Howdy y'all

Not exactly new to guitar, but still very much a newbie.

As I’ve met more people who have tried guitar, my journey sounds pretty common.

I got my first guitar in college, about 24yrs ago. I had played trumpet for a few years in middle school until my only choice to continue with that instrument was to do marching band. I should have taken up a stringed instrument then. Anyway, I wanted to take the guitar class for my music credit, but learned it was reserved for music majors. I ended up taking piano and enjoying it. But after that, I didn’t really do anything with music. I sold that guitar because I had no idea what to do with it on my own, and was too poor to hire a private instructor.

Fast forward several years, and in about 2008 or so, I bought another guitar. A Yamaha acoustic. Not expensive, but it sounded awful nice.

I started taking private lessons right away, but progress was extremely slow. I just couldn’t get comfortable with chord changes. I’m a righty and doing those kinds of things with my left hand has always given me a challenge. It was troublesome for me in that college piano class, too. My piano teacher let me re-write the pieces we played so I could do just chords with my left hand when the music was telling me to do other stuff.

I got accepted into graduate school and moved to another state. But I hired another private instructor and kept up with my lessons for awhile. Until my schedule made it really hard to keep those going. And then I had a major illness that kept me away from the guitar for awhile after that, even. And then habit took over.

I kept thinking about it, though. A few winters ago, I took a group class locally at the community college (a couple more relocations later). A few more things started to click for me, but those chord changes were still giving me trouble. The 2nd half of the class left me behind and I didn’t get as much out of it then. Got frustrated and put the guitar down again. But still kept thinking about it.

Last fall, I decided I was going to dive in again. But I wanted to try something different to see if I could make it stick. I had recently gotten some medication for ADHD, so I was hoping that would help me keep to a practice schedule. But I really wanted to see if I could find a way to specifically address my trouble with chord changes and approach them with smaller steps and a smoother progression into it. There was just too much out there for me to put together everything myself, so I found an instructional site (a competitor to this one I guess you could say) with a sale running and bought a few lessons to try.

The first lesson did introduce those chord changes with much smaller steps than they’d been taught to me in the past. I started to get smoother with them. And I actually was able to play songs on tempo along with the videos! I’ve never been able to keep up with an instructor before. I’m still working through those lessons I bought.

It appears that it really takes me a lot of work to start getting better with new material as those challenges increase. Most recently, I’ve added the “baby F” chord and I’ve noticed that this has really opened up a BUNCH of songs I’ve been wanting to play. I won’t say I’m smooth with that chord yet, but I do find myself wanting to play more songs than the lessons I’m working on have been teaching me. Currently working on “House of the Rising Sun” (complete with arpeggios, also) in those lessons.

I ended up here because I keep getting referred here for song how-tos. I tried out a local guitar jam group that’s reportedly beginner friendly and I didn’t even play a note. I was SUPER discouraged by this. I just watched everybody else, trying to pick out a rhythm to play and I just had no idea. The group leader was doing some complex strumming with embellishments and her fingers were a blur. I couldn’t pick out WTF she was doing even remotely. When was she changing chords? Good question. All those embellishments made it hard for me to tell. Everybody else in the group looked to be having trouble, too. The group just sounded like chaos.

Afterwards, one of the guys in the group reached out to me and we chatted a bit. He sent along some music for songs that were sortof in the neighborhood of where I am, along with links to JustinGuitar how-to vids. Also with encouragement to keep coming to the group. I don’t think I’ll be going back until I have more figured out.

In particular, it seems I really need help determining what to do with chord sheets that give just the lyrics and the chords. With everything I’ve done, nobody has really addressed what to do with these. I’m not singing with anything I play yet. I’m focusing so much on getting my rhythm and my chord changes that I don’t have the bandwidth to also sing. And from what I’ve tried, I can’t even play a basic quarter note strum with these song sheets without singing along.

I’ve been using TABS (not the crappy ASCII ones) that give you a whole lot more information about the rhythm you’re playing, chords you’re playing, and any little extras you might also be doing.

While I’ve been working on the guitar, my wife decided to take up the uke. She’s progressed a lot quicker than me. She has a stronger music background than I do and having only 4 strings to keep track of sure seems a little easier. We’d like to be able to jam together but have just been playing different songs so far. She just started playing “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” and I decided to check it out to see if it was a song we could try. Again, I ended up here. I’ve started working on it and am working on the intro. Particularly the changes into and out of F (using the baby F I’ve been working on). It’s slow, but I’m getting better.

I was poking around the rest of the site to see what else was available and I think I might also start working on the beginner lessons here. There will be lots of repetition (which, for me, I think will probably be a good thing), but it also looks like Justin introduces a few things in a different order, so I’ll still be building new skills. It won’t all be identical.

Given that the tabs feature on this site appears to be one of the few things behind a subscription, I think I will probably pay for access to them. Right now, it seems to be one of the things that helps me most. But I really do want to learn how to handle chord sheets because of how pervasive they are. My wife got referred to for a big ukulele songbook, and I noticed that the site has all those songs also transcribed for guitar. So I’ve got a few thousand songsheets stored on my computer now…and really no idea how to use them.

So here I am, hoping to continue learning.


Oh, and once I started playing some real songs, I got an electric guitar. An Epiphone Les Paul Modern. Love the red.


Oh, and why not add a travel acoustic guitar that I can take camping and don’t necessarily have to worry about leaving in a hot car?

I dragged it out into the woods on an overnight backpacking trip to play around the campfire. It poured on us overnight. Definitely not the kind of conditions you’d want to take a wooden instrument.


LOL… :wave: , Welcome to the group. Yes, it’s very common.

Have fun and enjoy the journey now.


A very warm welcome to the community, Nate! Your story seems to be quite similar to others’. Lots of restarters here and lots of folk who picked up the guitar later in life.
With Justin’s website, you’ve found a great place to learn and grow with. His teaching style is very well structured and by the way very encouraging. I guess you can get a lot out of it, starting right at the beginning and working through the beginner grades.
Still a lot of work to do :wink:, but he gives you strong guidelines, that helps a lot to stay on track.
The community is a second helpful building block to stay informed, get help and to stay motivated.
Best wishes for your journey, looking forward to meet you here at the platform!

Hi Nate,
Welcome here and I wish you a lot of fun :sunglasses:


welcome :slight_smile:

Welcome to the forum Nate

Thanks for the warm welcomes everyone!

Hi Nate, welcome to the community. Since you said that you needed more help with using chord charts, you might check out the JG app. I think you can try it out for free and you can do a monthly or annual subscription. The main part of the app is the songs section that acts as a guitar karaoke with scrolling lyrics and chord chart with backing track, showing the chords and when to strum with the lyrics. You can turn off some of the backing track if it is too distracting,. I find the website song lessons to be great for learning how to enhance songs beyond just strumming with chords. Even the grade 1 song lessons or tutorials give some more advanced ways to play grade 1 songs. I offer this advice as someone who has played and sung from chord charts for over 40 years. I still learn a lot from listening to Justin’s song tutorials on the website. Even though I will be starting grade 4 soon, I am still learning ways to play grade 2 songs from Justin’s lessons and still use the app. If you subscribe to the JG Tabs, try playing some of lower grade chord charts while following Justin’s song lessons. You can also try 1 or more of Justin’s song books. I use them instead of the tab subscription. Over time with practice you will get better. Have fun.

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I definitely want to build a solid foundation.

My ultimate goals for guitar playing are to develop a bit more versatile base than most probably do. I like several styles of music, so I’d like to be able to play stuff from rock and blues on the electric to simple strumming on the porch/campfire with an acoustic to doing a little bluegrass to even a bit of fingerpicking. Obviously that’s pretty ambitious, so I’m trying to start small.

Right now, my main goals are to learn enough chords that I have a nice selection of songs to choose from, find a way to handle and use the ubiquitous song sheets with lyrics and chords and nothing else, and start to explore some lead/picking techniques to be able to do some fun riffs and such. Not too focused on styles yet, but building the tools so I can do that later.

Hello Nate & welcome!!!

The really basic “tabs” that are just chord names over the lyrics are often difficult to read and offer no clue to strumming or rhythm.

When I find myself wanting to learn a song with only the most basic of tabs, I listen carefully to that song multiple times while following along with the tabs… making notes about what I hear with the guitar part - trying to “tune out” the lyrics but paying attention to the drums for the “feel” of the rhythm.
I’ll then start to strum while muting all the strings to feel the vibe but still following along mentally with the tab - it’s kinda like “Cliff’s Notes” for transcribing!!! You still have to put in the work but when you actually try to play the chords (and sing maybe), you’ll have a better understanding of the song structure and rhythm… hopefully this helps a little bit!
Good luck!!!


That helps…but it doesn’t.

It pretty much tells me that at my level, using these chord sheets is unattainable. This is why I want a better, clearer system for figuring out how to deal with it.

When I pick up my guitar to play, I don’t want to have to sit down and spend hours listening to a song on repeat trying to tune out portions of the song (I have auditory processing challenges - I hear everything and have a really hard time with that - it’s one reason why noisy environments are overwhelming for me), and maybe watching videos to see what the guitars are actually doing in order to write down what they’re doing so I can go back later and figure out how I’m going to play it. F*ck that noise.

There HAS to be a better way.

I get it… we see that a lot here, what works for some isn’t necessarily the best answer for others… we all march to our own beat!
I hope you find what works for you, Nate!



Unless I know the song, i.e. can sing it blind-folded I can’t get rhythm from those chord lyric sheets either, and even then, it doesn’t always work for me. As @SteveL_G99 mentioned, I also use the Song App on my phone for learning songs, try the 7 day trial and see if it helps. It has Have you Seen the Rain, which I am learning at about 80% speed because of the blasted F chord changes. (you can drop to 50% if needed).

It has helped me tremendously with rhythm, too, plus I am now able to play that song and a few others without looking at the app at all, and mainly use it for backing tracks for some songs.

A few times a year there is a 20% off sale on it as well.

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hm. that may prove to be a challenge for me. remembering words at that level of precision is not something my brain does well. I’m horrible with names, exact quotes, song lyrics, etc.

I memorize the music itself much more easily. it doesn’t take me practicing a song for very long before I’ve got it memorized. even if I haven’t played it for awhile, if I revisit the music and play it a couple times, it comes back quickly and then I’ve got it again. the lyrics, though. even songs that I’ve enjoyed for years and have been able to sing some of the lyrics for a long time, I can never quite get them nailed.

I get you with the F chord changes. rough to nail, those are.

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