Jeff's Learning Log (Learning to Fly)

This is it. This is when I finally become the guitarist I’ve dreamed of being for most of my life.

I always wanted an electric guitar when I was a kid but it was never meant to be. Truth be told, my parents were very good to me but I believe in this instance, it was a matter of not having the patience to listen to me “make noise” (which is certainly what it is at first). :slight_smile: So after having been exposed to lots of different music in college and being particularly inspired by improvisational rock (mostly Phish), I decided it was finally time. I graduated from college and had my own money, so buying a guitar was one of the first things I did. I bought a Fender Stratocaster and a Zoom 505 effects pedal that I had no clue on how to use. This was in 1998, so the internet was still a baby and there certainly weren’t the resources that there are today. There was one dude compiling sometimes dodgy Phish tabs on-line. I wasn’t making a lot of money at the time so lessons weren’t in the cards. I’m a pretty self-motivated person, so I started on my journey to teach myself. I was sure I’d be playing Trey Anastasio leads in no time. Haha. So I mucked around (as Justin would say…I might use an F there instead of the M) for several years, making more progress than I realized at the time, but not enough to really keep me in it. I played up until my son was old enough to want to play all the time and that’s exactly what I did. Being a daddy was the most important thing to me. Priorities. Now, he’s 15 and wants less to do with me so I’m back to it! :slight_smile: And I REALLY missed it.

I’m a creative person by nature. In fact, I turned that into a career. I’m a motion graphics designer and video/audio editor by trade. So I’m pretty well versed in all aspects of A/V media. I also have what Justin refers to as a “musical mind”. The music itself makes so much sense to me, but I’ve never been formally trained in any aspect of music.

What I love about improvisation is the open-ended creative expression it provides. To me, it’s one thing to play a song. It’s another to be able to do so in such a way that it’s unique each time you play it. Most of the people in my life have no idea why I love Phish the way I do. They’re not creative people. The way I usually try to explain it is this: If you had the chance to go see Leonardo da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa, would you? Most people would say “absolutely”. Now, would you go see him paint it again the following night? Most people say “nah I’ve just seen it”. Because the painting doesn’t change. It is what it is. Kind of like a studio track. A lot of bands play the same notes at each show and I’ve seen some of those bands. Nothing wrong with this at all. But what if each time da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa it was a bit different. What if each time, he started and ended at the same place but the journey was completely different? I’ve seen Phish 58 times since 1994. I’ll hit 60 this summer.

Enough about Phish. Some of my other main inspirations include Pink Floyd, Green Day, the Smashing Pumpkins, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Pearl Jam, Greta Van Fleet, and Metallica. Can’t do country, but I’m fairly eclectic in my taste for music.

But, I’ve been equally inspired by this community. I had no intention of making a “Learning Log” or an “AVOYP” or anything like that. I thought I’d just go through the lesson content from the start and pick up on things I’ve missed along the way. I thought I’d breeze through the beginner modules and just kind of do my own thing the way I always have. But everyone has been so friendly and welcoming. I couldn’t have imagined myself posting video of myself playing for anyone but family just a few months ago, but now I’m getting there. I’m growing as a musician and I have Justin AND this community to thank for it. :heart:


Where I’m at: I moved through grades 1 and 2 fairly quickly. I focused where I needed to but it was too basic to keep me around very long. I did take my time to absorb all of the bits I’ve missed along the way. And I did take time to correct any bad habits I had formed. Most of what I needed at these stages was to focus on timing. I must admit that I didn’t spend much time with the songs in these stages because I’m technically capable of more. I watched each lesson though. At least once. While I’m well-versed at open chords, I had never explored anchor fingers. Things like that were super valuable. I spent a LOT of time on strumming and metronome exercises.

I’m currently working on Grade 3 and I’ve kind of settled there and slowed down a bit. I’m now focusing a bit more on the songs that I’ve neglected to this point. The songs here feel more comfortable for me in terms of what will push me to learn new techniques and keep it interesting. I will fully consolidate all three beginner grades before I move on to intermediate. As I glance through Grade 3 content, there are still lots of things I’ll be able to revise but not spend too much time on but now were getting to a place where the lessons are more fruitful in terms of new information. I’ve also purchased the Music Theory course and am currently working on Grade 3 there as well. Ear Training is also a big priority for me so I’ll look to integrate that as soon as I can.

I mentioned before that I’m focusing a lot on songs at the moment. Current songs I’m working on:

Wish You Were Here. I’ve got most of this down, just need to learn the second half of the solo at the beginning.
Imagine. This is just a song I should know. I’ve got this mostly down. Really focusing on F chord changes. It’s not always clean. I won’t put this song in the book until it is.
Fix You. I was inspired by @rinka to learn this song when she posted her AVOYP. It was beautiful. I began learning this the following day. I’ve got this mostly down as well. Just need to work on that change to F a bit more. I can play it, but changing to it is not always clean.
Free Falling Just a great campfire type song that just about everyone knows. Got this one down pretty quickly. Getting ready to move on from this.
Fade to Black Just started this one last night so not a ton to report here. The first part of the intro is in the books although that pinky stretch is pushing my physical limits. Will keep this active as a way to improve that.
Horn (Phish) The difficulty level of this one is much higher. It’s not in Justin’s lessons. This one will be in my “what I’m working on” for a while. But it gives me something to strive for over time. Have the intro lick down and the chord progression for the verse (minus the E♭/G inverted…which makes my hand look like a pretzel). I’ve got the first part of the melodic solo section down as well but it gets more complex and there are key changes in this section. Again, something to strive for over time and something Phish in my repertoire.


Hey there Jeff, what an interesting read to your background, ambition and initial update to your learning! Such a great set of inspiring bands for you and, as you say, your inherent creative nature will be a big part of your developing musicianship. Like you I’m settled into grade 3 where there’s so much to explore and discover, the joy of Justin’s approach allowing that exploration while always giving guiding hands.

Having a learning log is really about you, it’s a vehicle to allow you to remember where you’ve been and, importantly, how much progress you are making as time goes on. Looking forward to seeing how you continue on your journey.

Keep on having fun, and keep on inspiring and being inspired by the Community :slight_smile:
:guitar: :heartbeat:

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I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other around! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.


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Welcome, Jeff, (waving from MIchigan)

Yes, me, too! Plus, I don’t think mine had the money to get even a secondhand guitar and then pay for lessons, etc.) And then life interfered, etc.)

Great start to your learning log, (and YAY PHISH!!). This is a great community, I never thought I’d post an AVoYP and I’ve done 2. Glad you decided to join in. Looking forward to your first AVoYP. One thing they’re great for is seeing how much you’ve improved when you look back at them.

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Waving back from Ohio! It really is a great community. I had almost lost faith in positive online community. Big ups to Justin and his crew on that.

I could probably do an AVOYP now, but I’m going to clean up the F chord changes first. :slight_smile:

Thanks for taking the time and Go Bucks! :slight_smile: :smiling_imp:


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Official welcome Jeff!
Enjoyed reading your back story. Glad to see you right back in the swing of it.

I’ve only recently ‘discovered’ Phish.
Ian Stich of StichMethod guitar fame has been goin on about them forever. I finally checked em out, and must say I’m an instant fan. Currently playin around with Back On The Train. Lots of room for improv in that one.
58 times you’ve seen em. Impressive. I’ve read that they rarely play the same concert twice. Every time is unique. The improv kings so to speak. True?

Cheers, Shane

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Thanks, Shane!

Better recently than never. :grinning: I’m glad you’re enjoying them. The real magic is the live shows.

Back on the Train is a good one. I may have to “get stuck into that” one myself. Lots of room for improv and LOADS of great tone. That song just roars sometimes.

They never play the same concert twice. Absolutely true. They have a ton of songs they pull from and improv is king. In fact, they did a “Baker’s Dozen” run at Madison Square Garden (13 nights in a row) several years back and never played the same song twice. :metal: And it’s an absolute blast to see them live. 58 shows has given me some great insight into the way they communicate on stage while jamming. It’s something to behold.

PS- I just looked it up. Phish has played 989 unique songs live. That’s nuts. lol


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Very cool Jeff.
I live in Australia, so not many bands tour here that often unfortunately. Actually…hardly ever…

Cheers, Shane

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Currently I am working on Module 15, in addition to Music Theory and Ear Training. Given that the practice routine for Grade 3 has bumped up to an hour, I’ve found it a bit difficult to manage an hour of practice everyday plus spending time on both music theory and ear training. So I’ve incorporated theory and ear training into the “What you need” slots in the practice routine. And, I spend time outside of my hour practice routine working on the knowledge part. It’s a lot though. But I KNOW it’s going to be worth it…especially for someone like me who loves improvisation.

Spent Saturday acquiring Guitar Pro and Transcribe! and learning to use them, watching Justin’s video as well as other’s on YouTube. I have professional experience with audio so it’s pretty intuitive. Excited about adding these tools to my tool kit.

I think I may be ready to take the exam for Module 3 of the music theory course. Mr. Cato rules. I’m not sure how I could remember all of the notes in all of the keys any other way. Justin says it will be internalized, I’m banking on that. For now, I’m able to visualize the Cato diagram in my head and go through the entire process to name the notes of any scale. I’m not sure visualizing the diagram is the long term goal though. I should know this stuff straight away but I don’t know if I need to know it all straight away before I take the exam and move to module 4. For Cato, Guitarists Do All Exams Brilliantly. :slight_smile:

I’m currently practicing for the exam for Module 1 of the Ear Training course. I can distinguish the 4ths and 5ths no problem. Depending on where it is on the fretboard, sometimes the 5th and the octave are tough for me to tell yet. I’m using the ear training app, as well as some MP3s I downloaded from iTunes. I spend probably a half hour to an hour a day testing myself. When I go through the MP3, I consistently miss a couple. And it’s usually octaves vs 5ths lower on the register. I won’t take the exam until I can resolve that. I’m a big Star Wars fan so the 5th just really pops to me instantly… unless it’s lower on the register.

I am also close to moving on to module 16. I spent a few hours on Sunday taking my first crack at transcribing. I had “Polly” figured out accurately in about 20 minutes. I can see the value in this. I basically have the whole song down and I didn’t even plan on learning it. Pretty proud of myself. :slight_smile: I’m going to do another tonight and if I’m as successful, I’m going to be hungry to start trying this on something more difficult than the power chords. The rest of module 15 is pretty much under my belt so maybe I’ll start looking at Module 16 tomorrow.

But the best part of where I am now in all of these courses is that I’m seeing synergy between the topics. Music theory definitely helped with the transcribing and vice versa. Ear training has helped with the transcribing. So, even though there seems to be an abundance of KNOWLEDGE training right now, I’m really happy with how it’s all coming together and making some sense. My Song Book has taken a bit of a hit in the past few days, but I feel like I’m on the verge of something important. Onward.

Just realized that I “liked” your comment but I think what you’re saying is awful. That sucks, man. I’ve probably been to well over 300 shows in my days. Can’t imagine not having any bands ever. Do the kangaroos and platypus’ make up for it? I mean, they’re cute but I doubt it. :slight_smile:

Plenty of bands, and alot of great Australian music, but limited international acts. Such is life.


Omg Congratulations on your new journey of guitar Jeff! I just had the time logging in after some heck busy time and seeing you get inspired by my clip was incredibly touching :blush:
we share a lot of similarities in how we started guitar : buying one only when we started working despite wanting it for almost all our lives. Being an adult while getting dedicated to guitar is in no way easy and mind you I do not even have any family member to take care of let, alone you! Bravo :tulip: :tulip: :tulip:
I still get crushed by life almost all the time haha but knowing there is always a place in the guitar world including this community gives me a little bit of determination every single time.
Keep on playing and sharing with us your log, will always root for you :star_struck:

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And I will root for you… especially when you’re getting “crushed by life”. :cry: Hopefully when I get the nerve to post my version it will make you smile the way yours did for me. I suck at singing tho! :wink:

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I’m also very interested in improvisation by the way☺️
One thing that helps me a lot is to find one or two of your favorite songs, find out what scales the song mostly is on, and then fool around with that scale to that song. After some time you’ll get more comfortable with it and for me it’s a good way of starting improvisation.
For me I used Tunnel of Love by Dire Straits on D natural minor scale. I know I know it’s not a beginner scale and only got to know it because my friend who’s an advanced guitar player told me about how this scale is linked to this song. So I fool around with it A LOT and after some time i surprisingly found myself feeling much natural when using major scales on basic songs.

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I’ve been working on Module 16 now for a few weeks. Since ear training and transcribing seem to be coming up everywhere (including the practice routine), I decided to take it a step further and just do the transcribing course. I’ve been truncating my practice routine a bit to make up for the fact that I’m spending quite a bit of time each day transcribing. I think I will complete the Transcribing 1 course and save Transcribing 2 for another time. I’m seeing real benefit with the transcribing course but it’s also pretty heady and I’m focusing less on other things at the moment. My accuracy is quite high (not 100% but really close). I think it may be because I’ve known and have been improvising on the A Minor Pentatonic Scale for years. Definitely more interesting once you move a bit outside of that scale shape but I’m really happy with progress here.

Ear Training: I took the module 1 exam but just got 85%. :frowning: I know Justin said to move on if you’re over 75% but I’m not happy with this. It’s only going to get harder. Still getting 5 and 8 confused when they occur on a very low end of the sound spectrum. Not quite sure how to resolve this other than to keep practicing. Not in a hurry. Lots of other things to work on.

SInce my last update, I’ve taken and passed the test for Practical Music Theory Module 3. I’m excited about the new material in Module 4.1 because it seems like we may be getting a bit closer to applying the stuff I’ve been learning to the guitar. Also, this module covers Triads which is also being covered in Module 17 of the beginner’s course so I see value in the synergy between PMT and my normal practice routine.

I think I have decided after much practice to move on from Module 16 without perfecting the rolling chords or Greensleeves. I will come back to fingerstyle one day but if I named the top 100 songs I want to be able to play in addition to improv, none of them would be fingerstyle. And the practice routine has gotten a bit stale. Time to really start shaping this towards the goals that I have for myself.

Wish You Were Here: In the books…BUT, I do plan to transcribe the melody. Would love to record both parts. The production side of things will be easy since I deal with similar things professionally.
Learning to Fly (Tom Petty): In the books. This is pretty easy but I probably still need to work on singing here.
FIx You: In the books but need to practice my singing here. Would like to do this as my first AVOYP.
Waste (Phish): This one happened kind of accidentally. I came across a acoustic tutorial for this song. I tried it and voila, I was able to play it after some practice (I never was able to play it before). Thanks, Justin. This is my band. Having a lot of fun with this one. Have already started transcribing the melody as part of my Module 16 practice.
Imagine: Mostly in the books but not super clean. I need to go back to this one. Lots of F chord practice here (it’s getting better!) and transcribing has taken away from my song practice a bit. Also…Waste… :slight_smile:
Horn (Phish): Refining intro riff and verse chord progression. I may actually nail that E♭/G inverted after all. Long term goal as there is lots of soloing to still learn.

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