Kraz's winding log, at length

This is a continuation of my Introduction thread, so if that interests you, see Hello from "Kraz" in SoCal - #12 by KrazGuitar. I wasn’t sure I’d make a learning log, but the support and feedback after introducing myself was so encouraging I decided to venture beyond my “Hello” bubble.

As mentioned in my first thread, I learned a handful of chords to play camp songs 30 years ago, but didn’t get serious about learning, so I’m a beginner with some out-of-practice muscle memory. For my 53rd birthday a couple weeks ago, I decided to give guitar another shot and bought a Fender Player Plus Stratocaster.

A few days before I got the guitar I started watching Grade 1, Module 1 because I knew Justin Guitar was a popular choice and I could see why. I’ve watched and played and practiced and re-watched and practiced more and am happy with my progress so far.

Old muscle memory has helped more than I expected it to, so most of the starting 8 chords have needed some dusting off, but haven’t been terribly hard. The hardest for me are Dm, which I didn’t learn before so there’s no helpful muscle memory, and A, because Justin teaches different fingering than I learned. I see the value of his suggested fingering so I’m determined to adopt it, but when trying to change to A without breaking tempo, my old fingers and new fingers hiss at each other like cats who just met.

I have watched all of Grade 1 now. I’m torn on whether to pause (and consolidate) or keep going. Except for Dm and chord changes involving A, I feel ready, and conceptually, I’m ready for new stuff.

I know songs are the goal, but at least in the early going, I find myself less motivated to practice songs than to practice exercises that build dexterity and muscle memory. I’ve probably spent more time doing the finger stretch exercise and basic chord changes than I have playing songs. I 100% get how that would be too tedious for some people, but I don’t mind it.

I find it easier to stay relaxed doing exercises than playing songs. I have no idea if that’s totally common or makes me an outlier. I think of “knowing” a song as including remembering the lyrics. Even if I can’t sing them yet, the lyrics are often signposts to where chord changes should be so knowing them helps. I don’t think memorizing lyrics is a “guitar” skill per se, but it’s something I’ve been weak at my entire life, and getting older isn’t making it easier. I’m use to not having all the words memorized even for songs I love and have heard hundreds of times, but to play a song, having gaps or confusion in lyrics makes it harder on top of all the other guitar-stuff I’m trying to accomplish. Finger stretches don’t sound like much, but at least the lyrics are a breeze.

I’m also dabbling in music theory for the first time ever. I’ll probably buy that module, but it’s a matter of deciding whether I’d get more benefit now or later. I listened to the first two (free) modules and liked them. While swimming laps yesterday, I practiced going around the note circle in my head. I don’t know why I’m better at naming the sharps than the flats, but I didn’t drown.


Btw, I figured out that I swim in 6/8 time, which makes sense why I usually can’t swim to the tempo of most of the music I have loaded onto my swim headphones, even if the tempo is slow.

I kick three times per arm, with the first (emphasized) kick syncronized with an arm. The arm with strongest leg kicks coincide with the emphasized beats on 1 and 4, while the other kicks hit 2, 3, 5, and 6. I can’t swim in 4/4 because if the kicks per arm are an even number, my hip rotation would be all out of whack.

Music is everywhere.
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Enjoyed your whole winding log, thanks for sharing.

With regard to memorizing songs… When I first started playing at the age of 53 I always used song sheets and thought it as too hard to memorize songs. One day at the music club I’m a member of we had to jam outside and it was windy. My song sheets were blowing all over the place.

One of the other club members commented to me that I usually play the same 3 or so songs and suggested I should learn to memorize them. So I did and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I realize the song sheets had become a bit of a crutch for me. What I also notice is playing from memory one is typically more able to get into the groove / flow of the song.

I"m so thankful for the friendly advice of that friend so many years ago now.

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Ha ha! :laughing: love the old cat new cat reference. Extra Kudos to you for not drowning! :slightly_smiling_face:

Just wait till you get to the 16 strums to the bar lesson. You’ll be going across the pool like a speedboat! :joy:

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Nice start to your learning log, Mark, and what a lovely looking guitar.

I would be inclined to consolidate unless I was really confident that I have a solid foundation of everything I’ve learned in Grade 1. When consolidating don’t think of it as a pause, think of it as a continuation of the learning process to really embed those foundations. As for practicing songs… think of that as an exercise too… you’re developing your rhythm foundations… what I’ve found is that doing perfect fast changes could be a breeze but then when you thrown in the complications of a strumming pattern, chord sequences and keeping time… suddenly the changes can become a bit hit and miss.

If you liked them then there is no reason not to progress with it as I’m sure you will benefit from it as you’re progressing through the beginners course.

Unless you throw in lots of missed strums in the pattern and end up going around in circles :wink:

Good comments all around!

While it’s true I rarely absorb lyrics by osmosis, it’s also true I’ve rarely put much effort into it. You started at the same age I’m starting, so your example is encouraging.

In my home we recently introduced three new cats to an old cat, so the reference popped easily to mind.

I swim in 6/8, but it’s a slow 6/8.

That’s all good advice. I’ve probably skimped most on strumming. I feel reasonably confident at “Old Faithful” DDUUD because that’s the only strumming pattern I learned 30 years ago, but yeah, I’m sure more embedding of the foundations is an investment that will pay off later.

Your wise counsel didn’t reach my eyes until this morning, so last night I went for the “new and shiny”, peeking a few lessons into Grade 2. Now I have some fun new chords I never learned before (and can’t reliably name), finally learned my first scale ever (where even when I screw up sometimes the notes sound good together), and my pinky hurt.

Foundation, though. That’s the ticket.
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My death certificate will read, “Drowned by Justin Sandercoe.”


Today I took my Strat back to where I bought it.

…to get set up! The place I bought it included one complimentary set-up, but that would have meant waiting a few days and I wanted to get started. I went back today to buy an accessory that was on sale, so I figured I may as well drop the guitar off. I’ll get it back Wed or Thursday. I already miss it.

Eventually I want to learn to set it up myself, but I figure if Justin hasn’t said anything about it yet, I’m not ready yet! Seriously, though, learning that skill isn’t a top priority yet. I have a youtube-based understanding of what “setting up” a guitar means, but more of that “foundation” stuff would probably come in handy to know if I’m doing it right.

There are two adjustments I’m looking forward to, that having played it a couple weeks now in “out of the box” set-up, I think I’ll be able to tell the difference. First, I expect the action to be noticeably lower, which I expect to translate into a better feel, not having to press as hard, etc. The other thing is getting the intonation fixed. Even when I’m sure the open strings are in tune, even my amateur ear has been able to tell that some notes are just a teensy bit off the farther I get down the fretboard. If I’m understanding right, that’s an intonation issue.

Hi Mark, good you started your learning log. You can get lots of advice and encouragement through it. Although I also don’t get bored doing exercises I think that combining them with learning songs (it can be one at the time) fosters advance and can evidence areas to work on. When starting to learn a song you do not need to sing (and know the lyrics) you can play the chord sequence (four bars of D, two bars of G and so on). To learn the lyrics you can memorize it in small chunks rather than trying to memorize it all at once. About the speed of advance I think is necessary to develop self assessment skills to know when is time to take the next challenge because the current one is no longer a challenge (although still susceptible of improvement in the future).

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I got my set-up guitar back and while I don’t have a lot of experience to draw on, I’d say it feels even better. I love the lower action. My only quibble is two of the strings are still a tiny bit off intonation-wise. They aren’t perfectly in tune at the 12th fret when the open string is in tune. They’re supposed to be, right?

It’s too subtle for me to notice much, but that’s according to my tuner. Thanks to youtube, though, I think I know how to try adjusting that myself without needing to be a luthier.

I also picked up a Mustang Micro and my first impression is I love it. Now the only wire involved is the one from my headphones to the Micro and I can move around a lot more freely than I could before AND I can connect it to my computer (or phone) via bluetooth so I can play lessons and guitar through the headphones at the same time.

I’m up to Module 8, which has the cool stuck 3&4 chords, open E minor pentatonic scale, and “Wish You Were Here” riff, among other things. I’m still enjoying the journey and feel like I’m improving. It’s a little hard still on the pinkie that hasn’t been used much up until now, but I’ve got enough calluses that finger pain is not a limiting factor in my practice.

Now that finger pain isn’t an issue, one of my biggest issues is impatience. I remember Justin pointing out more than once the risk of trying too much, too fast, because that can lead to the kind of frustration that makes people quit. I totally get it and agree, but my id wants to know more, NOW!

It’s such a tricky balance between going slow enough to consolidate and “get good”, and fast enough to stay interested. I’m quenching some of that thirst with the Music Theory Course, where I don’t feel like my playing ability has to be up to playing along with the knowledge imparted. Even there, though, I keep wanting to plow ahead without slowing down to master some of the rote learning involved. (It’s like being conceptually ready for harder math but still being slow on times tables when it’s time to solve problems.)

As for my playing progress, one of my most difficult chords to switch to is still A. I’m wavering (but haven’t surrendered) in my attempt to unlearn my old muscle memory and use Justin’s recommended grip instead. For chord perfect or slow changes, it’s not hard, but once I get to OMC or especially practicing a song, my old fingers and new fingers keep fighting. I know that note-wise it makes no difference, but but with the 123 grip I learned, there’s no anchor finger for switching with D and E.

I never realized how much intentional muting is involved in playing well, or how hard it would be.


Bravo on progressing to module 8, Mark, sounds like you are doing well. Your ability to self-assess and reflect is an asset. For me, the thing that kept me interested while patiently working on the next lesson and set of skills was learning songs, making recordings, and sharing on #record-yourself-progress-performance:audio-video-of-you-playing. The songs were selected to make use of all I’d learned so far. I share your feelings about muting.