Practice advice

So, I’m not new to guitar but I’m coming back after not really playing much for many years and I was previously 100% self-taught, so I have gaps in my knowledge. I’m going through lessons trying to find a balance because a lot of the Beginner 1 course is too basic. Even some of the Beginner 2 course is stuff I’ve got down. But, there are some elements even in Beginner 1 that I don’t know or at least struggle with. Particularly strumming patterns and scales.

I’ve always just “felt” the rhythm and strummed accordingly. I used to also play drums some, so I’ve got a pretty good sense of rhythm. People used to ask me “what strumming pattern are you playing?” and I couldn’t tell them, because I never thought about it.

I know going forward that scales are going to be important because I really want to learn to improvise, play lead and riff. But, how much should I worry about trying to play specific strumming patterns? Also, what is the best way to progress with practice? If I go back to the module where I’m practicing a scale, that’s helpful, but the rest of the module is way too basic. I don’t think I can stand to spend all that time practicing changing from G to D, for example, when I can already do that with my eyes closed.

I’m thinking of just progressing through Course 2 and working on the things that give me trouble while sort of skipping over the easier bits. I just worry that I’ll end up short changing myself by skipping around and only practicing the “fun” and “interesting” parts.

Any good advice?

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Start at the beginning and the stuff you know you’ll blow through is minutes but you’ll soon find the things you don’t know and have trouble with. So that’s where I think you should spend your practice time. I agree you shouldn’t spend time changing chords you already can play with your eyes closed. but if you skip all of grade one you may find thing down the road don’t make sense or are hard because you skipped the easy lessons.

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Hi Bryan,

I have been through grades 1&2 of the beginners course and I’m currently making my way through grade 3. Your approach to Rhythm sounds similar to mine. While working through grades 1&2 of the course, I learned/worked on the patterns that Justin teaches (such as old faithful) but when I go to work on songs on my own, I find that more often than not I can “hear” the pattern in the song and can mimic it when I play without needing to reference a specific DUDU pattern. In one of the lessons, Justin even mentions that it is possible to be able to hear patterns after a while and I’m finding that to be true for myself. I’m thinking that may be true for you as well if I’m reading your question correctly. If you feel that it is hindering your ability to be able to play with others, you could always focus on a few of the rhythm/strumming pattern lessons and incorporate some time into your routine to focus on that. I believe Justin has a Rhythm Maestro course that focuses on improving your rhythm skills as well. I have not taken it, but it may be worth a shot if you feel like you need extra help in that area.

It may be worthwhile for you to watch the lessons Justin gives in grade 3 about setting up your own practice routine. Even though all lessons in the beginners course have suggested practice routines, Justin mentions a few times throughout the course that it is good to be able to customize your routine to fit your goals. I have similar goals to you with regards to playing lead/improvising and I find that making my own routine that focuses on developing those skills has been beneficial to helping me progress. While it may be helpful to you to watch all the lessons in grades 1&2 to make sure you have the basics down, I would say that it is ok to skip ahead and focus on the things you know you want to learn/need help on. I didn’t dedicate a lot of time to the fingerstyle section in grade 2 since I knew that wasn’t how I was going to be playing. I can always return to it if I change my mind.

Hope this helps some!

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Thanks for the feedback! I am watching every single lesson and yes, I’m identifying areas where I didn’t even know I needed work. I guess part of my problem is that I worry that if I’m not a slave to the structure, I’ll miss out. But, you’re right, maybe focus on identifying areas for improvement and not skipping anything, but not necessarily saying, “I can’t move on to the next lesson until every bit of this one is perfect.”

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Thanks for the feedback! I have always felt that it HURT my playing by trying to think too hard about rhythm. I find that when I play with others, I can just mimic them even if I don’t consciously think DDUD etc. I did notice the other night; I was playing Free Fallin’ and if I just played it, the rhythm etc was perfect. But if I tried to sing along, sometimes my strumming would be off because the rhythm of the words didn’t quite match up with the strumming pattern. So, I’ll check out that Rhythm Maestro course and continue to try and work on that area while not focusing so much that it takes the joy out of playing!

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Hi Bryan. It seems you have it in hand and are seeking reassurance perhaps.
As you work through the grades you will see at the end of each Justin suggests practice items for a routine and has consolidation tips at the end of Modules.
Take a look at those. You want to catch up on any possibly gaps, reinforce good habits, correct bad technique, learn whatever is new and consolidate. Most of all, apply and learn songs, learn songs, learn songs.
:slight_smile:

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Hi Bryan,
I don’t know that its “good advice” but its what I’m doing and not very different from what others have said.
I started JG with some guitar experience. I went through the first couple of grades quickly, but I did pick up useful learning techniques and found some areas that I need to work on. I added those to my practice routine and kept moving forward. In addition to the grade course-ware, I started on some of the technique modules, the rhythm maestro, and the theory course. My goal is learning songs and hopefully to find some people to play with. All this work is to develop skills that I can apply to my my goals. I think its fine to move at the rate the works for you and keeps you moving forward.

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Hi Bryan
I guess I fall into the same category as you and others on this thread. What I will say is that working through Grades1and 2, currently on 3, I found that sloppy playing and bad habits from those self taught formative years were my problem. Going through the modules thus did two things, firstly make me aware of my issues and secondly correct them. At times a felt like I had never played a guitar before.
I started getting into proper practice routines with specific goals in mind. If you read the latest issue of Guitar Techniques were Justin has a regular column, the topic is about practice, goals and how to get the most out of your practice. Well worth a read.
I would also suggest that the modules on JG that are of interest to you are well worth the time and effort. For me it’s been the Theory, Fingerstyle, and Rythm ones.
The goal is to improve, progress and enjoy the guitar, sure you will get there and move forward. Hope this helps :slightly_smiling_face:

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Hi Bryan,

I am also kind of in the same spot as you, because I also took “live” guitar classes in the past, next to JG. So partially I already have down what Justin teaches in the basic course. What I do is to watch all the videos through the whole lessons and grades, in order to identify what I still need to work on. Then, at the end of each lesson (in the practice tab), Justin has a suggested practice routine. I add that to my routines, but not as the active routine. Then I go through the practice items which have been added by this routine, kick out the ones which I can already do, and keep the ones which I still need to work on. And then I mix them up into my own practice routine (or save them for later if my current routine is too full already).

Greetings,
Nadine

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I’m finding the same thing…which is very gratifying, because playing with a steady rhythm and good strumming pattern was a big struggle initially, but now just happens intuitively.

However, if you are playing with other people or teaching, it’s very useful to be able to show them the strumming pattern. When someone asks me, I have to stop and ask “What am I doing there?”, slow it down and analyze what I’m doing before I can describe it to them.

It’s surprisingly difficult…at least for me. But a very useful skill to practice.

Bryan, I think this also helps with singing lyrics that don’t line up with the strumming pattern. It also really helps to have a lead sheet where you can write in the count and/or the strumming pattern, aligned with each important syllable.

You can slow it down, practice it perfectly, and then speed up to full tempo.

Can be a lot of work, but I often find it’s the only way I can really nail the phrasing of a song.

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Yeah, this is the trouble I find with Free Fallin. The rhythm is easy if I hum it, but if I try to sing along, I get off slightly because it doesn’t quite line up.

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