How to PASS Grade 1

All of this is super helpful and reassuring info. I practice every day for at least an hour (less the first couple months when I was building calluses), so I would say I’m at well over 100 hours, probably closer to 150, and I’m on Module 7, so that still seems slow by comparison. But I’m also learning that it really doesn’t matter how long it takes to learn as long as you’re motivated to learn and do learn.


Which books do you recommend and why?

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I’ve got 3 of Justin’s books - Beginner’s Songbook, Beginner’s Songbook Volume II, and the Rock Songbook. All of those are linked from the site. The Beginner Songbooks have a great selection of songs, with each having playing tips, strumming advice, and items that you can try when coming back to the song with more advanced knowledge. The Rock Songbook is a bit more advanced and I’m not quite there yet, but it’s fun to look through and experiment with stuff. I enjoy being able to lay a book out and play songs “offline”.


Hi Craig, don’t worry about that. Had a very similar experience to yours, I also needed nearly 5 months through Grade 1, was very happy to have finished, until I sah Justin’s recommendation how to pass Grade 1 and that there should be a phase of consolidation and also the memorizing of 5 songs. First I was a little bit frustrated because I already had the feeling to be too slow. But to be honest, like you I wasn’t aware to use the strumming patterns in the songs, videos showed muted strings and in Justins course book recommendation was to do this later. In the app, strumming patterns are mostly very simplyfied… so end of the story was, that I couldn’t play that 5 Songs consistantly while using a suggested strumming pattern. So my consolidation took another 4-5 weeks and is still going on, while I was going through Module 8. Most of the songs in the app are much easier to play as in the songbook. I found out, that playing with the app is a very good Instrument to get into playing, into timing and rhythm, but it is much more difficult to play without, but that’s the target… so I’m working on playing without support too. Frustrating sometimes. I’ m in now for about 6,5 months and working through Module 8, while building up a solid basis. Not very fast, but it takes as long as it takes…I decided to consider the way as my target, I practice at least one hour a day, not because I have to, just because I’m having so much fun with it.


I may have to get them. I do like the idea of playing songs “offline.” I have a few songbooks with guitar tab that I picked up for cheap at secondhand bookstores, but they were too advanced for me, especially the Led Zeppelin (my favorite group). Justin’s books are probably more appropriate for my skill level, so I think I’ll take the plunge. Thank you!

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Your experience definitely sounds like mine. But that’s okay. Playing songs with backing tracks on the app where I can slow down the tempo has been key. I’ve been playing 1-1 1/2 hours a day not because I have to, but because I keep adding new songs I like with chord changes I’m practicing because I’m having so much fun.

When I finally realized how simple the strumming patterns were (in the app) for many of the songs I’ve been playing (“Three Little Birds,” “Sing,” “For What It’s Worth,” “Wish You Were Here”), I realized I was closer to finishing Grade One than I thought. In fact, there may be five songs that I simply have to memorize at this point because I can already play them just fine with the app.

I’ve gotta say this because it’s proven to be hugely helpful for me—this Justin Guitar community ROCKS. People have been so friendly and helpful with none of that snarkiness that seems to be everywhere on the Internet. So THANK YOU for the advice and words of encouragement!


This is most definitely not the case. Everyone learns at a different rate. Some will find certain modules difficult and others won’t and vice versa. Learn at your own speed and build a solid foundation.


Gordon … I wrote that and it was to a specific person in a specific context. I didn’t put it up as a hard and fast rule or recommendation on time frames for learning. It was in this topic: Questio-rant about learning


Sorry Richard. I didn’t mean to tread on your toes. I’d never come across a formula for how long it should take to complete a grade/module before. I’ve read the topic you refer to and can see it was to a specific person and context. 150 Em to D changes in a minute. Wow! :grinning:

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Sorry if I put it out of context and explained myself badly @sairfingers @Richard_close2u


@sairfingers no worries Gordon, no toes trodden on. :slight_smile:
@Rumil no worries, it’s fine. :slight_smile:


Hi Craig,

My personal feeling is that you can put as much time as you want into Grade 1 but that if you don’t have specific goals and just want to get a good foundation "PASS"ing by Justin’s definition is a pretty good benchmark to be able to move on. The reason for this is that you can get a ton of mileage just out of the Grade 1 material and depending on your goals it may be the only thing you really need, or maybe Grade 1 plus diverging into a few other select topics is all you need.

What are your goals? It’s never too early to think about what you want to play and how you want to play guitar.

My big goal currently is to eventually lead a classic country band singing and playing acoustic guitar, and to this end Grade 1 actually gets me pretty far. Grade 1 & 2 plus some digging into specific topics (especially rhythm studies, understanding harmonic structure, and singing) are probably all I’ll ever need to get there. But I also want to be prepared to record and perform a bit, so to this end I have started spending some time in understanding microphone setup and home recording, hoping to share some of my work with the community here and maybe doing an open mic.

Do you want to play funk guitar? Better spend a ton of time with a metronome and bar chords. Do you want to play lead thrash? Better start working those scales and arpeggios now. Etc…



Hey, y’all. So it’s been several consecutive daily practices, and I’m feeling a little less confident, not discouraged, but realizing there are things I need to practice more. There are a few chord changes in songs that were doable with a simple 1 downstrum per bar using the app & backing track, which I’m constantly flubbing up when I try to incorporate a real strumming pattern. Also, when I practice songs without the backing track, it sounds rougher around the edges than I would like. So the fact is that I’m still shaky from a rhythmic perspective, and it’s also exposing the chord changes that I need to practice more (mainly C, sometimes D).

I’m impatient, but I really don’t see any point in starting Grade Two until I have sufficiently consolidated what I’ve learned so far, and Justin’s definition makes sense to me, especially the part about being able to play five songs. However, his definition of playing each chord correctly at least 50 percent of the time in those songs seems overly generous.

But this is where I get bogged down in deciding do I play this song WELL ENOUGH to start Grade Two? I could cheat a little by choosing all songs in ADE & in AmEm, but I won’t because it just makes sense to also include songs with C & G. I’m not in school trying to pass a grade; I’m doing this for myself.

The songs I will choose probably are: “For What It’s Worth,” “Sing,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Bye, Bye Love” + “Black” or “Love Me Do” or “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” My stretch songs, which I really want to learn to play, but I won’t let it delay me starting Grade 2, are “Ripple” and “Heart of Gold:”

The bottom line is that I have to remember how long it took me to practice other things before I could usually get them right. Repetition has definitely proved to be the most important thing for me to make progress. This is why playing songs is the main part of my practice. I can only take so many Chord Perfect & One-Minute Change exercises (even though I do them religiously at the start of every practice). But I can, and often do, practice songs until my fingers hurt, I run out of time, or (most commonly) my fingers just get too sloppy. Maybe that’s what people mean by finger fatigue? This usually works out to between 70 and 90 minutes per day.

I’m really enjoying this journey, enjoying it well enough at the six-month mark that I have purchased my first guitar. (I’ve been playing on a friend’s instrument.) It’s in transit from the factory to my local Guitar Center, and I’m expecting it later this week. It is not a beginner’s guitar. I didn’t want to invest in an instrument until I had proved to myself that this was something that I was reasonably confident that I would stick with. In other words, something that I would be disciplined about practicing, enjoy practicing, and make at least some progress however slow.

This is a rather long post, so if you’ve read this far, thank you! Part of the reason I feel comfortable telling you all this is because the JustinGuitar community may be the friendliest, most helpful place that I visit on the Internet. You guys rock! Thank you!


Hi Craig.
I am newbie my self. But i can say what i found easier in my journey after 6 months…. That was about the time i just stopped using the song app and tried to play without. I felt i had too much focus on following the dots and got very disturbed when i missed the beat.
I found it much more enjoyable too just play without it, just trying to jam along the different songs on my stereo…

For the chord changes… just keep at it. One day it just getting better without you even really notice it…

It can also help you out a lot with a new guitar. Easier to play, lower string action etc… the guitar it self is important when learning… much easier with a good guitar with a good set up.

That is my 2 cents for what its worth…


Hey all!

Im working on my grade one consolidation and am looking for my 5 songs to learn.

One thing I noticed is that a lot of the songs on the site that are listed as grade 1 songs, are actually quite high BPMs when checking them in the app (I even saw a few over 130). Is this speed expected for players at the grade 1 consolidation phase, or are they too fast?

I noticed that my strumming shoulder starts tensing up whenever I get around the 100 BPM mark. I’m not sure if it’s normal at this level to struggle with these speeds, or if I found a glaring weakness in my playing.

I could easily just find 5 slower songs I like and learn them to complete this grade, but if my (relaxed) strumming speed isnt where it should be I guess I’ll hang around grade 1 some weeks longer than expected.


In grade one you should be doing 1 strum per bar comfortably. So at 130 BPM in 4/4 time that would be 32.5 strums Per Minute. If you’re comfortable with that try strumming every second beat.
Changing your chords cleanly would be better than strumming faster.
You can also slow the songs down to a comfortable speed, get it right first then try speeding it up.
Being relaxed is the key to speeding up.

on the website it says you should be comfortable strumming Old Faithful at 80 bpm.


Judging by the numbers you gave, it seems like quite a bit of the songs actually are faster than that. I think I found a few songs at 8th notes at 100+ BPM, which is A LOT more strums per minute than your benchmarks.

I easily hit those numbers you mentioned and can do most chord changes pretty clean, so I’ll focus on some slower songs.



I know everyone is different but is there a realistic time frame that one could shoot for as an “average” time it should take for a 100% complete new to guitar player to go from zero to passing grade 1?


It really doesn’t matter how long you take, so only you can really answer how long it takes.

how much time do you put in , how easy or difficult is your learning ability, there are to many to list for any one person. That said, I’ve seen it written that 6 months should more be enough.



Not a direct answer re: Grade 1 specifically, instead concerning the ‘Beginner Course’ which is Grade 1, 2, and 3. The old site had this response to that query in particular.

How long should it take to finish the beginner course?
It seems on average to take between 3 and 6 months. Some people a lot faster, some a lot slower. Just go at your own pace - it will mostly be related to how much practice you do, these averages are based on the recommended amounts. Double or triple the suggested times and it will obviously happen a lot faster!

The site is down now but can see it on the WayBack Machine here:

Hope that helps answer the question. Of course, just take your time and ‘enjoy the process’ :slight_smile:

Kind regards,