This is my new learning journey. I initially started with Justin’s course about 3-4 years ago prompted by a new guitar acquisition but stopped for some reason. I paid for the Music Theory course but see I never completed it! Gotta go back and do this and now I’ve reached retirement age, I have more time so can devote more to developing my guitar skills.
I have definite goals which are to perfect the styles I want to play. But before that I need to make sure I’ve got the basics down, so it’s back to basics for me. I intend to run through the whole course from start to finish ensuring I have not missed any gems. The website seems to remember some of the old content I studied but I must avoid the temptation of dipping in and out and/or racing ahead.
By way of background I’ve been playing on and off since I was a teenager. I started at 14 when I lived in Germany and, like many back then, learned the basics from Bert Weedon’s book “Play in a Day” thought I got on a trip back home. I’ve never had any lessons and just picked things up along the way and from a few books. I returned to England at the age of 17, 3 years later complete with Fender Stratocaster, by which time I knew the chromatic scale, minor pentatonic (Blues Scale) and surprisingly the major pentatonic which I’d learnt from Allman Bros records. I did not call it that, just thought of it as a Country Music scale. I did not yet know how to mix those scales, which came later. I’d got most chords down including barre chords but minor 7th, 9ths, 11ths, 13ths were in the future. I’ve had various episodes of playing since.
So back to now, I’ve completed the “Before you begin: Guitar Basics” and well am on with Grade 1:Module 1 so still at the beginning. Stand out points for me have been the correct positioning of fingers behind the fret and guitar playing posture and practice disciplines generally none of which I thought about before. Starting the log gives me the discipline to record my progress and to keep on track and not give up.
So I’ve now completed Beginner Course: Grade 1. The only issue for me were the D and A chord grips which are different to the ones I’m use to. My fingers just want to go the same old way. Not too sure why Justin had a problem with C. That’s the first chord I learnt along with G7 and Dmin; quite natural shapes for guitar in my opinion. Hey Joe is my standout song from this level. So onto Grade 2.
Good beginning to the log there Peter and what an interesting background. No doubt as you go through the beginner grades plenty of things will come back to your mind and hands, it’s going to be great to see and hear how you get on.
Ah, Big G, my Oasis obsession meant I had to get this right!!
I’ve now reached the dreaded F chord in Grade 2. This has highlighted a nagging issue; as evidenced by my recent AVOYP recordings:
Although I’ve only been playing again for a couple of weeks and had hardly picked up a guitar in 4 years, I think I have always been a kind of sloppy player and wonder if this is now ingrained. My F chord work shows this up and is far from perfect but am I capable of improving? Well I’ve now put a peg in the ground on this issue and time will tell.
So this morning more time for reflection. When I introduced myself, I listed things that I was learning in parallel to doing Justin’s course. Now thinking about it I am wondering whether still learning things in my old ways is just going to reinforce the bad habits I am trying to break.
To add some context to what I’m on about, I’ve never thought about where I placed my fingers relative to the frets. And I’ve also never thought about strumming! When I got to “Wish You Were Here” in the course, without thinking about it, my hand had moved into a different grip. My brain had probably said this is how you play this and I went into the lazy man’s “Wish You Were Here”. So I looked at how Dave Gilmour plays this live and, (he doesn’t actually play that part because he’s playing the solo), but the guitarist who plays it is doing it Justin’s way.
What I mean by learning other songs isn’t the chords etc, that’s taken as read, what I’m talking about is the chord “voicings” of the original and working out where the guitarist played things on the neck to get the tone. This is demonstrated by my analysis of Mick Ronson’s playing of Ziggy Stardust above. By and large this can be done best by studying live performances. And if there’s a video all the better.
So the best strategy for me going forward is to stop everything else I’ve been doing and stick solely to following Justin’s course in the hope that I can relearn things. This is going to take quite some discipline to keep on track as the temptation to go back might be overwhelming.
In the meantime I am on with the F chord and starting on scales (again something I never put much effort into). It is interesting that Justin teaches F as a barre chord which is not how I learnt it initially.
Well on with Grade 2 now but had more reflection. I was arrogant the first time I did some JG lessons a few years back and didn’t bother with the beginner level at all. This time I did dip into some of the more advanced lessons but I have gone right back to the start. Some things that I thought I had down, I glossed over. I’ve gone back and reviewed Grade 1.
I actually find the strumming to a given pattern quite hard particularly when a strum is omitted on a beat. This is never something I’d though about so it’s taking a bit of practice. The beginner finger stretch was also hard and I thought that would be a breeze for me; but I did take my first finger off when stretching down 4 frets. I do have short fingers but that’s no excuse. So that’s permanently in my practice routine at the mo
I think as my playing has been erratic over the years and I got older, my brain has said when I have picked up the guitar “this is the easy way to play this song for someone out of practice and who can’t stretch”. One recurring problem is stopping to correct myself and losing the rhythm. So I have learnt some bad habits and lazy technique over the years. I’m hoping I can correct this.
The standout songs for me in this journey so far:
Wish You Were Here
One - U2
All Your Love
As I carry on through the course I’m wondering how long it will take. The numbering of lessons ceases after Grade 2. I was wondering how many lessons there are in total? I’ve also re-enrolled for the Music Theory, which I started last time round, so that adds to the list but I’m hoping to do at least one a day. Although I’ve reached retirement age (senior bus pass arrived on Saturday!) I still work 2 to 3 days a week. I’m hoping it won’t take more than a year to get up to speed by which time more advanced lessons are scheduled.
OK so I’ve had a light-bulb moment. I mentioned previously that I had never really thought about where to place my fingers on the fretboard. I guess my logical brain said put them in the middle between the frets. Not so. Justin had already established they should be right behind the fret. Now I’ve gone through “Feeling The Frets” in Grade 2 and tried it and it’s made a big difference to me to my fretting. Looking at the video I posted of me playing “She Moved Through The Fair” a lot of time my fretting is nowhere near the frets! There is quite a lot of buzz and missed notes. Buzzing I’d always put down to poor setup on the guitar but now I know it was probably my technique.
I’d thought that being near the fret would result in muting the string but I now see that actually being that close and actually feeling the fret does work best. So I have to reprograme my playing and undo decades of poor practice. I don’t know how long it will take to undo and embed the new message. In the past I was just happy to get the note! It would probably be easier to learn left handed but I have so much invested in right hand guitars.
I also see that in Grade 2 my lazy G chord has appeared and my Lazy A single finger bar chord. There is some vindication for the lazy boy.
Hi Peter. Good you started your learning log. It’s a good place for self reflection and receiving encouragement and advice on your guitar learning process. It’s good you’re finding which parts of your playing can be improved with Justin’s advice. Maybe you can spend a bit more of time on those parts and ensure you’re on your way to erase bad habits before covering newer content.
@dobleA Thanks and that’s sound advice. My aim really is to perfect what I already know. My focus is on the British blues guitarists of the late 60’s/early 70’s so nothing new there. That’s the kind of sound that pushes my button and what got me into guitar in the first place I guess. Kinda going back to my roots, as it were, but doing it better this time round.
I don’t know how many people on here are in the same place as I am though?
My wife must have felt guilty because many years later, she bought me an Epiphone Les Paul and Marshall practice amp for my 40th.
Bringing the back-story a bit more up to date, a few years ago, 2 of my now grown up daughters both had new partners who both had close relatives (parent/grandparent) that played guitar. I thought that I might be dragged in front of one of these people to account for myself as a guitar player. So in order not to embarrass my family, or more importantly myself, I thought I’d better swot up which is when I first discovered the JustinGuitar world.
Looking back on what I did back then on JG, I seem have to have done the “GarageBand” course which I didn’t remember. Checking the computer I have some GarageBand files dated summer 2018 so it must have been then. All this activity culminated in a new guitar purchase.
Completed Module 12 of Grade 2 over the past couple of days. This series includes Power Chords and the A minor pentatonic in first position. As previously, I’ve had problems stretching over 4 frets particularly on the sixth string. Similar issue applies to Power Chords.
My fingers are short so, for example, to get the 8th fret with my Pinky whilst leaving the index finger anchored on the 5th fret is a challenge. In this position my whole pinky is right across the neck with my palm hard up against the other side of the neck.
When I analyzed how I would usually do this, I lift my fingers off and move the whole hand down. Now this is how I have compensated with the short fingers over the years. But thinking about it, I don’t really need to leave the index finger anchored to fret 5 on the 6th string cos that’s about to play the 5th fret on the 5th string, when playing the scale, which is easier (and quicker if your fingers are already in the air). So I’m going to stop beating myself up about these stretches and except the limits of my anatomy. A similar issue applies to Power Chords rooted on the 6th string. For me to play the 6th string note I have to arch my index finger. This means it can’t mute the top strings. Luckily my pinky can do that in this situation.
I do have one guitar with what I would consider a slim neck which could help me but most of mine have chunky necks which is also I’m used to now. Paul Kossoff, who’s style I would love to emulate, also had relatively small fingers but that never stopped him playing 50’s Gibsons with big fat necks.
Up next some bluesy stuff in Module 13; things are beginning to get interesting…
Hi Peter, I see your fingers covering the four frets they need to (for basic playing). Have you tried the stretching workout Justin proposes? As far as I know You only need to keep the index on the string for hammer-ons and pull-offs or similar techniques; that is when successive notes are played in the same string and smooth transition between notes is desired.
Yes i start my practices always with the stretching and as per Justin’s instructions try to keep the index finger in place but it wants to come up. You are right that in normal playing you don’t generally need to hold the index finger down. I noticed that when Justin goes back up the minor pentatonic scale then he does not anchor the fingers but frets each note individually. That’s what I do and am now less stressed about being able to stretch.
Here’s some pinky action to demonstrate stretching. This is Paul Kossoff of Free (as previously mentioned) at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970:
This is how he played “All Right Now” with the pinky getting the A on the big E string whilst playing a bar A chord with his index finger. That’s how the master played it but not how it’s usually taught. Quite some stretch that.
Today I have completed Grade 2 including Grade 2 Music Theory. Took me a couple of weeks but I have been back working. Nothing there really that I was not familiar with. I did wonder over “Slash” chords but they turned out to be things I’ve already been playing but never knew what they were called.
Didn’t linger too long on songwriting or improvisation. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m never going to write a song or produce a solo better that the great players of the past. So I stick to my goal of crafting away at studying the great British Blues players: Paul Kossoff, Peter Green, Rory Gallagher, Jimmy Page etc. Maybe with a bit of fingerpicking or folky stuff thrown in for good measure.