One year anniversary. I'm in a rut

Hehehe… i dont play songs with power chords :rofl: or… i swap it out for other chords if needed…
as someone has mentioned before in this thread… you need to play a song a lot to have it memorized. And then i mean a lot! A couple of times and move on is not enough :rofl: i have played the few i know by heart a countless times. And even if i stop playing them for some time they are gone. It needs to be done quite regulary… for me at least. I dont see it as a struggle or get bored by them though. But i do play a few selected countless amount. And when you that that. You can build layers to them. A hammer on there,a pull off here, a small lick there… but it takes a lot of time…

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I’ve been following this thread myself for all the useful pearls other users have offered - lots of good advice here!

You’ve said yourself that you need structure and from these two quotes, it sounds like you aren’t setting yourself up well for successful practice.

Jot down the things you think of during the day that you want to practice (note on your phone, back of an envelope, paper to-do list…whatever works for you) and add them to your JG Practice Assistant or whatever you use as your practice to-do list. We all have so many thoughts and ideas flit through our heads throughout the day - for guitar and literally everything else in my life, if I don’t write it down, it’s probably not going to get remembered, much less get done.

Similarly, scrolling through the app and playing whatever looks good at the moment isn’t giving yourself structure. I have a 5 minute (sometimes repeated) block of “Play along with songs in app” block at the end, which I use as sort of a free choice play item at the end of practice, but the songs I trying to learn are saved as favorites and have their own dedicated 5-minute practice items.

I think this is probably the biggest reason you are having difficulty memorizing songs. Repetition is what gets you there. In grade 1, I completely sympathize that what you’re playing hardly resembles the original, but with so many skills introduced in grade 2, I think you should be able to add some of the “magic” of the song. But ultimately, I think you need to be able to play the “boring” version of a song before you can add the fun embellishments, dynamics, etc. I’d consider pretty much all of my grade 1 (and grade 2, for that matter) songs as “developers” - starting out with the easy version so I can play along the right chords with the lyrics by memory, then as I learn new techniques and embellishments in later modules, adding them to a suitable song in my repertoire.

You sound like you’re pretty hard on yourself - I’d be willing to bet that folks in this forum would give you useful feedback and do so more kindly than you probably mentally speak to yourself. You don’t have to “showcase” anything - just play something representative of where you are now, take in the constructive feedback, and use it in your practice sessions (even the little things that will make you 1% better).


Hey Stacy,
Thanks for asking this question. I think we all go through this.
I am working through a rut now. This is what I’m doing that has helped me which is probably summarizes most of the above:

  1. relax - this should be fun.
  2. consolidate - You learned alot. Now pick a few things and put them to use playing songs.
  3. practing lessons vs playing - Some of us(including me) think that if you just go through all the lessons that you become a good player. You may learn alot but that doesn’t mean you play well. Your playing gets better the more you play.
  4. focus - I did Justin’s strumming course(SOS2). That got me to focus on 10 songs that i wanted to improve on. My strumming has improved and I can play those songs better. I started this 3 months ago and I am still at it. Adding some flair to the strumming keeps it from getting boring.
  5. next steps - figure out where you want to go and practice that. Don’t go and redo everything you already learned. Review those lessons that help you move to where you want to go. Why go back and do finger picking if you want to play blues or learn blues if you want to do fingering picking.
  6. make a plan. I posted this recently on another thread. Curious what you’re working on lately - #30 by pc429guitar
  7. Have a goal but not an end date.
  8. see #1 above
  9. sometimes if you want to go faster you have to slow down.

Wow, great thread! So many excellent comments. I am at a similar stage, finishing year one and grade 2.

One thing I did several months ago that I said I would not do was study theory. I took a course at the local community college and studied Justin’s course in parallel.

I’m recently retired so I now have time. I’m trying to get 500 hours in per year, so most days I practice 2 hours.

I find that spending 45 minutes per day working scales and rehearsing chords is actually relaxing.

If you are a beginner and don’t have Justin’s app you should get it. playing with the app helps your timing and forces you to make the chord changes. The app has help me to improve more than anything else.


This is totally why you feel you’ve plateaued then. Technique by itself is boring, and doesn’t really make you a guitar player.

Oh, this. This is holding you back.

Our brains are inherently lazy, and won’t remember stuff that’s too easy. Chords popping up and follow the bar is fine for beginners that need to learn to play on time. You’re beyond the app now if you want to progress. When I used the app I couldn’t remember any of the songs. Pick a song, watch the video lesson, and play it for yourself, properly. Proper strumming pattern. Listen intently to the song on spotify to get the song structure.

Drop the app - if you want to support Justin & team use the donation feature on the website, he gets more of it anyway. Oh, and the website lessons have way more info in the text including example songs.


I have considered dropping the app but have come up with different ways to incorporate it into my routine. Tab or App? - #4 by pc429guitar

That’s good, you do you! I don’t think it’s helping Stacy though.

Stacy is in level 2 and still a beginner. The only downside of the app that I found is that it doesn’t help you to memorize songs. I think the benefits outweigh the downside for a minimal cost.

Stacy also mentioned a problem fretting her guitar. Maybe that needs to be looked at for an action adlustment or maybe a new guitar with a thinner neck. After all it is her one year anniversary maybe a new instrument to keep her motivated.

Hi Stacy,

congratulations first of all for your one year anniversary!
Great discussion here and a lot to learn for myself, too, now and further down the path!

Two things I wanted to mention:

How cool is that!! I’ve started horseback riding at the age of 40+ and I absolutely loved it! :smiley:
(I’m pausing for a moment but considering starting with it again).
So what I’ve learned, or been tought, about horse riding was that you can concentrate on improving only one (or a very few) details at a time. Other techniques are being improved at a later point. I wouldn’t be too worried about learning techniques in a semi-optimal way. Others from the audience here can please correct me if the analogy does not apply to learning guitar.

Second, about posture: I have back problems once in a while so I change my position during the practice routine. I’m fully aware that every body is different but what I found out for myself is that I now stand most of the time with the right foot on the chair and the guitar on the leg. With the right posture I find this relaxing and it is helping. Again, it might not work for everyone.
By the way, standing this way I can even look at the fretboard, but don’t tell anyone, I will fix this bad behaviour at a later stage :sunglasses: :sunglasses::sunglasses:
Good luck!

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Hello Stacy, and thanks a lot for starting this interesting topic and for being so honest about your feelings :hugs:
So much great advice has already been given - definitely useful for many of us :smiley:.

One question, that came to my mind while reading through this thread, is ‘What was the main reason, you started your guitar journey?’ ‘What did you want to achieve?’ ‘Did you have a paricular goal?’.
If you have a clear answer to this question, the next one would be ‘What do I need to achieve this goal/s?’

It appears to me, and please correct me if I’m wrong, that you have lost your way/your direction a bit.

I hope, you’ll soon overcome your rut and get back the joy of playing guitar :blush:.


You’ve made some great points. I will keep them in mind. I do need to get into the habit of writing down my ideas for practice, that is probably the only way I’ll be able to consistently remember anything. And learning easy versions of songs…I am just not a chord player, never have been, and by that I mean I like to play melodies, on piano I don’t play songs in repetitious chords, I play classical pieces that are arppegiated throughout. I know it’s a must right now, though. It is fun, I’ll admit, playing the chord progressions but only if its an absolute favorite song or a song with great energy. But again, I realize its a must right now, so my plan is to prioritize learning songs.

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Can’t argue with any of that! Sometimes even if I know something, I struggle with the application. I suspect many of us have the same struggle- its not the why, its the how that is the roadblock. I suppose I’m getting close to that point where I’ll force myself to do something out of fatigue of being frustrated. Having said that, I take all of your suggestions as great ideas, but I particularly notice # 2 and #3 and #6. And #1 and #8, haha.

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I actually like learning theory, and I would absolutely learn it concurrently with guitar if I had the time. I find it relaxing as well. And it’s not overwhelming, mentally, but I do find it to be too much when I have precious little time, yet so much to learn.

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I’ve been thinking it for awhile, that the app is a crutch that is preventing memorization. Its just that I love the backing tracks, playing along with all the sounds of the song. I find songs in the app that I would never have thought of, and that might be fun to play. I may keep it for those reasons, but also just force myself not to use it during dedicated practice.

I will admit, I don’t yet recognize strum patterns by listening to recorded songs, nor am I able to pick out chord or note complexities by ear. I don’t enjoy recreating riffs by trying to pick them out. This is where it will be important for me to either find a structured song lesson (so glad Justin has hundreds of these) or the tab and sheet music, and so far, its been too difficult choosing my own songs to learn, so I think I’ll be dependent on Justin’s lesson videos. And that’s fine. I just need to transition and get accustomed to using YT for backing tracks. Being a newbie to this instrument is just excruciating, ability-wise!

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Riding is so fun. I take any opportunity to ride when I can find one. I took lessons when I was younger, and though I don’t get to ride often at all nowadays (like once a year, if that), every time I get in the saddle its always just as comfortable and familiar as when I were riding every day. My instructor put me in an English saddle and had me jumping! She had ideas that I could compete. It was a surprise to me that she took me in that direction because I wasn’t learning to ride to become a competitor, I was just wanting to ride because I loved it so much. But there was so much to learn about communicating with the horse and doing it subtly and using proper physical form and motions. I would focus on everything so intently that I would forget to breathe and I’d hyperventilate. Was a very baffling thing to me, as to why breathing would be the last thing I’d remember to do, but definitely taught me that complex activities take a lot of work and dedicated focus, have to be broken down into smaller pieces. But that was frustrating for me when riding horses, and its also frustrating with guitar.

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Yeah, I’ve been thinking about those questions, trying to find a direction to go. The truth is I didn’t have a particular goal other than to learn how to play. This is probably a little problematic for forward progress. I still feel its a bit early yet for me to pick a specialty and run with it. I mean I know what kind of music I like, but that doesn’t mean I want to focus solely on that style, at least not right now. I want to learn everything Justin has to teach and get a taste of all the genres. But yeah I just found myself in a rut approaching consolidation and it means I either need to just take a break until I find some motivation, or go back and determine what concepts are making me feel held back and keep working on them. And I need to memorize songs.

Just discussing with everyone and getting my thoughts out of my head is helping tremendously. Everyone’s suggestions are great and its helpful having some more experienced fingers pointing the way.


I urge you not to stop playing along with backing tracks - and eventually the original recorded songs of other songs not on the app.
The benefits are enormous and hard to summarise in one sentence. The fun factor is high too.

BUT … You said this again, same as before …

I can’t memorize songs for some reason.

Memorisation won’t come with playing one song 2 times, 3 times or even 5 times. It comes from many repeats over several weeks.
And remember this advice I gave above.

There are no short cuts. You have to play them often. One important help to this that you can give yourself is manually writing out the chord progressions in rows (of 4 bars per row perhaps).
Like this.


Well I don’t hate hearing that the app songs are still good for plenty of reasons!

Yeah, I realize it will take many many hours of playing to memorize a song, that in and of itself is a challenge. The reasons behind why I don’t do it is the question. I think it just comes down to getting bored with it after a few plays. I suppose I haven’t been disciplined enough because the accuracy in my fingers isn’t there to do many riffs, the dexterity isn’t there to do some of the song techniques Justin teaches in the song lessons. The muting parts, be it either hand, are challenges. There’s so much to playing that it’s easier to find other content to switch my focus to instead. It’s time to stop doing that. I am going to try to make a concerted effort to choose songs that Justin has a lesson for and prioritize them, and I think now that I’ve come to a stopping point in the modules I can do that.

Oh and I think using the manual writing method you’ve suggested might work as a psychological trick to get me invested in a song. I have Justin’s song books, but maybe I need to get me a spiral notebook to start working from- my own study notes might hold me accountable.


Just my thoughts: The app CAN BE a crutch but there are ways around it. The easiest is to simply not look at the screen. Turn your phone/tablet/computer around so you can’t even sneek-a-peek and leave the sound on. Not only do you then have to try to remember the chords/progression but you may also get to use your ears to know when you’ve hit a wrong chord.
I also think @Richard_close2u comment to write out the song by section is enormously helpful in memorizing.