JK's learning log

Post continued…

Good to know you’ve felt this before as well Rob. And yes, I do plan to keep doing the technical stuff, I was talking with a pro cellist and apparently they do technical stuff every day to keep fresh. So I assume its the same for the good guitarists.

Brian, yes you do warn me about burning out. And you’re right, this isn’t burnout. You figured out I have quite an obsessive personality and anything I’m interested in I immerse myself in - and put in a B grade effort to stuff I don’t think is important.

I am pretty happy with my progress but also dissatisfied with this as a final destination when there is so much more to learn. So I do want to keep improving. I am probably less structured in my practice than you might imagine and that is what is making me feel like this. I play guitar every day but haven’t been running through that practice routine regularly for over a month. Probably just a 3 days a week. I get the smell the roses thing, though. I think I’ll chill out for a bit at the end of grade 4.

Music theory is more than I’m not interested in it right now. It feels a bit like study rather than fun. Yeah I probably will do a bit more of it at some point, and have also probably learned more of it than I let on just by going through the regular lessons.

I’ve read your posts on it Michael, it does look fun. I’ve played with others twice in the last year but nothing regular.

That’s why he keeps the skull there! :skull: Couldn’t help myself…

Yeah, I do plan to get involved in the local scene where I’m moving to. Seems a pretty friendly area so I hope the musos are likewise. I might do a band thing at some stage, but it’s not on the near or medium term horizon, I just don’t want to commit the time when evenings and weekends are about stuff with the kids.

I have noodled a bit - usually over a loop, not a backing track - but haven’t in a while. What I tend to do when mucking around is build song components. Rhythm with a riff, chords, some kind of melody line, etc. For whatever reason that attracts me more - probably my predisposition towards rhythm, and lack of lead experience.

I haven’t lost motivation. I’m just unsure on the direction. E.g. I get stuck on: Do I need to specialise? Should I spend more time fingerpicking? Or do I learn fast electric riffs and bends? What about pick & fingers (which I’m kind of interested in but its hard)? If I don’t focus on something, will I even get good at it, or will I stagnate if I try to do too much at once? These are all rhetorical - it’s the kind of thing that makes me unsure on direction though.


Just for a little more support here JK I haven’t had a “structured” practice approach in the last 2-3 years. In fact until recently I hadn’t been using any online lessons at all. Doesn’t mean you wont continue to improve and get better at playing guitar…particularly if you are playing things that stretch you.

Personally I think it’s hard to be good at EVERYTHING… 99% of the time I play Electric, I can play acoustic but don’t worry that I don’t play it very often. It’s not something I need to do so don’t worry about it. Similarly I’m not going to work on fingerstyle when it’s unlikely I’m going to use it. I can do it a bit and if I applied some time could do it more BUT it’s not worth the time focusing on it right now. You’ve just got to let some things go otherwise you get overwhelmed by the stuff you CAN’T do rather than focussing on the stuff you can. I typically find most people focus on a particular style e.g Electric or acoustic, rock, blues, fingerstyle etc. and that’s how they play most of the time…they can do other stuff as well but its not necessarily their go to style. Again no point sweating it juts focus on what you enjoy most.


Late to the party, but anyway…

I’d second and third the comments on in person open mics. I’m not much of a social being and have no real intention to joining a band. I do attend regular open mics however. I’m only ever working or a couple of songs at a time but like to cycle to new ones to keep it interesting. Performing in person motivates me to get the songs polished. I do collaborate with others from time to time. It’s good and don’t have to commit in the long term.

I just learn what I like, as you are in a position where you can pick up a new song relatively quickly this may apply to you also, I know fairly quickly whether a song is

  • yep soon have this nailed
  • damn, that one tricky bit - sometimes worth exploring a new skill, sometimes just simplify, sometimes just drop it and leave till another time.
  • oh shit no. (Cold play - Atlas) all new chords, tricky finger placement, would have to ‘transpose’ from piano to guitar- lots of work. Mainly put into the someday list, sometimes feel in the mood to put the work in (EVH - Ain’t talkin’ bout love).

I usually only focus on a particular skill if it’s needed for a song, and I do tend to stick to the ‘songs songs songs’ mentality - but I do appreciate the focused efforts of folk like Silvia, working toward long term goals and specific skill sets. In the end I guess that will take you ‘further’ in your journey, just depends what you want out?

I’m happy just being able to play and sing a few songs - in front of a few people keeps it interesting but beyond that I’m not fussed.

On a personal level, I feel the Justin modules will take someone from zero to hero - probably one of the young guns, there is a framework there to be a really rounded fantastic player - session player / teacher / rock god!? For me, once past the basics just dipping in and out is enough.

Yep, so take a step back, take a deep breath, soak it all in and don’t worry, you’ll find ‘your’ path :slightly_smiling_face:


Hi Jk, as I was reading your update I immediately thought to share one of Justin’s Food for Thought article that helped me hugely in giving me direction, but I seem to be unable to link it…anyway the article is “What I can’t do?” and there you’ ll find as well the link to Steve Vai’s interview which I find most inspiring! I also struggle a lot to find the right songs to practice, more than developing skills it’s always getting crazy at fixing bad habits! But…you’re starting from a positive feeling competent and that’s great! You’ve strenghts and I’m sure that in due time you’ll figure out how to keep on developing them. The most important thing, I believe, is that you can find enjoyment in the time you spend with your guitars and that even when you’re not in the mood and you do just a slow easy exercise…you’re still improving even if you don’t realise that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, as others have already said, there’s quite a lot we can relate to.


A lot of what you wrote feels familiar. What I’m at, where I’m going, where I should be going. The more I think about it the more I’m convinced to start dedicated course with a teacher to consult with otherwise it always will be a lot of things all around the place.

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I came here to say that I’d just caught up with the Livestream and wanted to compliment you on that song you wrote, but now I’m worried that the compliment will stress you!

I recognise the plateau in learning that you describe (I’m not quite at your level in guitar but have experienced it in other things). I think it has a lot to do with reaching a point that you’re good enough to enjoy just playing without needing to learn anything else. If you’re just playing for yourself and for pleasure, you could just spend your time enjoying your skill, you wouldn’t be alone in that.

I would say though that the “easy” songs you find so unsatisfying might be, ironically, where you could develop your skills. Listening to a student play a simple song, versus listening to Justin playing a simple song, there are subtle embellishments, syncopations and variations in dynamics that he puts in without probably even realising he’s doing it that lift it to another level. Maybe keep playing those songs that you like but experiment with ways to make them more interesting and challenging?


I can share what worked and continues to work for me. I hope it helps you. :slight_smile:

Justin’s site has a nice Lesson Map that shows a path. I follow it, and it works. :slight_smile: If you need help determining where to go next, try following the direction suggested by Justin.

For me, it looks like:

  1. I did the old Beginner Course.
  2. I did the Intermediate Foundation 1 & 2.
  3. Next, I had to decide which way to go and select courses from Grades that fit my level—for example, choosing between Folk Fingerstyle vs Blues Guitar Studies.
  4. At the moment, I’m going through a new Beginner Course to consolidate things. But Justin put some cool stuff compared to the old course, so I’m also learning many new things.

I recommend including in practice routine ear training, transcribing, and https://www.justinguitar.com/classes/practical-music-theory-course-fast-hands-on. It requires patience, but it’s making a huge difference.

It’s helpful to learn things that are uncomfortable for you. That way, you’re sure you’re learning a new skill. Stay patient, but at the same time, if you hit a wall, let it go. When you return to it to consolidate, you may realize it’s easier, thanks to other things you’ve been learning.

A motto from Tomo Fujita may help, too :slight_smile: “Don’t compare! Don’t expect [to progress] too fast! Don’t worry! Be kind to yourself!”.


Thanks for the replies guys.

I agree, and that’s the root of my current conundrum (which I’m very much getting over now).

It was great to read how you treat different songs Dave. I like the framework… particularly acknowledging the “oh shit no” songs early and then only sticking with the very few that are worth it. I’ve seen you play, in my view you’re really good - Van Halen was wow, playing and singing Nothing Else Matters is not easy - so it’s really interesting to hear that just learning a few songs is really all that interests you.

Hi Silvia, I found it and listened to the Steve Vai interview (Justin also mentioned this in his 20 years video). Really interesting Steve thinks about what he can’t do, and also how he never sought to be a specific type of player, he just practiced or played anything. I’m no Steve Vai but it’s a really great perspective. Also the bit about emphasising your strengths rather than fixing weaknesses.

Wow, really interesting you feel that also Radek. I had you pinned as the kind of guy who knows exactly what he wants to do (classical fingerstyle), but sounds like it’s a challenge for you too!

Hey Ross, thanks for the feedback on the song. And I know that was a bit tongue in cheek, but I’m not one that is afraid or concerned about stress (I know some people struggle with that), it’s just self imposed pressure. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it’s a thing.

And yes, I think you’ve nailed what it feels like at the moment. I could just play a bunch of stuff and not necessarily get better. Hmm. Although I think I want to keep getting better, it’s just finding what is right for now. I’m starting to learn towards wanting to learn stuff I can get a good handle on within weeks rather than months.

Hey Kamkor, thanks for the advice. At the moment i’m doing Blues Guitar Studies in grade 4. Although I had kept wandering away from those. With a couple of weeks of reflection (and practice), I think I was tackling some songs that were just beyond me and were likely to be beyond me for quite some time. I should also add ear training and transcribing back into my practice routine, they had dropped off a bit. Also pretty cool to know you started at the beginner course, your playing is really good.


You are not mistaken, I know exactly what I want to play (contemporary fingerstyle) but getting there is a very bumpy road full of obstacles. I feel like I’m missing some important parts in my daily practice that would help me to get there more efficiently (therefore teacher and course idea). Perhaps where I going is clear but how to go there, what to learn and in which order/way is mostly a problem. Classical pieces are just an attempt to propel this learning vehicle faster (aside of fact I genuinely like most of classical music).

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Hi JK. Huge amount of advice/thought/personal experience given already.
My somewhat simplistic approach to all this is to distil it all down to the quote I’ve cut from Jason’s post. It’s perhaps too simplistic but at the end of the day this is all meant to be fun. I’m another who has pretty much stopped following a ‘lesson path’. I learn songs and learn new techniques if and when a song requires it. I dip in and out of the lessons as the mood takes me.
Good luck with it all my friend.

Interesting point about the songs that were beyond your current capabilities. I like putting long-term goal songs into my schedule, but I time-box the practice time. I stop after 1-4 weeks, max. I return to them after weeks or even months and resume the practice. They are always more accessible than before, and I can further progress the learning of the song. So it is also a great way to track progress. You may think you’re not improving much, but suddenly, this complex song became easier even though you didn’t practice it all.

Thank you for the compliment. :slight_smile: I started differently (see Kamkor's Learning Log), but I struggled with similar challenges as you described. I regularly gave up and had long breaks from playing guitar. When I started to follow Justin’s path, I finally got out of the rut and continuously improved and enjoyed the guitar more.

And what @rossbd said about “easy” not being easy. I completely agree. I like returning to “easy” stuff and seeing if I can get any closer to playing them as Justin could. :slight_smile: That’s one of the reasons I’m now doing the new Beginner Course.


Time for another learning log update after my last what-direction post and then a few two year progress videos. I’ve been chewing on this for a while.

It’s about fun

For all of us here and for the vast, vast, majority of players around the world, guitar is a leisure activity. Something we do for fun. There are a relatively few people that make a good living off of it, and even fewer of them that aren’t guitar teachers.

So with that view I’ve tried to analyse what I enjoy the most about guitar and what I want to do.

What I enjoy most of all is playing songs. I don’t care if they’re easy or hard, but the better I play them the more I enjoy it. I also enjoy learning songs. Both fingerstyle, and with a pick. Having said all that - I also enjoy guitar exercises. But if I only do those, I get bored.

What kind of music do I like to play - having experimented with a bunch? Electric & acoustic. Generally: rock, pop, folk acoustic. Blues rock. I love rhythm based songs. More, I love songs that mix rhythm and riffing/lead on one guitar. I’m not into jazz at all - but haven’t tried any. Blues, I’ve decided is not a direction I want to really go. Blues techniques for rock, yeah, totally. But not raw blues. I already know enough to have a fun blues jam if the opportunity arises. I also don’t really want to head further in the chord melody direction. It’s fun but not my favourite.

I also enjoy writing songs. I constantly experiment on the guitar. Improv that stays as improv feels like it vanishes into the ether. Useful for learning or composing but it feels impermanent. Tying together a theme and turning it into something holds more interest for me.

Practice and Learning
I’ve just finished the last Grade 4 lesson, although I’ve been taking the lessons slowly and adjusting my practice routine for some time. The last few lessons and weeks of practice have been around blues lead playing

I bought a guitar practice book called Guitar Aerobics, after reading about it on reddit. One lick a day, 365 practice routines covering alternate picking, strumming, chords, string skipping, legato, etc etc. It says “from beginner to advanced” but I’d suggest it’s more “from intermediate to advanced”. I quite enjoy doing the daily exercise for 10 minutes or so with a drum backing track. It seems like good technique practice.

I want to be able to jam songs with other people, and also play solo. One key element for playing with other people is learning lots of songs. One key element for playing solo is singing. I need to get better at both of those. Hopefully either of those will evolve into real life performances - OM or band. But baby steps first.

With all that in mind, I’ve evolved my practicing into:

  • Warm up - 5 mins
  • Guitar Aerobics - 5-10 mins
  • Finger stretching - 5 mins
  • Songs practice - 20 mins
  • Singing practice - 15 mins
  • More songs / improv / writing / whatever - 15 mins+

Most of all I figure the oft-repeated advice of learning songs is the path forward in its entirety at this stage. I might throw in some ear training or theory if I feel like it. Although those are not a priority.

Time around

On some other threads a couple of folks noticed I said I won’t be performing at OMs for a while because I won’t have the situation for it. But I’ll still come to a few OMs as audience. Eventually I’ll be back performing again. With learning more songs, I hope to post plenty of them here.

The guitar-only ones - yeah. The singing ones - well, only if I can manage something that doesn’t sound terrible for that song. The standard (for guitar, mainly)? Not perfect, but “good enough”.

I do spend too much time on the community though. Part of an internet addiction I think, and seeing this place as a more positive influence than other social media. However I’m hoping to spend less time online here. I’m not sure if too many people would notice, as I’ll still post, and comment - I’ll probably just read less of the stuff that is not as interesting. But I do enjoy it here and want to stick around, just need to manage how much time I spend online :roll_eyes:

For anyone that’s read this far, thanks for indulging me.


Hi Jk ,
Good clear story :sunglasses:… useful if you have a fairly clear picture of things in your mind and know how to find a sort of direction quite quickly… in my eyes :roll_eyes:… I have absolutely no idea of ​​direction and still find too many things to much fun to do and varied day by …hour :see_no_evil:… yes, maybe a little too much ‘jump into the fields’

To much internet time??? :roll_eyes: :roll_eyes: :roll_eyes:


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I admire your focus, dude :sunglasses:
A clear analysis of where you are and a good idea of general direction with an appropriate roadmap.
I just hope I won’t regret happily ‘wandering in the wilderness’ (or ‘tiptoeing through the tulips’ like Maurice)
Only bit of advice: whenever you feel the urge to be ‘creative’, seize the day!

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Feels like it took me a couple of months Rogier… a while! It’s so tempting to give everything a go, but time is limited, so figure I should concentrate on the direction(s) I want to head. And who knows, it might change.

Yeah. Not internet specifically, because there’s plenty of useful stuff around, but too much time wasting browsing (facebook, reddit, news sites, etc). So trying to cut that down.

Even if that focus just comes down to - yup, I gotta learn songs :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

If your wandering in the wilderness is writing songs, singing well, entertaining people at IRL events and hosting musical guests at your house… well, I wonder what would really be wandering, because that sounds pretty full to me. It sounds like you’ve found your niche. Until you change it.

I find I’m happiest working on something. If I don’t have a direction I give something up, if I try to hard at what’s supposed to be fun, it loses the fun. So gotta find that balance.

It’s buried in my text somewhere, but yeah, being creative is in there. I’d like to write more songs. Takes a bit of focused effort and refining though. I’ve been meaning to actually record “Exit” which I did on Justin’s livestream as well.

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Hi JK,
If I were to make a LL update, there would be a lot of similarities to yours. I even have the Guitar Aerobics book. It’s unfortunate that we’re about as far away geographically from each other is possible. I could have imaged getting together to play lots of songs, perhaps a little Allman Bros…

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I have to say JK, your LL got me is probably the one that has me saying “Ha, that’s me!” the most often. Geographically wise we couldn’t be much further apart, but our guitar journeys are pretty similar and it looks like we’re taking the same directions at the many crossroads we encounter. More on that in a LL update I’m hoping to share anytime soon.


That was a nice read JK and its good to see you continue to make steady focused progress. A structured training/practice schedule will always render good results and you are certainly covering all the bases, given what you have described in your “what floats your boat section”. Understand fully on your decision to step back from the OMs as it can take a hell of a lot out of your development time and end up being too much of a distraction. Hey but don’t be a stranger on the performing front, just go for it when the itch needs scratching.

The 365 Guitar Aerobics sounds interesting but being half way through a self assigned 3 month fingerstyle program, I’ll avoid that potential :rabbit2: :hole: for now but never say never.

Looking forward to seeing how you progress now you are moving through those intermediate grades, so keep sharing !


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That’s the key, and you’ve done a really good job of discerning your ideal direction. It also seems to me that you’ve got enough flexibility built in so you can fine tune as you go along. Keep having fun! :slightly_smiling_face:

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Glad you were able to figure out a direction JK. It is definitely one of the harder things to do, since there are a seemingly infinite number of paths this instrument can take you down. I also am at my happiest learning songs. I really enjoy your original material and I hope you will continue to share when they are ready.

I admire the structure in your practice routine. Frequently, mine tend to devolve into more song practice and fun stuff versus doing structured exercises :laughing: You can see that dedication has paid off every time you perform :clap: :clap:

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