JK's learning log

Today is a NGD so I figured I may as well start a learning log to share it.

I started playing guitar “again” in mid October last year. I had done a very small amount as a teenager (basically a handful of Nirvana songs as a 15 year old), played the drums for about 7 years from 12 to 19. Hadn’t done anything musical in 20 years - I’m now 40. If you want to read a bit more about that story it’s in my introduction at Hi, James from Brisbane, Australia.

It’s clear to say I’m obsessed. I play guitar every day. Work, looking after the kids, responsibility… they all get in the way of playing guitar.


I started out on a Yamaha F310P. Think: the cheapest Yamaha acoustic that comes in a starter kit. And a Squier Affinity HSS Strat with a flame maple top.

Here’s the strat:

It’s a Squier but plays really well. I set it up with advice from YouTube & fender’s guides, and the feel is actually great. I borrowed my mate’s Gibson Les Paul so I’m fortunate enough to know what a quality guitar feels like. However the Squier still does SOUND like a Squier.

I set some goals for myself before I was allowed to get a new guitar.

  • Play Californication all the way through at full tempo (excluding solo)
  • Playing Killing In the Name Of
  • Learn a Jack Johnson song

Well I did all three, so I bought a new guitar. I figured it doesn’t make sense to go from a starter to a midrange, may as well get something good so I don’t have to upgrade again.

My cheapo Yamaha acoustic served me well but I’ve just, today, bought a Maton SRS70C. This is a made in Australia, solid wood guitar. I tested out loads of guitars and to me this sounded and felt the best to play. Wow, does it feel amazing. My Yamaha is in the background of the shot with all 3 guitars.

As far as other gear, I have a Fender Mustang LT25 amp and Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface for the PC hookup.

Where I’m up to: the end of Grade 2. Currently doing consolidation, focusing on move basslines. Slash chords.

I’ve probably got about 20+ songs I’ve learned so far, but the ones I’m working on perfecting now are:

Sunny Afternoon by the Kinks
Handle with Care by Travelling Wilburys
Flake by Jack Johnson

In chronological order (last updated 9th October 2022):
Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd March 2022
Big Me - Foo Fighters March 2022, updated April 2022
Basket Case - Green Day (one take) March 2022
Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen, fingerpicked cover March 2022
12 bar blues improv April 2022
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town - Pearl Jam April 2022
Hurt - Johnny Cash/NiN April 2022
Down in a Hole - Alice in Chains Live at JG OM8, May 2022
Pearl Jam - Just Breathe progress video May 2022
When I Come Around - Green Day June 2022
Electric Greensleeves July 2022
While My Guitar Gently Weeps - The Beatles Live at JG OM9, July 2022
Ho Hey - The Lumineers and Sunny Afternoon - The Kinks Live at JG OM10, August 2022
Lick n Riff - Solo Blues Set Piece September 2022
Californication - RHCP, 1 year progress video October 2022

I’m hoping to do regular recording, if for no other reason that to track my progress and share.


20+ songs is great going … and a new Maton is a mighty fine gift to yourself too. What a great introduction to your learning log JK. :slight_smile:

Thanks Richard. Yes the Maton is great, honestly it is a lot easier to play than the Yamaha. And 20+ songs - I haven’t memorised all of them perfectly but can definitely play them with the chords & lyrics in front of me in my song book.

«It’s clear to say I’m obsessed. I play guitar every day. Work, looking after the kids, responsibility… they all get in the way of playing guitar.»

That one is great!!! :rofl::rofl::rofl:

Enjoyed reading your story… and that Maton was just beutiful!! Its not very common in my neck of the woods. I very much agree with your point of view with playability and feel on guitars. Its a different world playing a nice guitar that is set up correct compared with entry guitars.

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Fabulous first entry, JK. Yu are making fabulous progress.

I think majority of us here would just love to be able to spend majority of time immersed in music (I know I would), ah well there’s life so I just love every moment.

And I am sure you will love every moment making music with the Maton. What a beautiful instrument. Look forward to hearing that in a future AVOYP posting.

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That’s a fantastic first post in your learning log, and your new guitar looks fantastic. I think that was a fantastic idea, setting yourself some goals with a reward as additional motivation. I am not familiar with Jack Johnson, so I’m looking forward to you introducing me to his music with your Maton guitar.

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I think we have a few different brands in Australia, Maton and Cole Clark are quite common whereas Martin, Taylor and the like are hard to find stock of. Playability is super important for me, so much easier to do barre chords without buzzing on a good guitar.

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Perhaps it’s the rarity of spending time making music amongst the rest of life’s obligations that makes it feel good. An escape.

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I had to set goals to avoid the temptation of rushing out and buying another guitar too quickly. Haha.

Jack Johnson is quite well known in Australia. A Hawaiian acoustic guitar singer-songwriter. Modern beach vibes. Problem with me covering it… I can’t sing in tune! Still plan to record some anyway in time.


@jkahn I did not know of Jack Johnson until I came across ‘Gone’ was in one of Justin’s suggested transcribe lists. It was a fun song to learn and to play along with. 4 different barre cord shapes to move between and some pick/strum technique all rolled up in a catchy tune. I’m going to search out more from Jack.
The Maton is a very great looking guitar. Enjoy!

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Great stuff. Nice Maton!!! i learned a lot from all the recording of songs i’ve done, keep at it.

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I think you’ll find a lot of his songs are like that, enjoy! :grinning:

Thanks Tony, certainly feel like I’ve spoiled myself with the Maton.

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Moving from a cheap / entry level guitar up to a nice one is certainly a treat.

Small update to my learning log. I’ve decided that I’m going to record a video of songs showing skills learned in grade 2 and share it in the AVOYP section. It’s my favourite forum section, I watch almost every video and the feedback is useful when learning at home by myself.

Still playing every day.

I’ll update the top post when I post a new video to document them all.


Still been consolidating Grade 2, learning a few new songs and some with techniques beyond grade 2 so feeling it’s time to move on with the lessons. I’m on vacation at the moment and recorded a couple of songs on my phone. Mix isn’t the best but I’ll upload 2 of them and redo the others when I am back home with better equipment.


Bigger learning log update today.

I started Grade 3 the other day, and it feels good to be progressing along the course again. It was time as I’d diverged into learning new techniques for some songs I want to learn (more barre chords, travis picking, etc) so I figured I may as well progress into Grade 3. I ended up not uploading the other songs I’d recorded as the mix was pretty bad from my mobile phone. Couldn’t hear vocals at all.

I’m around my 6 month guitar-versary (don’t know the exact date) so I’ll record something over the next week or so and upload to showcase it.

Before starting Grade 3 I’d started to feel a bit stagnant, if only for a moment. One of the hardest things seems to be picking new songs to learn that are not too far from my current skills so I can get there with some reasonable effort. Rather than ones that are miles off. Also, choosing songs that sound good when played solo. Turns out a lot of the bands I like have songs are are definitely multi-instrument songs. I’ve put together a list of songs I want to learn so I can keep looking back at that when I’m not sure what I want to learn.

I’ve also decided some songs are learn-it-and-trash-it songs and other are learn-it-and-keep it songs (campfire, I guess). Some I only want to take to a certain point and then move on. So I’ve cleared out my songbook of old songs and settled on my new campfire list and developers. The campfire songs are ones I love playing over and again, and have mostly nailed (to a point!).

Campfire Songs
Last Kiss - Pearl Jam
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town - Pearl Jam
Hurt - Johnny Cash/NiN
Wish you were here - Pink Floyd
Good Riddance - Green Day
Basket case - Green Day
House of the rising sun
Ho Hey - The Lumineers
Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen
Everybody Hurts - REM
Big Me - Foo Fighters
Have you ever seen the rain - CCR

And the current songs I’m learning. I can play them all to various levels but have yet to fully master the whole song:

Developers - working on
Californication - Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Solo)
Hotel California - The Eagles
Handle With Care - Travelling Wilburys
Just Breathe - Pearl Jam
Down in a Hole - Alice in Chains
Sunny Afternoon - The Kinks
Flake - Jack Johnson
Cover me in sunshine - Pink
Counting Stars - OneRepublic

I’ve also started to think about strengths and weaknesses, and what mine are. They definitely impact what I can play and how easily.


  • Rhythm, strumming and timing. Comes from playing the drums so much as a teenager, I can generally just listen to the rhythm of a song and repeat it. Don’t really have to think about strumming. I had assumed that was common, but reading the forums seems not so common so I’ll list it here.
  • Song structure and memorisation - just go by feel here, I quickly get the essence of a song.
  • Open chords, (the easy) barre chords, power chords - I feel I have the simple ones down pretty well.


  • String skipping / complicated picking riffs. Often hit the wrong strings.
  • Navigating the fretboard up and down (related to above)
  • Finger and hand flexibility.
  • The A chord. Seriously for some reason I keep regressing on this chord and muck it up more than any other. I think the F is easier! I can’t seem to mute the bass E while having the high E ring out as well, just don’t have the hand flexibility
  • Precision - I’m a bit messy at times, particularly when playing things I’m pushing the speed on.

Bravo, JK, a wonderful update full of incredibly helpful self observation and reflection as well as celebratory progress.

I can just amplify your own comment about rhythm, developed through drumming. All you have gained in terms of feel and control (thinking how drummers do different things with both hands and feet), is an asset that can’t be under-stated.

Also commend the insight on your repertoire, learning some songs to keep and others just for practice in the moment to be disgarded.

Look forward to more songs when you are ready to share.

Keep on keeping on, ever onward!

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Thanks @DavidP, yes have a few songs I’m working on getting ready to share, hopefully soon.

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Time for another learning log update! I’m not much of a regular journaler :rofl:. Learning update, new gear & OM.

I’m still playing guitar everyday, usually 1 hour+. On module 16 of Grade 3. Even on the rare days I can’t properly fit it in, I try to get at least a 15-30 minute practice in. The rule of pick up the guitar every day is working, as once I’ve picked it up it usually doesn’t go down for a while. I do some technique practice, but mostly songs.

The big rule for myself in practice is: always have something in the routine I can’t do well, as well as the stuff I can do. For various interpretations of can’t do! Right now that’s chord melody (Greensleeves), and mixing in lead lines with rhythm playing. I’m getting better at all of them.

I’ve got all of Californication down now, my barre chord endurance is getting pretty decent even on the acoustic, and fingerpicking is coming along. It surprises me how practice is so specific, I tried to learn a new fingerpicking song with a different, simple-ish pattern recently and again found I had to start out veeeeeeerrrrrrry sloooooooow and build it up.

NAD! Here’s my Fender GTX-50 modelling amp next to my Squier.

I found a barely used one on ebay including the footswitch, got a good deal. Sold my Fender LT25, which was decent, but this thing is amazing. Sounds stonking, almost every effect and dozens of amp models built in including all the top Fender models. My fave so far is the Deluxe Reverb with a compressor and Spring Reverb. And importantly for me it has a line-out so I can plug it into my AI and not muck around with Amplitube.

Oh btw, I have Orange Tortex picks everywhere! I tried loads of picks and found these worked for me best as a hybrid for picking and strumming. I think sticking with one type of pick mostly helped a lot. I even tried the Tortex variation with a pointy end and didn’t like it as much as the standard rounded end.

First Open Mic performance - OM8
Wow, I did my first Open Mic performance at OM8! What a rush. I got up at 4.45am Brisbane time, showered & coffeed to get ready for the 5.30am start.

I’d practiced and practiced the song, so I knew I was prepared. And I often give presentations to reasonably large groups of people (both in VC & in person) so wasn’t afraid of that… but playing guitar and singing in front of an OM was new, and as soon as I started playing my hands started sweating profusely - I have NEVER had that while playing - and my fingers turned to lead. My voice was shaky and quiet, and while I was doing it I was telling myself - come ON, go back to normal. Got through it though, enjoyed it, and will be back for another one. I admit I couldn’t just wake up early and play without a warmup, so I was trying to warm up between performances. I think in future I’ll try to warm up a bit more so my hands are more ready. Overall I was very happy with how it went as a first performance, just did not expect the nerves!

Here’s a link - direct link to the time of my performance in OM8. Just hit play and it should start at my one at 1:27:27. I performed Down In A Hole by Alice In Chains. Real grunge look with the kid playmat in the background :rofl:.