Hilary’s Learning Log

I just dropped my guitar off at the shop to have it set up, and will be guitar-less until probably early next week, so I’m using that as an excuse to finally start my learning log!

I have owned my guitar since probably 2008 or 2009 (including schlepping it on multiple cross-country moves), and have attempted to learn multiple times in fits and starts, never getting further than learning a few chords and not really being able to change between them. I started on Justin Guitar in November 2022 and have made way more progress since then than in all those years before, which I’m super happy about!

I was able to move through the grade 1 modules at a decent clip since the only brand new chord for me was Dm (still one of the most challenging one for me). The majority of the other foundational skills (strumming, chord changes, etc.), I hadn’t formally learned before, and are definitely what has made the difference in my learning this go-round. I spent January through early/mid-March doing my module 7 consolidation, as well as working through grade 1 of the Strumming SOS as part of the class of 2023. There are still things from grade 1 that I want to refine and make cleaner, but I reached a point where practice began to feel tedious, and I thought some new material would help. I also felt like I was pretty on par with Nitsuj’s module 7, so I felt okay about “passing” myself while continuing to work on strumming and tidying up my existing skills.

I’ve been working on module 8 for the past couple of weeks - it’s so much more challenging than any of the grade 1 modules, and it’s been a lot of fun! I pretty much know my stuck 3/4 chords, but found that I needed to press really hard on the strings, and they often sounded squeaky during chord changes with even minor reductions in finger pressure, which is what inspired me to finally have my guitar set up (it has never been set up in the 12+ years that I’ve had it since I didn’t realize until starting JG that it was even a thing!). In addition to joking about it being strung backwards, the guy at the guitar shop commented that the saddle was pretty high, so I’m hoping that, between the setup and some additional practice, those chords will get to sounding better. I’m also anticipating that it should help make the F chord more achievable when that time comes!

Outside of JG, I’m also working my way through a college-level music theory MOOC, which is not guitar-centered and has been super interesting and fun! (It is probably worth noting here that I already knew how to read music from playing clarinet as a kid). The first section of the course was a review (for me) of reading musical notation, but it has since progressed to learning about major and minor keys, what notes make up chords, diatonic chord progressions, and more. It’s been really fun nerding out and learning about how all these musical things mostly-neatly fit together. I even correctly identified a song in 6:8 while I was listening to music while out on a walk this week, which I was stoked about!

Eagerly awaiting the call to pick up my guitar so I can keep practicing!

Yamaha FG720SL

Beginner Grade 2 - In progress, started March 2023

  • Module 13 - Lessons complete, still lots of practice to go
  • Module 12 - Complete-ish
  • Module 11 - Complete
  • Module 10 - Complete
  • Module 9 - Complete
  • Module 8 - Complete
    • Grade 2 songs under consideration
      • Free Fallin’, Tom Petty
      • Songbird, Oasis
      • Let It Be, The Beatles
      • You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, The Beatles
      • Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen
      • Closing Time, Semisonic
  • Beginner Grade 1 - Complete
    • Grade 1 Songs
      • For What It’s Worth, Buffalo Springfield
      • What’s Up?, Four Non-Blondes
      • Peaceful, Easy Feeling, The Eagles
      • Stand By Me, Ben E. King
      • Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Tom Petty (Beginner Songbook version)
  • Music Theory
    • Grades 1&2 - Complete
  • Ear Training
    • Introduction - Complete
    • Grade 1 - Complete (19/20 on test)
    • Grade 2 - Complete (20/20 on test)
    • Grade 3 - Complete (20/20 on test, 19/20 on rapid fire)
  • Strumming SOS
    • Grade 1 - In progress/ongoing
      • Video lessons complete, but I still need more practice!
Song Repertoire
  • For What It’s Worth - Buffalo Springfield
  • What’s Up? - Four Non-Blondes
  • Peaceful, Easy Feeling - The Eagles
  • Stand By Me - Ben E. King
  • Mary Jane’s Last Dance - Tom Petty (Beginner Songbook version)
  • Songbird - Oasis
  • Free Fallin’ - Tom Petty
  • All Of Me - John Legend
  • Let It Be - The Beatles
  • The Story - Brandi Carlile
  • Wagon Wheel - Old Crow Medicine Show
  • By and By - Caamp

Wow, that’s great progress Hilary, sounds like you’re doing great. I’m at a similar position to you and recently had my guitar set up, since it has been hiding in its case in the loft for near on 20 years. I actually find it a bit harder to play now. It could be because I’m having to put pressure in the pinkies a bit more or it could be that the action is now slightly higher, difficult to know. Keep enjoying and having fun though.

Hm, odd that it’s harder to play after your setup. Have you asked them about it? The guy at the shop today answered some questions for someone over the phone while I was there, I wonder if you could call your store to get an idea (acknowledging that they might have to physically look at your guitar to say for certain)

Hi Hilary, your thoughts have crossed my mind. I seem to be getting more vibration the strings which I didn’t get before but I don’t know if that’s because I’ve just started using the two smaller fingers and I’m not pressing them down hard enough. Smaller fingers aren’t so strong yet. I’ll carry on for a bit and if it doesn’t sort out I’ll go back to the shop to check. Thank you for your thoughts😊

Lovely first post to start off your Learning Log, Hilary.

Look forward to following your progress.


Great stuff. I have the good fortune of being married to a Hilary, with one l like your name. Keep up the great effort.

1 Like

Hi Hilary - that was an enjoyable read.

I like the way you’ve outlined your progress. It can feel like there are lots of different plates being spun to keep everything in balance. Only last night I was thinking my music practice schedule only focusses on the current module but would benefit from putting music theory, ear training and strumming SOS in rather than dropping in and out.

As a curiosity which MOOC did you go for with the music theory?

Hope the guitar setup works a treat for you.

@tony Married to another one-L Hilary? There’s not that many of us!

@Sound_Bound The ear training flits in and out of my practice routine, but it’s actually pretty straightforward to fit all different little things in when you’re doing short, 1-3 minute blocks for most of them. When I was consolidating, I actually made three different routines to do on alternate days to make it less boring, then there was even more opportunity to work on different items.

The MOOC is Comprehensive Music Theory through Udemy (which I have access to for free through my public library). It’s a pretty huge/long course and I’m not sure how far down the road I’ll follow it since analyzing classical music scores is not my goal, but as long as it’s fun, I’ll keep nerding out. :nerd_face:


Hi Hilary, good you started your learning log. Now you have a written plan to follow, adjust as you see necessary, and have fun playing the guitar.

1 Like

Did you get your guitar back before the weekend? Hopefully the new setup is working out for you.

1 Like

Not yet, they told me Thursday to expect it early next week since there were a few repairs ahead of mine (it’s a tiny local shop). I was keeping my fingers crossed for an early call today, but we’re in the midst of a snowstorm, so they may or may not even open today :snowflake: :cry:

My guitar is back!! :raised_hands: They called me this evening, about an hour before they closed, when I had juuust put dinner on. So naturally, I let the potatoes finish boiling, drained them, and headed over to pick up my guitar before proceeding with cooking so that I wouldn’t have to wait until tomorrow to practice again :laughing:

They lowered the bridge and saddle, filed the string slots, and adjusted the neck, and man, what a difference! Even visually, the saddle is noticeably slimmer than it was before, and the strings are actually in the same zip code as the higher frets.

Super happy to get to play again today, and the setup made a huge difference in playability - while my stuck 3/4s definitely still need work, they are substantially less squeaky than before, and the divots on my 3rd and 4th fingers were a lot milder and less sensitive at the end of practice. All the OMCs I did today were quantitatively better than my practice session last week, too - not sure whether to chalk that up to the setup, or the 5 days my nervous system had to digest things, but thrilled nonetheless! :tada:


Wow, that’s so cool!!! Now you are on the highway of your guitar journey, fasten the seatbelt and hold on to hat and glasses … :+1: :cowboy_hat_face: :sunglasses: :partying_face: :partying_face: :partying_face: :partying_face:

1 Like

Happy days!! Decent guitar setups are almost a quarter step towards a NGD without being so out of pocket. That’s fantastic it feels more enjoyable to play.

My acoustic also got transformed with being setup differently. The other big one was changing the strings to something a little lighter. (Though @kimlodrodawa will be having none of this talk of light strings!)


Maybe I really want a bass guitar, just got confused… :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: :joy: :joy: :joy: :joy: ----- I might actually try out the 12 strings instead, why not… I am a nerd… :nerd_face: :nerd_face: :nerd_face: :joy: :joy: :joy: Thouogh I am into funk, blues, fusion… I really do luv the sound with the 13 string… though, I do have to pick the strings harder to get the desired sound. The lighter strings were too light and gave me much mre trouble controlling the amount of sound produced by the picking hand. Strings are fairly cheap and I now know how to adjust everything. So no big deal. As long as we enjoy our jouney and having fun, then all is good :+1: :partying_face: :sunglasses: :cowboy_hat_face: :nerd_face: :nerd_face: :nerd_face: :sunglasses:

1 Like

@Sound_Bound It really is kind of like a NGD! I’ve only ever had custom light strings/11s on it since I’ve had it, which wasn’t a deliberate choice I made initially, but seems like it was the right thing now that I know more. Maybe I’ll give 12s a try someday, once I’ve gained more confidence and competence.

@kimlodrodawa I think I’d love the bigger sound of heavier strings too, but for now, worrying more about being able to actually create the correct chord sounds at all - not in a place to be too picky yet :laughing:

1 Like

I’ve been working on module 8 for about a month - and it’s been a meaty enough module to keep me challenged and engaged for about that long. I’m only recently starting to get ‘itchy’ for new material, and that’s after a good few weeks of practicing about an hour a day.
I’m pretty happy with my progress on most of the module’s benchmarks:

  • Play all the new Stuck 3&4 chords from memory - and remember their names!
    • I know them (plus G/F# as a bonus chord, since it’s in one of my songs), and it’s been a lot of fun playing along with the app using them, both with the songs I’m making a point to learn/memorize, as well other 90s pop rock just for fun/to work on chord changes.
  • Play the open Em pentatonic scale up and down with the metronome at 80bpm. Aim for one note per click.
    • I’m pretty comfortable with this (I can definitely play it faster when I’m not focusing on muting unplayed strings), though when going up and down repeatedly, I will occasionally strum the wrong string and trip myself up.
  • Learned the notes in the Open Position - if not from memory yet, you’re able to figure them out quickly!
    • I’m pretty comfortable here. I also added the C major scale from module 9, so I’m drilling the notes in further by naming them as I play the scale (the hardest part, for some reason, is remembering that F comes after G when counting down - not sure why my brain doesn’t like that one)
  • Had some playing the Wish You Were Here riff
    • This has been a ton of fun, enough for me to hit ‘repeat’ on my 3 min timer to keep working on it more. I’m not in a place yet where I can keep 16th notes straight with the metronome only on the quarter note, but I’m nearly able to play it through by setting 8th notes at 60bpm.
  • Learned at least 2 songs that use the new Stuck 3&4 Chords. It would be awesome if you can play at least one of the new songs all the way through.
    • Songbird by Oasis
      • As suggested in the beginner song book, I’m hoping to make Songbird my first singing-and-playing song, but am still working on making the chord sequence more automatic (if I don’t focus hard enough, I’ll sometimes miss the transition G-G/F# or Em-G/F# bars), as well as singing along to the original since it was a new-to-me song and I still have to think too hard about the lyrics as I sing.
      • It’s also been fun working on strumming just the bass note on the first strum after the chord changes (though I think I’d have a much harder time if they weren’t all 6-string chords).
    • Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty (with the simplified strumming pattern listed in the songbook)
      • The rhythm on this was HARD at first! When I first started, I couldn’t even do muted strumming at 40bpm without my arm and beat-tapping foot getting confused, let alone doing the chord changes fast enough. I’m now up to ~80% of full tempo playing along with the app, and no longer have to count out loud to make my arm do what I want it to. It’s been really rewarding to have such visible progress on this one!
      • In practicing this song’s chord progression, I’m also loving keeping the third finger planted when going from D to a 4-finger or rock G, especially for the quick “1(G)-and(D)” in this song.
  • Play the all-down 8th note strumming with a metronome at 80bpm with confidence.
    • This is the one benchmark that is still a bit harder for me. I do fine when I’m doing muted strumming, but I have a harder time staying in time when I’m actually playing chords. I’m planning to stick on this for a bit longer, even as I start adding bits of module 9 to my practice.

So I’m starting to tiptoe into module 9 - I’ve swapped C major for Em pentatonic for my daily scale practice, and I’m using the all-stop mute for my OMCs. I was also very pleasantly surprised when watching F chord video today that I could actually get the strings to ring out (on my acoustic). It’s definitely hard (I can already tell the 2nd string is going to be the pain point for me), but not as impossible as I had built up in my head from passively absorbing all the horror stories. And I’m pretty sure it’s only possible because I got my guitar set up - well worth the money, I doubt I could have managed it when the action was higher.


It really make a huge difference. So happy for your progress and you are obviously enjoying. So cool! :+1: :sunglasses: :heart: :pray:

1 Like

Great learning log so far! I played clarinet in 3rd grade for one year and vaguely remember learning to read music. Now I only know if the notes go up or down!

Watched your video, you got Old Faithful in there! Nice rendition.

I’m hoping to drop off my guitar at the end of the month to get it setup. I have to go out of town for a few days and wouldn’t be able to practice anyway. Hope it helps me even half as much as yours did!


I played from 4th through 9th grade, so a little more time for the note-reading to get better absorbed than your one year. Reading notes and understanding what accidentals/key signatures/time signatures mean when you play them is really all the “theory” I got at that age, though. It’s been fun to fill in the gaps with more details about keys and scales (and chords, which the clarinet obviously doesn’t have). I don’t think I would have appreciated all of it as a grade schooler, though - I didn’t even like playing scales back then, let alone learning how to build them.

(Voluntarily) Having my guitar held hostage for the better part of a week when I wanted to be practicing was hard - doing it while you’re out of town sounds like a great plan! I hope the setup helps you too! F has still been hard, but at least I know the struggle is all me and not the guitar.

1 Like