Serhat's Learning Log





These learning logs are a great idea so I thought I’d share mine and hopefully keep it updated to log my progress.

How it started

About 3 years ago, just before covid, I got a Slack message from the company I was working for. It said they were forming a band and looking for people who sang or played any instrument. The plan was to play a Christmas gig in 8 weeks.

Now, I had a guitar, but I did not play the guitar. It was a gift from my friends almost 20 years ago (I took some lessons then but learned almost nothing and forgot what little I knew) and was sitting there untouched.

I do not know what made me reply to the message but two weeks later I had 12 songs to learn in my hands, to play live in 6 weeks’ time, without knowing how to play the guitar. Hmm. :thinking:

I practised like 6 hours a day until the gig. We had a few rehearsals at a proper rehearsal studio prior. Although I sucked in every single one of them, it was OK, because the drummer, the bass player, and the singer were gigging/touring professionals (who happened to be working at the same company by coincidence, yes). There was one other guitar player who was somewhat experienced. But the pros were sounding so good that we did not matter much. There is a lesson to learn here but I did not understand it by then.

The gig was a resounding success, I felt like I played well (I was wrong, I have video evidence) and it boosted my confidence a lot. Then I decided I won’t stop and promised to practice every single day, with no exceptions, which I have kept. This is where the Justin Guitar came in.

We did the gig two times more in consequent years and although each time I got better, I felt I sounded worse. I think that’s because my taste and expectations of myself grew faster than my ability.

How it is going

In 2022, I discovered the “Rock and Pop Band” course at Morley College in London. It is a course but they do not teach anything. Instead, they form bands from students, each lesson is a rehearsal and at the end of the term, the bands play a gig at a pub. It is a great entry point to playing live with other people.

We did the gig, and boy was it a wake-up call. Before, since the others were professionals, I sounded a lot better among them than how good I actually was. This time, I sounded like myself, and that was a lot worse than how I thought I sound.

In parallel, I discovered how much more practical knowledge I had before doing the course as opposed to other students, who tended to be better at their instruments and had more knowledge but were lacking in practical elements.


I love playing live. I do not intend to make money from music ever, but I love when I’m on stage. I want to be on stage.


I completed Justin’s Course until about mid-intermediate level but this was before he revamped the website and renewed the videos. I no longer follow the site in structure but I pick and choose lessons.


Problems, more accurately:

  • I have a full-time job which greatly limits my practice time.
  • I can’t make good noises. This is hard to express. I feel confident that I can learn and play many songs that are commonly played around as long as they do not have virtuosic parts. But I can’t make them sound good. Either my rhythm is off at times, or I can’t quite play smoothly, or I can’t jump onto that further note seamlessly, etc. etc. And this is not changing easily with practice. For e.g. I played a solo in one of the gigs, I practised it for 2 months, every single day, and although I could play it without mistakes, it did not sound good and I’m not quite sure how much more I would need to practice to get it to a decent level, neither I know how and what exactly to practice for it.
  • I’m living in London and London is already full of incredible guitarists who have many, many years of practice and much more free time on their hands. A few weeks ago, someone posted on a local Facebook group that they were looking for a replacement guitarist for a gig that night with a list of 28 songs, each in a particular key. In like 1 hour, there were more than 20 guitarists who signed up for it! No band ever looks for a guitarist here, great guitarists are dime a dozen, and realistically, I will never be as good as those players. That makes it very tricky to find a band to play live gigs as a guitarist. Why would a band pick me when there are so many people with so much more talent, looking for an opportunity? This does not discourage me from practising and improving, but it is a puzzle I did not quite solve yet.

What’s Next

Next is blues jams. I did not really listen to blues before I picked up the guitar. But I discovered these jams, where players showed up and signed up to play, just like that. And that was possible thanks to the nature of blues music, where it is possible to play a song without necessarily knowing how exactly to play it in advance, I learned. I did not quite understand how it was possible at the start but I listened to a ton of blues music (and I love it), and have been practising. Now I understand.

I’ve also been going to listen to these jams to see what they are like. I quickly figured out, it is not as easy as people on the internet are making it out to be. I never saw a beginner or even an intermediate (whatever that means) player there. The average level of talent is astonishing and although I’m sure they will be welcoming to new players, it is quite intimidating and I could not quite build up the courage to bring my guitar to one yet.

Thank you

Thank you so much if you read this far. This has been my journey and I’m hoping to share a few videos of me playing and join the next open mic to hear what people think and hopefully get some feedback which I’m sure would be very useful.


Hello Serhat, what an interesting story. I admire your courage for signing up for the Christmas gig without knowing how to play. Even if your playing wasn’t perfect, chapeau for getting on stage.

It seems that you really love playing live. So, I do not doubt that you’ll find the right band to play with. It will all fall into place :slightly_smiling_face:.

I’m looking forward to hearing more from you and your progress :smiley:.

Great stuff Serhat, thanks for sharing your story. Look forward to hearing more. Recording just yourself could be useful to track your progress.

Welcome, Serhat. That is quite a story.

I think in a nutshell, you have discovered that there are no shortcuts to becoming a guitar player. All those players paid their dues, learning the basics.

You mention picking and choosing lessons from Justin. This may not be helping you to achieve your aspirations. It may be a good idea to step back, revise the new system from Grade 1. You can power through that as fast as is appropriate but ensures you have solid foundation. You may find the new Grade 3 quite an effective way to consolidate and continue to develop skills. You can then also decide on a point of focus. You mention jams and solos, perhaps work through the appropriate programmes in a structured way.

It will also be helpful to post some videos as you say. You are sure to get good feedback. You can also watch and engage with other members who are also learning, which may help give you additional perspective on your own journey.

Wish you well!


Hi Serhat. Any of the issues with your guitar playing you have identified could be fixed wit a bit of focused practice. If the playing level you expect after completing the modules you have done is not there, it may be because you did not spend enough time with some of them, or the guitar skills you are aiming for are introduced at a later stage in Justin Guitar courses (when you have consolidated your foundations). Revisit the material (this time can be with the reavamped version of the courses) and get ready for that band opportunity. You’ll be there because you are going to be the right member of that band. Making good noises come with time when you can listen what you play and can decide what to do differently to play it the way you want it to be. Recording even for yourself can help to listen better what you play.

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I have practised a lot of rhythm lately and developed pain in my left wrist. So I decided to focus on my posture and technique to make sure I’m practising healthily.

@DavidP kindly pointed out above that picking and choosing lessons might not be the most efficient use of Justin guitar so I decided to go back to following the structure on the new course.

With that aim, I did Grade 1 - Module 1 yesterday. While going through the material, I paid particular attention to the parts about posture, how to hold the guitar, and how to fret a note. I was doing the exercise where you press a string and slowly release the tension until buzzing to find the optimum pressure. Although I knew how you are supposed to do it and have done it a few times in the past, I realised I am still putting pressure on strings more than I need to and that may very well be contributing to my wrist pain, not to mention hampering my technique. That was great to discover, then I spent the rest of my practice time to try playing as lightly as I could.

For now, I will probably do a module a day until I feel I need some quality practice time with that module (which I think will be somewhere around Beginner Grade 3) and try to uncover gaps in my foundation and add them to my practices.



I have a new intention to post once a month from now on including a retrospective of the past month and status/goals for the current.

March Retrospective

I have a target to either play with other people or perform in some shape or form at least once a month. That did not happen in March. Although I signed up for a Jam, I committed to too many songs and did not feel comfortable. In retrospect, I regret not going as I would probably mess up in some but would be fine overall.

Although I did not have specific goals for March, I practised every day and believe I made progress in:

  • Right-hand picking technique
  • Familiarity with 5 pentatonic shapes and minor scale root notes
  • Vocal pitch (an area I have great challenges in)
  • Bass guitar shapes and patterns
  • Made progress into Grade 2 (re-visiting previously completed grade)

So it was a good month overall despite a lack of direction.

April Status and Goals

Context: I’ve been practising bass guitar for about 10 weeks.


April started great already. I played 3 songs on the bass at a Jam and although I messed up a bit, it went OK overall. I did not commit to and play anything on the guitar not to take on too much like I did the last time and chickened out.

I have Justin Open Mic this month, which I’m looking forward to.

Then I’ll sign up for another Jam and I’ll try to play some guitar this time.

Playing and singing at the same time

The current song I’m working on has a tricky bit that I can’t play and sing yet. I’m hoping to be able to do that by the end of the month although it feels like a stretch goal at the moment, looking very tricky that one.


  • 85 bpm quadruples in all 5 pentatonic shapes (current: 80, stretch goal: 90)
  • 100 bpm quadruples on the right hand while picking 2 notes on each string (current: 90-95, stretch goal: 105)
  • Play triplets (123-234-345 pattern) with 16th notes on pattern 1 with a slow tempo. Feels impossible currently but we’ll see. The challenge with this is not the technique in the fingers but getting my brain to grasp how to do it.


  • Learn at least one chorus from Rock School Grade 6 ‘Blue Espresso’
  • Create one chorus of a blues solo by using some licks I already know and some licks from this new one. Focus on the IV chord in particular. When I try to improvise, I’ve no idea what to play when it is the IV chord.


  • I have a playlist of blues songs I can play along. I want to revisit them frequently over the month and make sure I can play rhythm for any of them without prompt. The ability to play solos remains a challenge.
  • Stretch goal: Learn to play one more blues song.

General Learning

Finish Grade 2 - I was following Justin’s course on the classic site before. Now I’m doing the new course and started from the beginning. I’m mid-way through Grade 2, and hoping to complete it this month.

Fretboard Knowledge - I found that bass players learn their fretboard very early! I can play a minor, major or dominant scale or arpeggio from any root note on the bass already. I can’t do that on the guitar despite I’ve been playing for 3 years! So the goal is to apply some of that knowledge to guitar and be able to play my scales and arpeggios from a given root note in an instant. I won’t do all of that in a month but aiming to start and see how it goes.


Great update, Serhat. Congrats on the progress and look forward to more as you press on.

In the last paragraph, you refer to ‘keyboard knowledge’. From a guitar or bass perspective, the correct term would be ‘fretboard knowledge’.

And I may be wrong here, but anything you learn on the bass should trasfer to the guitar and be identical, played on the thickest 4 strings of the guitar. I believe the bass is also tuned E A D G, so directly transferable knowledge.

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You are absolutely, right! Updated.

It does indeed! Challenge is adding B and E strings, slightly more difficult than the bass due to B string being only a 3rd higher than G.

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April Retrospective

April was a fantastic month. I feel I improved a ton!

Technique goals - I had specific goals about being able to play certain things at certain BPMs (above). I haven’t achieved any of these as I almost did not practice technique at all.
Songs - My goal was to revisit the blues songs I knew and add one more song as a stretch goal. I did not do any of these.
General Learning - I was going to finish Justin’s grade 2. I did not have a look at the course at all this month


You will ask - Well, Serhat, if you haven’t achieved any of your goals, why do you say it was a fantastic month?

Because I did several other things:

  • I participated in whopping 3 events! I have a soft goal of doing one performance or jam each month. In April, I played 3 songs on the bass at a jam, played the Justin open mic, and played 3 songs on the guitar at another jam.

  • For the first jam where I played the bass, I figured out the bass lines of the 3 songs entirely by ear. Then at the jam, I could play these without messing up too much. I even had to transpose one song on the spot and that did not go too badly.

  • On the Justin jam, I switched the song I prepared at the last minute.

  • For the other jam, I learned 6 songs although only 3 of them were played. I learned one of these the night before, and 5 of them on the morning of the jam. Nothing fancy like guitar solos but I could learn the chord progressions and rhythms fine.

So this all increased my confidence in my overall goal of becoming a mediocre guitarist and a good musician - not necessarily playing songs at a very high skill level, but being able to adapt to and function in different situations.


In terms of practising skills:

  • I know a few blues licks but they are either too basic (the ones from Justin’s very first blues lick lesson) that I’m not skilful enough to compose a continuous melody line from them, or too complex that I can’t properly use them. Instead, I learned 3 other licks that are good sounding and rhythmically simple so I can execute them at a good level. I practised improvising using these 3 licks and modifying them a bit on a few consecutive days to solidify them.
  • I spent some time figuring out triad chord shapes on strings 2, 3, and 4 and thought about how to connect these. For e.g., if I’m playing a I-chord triad and the next one is a-IV, which notes can I use to connect these so I can do a bit more than strumming I for the whole bar and jumping to IV at an instant? This is not simple at all and there’s a whole world to discover and get familiar here.
  • I practised being able to play a blues shuffle:
    • In any key
    • With at least two turn-around options
    • At an instant without preparation.
      Not quite there yet but I made progress.


May Status and Goals

I won’t have very specific, number-based goals for May. High-level goals are:

  • Playing at least one performance or jam as usual
  • Very, very luckily, I got myself invited to play guitar at a pub gig in July. Learning as many songs for this one as I can
  • On blues rhythms, keep practising shuffles and get more comfortable.
  • On blues improvisation, learn and incorporate more licks.
  • Make more progress on connecting chords with melody lines.


Thank you so much if you read this far. That’s all for now. I’ll report back.


What great month you had. Congratulations.

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May was another fantastic month. I was so busy (with other things as well, but mostly music!) I could not post the update:

I hit my target to do at least 1 jam or performance by:

  • Playing at the The Justin Open Mic
  • Accidentally running into an open mic and playing there (we were having coffee at a vintage dress/coffee shop. Out of nowhere they set up a stage. Turns out it was an open mic day there. Asked to play and did a couple of songs. Performance was terrible, poor playing, awful singing, forgotten lyrics and all but the experience was great :))
  • Going to a jam
  • Playing at a rehearsal for the upcoming July gig I mentioned above

I’ve been practising a bit more technique and fretboard knowledge this month.

My challenges remain:

  1. Learning to play the blues. I’m really frustrated about the lack of a resource that works for me. Everyone teaches it, but Justin has very limited material and every other single resource basically goes “Here is how you play the 12 bar blues, here are some cool licks to get you started with improvisation, now here is an awesome lick that connects the minor and major scales together”. It must be working for many out there but with the very limited time I have, I need something a lot more structured and progressing in a lot simpler steps. Did not come across something like that yet.

  2. Sounding good: My ability to learn and play songs improved a lot. I’ve been learning songs in the morning and playing them in the afternoon at jams or rehearsals, which I’m really, really happy with. But I do not like the sound of what I’m playing at all. I’m lacking so much in technique and I’m painfully hearing that in my playing and that frustrates me. Need a lot more practice.

Short update this month as I’ve been just busy with practising technique wherever I do not like the sound of what I’m playing, and learning new songs.


Are you aware of these two modules:

These are in Grade 4 and 6, respectively (although I’m not sure why the Blues Rhythm module is Grade 6. I think it used to be placed alongside the Essential Blues Lead module in Grade 4.)

In any case, it seems to me like they are within your reach, based on the videos you’ve posted.


Thanks for the reminder @jjw1, yes, I’m aware and went through these modules.

Justin’s blues lead course follows a similar structure: Here are 5 licks from pattern 1 and 5 from pattern 2. Which was great to learn, but I still feel something fundamental is missing. How do I take the licks from pattern 1 and improvise a nice-sounding solo? I understand that if I practice for hours and hours every day, eventually, I will discover some good ways of combining them. After all, that’s what great blues players did when they were young: They transcribed licks from their favourite artists and mucked around until they made it their own.

However, I also believe that that can be taught.

I’m attending an in-real-life bass course from an excellent bass teacher, who has also developed an excellent method of teaching over time. What he does is, he shows a few different ways of playing over chords, and then a few different ways of transitioning from playing over one chord to the other. Then, he gives us a week to practice playing over the chords and the transition. In about 3 months, I learned to play over several different chords and I also learned to transition from some chords to some others and although very amateurishly, started to find my own ways of transitioning as I started to get the logic behind it. These bass lessons in fact are tremendously helping with my guitar playing as although bass and guitar players do not play the same thing, the logic is transferrable. I composed the solo for Stand by Me that I played in the last Open Mic using the logical connections I learned from this course.

I am yet to come across a blues course or a teacher who teaches the blues with similar logic. I do not think it is critical, I believe I will eventually get there. I just think that finding a course that clicks with me could make it much faster.

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While I’m here, an early update for June:

On Sunday, I went to a jam session. I’d signed up to play 9 songs, and 6 of them were selected. I practised all of them as well as the time allowed (meaning I learned 2 on the morning of the session :face_with_hand_over_mouth:), I made sure to spend good time preparing and printing out chord charts that I could easily follow.

I was ready and it was going to be a great session, I thought.

It is jam day. I feel ready. I timely leave home and start waiting for the bus. I wait for 20 minutes. It does not arrive. I check City Mapper. For some reason, there are 22 more minutes to the next one which is normally every 12 minutes. I panic. I walk 10 minutes to another stop that has more frequent busses and eventually arrive at the jam about 25 minutes late.

It is all good. They did preparations and other songs in the meantime and my name is just being called out for the next song. I quickly get out my guitar and my chord sheets and get on the stage. I start pulling out the chord sheet for the first song, which should be just at the very top since I neatly put them in order.

But something is off. The song at the very top of the plastic folder is something I played previously, but not on this jam’s list. I must have put it in mistake, I think. I remove all the papers and start sorting through them to find the correct one. But it is the same with the next song and the one after that. They are all songs that I learned to play at some point, but not today’s songs. Then it clicks. I picked up the wrong folder. Panic ensues.

I desperately search for someone else who could have the chord sheet to that song. Luckily the keys player does but does not have a spare copy and there’s not enough space next to him that I could use his. He suggests I take a photo, which I think is the most genius idea I’ve ever heard and do. I play the song trying to read tiny chord names from the phone screen, but I keep losing where I am and butcher half of the song.

I end up playing the rest of the songs without the chord charts I prepared. I did them as I could remember them. It did not go as badly as I thought although I messed up quite a few times.

One of the songs was Thrill is Gone. I know the chords, and I never play solos in this Jam and everyone knows that, so I feel confident. Then just as we start, the other guitar player -who is one of the organisers and is an amazing guitar player- comes up and tells me “I’ll just play the chords, it is yours”. “What do you mean? It was me who signed up for the rhythm” “Oh man, I do not know this song, you’ll have to do something”. And he goes back and the song starts. S.

Thankfully, I knew how to play the intro and the chord shapes he chose to play were different than mine so it was fine during the verses. When it came to playing the solo, I had to improvise. I aimlessly went up and down on the first pentatonic shape trying to use my ears a bit to make it sound at least a bit melodic.

Not sure how good it was but this was the first time I improvised a solo in public so it happened at a time the least I expected it and a good year earlier than I thought it was going to be.

It was a great experience overall. After the jam, we went to watch an open mic with a house band supporting the acts and I ended up listening to the most talented musicians (minus concerts) that I’ve ever seen live and now feeling more inspired than ever to keep practising.


Quite a story about the jam, Serhat. Does sound like you are making good progress.

As for the blues, I have a sense of where you are coming from. To borrow Justin’s metaphor you learn a few words but telling a story is another ball game. To continue the metaphor, one of the recommendations for people learning to write is to read alot. I don’t know how much blues music you listen to, but may be beneficial to listen to a lot.

Another recommended approach is to learn solos. Not just the learning how to play but understanding what is being played when and why from a more theoretical perspective.


That was a good read Serhat. What a stressful situation. Sounds like a decent bunch of people at the jam, though.

Do you do any improv by yourself with a looper? Might be a way to find patterns and sounds that you like.

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Exactly! To continue from that analogy, I feel like I am watching a lot of French movies (I do listen to blues quite a bit), like the sound of them and would like to speak French myself but available are a few people who claim to teach it. When you look at what they teach, it is either translating it to English so you can understand the movie and be fascinated, or they teach you some ‘great’ sentences from the best writers that you can use in your own speech!

It is true that people who speak French the best are those who exposed themselves to French for long hours every day (for most it is since birth), but you can still go to a French course for a few years and become a fluent speaker. I do not seem to be able to find that course for blues.

Thanks @jkahn. I try to, indeed. It is a very slow progress and I believe I will eventually start making some good sounds.

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That makes sense, thank you. I only know two blues solos in full. I studied them to the best of my theory abilities. I tried to understand which note degrees they choose, what they are doing when the chords change, and the timing of the licks. They inspire what I play the most. I should keep learning more.

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