Hello from John - 63 year old beginner from California

Hi, I’m John, a 63 year old beginner from California. I began playing guitar (new Yamaha FG-800 acoustic) for the first time about one year ago. I’m most interested in classic rock and bluegrass music. My overall goal is simply to amuse myself and family/friends. I don’t expect I would perform for any large groups.

An experienced friend gave me some guidance initially, and we worked on some simple country and bluegrass flatpicking songs to start. I discovered Justin while perusing YouTube videos covering a few songs I wanted to learn to play. In January of 2022, I purchased Justin’s Beginner Song App and started the Beginner Course. I love the way Justin teaches – he explains things clearly, tells you what to expect in terms of difficulties, and offers clear guidance on how to assess progress. I really appreciate the structure of the course and feel like it’s helping with topics and skills I would not have otherwise studied. I’m currently working on Grade 2, Module 12. Here’s how I assess my progress so far:

The Good:

  • I can handle most common strumming patterns
  • I can play single note/picking riffs with moderate time and effort
  • I know the note circle well
  • I can play several flatpicking songs well (through self-study)
  • I have a repertoire of about 20 songs I can play from memory, mostly strumming the chords and singing a bit (but my voice is awful)

The Bad:

  • I can play all open chords, but I sometimes muff when changing chords
  • I don’t play all chords cleanly all the time
  • I have small hands and find it difficult to fret strings near the fret wire on many chords (perhaps contributing to the problem above)
  • While playing along with songs in the Beginner App, I can’t really get up to 100% tempo. I usually top out at 80%. Is this OK if I’m satisfied with it? Or should I push to 100%?
  • I get nervous when playing in front of others or when video recording (for myself or to share with distant family), and this causes my playing to degrade
  • It still takes me some time to identify the notes on the guitar neck. I can figure them out in a few (or more) seconds, but they are not yet committed to memory

The Ugly:

  • I have made very little progress on the F barre chord. I can rarely play it cleanly, even when I take all the time in the world to fret the chord. Forget about changing to any other chords! I am still working on this, with a plan to start on Fret 7 and work my way down the neck as I get better. For the time being, I am using cheats to play songs that include the F chord
  • I just started Power Chords and this is also a severe challenge. In the first few practice sessions, I have not played anything that sounds like a clean chord. I’m struggling to mute the thinner three/two strings

Questions for the Community:

  • How long could/should it take to learn the F barre chord on acoustic guitar? Unfortunately, I probably won’t ever have an electric guitar, where I understand barre chords are easier. I had my acoustic guitar action lowered initially, and that helped with playability. I don’t know if I should try lowering the action further. What if I can never incorporate barre chords into playing? Can one get by with just using cheats?
  • How much time should I spend on Power Chords for acoustic guitar? I’m not really interested in playing Nirvana or Metallica type songs. I’m afraid that like barre chords, power chords may be a very tough skill for me to develop on acoustic guitar
  • Any other general suggestions or feedback?

Thanks for listening! I’m enjoying reviewing the guitar journeys of folks in this community!



Hiya! Nice to meet you John!

Here are my answers to your questions, though I’m certainly no expert.

  • It took me weeks of every day practice to get to the point where I could play the F chord right. Total probably about a month and a half and I’m just starting to getting changes to come naturally. You could get away with using the F chord cheats but I would strongly encourage you to keep trying the full barre because eventually you will get it. It’s just a matter of time and patience.

  • Power chords are extremely useful on acoustic and are generally easier to play than a full barre chord. If you don’t know how to play a specific chord you could easily exchange it with the power chord version and get away with it. Since the shape stays the same this is easily done.

  • Generally speaking the most valuable lesson that I’ve learned from playing the guitar is patience is key. There are so many things that I when I started felt impossible that just one day clicked when practicing. Don’t worry so much about your progress just focus on practicing the thing you’re doing right.

Example: Keep that F chord in your routine, even if it’s just 2 minutes. Focus on getting the chord right but don’t get discouraged. Move on after the 2 minutes to the less frustrating stuff for the rest of your practice. Eventually it’ll click but keep it on your routine because there’s still work to do cause now you focus on changing between other chords in the F. Then so on and so forth.

Also post videos of you playing in the AVOYP section of the forum. I’ve gotten great feedback from people here and it’s super helpful to actually see what you need to work on.

Thanks very much for your reply, Alexis. Of course your advice makes perfect sense. I haven’t given up on anything yet, but was getting discouraged. I will keep plugging away!

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When you’re getting discourage make a post here! At the very least you’ll get plenty of encouraging words and plenty of people who’ve been there.

Hi John:

Welcome to the community. After reading your post I see your accomplishments outweigh your challenges. We are at approximately the same level of lessons. The best thing to do is take things one day at a time. It was a very smart move to learn the music note circle. That tells me you are a big picture thinker for things to make sense. Try recording yourself and sharing with no one just to see yourself and what you are doing. It will help you improve. For the F chord, I shared this tip with others and it helped. You are basically pivoting the guitar towards your fretting hand.

Try this. I posted for someone else with similar concern about a month ago:

Another trick I learned is use your right arm (at the bend of your elbow) to push the top portion of the guitar towards you. The headstock should be moving away from your body while the rest of the guitar pivots towards you. It makes the strings come towards your fretting fingers of your left hand. Some complex barre chords are nearly impossible without this trick. I tried it and it works really well. Could be a game changer

Again, think of it this way, there is never a shortage of people telling you what you can’t do. Those are people that failed and misery loves company. You are a talented artist and musician in your own level. Don’t compare yourself to others, just to your past progress. I hope that makes sense. To your point about electrics, nothing wrong with sticking with acoustic. I play acoustic 90% of the time because it is easy to pick up the guitar and strum
without adjusting an amp.

Good luck and we are here to help you on your journey towards success.

Jeff from San Diego

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Hey John, your post is awesome, I enjoy hearing stories of beginners who’ve got the itch and just keep on scratching it. Fun fun fun.

It took me a few months to get the F chord working. I was determined to not use the easier / cheat versions and just persevered with it not sounding good until it finally started working. Now I’m so glad I stuck it out, yet there are songs where I wish I did the cheat / easy F as it fits some songs better than the full barre chord.

I can fully relate to the nerves when playing in front of others or recording. With recording, it does get better the more you do it and the more you get used to it.

Don’t worry about how your feel your voice sounds, the more you exercise it, the better it will get. Singing is fun and healthy for the soul, do it as much as you can.

Looking forward to more from you.

Welcome to the Community, John. Sounds like you are doing ever so well, so keep on keeping on and you’ll keep on improving.

The first suggestion I’d make is to also go through the various lessons in each grade on the website. I’d start from the first lesson and consider it a refresh. I suggest this as I believe there is extra points covered in the lesson description and the videos on the website may be more detailed than on the app.

In terms of the F barre. As others have said, persist. Something that can help initially is putting a capo on the first or second fret and playing the F shape or starting to practice the shape at the 5th fret where it can be easier to hold the barre.

As for cheats, I and I think many others find the alternative shape where your index finger barres just the e and B strings and you don’t play the low E string to be harder than the full barre shape. But worth trying that if you haven’t since we are all different.

In terms of playing of songs that include F you can try Fmaj7 as an alternative. It often sounds as good, sometimes better, and is simpler to form than the full F.

Lastly, if you’ve never watched this video, then I suggest you check it out: Fail-Proof Guide To Easy Barre Chords on Guitar - YouTube

I think it is fine. Just keep practicing and playing songs, and in due course when you come back to some of these songs with more general practice and playing hours you’ll find that you can get ever closer to 100%.

As we all do. The best way to over come this is simply to make recordings. Make them with your phone, super simple. Initially perhaps just make them and review them. At the appropriate moment, which based on your post is really close, then share in #record-yourself-progress-performance:audio-video-of-you-playing. The Community is safe, supportive and understanding. We all have been where you are and felt that anxiety to share the first recording. And I think true to say that everybody who does says it was fine and has been most helpful.

I had the same experience and skipped power chords. Admittedly based on prior to Justin learning I could play the E and A barre chords, so didn’t need the power chord option to play songs with F or other chords outside the basic 8 open chords. But there are thousands and thousands of songs that you can play with the 8 open chords. Add some flat-picking or finger-style and you could keep learning, growing, and playing music for years and years without being held back by not playing power chords. Nothing wrong with moving on and coming back to power chords down the line when general learning of other techniques often enables you to make progress on something that was a struggle when first tried.

Generally speaking most people starting off here begin with stating their voice is awful. And almost all cases, this is not the case at all. Unschooled, unpracticed yes, but usually much less unpleasant to our ears than your own. Of course there’ve been a few exceptions where people have to work harder to sing musically (I reckon I am one) but over time I am fairly confident in saying you’ll be able to sing well enough to suit your aspirations. So give it a go once you have got comfortable recording.

Wish you well and look forward to progress updates and AVOYP shares :grin:

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As a half-Dane, I sense something ‘rotten’ in the state of Denmark :thinking:
John Lyden, in his 60s, living in the USA, awful voice…
Please tell me you like butter! :rofl:

(Oh, yes, I nearly forgot… Welcome aboard!)

Thanks for the tip Jeff, I will try that for the F barre chord.
And thanks for the encouragement!
BTW - I also live in San Diego.


Thank you Tony. I will keep plugging away at the full barre F chord. And I’ll keep singing until someone tells me to stop :grinning: .


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David - Thanks for all the feedback! I have been using the website version of the lessons. I prefer the larger screen on my laptop vs. a mobile device. I use the App for practice routines and playing along with the songs.

I will try your F barre suggestions. As far as cheats go, I’ve mainly used the mini F but will try the Fmaj7 to see how that works.

I expect to post some video of myself in the near future.


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Yes, people sometimes get me confused with Johnny Rotten, but fortunately our last names are spelled differently.

Thanks for the welcome!

What is your string gauge on the acoustic? You could try extra light strings, like 10s.

I agree with the rest - stick with the barre Chord practise. This is a very important part of playing Guitar. Those Chord Shapes will also help you understand/memorize more of the fretboard.

I recommend this practise routine to identify the notes on the fretboard.


Hey John! Welcome. We have a few things in common. I started at 71, with severe advanced arthritis in my hands. I thought I would never get the barre chords, and let myself get sad about it for awhile, and it finally came. I can now barre chord all the way up to B and C, and move back down to D and E pretty easy. Like you, its not always clean or perfect, but it allows me to do the songs I want to do.

My song book is now at 198, mostly country, old and new, Elvis, 50’s-70’s rock, and a few classics. I must admit, I can sing since I use to do it professionally, and I have a music background on drums, sax and concert violin. But just because I can sing, doesn’t mean I do it in public anymore. Its just not that important at this age! I sing for me, as loud and long as I wish, and sometimes my wife joins me.

We’re have fun in our golden years and retirement, and that’s the key. If you enjoy what you’re doing, keep going. Please don’t get frustrated. I also have very small hands, and I have to use lidocaine patches so I can play, but it will come! It took me almost two years, but if you’re determined, you will make it, and you’ll discover so many more songs, and increase your enjoyment!

Also, like you, Justin was a life saver. In fact, I discovered his site before ever buying a guitar, and I thought I could do it, especially with the two years off for the pandemic. I decided to invest in hollow-body electric, a Gretsch 2420T streamliner with Bigsby (I have to have that tremolo!!!), and I’ve never regretted it. I got it on sale for $399, and still love it. I didn’t want to buy a “starter” and then have to upgrade. I now have an acoustic electric Ibanez (a $200 cheapy) that I use to force my hands to stretch a little more, and for finding the right key for a song I want to learn.

I can only repeat, please don’t give up! No one can feel as defeated as I can at times with tiny arthritic hands, but I promise that with time that F barre chord will come! (And I keep my promises!!) :wink:

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Thanks so much Snah. I will check out that fretboard learning technique.
I’m currently using Light strings (.012 gauge). If I continue to struggle, I will try the extra light strings.

Pete - thanks for the advice. Your story is certainly inspiring. I’m glad you were able to overcome the obstacle of arthritis. Fortunately, I don’t have to fight through that.
We have similar taste in music, but I don’t know if I will move on electric guitar. Maybe I will reward myself if achieve some level of proficiency. Thanks for the encouragement! I will keep slugging away at the F barre chord.


And if someone ever does, don’t listen to them. Sing for yourself first and foremost.

I loved the story Pete. I struggle with arthritis too, but fight through it to keep playing because it keeps me happy. Also, once we are all gone there is something left behind for others to enjoy. Justin guitar helped me make leaps and bounds in playing and I really love the forum to connect with others around the world who are not shy to help with advice.

Gretsch guitars are really nice, I was looking at the G5022C Rancher Falcon, white with gold trim. It runs about $650 and they have a 12 string version. I like your style of music too. I play some of the songs from that era, esp Elvis’s portfolio of songs from his 68 comeback special. Thanks for offering words of encouragement for John. This motivates others like me too. Take care

Thanks for the feedback Jeff! I hope we can continue to donate when we can, and keep Justin aware of how many lives he has changed! Kudos and thanks Justin. Lead on bro!!!

Hello John and welcome to the community. :slight_smile:

I see others have answered your questions, so I just stick with salutations.