding more strums, keep at it and you’ll just keep improving it.


Enjoyed that a lot, it’s a great song. I was playing it with a mate today.

I think venturing off and trying things is good, just keep the timing. As David said there seemed to be a little hesitation with some of the strumming. Justin frequently makes the point, especially with Neil Young songs, to keep the hand moving.

Re: the pick moving, I went through months and months of it moving around, losing control, dropping it. I don’t know what fixed it probably just time. But I do remember walking around with a pick in my fingers, manipulating it so that the feel became second nature.

Dynamics is another thing that will come with time. But really good to be thinking about.

Great job.



That sounds to me like a Top Tip, one for me to apply. Thanks @RodC


Hi Heather, lots of great advice so far - asking for helpful and constructive feedback is a great mindset to improving.
I will focus on just one thing I noticed straight away which is your grip on the pick. I slowed the video speed down to capture this.


Your pick is sticking out way too far in two directions. Too far out towards the strings from your thumb and index finger. Too far out sideways from your index finger, preventing you having good control of it. You will benefit from curling your fingers more and having the pick emerge more sideways from your index finger.
I tend to disagree with Justin slightly here so take you pick (pun intended) on whose advice to follow. Justin suggests, for beginners, the pick can stick out more than I think is optimal. I also suggest curling the index finger more and the pick coming out from the side of it, not the tip of it.

Screenshot_139 - Screenshot_140 - Screenshot_141

Cheers :blush:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide & Moderator


I think Tomo Fujita teaches to hold the pick the way you’re showing here also @Richard_close2u. I find having the index finger pointing instead of curled interferes with the movement of the pick making it harder to hold it loose.


Thanks David, it worked for me.

I used to walk from work to my local guitar shop and back in my lunch break, with the pick in my fingers.


Great performance way to go! Must feel great to be playing along and bravo for publishing here.

Lots of good advice from others already… in terms of going off piste with your strumming rather than just doing something “different” if you feel comfortable try starting with a strumming pattern ( old faithful work for everything)… if not then just make you are counting your beats… that’s a key thing to get right as a beginner, 4 beats to the bar ( for a 4/4 song).


Well done Heather that was really good. You looked confident as you played and that’s half the battle. Well done too for posting on AVoYP. The others have said it all in terms of advice.

The only thing I’ll add is next time frame your video slightly differently so the camera shows your fretting hand better. That way others can learn from your technique or perhaps point out things that could be improved.

Btw. That’s an interesting music area you’ve got there! Lots of fascinating stuff.


Good job, Heather. You’re doing well, just keep at it.

I agree that “just down-strums” gets kinda boring. It’s absolutely okay to enliven the strumming and try new things. Just keep them in time and you’re golden.

The pick moving around is something a lot of people struggle with, especially in the beginning. Everyone is different, so approaches to holding the pick vary. My best advice is to experiment and see what works best for you. It’s one of those things that comes with time: one day you’ll be struggling with it and then a week or two later you’ll think “hey, I haven’t had the pick issue in a while, when did that happen?”

The addition of dynamics can elevate a performance, so it’s great that you’re thinking about such things early on. Adding dynamics usually comes once you have a given piece down pretty well. At least that’s the way I usually approach it. First I learn the piece such that I can play it at performance tempo. Doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be mostly there. Then I work on polishing the piece, adding dynamics, tempo changes, and so on.


Heather I think you are doing really well and can’t really add to what has been said already, all sound advice. Pick spins are something you eventually just deal with, I am not even conscious of how I get back on track these days it just happens. I use Max Grips but got some Alligator Grip as I thought having three points would give me a better chance but still end up playing on the side at times !! :sunglasses:


So much useful feedback here! Thank you all!

Thanks for the suggestion…I’ll try that. Come to think of it, there used to be a pick in here somewhere that had a star shaped hole in it, and I remember that being easier to hang on to, so many years ago when I first attempted to play (then gave up :sweat_smile:). Its long gone now, but I’ll try the hole punch!

Someday, when I can play this properly, I’ll post a video of us playing. Husband is working on the harmonica part…he’ll learn that much quicker than me though, he picks that up easily.

You’re right…watching it I do see what you’re saying. I suppose I have to find a happy medium in the strumming arm. I was using my whole arm before, and someone said it was too much arm and not enough wrist, so Ive been trying to make it a smaller movement. And yeah, I do need to be more mindful of keeping it moving up and down. It’s really not too much of a problem for me until I try to venture out of the basic constant strumming pattern, or like in this song when there’s a chord change on the ‘and’ beat. Thank you for the feedback!

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Thank you for this! That close up picture really does show a problem. I’m trying strumming today with muted strings holding the pick as you show, and it feels so awkward. But clearly I need to retrain my hand to hold it this way. I’ll practice that from now on.

I suppose I should just stick with a strumming pattern, as you suggest, for daily practice, then just throw in playing the song through trying the more interesting patterns just for fun here and there to keep the boredom away, instead of regular practice with the more complicated patterns.

Good point :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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Well done Heather. You must be pleased with how you’re progressing. You’re on a good path I reckon.
Can’t really add to all the good advice already given. These things will just keep improving over time.
You do seem to have a very good feel for rhythm though, which is a massive bonus.

Cheers, Shane

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You look and sound so much more relaxed Heather and you’re making steady progress. Make sure you acknowledge all of this. The lesson Adi has linked will help with the pick. I use these and find them comfortable and if they happen to move around, they are still the right shape.

I love the idea of you and your husband jamming together.


You look/ sound to be making really good progress Heather. Thanks for sharing it :slightly_smiling_face:

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Love the single note riff you throw in. I need to learn that. Your chords sound very clean.

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Nice! I didn’t know those exist…I’ll check them out. Thank you!

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