Hello - Nigel from Northern Ireland. Where am I going

Hi folks, my name is Nigel and I’m from Ireland:). This is my first post on a forum like this. I’ve been learning the guitar for about ten years (I’m 47), been through a few tutors but mostly following people like Justin online and trying to make progress on songs I like. I’ve tried to learn some theory but find it a big struggle to tbh.
I just want to be ‘fairly good’, to play songs I like, cool licks and some lead. I don’t know if I’ll ever be fairly good tho… which is why I’m pontificating like this.
I can play most open chords fairly well, and most barre chords. There are lots of songs I can play, my musical taste is varied and I like anything from classic rock rock, late 70s/early 80s post punk & new wave to '90s British indie stuff.
But like many wannabe guitarists I get very frustrated. Sometime I find myself making progress on songs, then hit a brick wall… and no matter how much practice I put in that wall still seems to be there. Currently finding it with Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’
My general approach to the guitar has always been to learn songs, I’ve sometimes attempted scales but there’s never been a proper structure to practice and lay down some important foundations.
That’s why I’m thinking of following one of Justin’s courses. Given what I know, I definitely don’t need to start the beginner one but I probably should dive into it somewhere and take it from there.
I would just like to hear from anyone who is either doing, or has completed any of Justin’s courses. What is the best approach to get the most out of them, particularly to discipline yourself to stick at it and make proper progress?
Discipline is one of my biggest drawbacks: I start something with best intentions (like scales) and then after a good attempt, I’m putting that effort into learning another song…
Anyway, for those who go through to the end… thanks for reading!


Hello Nigel and welcome to the community. :slight_smile:

I’m sure others will be along with some sage advice but I find that I just make sure I do my course practice before I even start on learning a new song. I just think that if I don’t do the core stuff then I’ll never get to where I want to be.


First of all, hello and welcome! I do hope you’ll enjoy your stay here.

This i know all too well. Justin mentions that going slowly, even very slowly, leads to building up the speed/muscle memory you need to get where you want to be. If i hit a wall, it’s mostly because i’m trying to do too much too soon, too fast. A few steps back are sometime progress as well.

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Hi Nigel, Welcome to the community.
Everyone’s learning process and motivations are different… That said, here’s what I’ve been doing since starting with Justin’s courses about 3 years ago.
Even though I wasn’t a beginner, I started at Grade 1. I moved through the first 3 grades quickly, but I did pick up useful techniques and learning processes and I got grounded in how Justin teaches. From that point and going back to the ‘new’ Grade 3, I started developing new skills and music knowledge. My focus is songs, so I don’t spend all my time with the course-ware but I like the structure it provides to continue my development. That structure includes goals and practice schedules for skills at each section. While I don’t follow them all precisely, they give me a way to measure my progress and quickly return to skills practice after a few days of song work.
HTH. Enjoy the Journey.

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Hi Nigel, not enough of us Paddies represented here, so I hope I don’t put you off… :wink:

A couple of thoughts:
Learning songs happens to be our good moderator @Richard_close2u holy mantra, so you are already on the right path :cricket:
As to “Where do I start?” Not the first time this question has been asked, and the consensus is usually a version of start at the beginning.
You should run through the early stages fairly quickly but may well pick up new techniques or knowledge in the process.
I imagine in your case, there will be bits of theory that will help if you struggle with that.
Have you had a look at Justin’s theory course? It starts from scratch and is quite practical. The first couple of stages are free and give you both a basic grounding as well as taste to see if it’s for you.
Everyone supposedly hits a wall at some stage (I’m still in the early stages, so waiting for mine :roll_eyes:). Head down and work through it is the only sensible advice I’ve seen.
I’m probably the last one you should take advice from, as I stopped following the course as soon as I learned how to play a barre chord. There are just too many good songs to try and learn.
The single most helpful (and enjoyable) thing you could do is record yourself on your mobile and post a song in the AVOYP section.
This is a very user-friendly community and I think I’m the only one here who makes smart-alec remarks (well, maybe @roger_holland too, but I think that’s as much a language problem as personality issue :rofl: )
Anyway, I hope you find something helpful here in the community or on the course itself.
Cheers :smiley:

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Welcome to the community Nigel.

As @brianlarsen says the consensus is generally to start the course from the beginning to identify anything you need to work on, pickup new techniques and knowledge. Given your experience it won’t take you long to run through the course modules. The following lesson may be of interest to you:

First…Hi Nigel,
Welcome and i wish you a long and instructive guitar time and theory helps to speed that up :sunglasses:
Second about @brianlarsen …How bad for you that you are already running into him…I remember my first time when he immediately started mocking my name, luckily I got help from our dear @batwoman Maggie otherwise he would never have kept his mouth shut…
Where is that scythe …where is that scythe???

Dxmn … I still chuckle too… :roll_eyes:


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The below links are very useful for an overview of the various course materials:
Lesson Map and Premium Courses

Don’t forget the positives @roger_holland … Brian introduces you to lots of new songs… he has a sock drawer full of them.

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Welcome Nigel!

I think you will find Justin’s program very helpful. It is very well organized and progresses in an appropriate way, far better than much of the other good, but less well organize, hit or miss, lesson sites out there. It will bring you the direction and consistency to your learning that you seem to feel you lack.

I am using Justin’s course (1.5+ years) and more recently another course for Classical guitar specifically.

One interesting common theme from those who are succeeding with both courses is that, regardless of starting experience, they have started at the beginning. Even the very first courses have valuable guidance and more importantly set the pathway of how to go about learning.

Most importantly, starting at the beginning, even if you go a bit faster, will help you with the most important part, which is building your guitar experience in a rational and organized way forward.

The course isn’t simply various bits of information, it is a well developed pathway to learning and building your skills.

Always tie your practice something that is attached to something you’re doing now
Practicing a song seems obvious but practicing scales is less pragmatic.
Sounds like part of your practice isn’t part of your identity now as a musician.

Ask yourself: Why are you practicing a scale?
Because it trains several things at once; ear, fingers, scale shapes… true but those aren’t goals themselves; they are means to an end as well.
What if focus a bit more on learning to improvise, a little bit better every day. For that you actually USE that certain scale you were using. Perhaps you can practice the scale in a shape and position that actually fits a song you are working on and could use some spicing up. You improv skill will spot where and howto change a dull part of chord progression with some of your own lead work. While you’re at it, you hear if it sounds good and you make your song your own. Whether it is copying a lead part or creating your own; you’re still doing a lot in overlap. Don’t learn the complete scale shape at once before you move on. Learn a chunck and USE it. In improv, in songs, in your repertoire… Make sure you learn things you use.
You’re a musician now; using several skills at once. Same happens in songwriting, repertoire building, learning some basic fingerpicking…

I heard in an interesting audio book about atomic habits that by focussing to much on a goal, we don’t care enough for the process and our identity.
Identity: You’re a musician now and you should embrace that. It’s not so that only fulltime musicians may call themselves that. You make music, you are a musician.
If you quit smoking you don’t say: “I’m trying to quit”. No; go for “I’m a non-smoker”. THAT’s identity. Find that identity as a musician and think: what would a musician do to understand, master, tackle, write, hear, learn…

hope that made sense ^^


Hey Nigel,

Welcome mate. Good to have you here.

I came into Justins course/ community about 2 years ago, knowing a handful of chords, and frustrated at not being able to play the songs I wanted to. No structure in my self learning at all, and lots of stop/ start failed attempts.
I started at Grade 1, Lesson 1, as a means of filling in all the very basics, and identifying any technique issues. You’ve obviously got a fair amount of experience, so I suppose its a matter of seeing where would be a good starting point in the general course.
I highly recommend checking out Justins Practical Music Theory course. It has been the game changer for me, and is highly regarded by many here. Brilliant course, and I believe the pinnacle of Justins teaching.
Re the discipline. For me, a practice schedule, done weekly in advance. Always lets me know where I’m at, and where I’m going, and makes me accountable to it.

I think being an active part of a great community like is also highly beneficial;
not just the wealth of knowledge and experience here, but the friendships, the encouragement, and being able to vent your problems and frustrations in a healthy, and very often, fun environment. I think it really drives momentum.

All the best Nigel. And looking forward to hearing a few tunes when you’re ready.

Cheers, Shane

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Hi Nigel, welcome. I think managing expectations is important. As you’ve said you can play many songs. Finding a song that you can’t play (as easily as you expect to) shouldn’t come as something completely unexpected. That someone know how to play guitar at a certain level means that he or she can play songs at a certain level or in a certain way. There will be always a song that for any reason is harder to play, that requires a higher level of technique he or she has not achieved yet or the use of certain technique that he or she may not posses yet. Once you find that song, as other have said, slow down and work on what is causing difficulty. The more thoroughly you follow Justin Guitar lessons the more tools you’ll have to deal with the difficulties you can find trying to play songs. Even taking a quick look at a lesson about an open chord you already know will provide you with a lot of extra information that Justin provides on each lesson.

Hi Nigel,

Welcome to the group. I have been here with Justin guitar for about 2 years now and I am the same age. I think you should follow Justin’s courses step by step once you decide on your skill level that fits. He has a lot of “psychology based-motivational” type videos too, esp about practicing. Good luck to you and enjoy the journey

Jeff from California

Welcome to the Community, Nigel. Lots of good advice already shared. I’d support the ‘start at the beginning’ approach, assuring you have a solid foundation and then slow down when you start to break new ground.

Welcome Nigel! I am a total beginner so my advice may not have much weight but I would start at the beginning. If you already know the information you will progress quickly through the modules until you find an exercise that meets where you are challenged. So far I have found the more disciplined you are about spending time practicing everyday the better you will get. Even if it’s only sitting down for 15 focused minutes.

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Jeez folks, thanks to everyone for replying :smiley:


Hi Nigel!

Dare I enquire as to the nature of the wall that you’ve hit?

It may also be worth pointing out that Justin has “I’m on Fire” as a Grade 5 song (I'm On Fire by Bruce Springsteen | JustinGuitar.com), and you’ve not mentioned roughly where you would place yourself in his course (you hint a bit at ‘beginner-ish’?); is there a chance that you may need to keep this a ‘dreamer’ for now?

If you’ve not seen it yet, Justin describes dreamers here: 3 Types of Songs You Should Practice | JustinGuitar.com

Hi Nigel
Welcome :slight_smile:
I also wasn’t an absolute beginner when I first started with JG and started learning by focusing on songs. I personally found it really beneficial starting right from the beginning. There’s so much detail in all of the lessons. I did get through the earlier lessons a bit faster but still learned so much. I’m only up to grade 3 so far so still a beginner. I also found the theory course to be great! Justin explains things in an easy-to-understand, logical way.
Have you checked out the Practice Assistant on the dashboard? You can set up your routine with whatever you need/want to work on or have a couple of different ones (morning/night?). I think it’s a great tool to give structure to my practice routine. It could help with the discipline :slight_smile:

I think you hit the nail on the head there: I’ve been learning songs that have parts which are beyond me at the moment. I’ve also been making the fundamental mistake of just not taking the time to practice difficult parts painstakingly slowly… like the chord transitions to c#m and the picking in I’m On Fire (didn’t realise it was grade 5!). I’m sometimes hard on myself but there’s a lot of songs I can play pretty well now, altho I’d still classify myself in the ‘beginner’ category so I’m working my way through Justin’s course to kinda get an idea of where I’m really as I’m pretty capable of much of it. The comments have been enlightening and making me see that I’ve been practising pretty blindly. So I’m going to approach things with more realism, precision and structure!


Hi Nigel it may be worth thinking about starting a learning log which can be a valuable tool.