My Looper Outed Me!

Hello Everyone,

Older student here (late 50s). I’ve been following Justin’s online lessons and using the Justin Guitar app for about two years now (COVID project :slightly_smiling_face:). I would describe my practice routine as “haphazard”. :slightly_frowning_face:

Recently I started getting into the theory and practice of blues improvising. I’d been noodling around with the A and B minor pentatonic extended patterns- playing them over a couple of Justin’s backing tracks. I’d been learning a few licks from one of Justin’s lessons and trying to incorporate them into my improv. Also focussing on bending a full tone, rather than just randomly. I thought I was doing OK.

So it was time to bite the bullet and get myself a looper, so I could improvise over my own chord progressions. I bought a Boss RC-5 (more capable than I need), read the manual, watched a few how-to videos and plugged it in. I tapped the pedal, recorded a loop and was treated to the full horror of my own uneven strumming and messy chord changes.

Eventually it dawned on me that the backing tracks on Justin’s app that I had been playing along with were actually masking my poor strumming technique. I think the app is awesome and playing along with your favourite songs is a blast. It’s brilliant for helping learn strumming patterns and speeding up your chord changes. It’s definitely a great learning tool, but I think it needs to be part of your strumming practice. I had allowed it to become my only strumming practice.

Over the past few days I’ve been re-watching some of Justin’s beginner course lessons. I had developed a habit of strumming from the wrist, rather than the elbow. That resulted in the pick sweeping across the strings in an arc. My fretting hand is guilty too. I’m getting muted strings and buzzing due to lazy finger placement.

I’ve now compiled a practice routine that includes strumming to the looper’s metronome, 5 minutes of “quality control” practice (from one of Justin’s videos) and learning all the scale shapes. I’ll put a lot more work into barre chords this time around too. I still want to practice licks, vibrato, bending, etc, because I don’t want to lose what I’ve already learned about that stuff.

I feel like it’s been two steps forward and one step backwards. Maybe even two steps backwards! It’s my fault of course, because I didn’t nail down the basics before moving to the next stage.

Is anyone else here guilty of getting ahead of themself and trying to learn advanced stuff before really mastering the basics? If so, how did you go about rectifying your mistake? Did you keep practicing the advanced stuff while fixing the basics? Or did you go “back to the drawing board”?


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Hi Chris,

That’s what loopers often do :grin:…just like video recordings of yourself in the beginning…and as you tap and so do, use a metronome…

Don’t learn this all at once … your last question you ask … you do that yourself now … first 1 scale, … long and good practice, apply and apply like Justin very often says…
And if I have been guilty of rushing forward :roll_eyes:Nooooo… (kuch)daily :blush:
As you say before … calm down and start over from the beginning…

And just to be clear … I mean start again with the scale lessons,and making music with,also means being able to play a solo in that pattern etc. … and if you experience problems with rhythm guitar … start there again with the first lessons …

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Hi Rogier. Yes, I agree. Justin said in one of his scale videos to dedicate a year to learning the 5 scale patterns and how they join together. 5 minutes per day for one year. I’ve been rushing too much.

Don’t get me started on this old chestnut. If you practice the new stuff with the bad techniques and habits you will just reinforce them. All ways best to go back and review and correct.

Scales if you can’t apply one pattern musically, don’t learn anymore until you can. Simples.
When And How You Should Learn Scales | Check out the “when not to” section.

Everyone wants to run but are learning to crawl and after that walk. I’ll be banging about marathons in a minute, so better sign off !


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Hey Chris,

The good thing here Chris is you’ve picked up on all these things straight away, and are on a path to rectifying them. It shows that your musical ear has developed.
I’ve found that recording your playing/ practicing regularly is crucial to highlighting areas of improvement. I’m sure many others here do it as well as part of their routine. Its the only way to know what you sound like, and what your technique looks like; its something Justin has emphasised many times, and I believe its sage advice.
Also, there’s nothing wrong with having a go at more advanced stuff. Its a good way to push your limits, and have a bit of fun, but tempered with the mindset that structured, regular practice on developing technique and knowledge is the key going forward.
All the best mate. Stick close to Justin’s lessons and you’ll be on top of it in no time. And reach out here for any help from this great community.

Cheers, Shane

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I think all I’d add is a mindset of improving your basics, rather than fixing.

The looper does help one to hone in working on your timing, as does trying to record guitar tracks in a DAW to a click or drum track, particularly when you want to double-track (record the same part twice for extra fullness).

The same goes for recording yourself on video and sharing in #record-yourself-progress-performance:audio-video-of-you-playing

I was terrible and find just consolidating technique by learning songs helped me. So not so much about thinking you have to start again, that all is broken and needs fixing. Just take care to focus on the fundamentals while continuing to spend some time leaning licks and bending. Keep using the looper and noodling.

I noticed the comment about strumming from the wrist. Many would say they have a problem strumming from the elbow and not the wrist. I think you need to work on a blend of both, ensuring relaxed even strumming.

So I’d go with a practice routine and guitar plating habit that is a blend of both basics and learning new things.

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Thanks for all the replies! Awesome feedback. I’m not feeling nearly as depressed as I was. :slightly_smiling_face:

Re videoing myself: I recorded myself on my phone today practicing pattern 1 of the C major and G major scales at 60bpm. I’ll be keen to see how much improvement I’ve made in a month.

Re arm/wrist: there’s lot of conflicting advice out there. I’ll start with strumming from the elbow and introduce wrist when I can evenly hit all of the strings.

Re scales: Does “doing something musical” with a scale before learning a new one mean being able to improvise with that scale? I’m not clear on how much I need to be able to use a scale before tackling a new one. Would it be OK to learn pattern 1 of the major, major pentatonic and minor pentatonic scales at the same time? Then move to pattern 2 of all three, and so on? Or is it better to learn all the major patterns before moving to pentatonic patterns?

I’m not sure it’s conflicting per se. I think it just depends on who the advice is aimed at. If memory serves, Justin’s beginner lessons state that you should strum from the elbow. This is despite the fact that in more advanced lessons and song tutorials, you can clearly see him utilising his wrist. But that’s the point… more advanced. The best way of getting the basics down is to keep things simple, but once you’re comfortable and your timing is on point, you can start introducing tweaks and variations.

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I think that is OK, subject to practice time available and risk of getting confused. Perhaps also just focus on Major and Minor Pentatonic, since Major Pentatonic is the same patterns just different root notes.

As to when to move on, I suggest make some recordings of you improvising over a backing track. Then you can get some feedback and suggestions based on your playing rather than theoretical ideas.

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I recognise this experience, definitely I remember being surprised by how different my playing sounded played back through the looper the first time.
I normally practise with the amp unplugged, or fairly quiet so I’m hearing a lot of the acoustic sounds from the strings. The looper is, of course, just playing back what the pickups heard and there’s no direct string noise at all (and no backing track either!). Some bits sound worse, some better. I guess it taught me to crank up the amp more often!


Hey Chris,

Re the scales.
I would follow Justins advice about staying with pattern 1 of the Major scale for a while till you know it inside out. Looking back, it was excellent advice, and has helped me enormously. Learn the pattern, but also, and probably more importantly, the sound, the intervals, how they relate to each other. Drills like one finger solos, playing over backing tracks, playing the scale in 3rds, 5ths, 3 in a line, 4 in a line etc.
The other 4 patterns are the same notes, just in a different area of the fretboard. No point learning them until you’ve got the major scale drilled into you via pattern 1. You will find that by doing this, you will learn the other 4 patterns anyway at an accelerated rate when the time comes, as you will have accumulated much learning from pattern 1.
For me, the major scale has become the key framework for everything I have learnt about since, including other scales like the pentatonics, chords, triads, arpeggios etc. I now understand why Justin introduces it first, and places so much importance on internalising it.

Cheers, Shane


Thanks again for the advice. It’s a big help. I’ll knuckle down on my practice routine and come back to the community when I trip up again.

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Recording yourself is such a useful tool and a looper more so as it enforces some modicum of consistency and timing.


I’ve been playing about the same time as you. I am also older. I’ve currently been learning legato, bends, vibrato, minor and major pentatonic all 5 positions, and improv/solos. This is the part of guitar I really love. But I also want to be well rounded. So I spend a lot of time practicing barre chord and open chord changes using metronome and songs for timing and rythmes practice. Recording myself unveils errors in technique.
I am not waiting until I’m more proficient at chord changes before learning new things (the dynamics and improv). My practice routine includes both. My rhythm and chord changes improve every day, at some point it will click. But I won’t hold off on learning new things I enjoy.
Also, loopers are hard, and any recording device will have you nervous and awkward at first. But glad you caught your error. Add the strumming fixes to your routine and I would continue on with your bending… etc.

Happy practice and performance!


Thanks for your reply jaziey.

I think this is a good philosophy and is the one I have fallen into. But unlike you, I didn’t keep up the practice of the basics. I’m now focussing on those again, but I will continue to practice the stuff I enjoy too.

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