Martin O N - Progress Journal

I thought it would be useful for me to try to put some shape on my guitar learning with a progress journal/learning log.

My current (brand new!) plan is to set some goals every week and then upload a video at the end of the week (and possibly also the start as a reference point).

For this week, I’m focusing on ‘Jolene’ by Ray LaMontagne. The main goal is to learn the song (lyrics, chords and at least some of the melody on the guitar) and to be able to play and sing (yikes!) “off-book”.

I’ll also use the song as a vehicle for other things (e.g. exploring alternative chord voicings via caged; trying to play the melody in different pentatonic positions; seeing if I can figure it out on piano).

This is really a record for me but any feedback would be very welcome (and I’m sure would help with my sense of accountability).

Hope everyone is enjoying their music journeys!


I took a video of my current place with this song (after a lot of listening and a couple of days of practice). I can see things that need work (particularly on the singing side) but generally I’m happy enough and interested to see how much progress I can make during the week.
(This wasn’t actually intended for sharing but I thought publishing it here would be a good accountability thing and a reminder to tidy up my room!)


Sounds like a very interesting project, at least you will be able to record and perhaps even reliably measure your progress :slightly_smiling_face:

If this is you starting point, then I look very forward to finding out what this song will sound at the end of the week. Sounds good in my ears already, but of course you are your biggest critic.

Never heard of Ray La Montagne (Americana, I suppose?) but I will now check him out because your rendition of this song was lovely.

Aah… For your next progress report videos, it would probably be useful if your guitar would actually be visible? :slightly_smiling_face:


Martin, I agree with Nicole if that’s a starting point then well done. I loved the guitar work and loved the song so I too will be checking this guy out :+1: Also didn’t think there was much to worry about on the vocal either. :+1: Only thing was and not sure why but I only had the sound out of one headphone :thinking: Not sure if that’s my end or yours.

Same here, Craig…

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Thanks very much @JokuMuu and @CD02 for the feedback and the kind words.
I don’t know much about Ray LaMontagne other than his album Trouble. I find his performances (vocal and feel especially) really engaging.

I’m working with this live performance of Jolene as my reference point (rather than the album) as the guitar and vocals are a bit more exposed. Justin also has a lesson on this song on the website but I think it was during his brief non-singing phase, which is a shame as synching the vocals and the guitar is one of the challenges (and Justin is a really good singer!).

Thanks for the feedback on the audio - I seem to have the same. I’ll investigate. Another upside of this little project - learning how to use my recording software properly :slight_smile:

Anyhow, thanks again and all the best.



That’s quite an ambitious project, 1 song a week, but you’re off to a great start. Your cover sounds like it would be fine for the end of the week’s version as well! :slightly_smiling_face:

(Another really lovely Ray LaMontagne song is Such a Simple Thing, if you want to learn a 2nd song of his.)

Thanks @Mari63 for the feedback and the kind words. Totally agree - one song a week may well be a stretch but it felt like a good place to jump off, at least for the less technical songs. I’ve listened to this song a lot and had a look at the chord changes a little while back (they’re relatively straight-forward) so hopefully I can make some improvements over the week. I’m sure there will be lots of songs that I decide to give a second week to or move on from half-done. The idea really is to keep my music practice focused on songs and use them as the basis for more technical study (e.g. here I’m trying to transcribe the melody on electric and understand what scale patterns it fits into).

Thanks for the pointer towards Such a Simple Thing - just listened to it for the first time. Really beautiful. He has such an amazing voice and is a great lyricist - ‘My heart is like paper, Yours is like a flame’. I hadn’t realised Ray L had published so many songs. Time to start exploring!

Thanks again and all the best.

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That’s a really good way to start. Kudos to you!

Listening from my AirPods and the sound is only coming from one side. It still sounds good but something that you could fix for the next video. Also like @JokuMuu already mentioned, it would be nice to see how you actually play the guitar.

Good job! :clap:

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Thanks @CarlosAP.

Having done a little research, it seems the sound coming from one side only is because I recorded with QuickTime. That was pretty convenient but not a great result. Apparently QuickTime always treats the signal coming in as stereo (so if I’m sending single channel from my audio interface, it just treats it as either the left or right signal).

According to this YouTube video the fix is to open the recording in GarageBand and switch the setting on the track to mono; then re-export the video with the mono sound. Seems like it should make sense and I’ll try it next time to see how time-consuming it is. Given this is a practice log, rather than performance stuff, I’m trying to keep the recording process pretty quick and easy!

If anybody has any suggestions on alternatives to QuickTime that would cut out the GarageBand step they’d be gratefully received!

All the best!

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Martin, you could try OBS. Quite a few of us use it and I see it runs on Apple devices. I’m a Windows PC user so have no idea what other options there may be.

Thanks DavidP - I might have to explore OBS. The GarageBand work-around has defeated me tonight! I managed to get everything working until I exported from GB. It defaults to using an .mv4 file (apparently it’s essentially mp4 with Apple add-ons re content management). Youtube doesn’t accept it and I can’t see a quick way of converting the file.

So - the file is stuck on my computer for now but I’ll try to upload it in due course.

Thoughts from the week:
(i) the melody was not very repetitive so took a good bit of work to transcribe. I did it though so that’s good!
(ii) transcribing the melody is one thing but I am a long way from being able to play it as a lead line with any feel. Plenty of scope for improvement in that area of my playing (which I knew already).
(iii) on the rhythm/accompaniement side, I need to clarify the time-feel. The play/sing through I recorded tonight was quite stiff.
(iv) I need to work on smoothing out the top notes (particularly the E and the high G) in the vocal.

All in all though I think this has been a success. I’ve learned lots (even if the tech side has been frustrating) and I’ve really appreciated the engagement and encouragement from everyone who has commented (thank you!).

I’ll decide tomorrow what next weeks project will be. I’m thinking something mostly instrumental.

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@CT Hi Clint, perhaps you can have a look here and offer Martin some ideas?

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I record straight into Garageband when I use a mic through my audio interface, When I record into QT (which is very rare and mostly as a scratchpad) I just use the built in mic on the Mac. It doesn’t sound like your rig is providing better audio than the built in mic. For simplicity sake the built in mic would be the way to go for your progress journaling (in my opinion).

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@CT Thanks , Clint


Thanks Clint!

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To round out last week, here’s the end of week version of Jolene (Ray LaM). In some ways the performance isn’t as good as the start of week version (it was a tired Sunday night thing) and the guitar rhythm is pretty ropy. That’s all good though - this is a progress journal and I’m going to have to keep it as that in my head. I’m sure there’s somewhere else where I can try to polish and perform!

This video suffers is also just from Quicktime so suffers from the same one-speaker only problem. On the plus side, thanks to @DavidP 's suggestion, I think I’ve got OBS up and running with GarageBand (using a multi-out put device and Blackhole as the link between GB and OBS. It seems to work for straight electric. I don’t know yet how to also get a vocal mic into the mix but that’s another day’s work!

Watching the end of week video through again, I think my observations from this morning all still stand.


Week 2 (March 4th on): I’ve decided to revisit the classical piece Romanza (Spanish Romance). I had half-learned the first (minor) section a while back on classical but I don’t know the major section at all. Out of necessity I’m trying to play this on electric as my left index finger just can’t handle the barre on the classical (oldish injury from too much guitar enthusiasm!). My plan is:

  • try to learn the first (minor) part so I have it clean and by heart
  • see how much of the second (major) part I can learn this week
  • do some harmony analysis, of the second part in particular (the first part is essentially I-IV-V in Em)
  • play the Em and the E scale on the 1st string. I think it’s interesting that this pieces moves up and down the scale on the same string (instead of in our usual guitar box patterns).
  • E major has 4 sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#): try to memorise that.
  • experiment with playing classical on electric
  • have fun!!

I don’t have a reference track to listen to / get inspired by yet (any suggestions very welcome!).

As my starting point, here’s my initial couple of minutes of messing around and failing to sight-read the second part this morning (quick capture on phone camera).

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Glad you are making progress, both recording and your playing.

I thought Jolene sounded great. Your guitar sounds great and vocal is lovely. I suggest you post something like this in Audio-Video Of You Playing You may get more feedback and more people will get to enjoy it.

I don’t recall or notice anything digging into what you are doing in GB. If nothing other than using it to record the audio, then you may be able to take it out of the chain. On my Windows PC OBS can receive input from all 4 of my AI channels independently. I assume the same would be true on a Mac.

Again on Windows, OBS can add what they have called filters, which is typically referred to as a plugin. So I have added VST-format plugins to my audio. OBS has some standard but can access others if in the correct folder. Again, not sure how this would work on a Mac.

If not doing a lot of post processing then it becomes a simple one-step process to make the video.

Thanks David - that’s all really helpful. I’ll have a look more closely at OBS - it would be great to simplify! Really appreciate all your support on this.