Philsmith's Learning Log

June '22 I have been learning a lot from other people’s Learning Logs and I have finally got to the point of launching my own. I am a few years into my guitar playing journey and really enjoying it. I am a 56 year old Brit living in Delaware in the US, I have lived over here for 26 years.
I have always been into rock music, mostly hard rock, and spent a lot of time in my youth in England going to concerts. They were certainly not as expensive as they are today. None of my circle of friends played an instrument though, so although I had vague feelings of wanting to play guitar, I never got to touch one. I did play violin for a year in primary school - awful, why? why? why? would any teacher want 30 kids learning to play violin together at the same time, they must have had a headache every night after work. I also played clarinet until I was 16, sort of enjoyed it, but the music I was forced to play was not interesting to me.
Fast forward many years, I have always loved live music, but couldn’t convince, my wife to come along. Maybe in the last 10 years, she started going to concerts with me, and my desire to play guitar was rekindled. I had still never put my hands on one.
One year, probably 3 years ago now my wife was visiting family and I was left in the US, so I decided on a whim, to go for it and get a guitar, I watched a few videos, and purchased an Epiphone Les Paul Special II LE starter kit, came with a cheap amp and strap etc. I had planned to be able to play a song for her when she got home - unrealistic goal number 1. I started watching you tube videos from a variety of people to learn. Once I had bought the guitar, I found people at work who played and so I could ask questions. I found Justin, and also Marty and Andy and I began trying to learn as much as possible as fast as possible. Never really progressed However I knew I still had the urge to be able to play but realized it was going to take a while. SO I did the obvious thing and bought a new guitar, I saw a review on Andertons for Sire acoustic guitars, I managed to track them down in the US and bought an R3 with a pickup and a zebra control box (that I still don’t understand how to use usefully). I started focusing on Justin’s courses. My wife preferred hearing me play acoustic. I was still working but tried to do at least 15 mins practice every day. I went through grade 2 but didn’t take the time to make sure I had the fundamentals solid. I retired in March '21 so had more time, and so my guitar time has gone to over 1 hr per day. I use Rocksmith with my LP for the fun playing time. I am debating how much it helps, but it does push me to keep up with songs changing chords including barre chords, but probably not as clean as they should be, also playing different genres . Then I spend at least 30 mins in an evening going through Justin’s BC. I went back to the start and have just moved into grade 2.
I only ever expected guitar to be for me, not to play for others, however I also want to be able to say I can play guitar, which I know at some point people will ask me to pick up a guitar and play.
Joining this community side of Justin’s website has been an eye opener for me. Has led me to try to define what my learning goals should be, have to admit I am still working on that. Recording and posting a video, was not something I had planned on, but I did it and the feedback and encouragement was great. The next step of playing in the OM8 was an excellent experience that makes me want to do more. It has distracted me a little from lesson learning mode by making me focus on a particular song. I am currently in the process of trying to decide what songs I want to learn in each of the categories, that will probably be in my next update, as I need to go to practice right now.
edited - as my username change has now caught up


Hey Phil. Excellent story. I started playing at the age of 53 and now 10 years later I’m so glad I stuck to it. Open mics are great and I learn so much from them. Never heard of a zebra control box, what is it? When I googled it all I saw was what looked like remote controls for TVs???

Keep up the great effort!

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Thanks for sharing Phil, I enjoy reading other’s stories.

I’ve used rocksmith too. Thought I was going to use it a lot (so bought a tonne of songs of course :man_facepalming:) and turns out I don’t use it much anymore. I found the way it teaches riffs by gradually introducing new notes didn’t work well with the way I learn. But it is fun!

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What a wise man you are Phil to follow your Inner Guitarists advise :laughing:

Congratulations on your marvellous progress.

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Hi, Phil!

What an enjoyable story. :slightly_smiling_face: I’m so glad you shared it.

I’m impressed that you jumped out there, putting yourself on video and playing at OM8. Awesome! :smiley: Yes!!! Thank you for saying that about community feedback. It’s not just me, then. LOL. (I’m shocked at how generous this community is . . . and at how important feedback from community members has been for me. And to think: I only accidentally discovered that, because I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to post videos or not. I’m so glad I did.)

I look forward to seeing you around the community.


P.S. Do you get back over to England any?
P.P.S. Have you learned a lovely acoustic song for your wife? If not, would you, and what do you think she’d like to hear?

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2 posts were split to a new topic: Jazzy_John’s Learning Log

Fine start to your Learning Log, Phil, loved the story and sounds like you are on the right track. Look forward to following along.

@Jazzy_John John, with your blessing I’d like to move your post out of Phil’s log to be either your own personal Intro in #community-hub:introduce-yourself or Learning Log like Phil’s, please let me know. My reasoning is that this is about you, rather than a reply to Phil. Thanks

Thanks JK, I found early that Rocksmith made songs accessible with adding chords note by note, but now I find I would rather it just add full chords and speed up. I moved the settings to turn off dynamic progression, but that just means I am not even close with some of the more complex songs. I keep track of my scores and they are still going up, so will continue for a while, but I am being very aware of trying not to learn bad habits or let it make me get sloppy.

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Tony, I think Zebra is just Sire’s name for their pickup system, I never thought I would ever want to plug in an acoustic guitar, and it was removable. It has a 9V battery in which is always flat if I leave it inserted. I am not good at tone stuff, so haven’t really investigated getting the best out of it. Since joining here, I have played around with recording acoustic plugged in, but mostly avoid the control box. Maybe one day I will learn how to use it properly :rofl:

Thought I would add in pictures of my guitars too.

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Thanks, yes the feedback is great and definitely helps. Not been to England for a while. My wife Helen is the only one with close family left over there, but with the pandemic she hasn’t been for a few years… She doesn’t want to get stuck in England, trying to get a negative test to get back into the US, although the main reason may be that she thinks I’ll buy more guitars ;p

The song I have tried before is fingerstyle Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton, I did get close to playing it ok a while ago, I will add it to my list thanks for the reminder.

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@philsmith Thanks for posting the pictures. It looks similar to a pre-amp I have for my K&K mini pickup. I do a fingerstyle version of wonderful tonight. It’s very similar to the version taught by Justin. He does it with a pick.

Hi Phil,
Good and clear story…and now play,…learn songs and learn tricks and sometimes play often,…and so on :sweat_smile:

Thanks for the pictures, Phil.

As Tony suggested, it is an external preamp system. Most electro-acoustic guitars have the preamp built into the guitar. Sire went this route.

If your acoustic doesn’t need a battery then your pickup would be what is called passive. This means the strength of the signal from the when plugged into the audio interface (AI) would be of a low level (I am assume you are using one for your plugged in recording experiments).

I think you’d find that the box is not too tricky to use. You would just need a second cable. Cable from guitar to the input socket of the box and a second from the output socket of the box to the AI.

Controls look straightforward. A three band EQ to adjust tone. Gain that would control the strength of signal from the box to the AI. Seeing a volume control suggests to me that you may have a headphone socket on the box? The PH button will invert the phase of the signal, probably not something to worry about.

I’m not sure about the control labelled BLE. Usually I would guess this to be a control that blends the mix of a processed output with the original input signal. This is typical on an effects pedal eg a reverb, distortion, etc and allows you to control the amount of the effect that you hear on the output. If you try it out then you can fiddle with it and see what it does.

I think using it would improve the quality of the recordings you can make when plugging your acoustic into the AI to record directly using its built-in pickups.

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Thanks David, I will try it a little more, it didn’t help that the cable it came with had a dodgy connection. So it has always been a bit temperamental.
I do need more cables, as I recently purchased a Trio Plus, after seeing so many positive comments here, plus I have a zoom G1XFour multi FX pedal. Currently can only try one thing at once, maybe that’s plenty for my beginner guitar mind.

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With more cables, I can see value in running guitar to control box to Trio Plus.

But as you say, always lots of things to work on and play with, so focus is key.

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Hey Peejers. Welcome to the club. Might see you on Rocksmith :wink:

So here goes for my second installment of my learning log. I originally signed up with the nickname I use on gaming systems, which are a little more anonymous, however with this great community here mostly using names than nicknames I decided it would be better to switch to my ream name. I did it at least a week ago and noticed today it finally caught up on the community side.

As I mentioned I don’t really have a solid clear plan about what I want to achieve, which, after all the reading I have done on the forum, particularly the reviews of 1:1 lessons with Justin, will hinder my progress.
In general I want to be able to pick up my guitar and play songs that people can recognize. I am happy with rhythm guitar and strumming, however the challenge for me with that is that without a method to highlight the melody a lot of songs are not as recognizable. Which takes me down the path of wanting to sing, which I enjoy but have significant challenges. I did do the first 3 of Chris Liepe’s discover your voice lessons, and enjoyed. I also am really envious of people who can just pick up a guitar and play together with other people, so will set that as a long term goal. As you can tell this is more of me wanting to do everything right now, even though I know it should (and will) take years.
Anyway back to the plan, I am currently going through grade 2 again. I am learning more, this time around. I am currently away from home on vacation and brought my guitar to practice, which I have done every day. I need to spend more time putting together a practice schedule, I do try to incorporate skills and songs during my practice, while I am happy playing a few songs that I know, I tend to not repeat skills each day. Which has resulted in me not truly getting the fundamentals down.

I am going to put together a clear practice plan, which has me focus on particular skills, I will go back through the Grade 2 lessons and add the skills to the practice assistant. I am committing right here to really spend the time to make the skills right before declaring victory and moving on, convincing myself they are good enough.

I also plan to make myself a song book, using the different types of songs that Justin suggests, I will post them up in my next installment. I would also like to record them and do an AVOYP of each, and use that to chart my progress.


Sounds like you have direction and a plan, Phil. Rock on!

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Hi Phil
You say you don’t have a clear plan of where you want to go with guitar. The part I’ve quoted above sounds like a plan to me.

Once you’ve learned some songs that people can recognise, you’ll want to improve on them and add embellishments. Then you might want to add little riffs to your songs. You’ll look at the lessons that deal with that. You might fancy fingerstyle. You’ll look at the lessons that deal with that.
Things will progress naturally. Don’t get caught up looking too far ahead and wondering which direction to take.

The key thing is building a solid foundation of chords and strumming patterns. The rest will follow.

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Great update Phil. And yes it seems people go by their real names here!

I think in Grade 2 it’s ok to not have a final destination view of where you want to go. When I was doing grade 2 I decided to explore and have a go at everything Justin presented and learn a few songs each module. You might want to consider that?

There are ways to make the technique practice more fun. Eg work on songs that contain what you’re trying to learn instead of just the technique. But some things like OMC/PFC are just super valuable.

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