Lisa's Learning Log

Hi all,

A few days ago, I just finished the final Module 22 of Grade 3. As the time of pre-set practice routines is over for quite a while now, and I had the feeling I was rushing through the modules too fast (shame on my impatient self!), I was thinking about a way to slow myself down and provide a structured way to track my progress: What could work better than a learning log? Let’s see, how this will work out then…

Some remarks on my journey so far, probably mentioned most of it in my intro-thread already.

I first picked up the guitar 20 years ago as a self-learner (was having piano lessons by the time), self-learning meant: Looking up chord shapes in the web and printing out tab sheets our buying chord books and off we go. :smiley: At least, my theoretical knowledge was quite good thanks to my piano teacher.

Together with a friend of mine we sat down and played songs we liked, very simple strumming or real basic fingerstyle and just sang along and annoyed… ehm entertained folks around – whether they wanted or not. :smiley: We also wrote a few songs back then. Some of those I even recorded in a studio session later on (a present from my friends back in the days). But playing-wise, I never really dug deeper than that simple strumming of open chords and singing along. Every attempt ended pretty much nowhere, as I simply had no idea where and how to go on further. Nevertheless, I enjoyed making music and had loads of fun back then. That was until my very early 20ies, I guess. Once my studies got more serious (long lab days), I ended piano lessons and picked up the guitar only occasionally for a handful of songs I still remembered – that was it. There were years I probably didn’t even touch the guitar. :frowning:

Let’s fast forward these “sad” 10 years until beginning of 2022. I moved and got a new job and the first salary I wanted to invest in something I always wanted to have (thanks to the sound of Roger McGuinn and The Byrds): A 12-string guitar. So, I went to a local shop and they only had 3 different models. I even don’t remember the other 2, as I immediately fell for the Martin D-2XE and took her home with me. I was happy on the one hand, but also a bit lost on the other, as I really did not know where and how to restart. I did, what I always did, picked it up, played those 3-5 songs I still could remember and that was it. Sometimes, I grabbed old tab/chord sheets and played different songs, but it was pretty much the same, nothing new and no noticeable progress, which kind of damped the joy I felt while playing. Spent several months wasting time watching random YouTube-Videos or reading books, but still it was not helping. Finally, in September 2022 I stumbled over one of Justin’s Song Lessons, I think “Jack and Diane” by JCM, and all of a sudden I felt a connection to the way he was teaching. Looking back, I still don’t have a clue how I could manage to NOT coming across JG earlier. :sweat_smile:

I was heading to the website and started his course from the very beginning and here we are, now.

Now the real work is going to start. As I had quite solid ground to build on, I went through grades 1 and 2 very fast and took half a year for Grade 3. In parallel, I enrolled for Music Theory and the Strumming SOS.

For consolidation purposes, I will re-check all past modules and create an overview of all skills taught there and do a thorough self-assessment. I will focus on those, that require improvement. But while thinking about a way to consolidate and what I have learned so far, I detected 2 huge areas I really need to get my hands back on as they were neglected due to my impatience: learning songs and transcribing!

For the latter, I will pick up those lessons/suggestions I haven’t finished so far. Maybe I will set kind of a monthly goal on how many songs to transcribe and hope it helps to put it up here to actually finish these things. Maybe I need this kind of pressure, haha! :rofl:

Regarding the songs, I really need to find a way to pick up songs that I love, but also include techniques/skills I want to consolidate and – most of all – be patient enough to learn the guitar parts well enough before singing along regularly, because I don’t want to end up as I did as a teen and really want to learn more advanced playing. I hope this makes sense. :smiley: To get this sorted, I should finally set up a song book with songs I already know, those I’m currently working on and my (current) dreamers.

The third area I will dedicate parts of my practice time is learning to play “country style guitar”. I have a few books on this that cover the basics in rhythm guitar accompanying, but also lead (for future) and fingerstyle. I always loved country music due to its variety in sounds, but still being recognizable at the same time. Also, it requires a lot of different and broad set of skills – so hopefully will learn a lot on this journey as well.

Last, but not least I have to step out of my comfort zone: I plan on doing AVOYP sometime soon and while typing, I already get stage fright… :cold_face: :joy: Not sure, which song to choose first, though the list isn’t that long yet.

To finish this first log entry, some hard facts on my current routine (still aligned with module 22):

  • Practice daily for at least 40 - 60 min, mainly using 6-strings (acoustic or electric)
  • “warm up”: 5 min E-chord explorer
  • 5 min on easy barre chords
  • 5 min on scales (legato pentatonics and/or pattern 1 major scale)
  • 5 min “time”-practice, i.e. strumming patterns at different speed, framing…
  • 10 min for country guitar, 5 min fingerstyle + 5 min basic rhythm guitar
  • 5 min repertoire new songs, currently “don’t look back in anger” by Oasis and “Nichts von alledem” by Wolfgang Petry (for the Germans here: This is a real nice tune, would never have expected this), the latter I plan to perform for my Mom’s birthday in August…
  • 5 min repertoire revision
  • Remaining time just mocking around a little

Apologies for this lengthy post and thanks to all, who read it! This really helped to initially sort my thoughts/doubts… whatever and for the next, I hopefully have a clue on the above-mentioned open points and how to include these into my practice rountine.

Have a great day!

Cheers – Lisa

PS: I’m open to suggestions and experiences made by others and always happy to answer questions. :slight_smile:


Lisa @Lisa_S
Great first learning log, don’t worry about the length as putting it down helps with where you have been and where you want to go.
Glad you found Justin and the community.
Michael :grinning::+1:


What a wonderful read Lisa. So many familiar tales presented in your journey. You seem to have ambition and a plan to get you there. Stay with it. be patient, be diligent and be honest with yourself. Keep on that track and all will be fine. The worst enemy to any budding guitar player is unrealistic expectations in an unrealistic time scale. Think you have dodge that bullet, so keep doing what you are doing. Just check in now and then to ensure you are on track !



Great stuff, enjoyed reading your. Make sure the routine includes fun stuff, it will help keep you motivated.



Michael, thanks for taking the time to read and the heads up! Appreciate it a lot! :slight_smile: You’re right, putting all down helps a lot! I’m indeed happy to be here, too! :+1:


Toby, thanks a lot for your kind words and also taking the time to read - very much appreciated! 100 % agreed on the patience and expectations part - it only has to sink in now. :joy: But I’m sure this great community will catch me if I should fall apart in one or the other way. :+1:


Tony, thanks for taking your time to read, I’m happy you enjoyed it. :slight_smile: Also completely agree to the adding fun stuff. For me, this is the country style and working on songs or just mocking around. From motivation side I’m on track, except for the transcribing part though… :woozy_face:


No need to apologize for the length of your post, for one thing it’s YOUR learning log. for another, I found it very informative. I’d say you’ve got a good plan.

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Thanks a lot for your encouragement and the warm words, Rebecca! Very much appreciated. :slight_smile:

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Really great read, Lisa! Congrats on getting your LL underway :smiley: :+1:
Sounds like you have a great plan in mind and the commitment to get there :sunglasses:

That’s super cool! Can’t wait to see that when you do :slightly_smiling_face: In terms of stage fright when recording, I felt exactly the same the first couple of AVOYPs I did. Nerves were really bad as soon as I hit the record button. However, now it doesn’t concern me at all. To get to that point, I recorded myself playing basically every practice session and still do. Not only has it helped resolve the Red Light Syndrome when recording but has been super useful in reviewing my progress. I highly recommend that approach if it appeals to you also :slight_smile:
In saying that, my nerves when playing live for the Open Mics haven’t improved any at all! :rofl: Well, perhaps in the lead up I am much more relaxed but as soon as my turn comes, the nerves kick in big time :grimacing: :sweat_smile: That side of things is still very much a work in progress, but the above should definitely help with recording at least :wink:
All the best! :metal:

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Hi Lisa. Good you started your learning log. Post as long and often as it is useful for you.

I would describe my situation like that almost three years ago, some previous knowledge, a lot of interest in improving my guitar playing, but no clue on how to actually improve it.

Now I know how to, one skill at the time, one song at the time, and a lot of practice, improve my guitar playing and have fun doing it.

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Jeff, thanks a lot for your encouragement and your kind words, glad you enjoyed the read. :slight_smile:
This is a very good advice and I will consider that. I did one recording session few weeks ago and must admit, I have not yet watched those. I’m so not used to watch or listen to myself, it feels awkward. :rofl: Should definitely overcome this very soon, though. :woozy_face:

The point with the nerves in “real live situations” is so relatable for me, and probably a lot other folks around here, so we’re in good company. :sweat_smile:

Andrés, thanks s lot for taking the time to read and encouraging me. :slight_smile: It is always relieving to see, hear or read that others struggle with similar things or went a similar path on their guitar journey. You’re right, it will only work one step at a time - take this impatient me! :rofl:


I’m totally with you on rewatching being the most painful part :see_no_evil: (which is not to say that the blinking red light isn’t also anxiety-inducing). I have no advice, but I do sympathize! Especially in videos of yourself singing :grimacing:

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Thanks a lot, Hilary! It’s always good to know one is not alone with these issues. :see_no_evil:

Yeah, it’s the singing part mostly fo me, too. But I guess, we just need to force ourselves to do so and. hopefully, as time goes by and we do it more frequently, we will get used to it. :woozy_face:

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Triple-L ( :rofl:) - second entry

One week ago I started to think about a way to stop myself from rushing (again) and consolidate all the skills/techniques/knowledge areas… covered so far in the first 3 Grades of Justin’s Beginner Course. So the past days I sat down and went through all the modules and extracted these parts and put them together in sort of a topic-sorted scheme. I found it hard to “follow” the categories of the 6 areas of guitar practice, as a lot of things fit in more than one (i.e. knowledge/technique, time/technique etc.).

So I tried to put all these things together into my customized, daily routine. There are 3 areas, that are not in somehow:

  • Knowledge, as I do a lot of reading/thinking/watching outside practice time anyhow.
  • Transctribing, as I will try to have designated sessions for the 32 songs from grade 3, that are pending to be transcribed. :sweat_smile:
  • Improv/Jams, as this is nothing I’m up to currently anyhow and maybe will do if the opportunity comes up.

My routine for the next months will look as follows:

10 min of chords & scales

  • 5 min warm up with chord exploration (shape explorers/embellishments, moving up the neck, lifted barres…)
  • 5 min practice of chords/changes or scales needing improvement/repetition, e.g. barre chords, power chords, legato pentatonics, pattern 1 major scale… probably will try implementing a rolling mode for these

10 min of time and accompanyiment

  • 5 min strumming related things that need improvement and/or repetition
  • 5 min fingerstyle related techniques (improvement/repetition)

5 min on “other” techniques

  • these can be things like hammer ons/flick offs, Vibrato, Palm Muting…

10 min country style guitar

  • practice will be following the course in the books

10+ min Repertoire

  • 5+ min each on revision and learning of new songs

This gives me at least 45 min of practice everyday which I can manage most of the time. Of course, song related session may be extended depending on mood. :slight_smile:
The big, fat aim would be to include practice items into song practice, but I have the fear that I will end up as easy-strumming singer, so I decided to go for designated skills/techniques first and apply them later to songs or at least keep me darn mouth shut in those 45 min and do the singing afterwards. :joy:

As I went through the grades again virtually, some skills were already identified that will need improvement and will go on higher priority. One being thumb and finger strumming for example, but also Palm Muting along with Power Chords would be a good point. But the assessment with guitar in hand is pending and will be done the upcoming days skill by skill. Also, I will re-watch a few lessons to refresh my knowledge on some things like common chord - or 12-bar blues progressions.

Coming to one of my pain points, the song repertoire. I put down all the songs I know by heart from beginning till end and can play them good enough for a camp fire session (all of them still can be improved).

Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash
Mercedes Benz - Janis Joplin
Talkin’ about a revolution - Tracy Chapman
Redemption Song - Bob Marley
Wild Rover - Irish Folk Song
Anchorage - Michelle Shocked
The book of love - Peter Gabriel
Mr. Tambourine Man - Somewhere between The Byrds and Bob Dylan :rofl:
Good Riddance (Time of your life) - Greenday
Wish you were here - Pink Floyd

It is not as bad as I thought, though. But still a lot of room for improvement. From my past, I know I’m quite ok to pick up a chord sheet and do some simple strumming accompanying while singing quite from scratch. But, as before mentioned, this is not the path I wan’t to follow again (only for parties maybe). I really want to improve the guitar part as such.

Songs, I’m currently working on:

  • Don’t look back in anger - Oasis: I know the lyrics and chords, but can’t get some of these fills under my fingers, argh!
  • Fields of gold - Sting: just started on this one
  • Free Fallin’ - Tom Petty: Lyrics need to sink in and working on this bridge-like part
  • Nichts von alledem - Wolfgang Petry: Finally figured out the right chords as chord sheets from the net were not 100 % accurate, now need to figure out how to accompany it properly

Current Dreamers (not yet touched):

  • Jack & Diane - John ‘Cougar’ Mellencamp
  • The Boxer - Simon & Garfunkel
  • Land Unter - Herbert Groenemeyer
  • Freight Train - Elizabeth Cotten

Puh, this was a lot to digest from the past week. :sweat_smile: Now it’s time to grab the guitar and make some noise - very structured and disciplined of course. :nerd_face: :crazy_face:


Sounds like a good plan Lisa. I think it is essential to regularly stop and think about your practice routine to make sure that it meets your current guitar needs and moves you on to your future goals.

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Thanks Tony! That’s exactly why I started this thing here, to see where I come from, get an idea where to go to and how I will get there. :slight_smile:

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Hi Lisa. All the time spent now consolidating is well spent. You should get benefit from it later when learning more advanced guitar skills. In my case I have no rush for going into Grade 3 when I finish the Beginner Guitar Course [Classic] and review new content of Grades 1 and 2. As far as I’m learning and improving all is good. It looks good to me that you’re going to self assess each of the skills you are supposed to know at this point (at the level you’re supposed to know them), and work on the ones you find weak. Elizabeth Cotten’s Freight Train is also in my wishlist of songs

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Hi Andrés,

you are completely right: time spent on consolidation is definitely not wasted. In contrast, it will be a very good foundation to build on in the long run and prevents from frustration, when things get more difficult, and saves time one would spent for going back an repeating these basics again. :slight_smile: Thanks again for encouraging this way again!

Nice, you also have Freight Train on your list. Have you actually ever seen a video of Elizabeth performing it herself? It is sooooo impressive as she plays left handed with a right handed guitar swapped over without restringing it. Amazing to watch. :smiley:

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Hi Lisa. I’ve watched a video of her playing the song but I was putting more attention to the musical phrasing than how she was actually playing. I have to take another look. Doing what you describe should be like what I saw last week of Keith Emerson (Emerson Lake and Palmer) playing a keyboard reaching the keys standing on the opposite side of where people normally play.

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That’s a lovely introduction Lisa, and you seem to be a lady with a plan! That is good. I like your structured approach. I’ll have to look up the Wolfgang Petry song, it sounds interesting.

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Thanks for sharing on your learning log, it was an interesting read. You write well.

I’m curious to see an AVOYP from you at some point, surely it must be some time soon :smiley:.

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