One year anniversary. I'm in a rut

I actually feel the same! Yeah the barre chords are not a cakewalk but for some reason I just don’t struggle, whereas with power chords, its like all the strings block my view of what fret I’m going for, and the 5th string root ones just never sound as good as the 6th string ones, even though I’m muting the 6th string. It just seems to fall apart quite easily when practicing power chords.

This is always a relief, I think a lot of my anxieties are relieved when learning others have gone through the same things.

I don’t disagree. I was/am just so eager to get to the point of making something that sounds music come out of the guitar that I was really struggling to give the modules a good few weeks each. I will say this- I would get to the end of a module and feel like I had completely grasped the lessons, and memorized the chords, and the strum patterns (and for the most part, I really had). But then so many chords got introduced with Stuck 3&4 and then sus chords, then 7th chords, and power chords, and slash chords, it was like WHOA. Too many chords too fast. I sort of thought, well, I’ll learn them all really good as I learn songs, so I just kept moving on with general knowledge of those chords and I still know most of them now still, just haven’t memorized songs with them in it. But its also been a problem that I can’t really memorize songs for some reason, and that really kind of surprised me. It also surprises me that I’ve forgotten some of the things (one example: theory tricks to recognize patterns) that I’ve not worked on for a couple of months and I’m having to go back and re-learn a few times over.

I didn’t think about it this way, but you may be exactly right. I’ll keep this in mind.

You said it! It is surprising how much there is to learn, and I’ve been a little dumbfounded this whole year about how much goes into just playing a simple chord progression song- you need accuracy in both hands doing different things, accurate timing, consistent strum patterning, smooth strumming, know the lyrics if you want to sing or even know when the chorus is coming, remember to breath, to use good posture, keep the wrist straight, try not to look at the fretboard, maybe palm mute, maybe thumb mute, proper chord shape without muting…I could keep going. And lets face it, a beginner can’t do any one of those things correctly when trying to do more than one at a time. The only thing I did that was this hard, with this several things to do concurrently, was horseback riding!

Yeah what is the deal? It just all falls apart not very far into a song with power chords. I might try taking the note out that isn’t the octave and just do 2 finger power chords, that might be easier. And why I can’t seem to memorize songs baffles me a little bit.

So nice to not be alone, even though it feels like it because I don’t have anyone to really help me with my practice struggles in my day to day life, so it always helps to hear this. It literally never gets old.

I certainly have been trying to trust the process. I try really hard not to get bogged down with my concerns, and just trust Justin’s teachings, and that the practice will make the difference. It just gets rough sometimes!

How interesting! I find many of those posts inspiring. I’m going to write down several things from that thread and put it near my practice chair.

This might be a good idea for me. Thank you for the suggestion!

Your whole reply is very thoughtful and full of good info. I just don’t know if I can do this type of exploration you mention. I struggle with creativity, I struggle with thinking outside of the box, and I struggle with expression in the form of art. Maybe further down the line when I’ve got a good fundamental foundation I can sort of start venturing off the side of the path, but for now, I feel like its going to take a loooong time to feel like I can walk without looking down.


Oh boy, here I cannot tell a lie. I haven’t learned any. I immediately think back to your super helpful response to me previously when I expressed frustration and you suggested a bunch of good songs, targeted at building skill. I don’t know, something just happens when I sit down in my practice space. Its like all of the things I’d been thinking about all day that I was going to do at my very next session all go out the window and I draw a complete blank. Or I might remember one song I wanted to try, and boom 45 minutes has gone by and I’ve barely strummed a string. Practice has started to become less fun, but not because I don’t enjoy it, but because I can really enjoy it and I am so pressed for time, and 30 to 45 minutes seems to not be enough for any one sitting. But when my back starts to hurt, then I become aware of the 45 minute mark.

This is likely a big factor. I can’t hone in on what songs I want to learn, there’s so many out there. I get bored with a song after playing it a couple of times, especially if its a very simplified chord progression, its like the simplicity of it sort of ruins the magic complexity that I loved about the song and then suddenly I feel a tinge of disappointment in that song. It was kind of disappointing when I realized I can only ever play one guitar part of any given song, so it will never sound like the whole song. Even if I were to play the lead, the rhythm chords would be missing.

I definitely need to work on this but I think Ive been needing someone else to say it, to tell me to do it. It was just the other day in Mod 14 where Justin had a lesson on reiterating building a repertoire. I needed to be told so bad to Do It!

I described a little above, but it changes depending on the day. Most of the time I try to stick to the routine of 2 mins of this, 3 mins of that, etc with the 10 mins of song work. After your last bit of song suggestions, I realized I should try to just do song work for the whole practice for several weeks. So lately, I’ll open the app and scroll through and just play whatever looks interesting, maybe challenge my barre chords, power chords, or whatever. It just seems like very little is accomplished during this relatively short period of time. Yes I regularly devote an hour or a little over. Almost every day, yes. At least 5 days a week. Yes, will include video if I’m researching something in particular, or if I’m wanting to refresh Justin’s advice, or a technique. Sometimes playing the whole time, sometimes not, just depending on what I decided to do that day. For awhile I thought I need to just set a rotation schedule so that one day Im doing only scales, one day Im doing only a couple of techniques, one day im only doing songs, etc to get everything in over the course of a week. But mostly I get a little overwhelmed and when that happens, I just do songs.

Good questions. Im not sure. I don’t feel ready to pick a direction yet. I just know I like most styles of rock, and want to eventually learn to use gain and distortion. But at the same time I love the folk style and fingerstyle, and I just want to be able to do a handful of different things in different genres fairly well…not trying to be a rock star at any one thing right now.


OK I’ll shift my mindset at this point and focus more on training, and maybe knowing this will help me feel I’m where i belong versus the tendency to get bored because I know something cool is in the next module. Its a psychological thing, I think. I don’t know, I just do yearn for the next skill a lot. Or maybe its that I get bored with not being satisfied with my skill level, so maybe I’m yearning for more skill, not necessarily another skill, and maybe its easier to learn a new one than it is to perfect the previous one.

I agree, that too many techniques, even giving each one several weeks of practice, piled up. I’ll try to let go of the fear of practicing in bad technique and do maybe 8 weeks to each module. Urgh, that seems like a long time but I’m sure its better in the long run.

Nope. This is real area of struggle. I can’t seem to learn songs. There’s either too many to choose from or not enough, I can’t figure it out. But I do think not having much time to practice (only an hour a day) doesn’t seem like enough time to learn one. I know I’m wrong, I’m just saying that’s how it feels. And as I described to JKahn above, I find myself being disappointed in simple rhythm playing when I attempt to learn my favorites.

I think I don’t remind myself of this often enough.

Gotcha. I have not been doing stretching exercises. Admittedly, like scales, this type of exercise gets a back seat to playing songs or technique building. Aaaah so many things to practice!

Thank you for your dedicated response. I know this kind of post takes up a lot of precious time. But I am sooooo thankful for the support and encouragement in this forum and all the fantastic guidance and suggestions. I truly couldn’t do this without it.

And thanks to all the posters as well.


Thank you for these reminders. So easily forgotten in the midst of frustration when we don’t know which direction to step. Yes I worry about Gr 3 from all the things I’ve heard, its part of the reason I’m having hesitation right now. I do like hearing that everything is still very cohesive, so yes I try to trust Justin, even in the most difficult times! You’re very right with the kids sports analogy, that’s a good illustration.

Another AVOYP? Haha… I don’t feel any particular skill is worth showcasing at this point, so not really! I’d expect plenty of positive feedback, but also plenty of suggestions for improvement, which I know is the best thing ever, but I’m not ready to know how bad I am!

I am like this as well. Don’t worry about creativity, though. Some of us may never write our own music, but then, that is not my goal. I understand this about my self and don’t pressure myself about it.

However, that doesn’t mean I can’t explore the sounds I can coax out of my guitar as I play pre-composed music. Just try things out. If it sounds good it is good and it bonds you with your instrument.


I’ve been reading this thread with interest. I think JK and Richard have given lots of good advice, I don’t have much to add, except to say that if I were in your shoes, I would choose 3 songs that I want to learn to play all the way through. Just have a look at the songs page and choose 3 songs that you like that are Grade 2 (or Grade 1, even). Write down the names of the songs, so you needn’t worry about choosing again. Put them in the Songbook (on the website), so you can find them easily. Then learn how to play them from start to finish. I have never used the app, but in any case, I would suggest you learn the songs from Justin’s song tutorials. You could focus on one song at a time or all 3 on alternate days, whatever. Learn the lyrics, too, and sing along (if you don’t sing, at least sing along in your mind). When you feel you’ve learned a song, try to play along with the original recording. After all that, record yourself playing each song. This is helpful for self-assessment, but it also gives you a sense of closure, of achievement. You needn’t show the recordings to anyone, if you don’t want.

To be honest, I would dedicate all (or most) of my practice time to repertoire. Get a few songs under your belt, then go back to techniques.

You should really do this. If you get bored, just power through the boredom until you learn the songs. After you’ve gotten 3 learned, you should play them every day or two, to keep them in your mind. As you learn new songs, add them to your setlist, keep them in your standard rotation.

After all that, you’re on your way! 3 more songs :grinning:


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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