I have a few thoughts for the OP, but I’m not sure how coherent they are.
I’m in my mid 60s and have been a dabbler since my teens, so I haven’t learned “1,000s of songs” although I probably should have. My skills are mixed: solid on chords, OK on strumming, weak on scales and lead work, and not nearly the repertoire I should have. With limited playing time, I’m pretty focused on just enjoying myself these days. But the “learn songs, learn songs, learn songs” message is clear and consistent across every single music podcast I listen to, so: perhaps it should be heeded. I understand the impulse to make your own music but foundations are necessary, as others here have suggested.
I get the “boring and repetitive” aspect, but that repetition is also how you program your brain so that things become easy.
I’d suggest two resources:
Consider Desi Serna’s Guitar Music Theory podcast as a complement to Justin’s excellent lessons, particularly the “how does this song work?” episodes. Desi does a great job of breaking down a song and explaining what’s going on in (to my thinking) very clear and straightforward musical theory terms in a way that I think is really helpful. I’ve learned a lot just from listening to those and they also give you a process for analyzing songs on your own to understand what’s going on, allowing you to extract the elements you like (again, as other here have suggested).
Read Josh Turknett’s The Immutable Laws of Brainjo (you could buy the book or the articles are available for free here). This is a series of articles on “how to apply the science of learning and neuroplasticity to practice [music] more effectively” and there’s a lot of interesting content in there about how learning works. He writes “practice banjo” because that’s his thing, but it’s applicable to learning any instrument (or, to some degree, any physical skill).
As a newer player (and while learning any new skill/hobby) I’ve always struggled with discipline and getting distracted with too many choices, different methods of learning, and the huge variety of courses available for learning something.
This is the first time, I’ve started and stuck with any course for over a month (3 months in now) and while it’s due to a combination of things I’m sure (Justin’s great methodology of teaching, quality of the videos, supporting materials, great community, etc.), if I had to choose one main factor of keeping me on track so far (and it’s a daily struggle by the way) it’s the Practice Assistant. It takes the guess work out of what to practice (go to the last lesson in every grade and “save the practice routine”) and makes it easy to just sit down and start without figuring what I should do next. That being said, towards the end of Grade 1, I started customizing my own routines going into Grade 2 (I still have Riffs from Grade 1 and some PFCs that I need to improve in my daily practice routine, as well as some exercises from the SOS Strumming Course). It’s such a valuable tool for staying on track and making progress that I’m surprised it’s not a paid subscription (I subscribe via donations and other courses on here).
So like @Richard_close2u said, make use of this tool, it will really help you stay focused and disciplined day in and day out while still customizing it to your own areas of improvement or growth as you go through the course.
@dlemire60 Thanks for sharing that David! I wanted something to listen to while commuting and not having my guitar in my hand to further improve my understanding of guitar playing and music theory. I’ll also be checking out the book, as I love learning about how to learn
Had a listen to Episode 27 of the Guitar Theory podcast. Lots of great advice for us beginner hobbyists (many of it echoing advice already given in this thread, in Justin’s videos or elsewhere on the forums), some of it specific to learning improvisation: