Sort of Intermediate Player, trying to find where to start

Hello all. I’m trying to answer the question: where should I be jumping into Justin’s program? There’s so much wonderful material, but it’s a lot to search through to figure out where I am along his path.

Some of this requires intro / old dog stuff: started learning as a teen, now early 60s, lots of years with minimal playing because “life”, limited practice time now because “life” (but different). I bought myself 2 news guitars and a good amp a couple of years ago with the intent to get back into playing, actually learn songs, and have fun with it without putting too much pressure on myself. I also bought 6 of Justin’s songbooks.

What I’ve got: solid chordings skills (open / power / barre), reasonable fretboard knowledge, basic music theory, a very small number of songs and even fewer solos I’d claim to know. I also play keyboards, and have a decent range of guitar gear and a usable recording setup.

What I lack: a meaningful repertoire of songs, licks, and solos; strumming patterns beyond very basic; scales beyond basic “pattern 1” major and pentatonic minor; performing experience; seemingly any ability at all to set goals or to stick to something long enough to really internalize it.

As I sum it up in my The Gear Page sig:

  • 60-ish “career beginner”.
  • Engineer masquerading as a musician.
  • Lover of home recording (so I should do more of it).
  • 6 guitars, 2 small amps, 0 fresh ideas!

Looking forward to engaging with the community here. At this point The Gear Page mostly feels like the same 20 conversations over, and over, and …

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Hi David,

If it were me, I’d go through the lessons from the start, looking for something I didn’t realize I needed to know. Eventually you will start seeing things you want to concentrate on.

I re-listen to lessons from time to time while making lunch/dinner when I want a refresher. I think that works pretty well for a quick skimming when I can mostly listen, but no need to sit with the guitar.

Welcome to the community!

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Welcome to the forum David.
Start at the beginning of grade one you’ll blow through the things you know, fix bad habits and pick up lots of tidbits you missed the first go round.

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Hi David,
It looks like you have a good awareness of some of your skills and shortcomings. This is a great start! :star_struck: :notes:

I agree with going through the lessons from the beginning, but I’m going to add one thing that works well for me. You say you lack a meaningful repertoire. I’d focus on adding to that as you go. For each new skill or concept you learn, find a song to help you practice that skill. By the time you get through Grade 3, you should have a pretty decent repertoire. Not only will this facilitate your learning process, but it will also help you keep things fun. Happy playing, and welcome!

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Hi David, Welcome to the community. +1 for starting from grade 1.

I was in a similar situation with similar experience to what you describe. I started from the beginning and glad I did. I moved through the early lessons relatively quickly, but I found them useful. I picked up new things and recognized the areas where I needed work to have a more solid base of fundamentals. Since you already have a good skill base, you can work on songs in parallel to the courseware. There are good song suggestions in the lessons, in addition to the large song lesson catalogue. In cases where the songs seemed easy, I dug into ones that I liked to learn them in more nuanced ways: strum patterns, more accurate chords, alternate tunings, fills, solos, whatever caught my interest. The other aspect of following the song suggestions in the grades is that I’ve learned to play songs that I probably would never have considered. They were fun to learn, and it opened the door to explore more music in that genre or by that artist.

Enjoy the journey!

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Hi David and welcome to the community!

I would say to at least have a brief look at all the grade 1&2 lessons. I don’t know that you necessarily need to watch all of them, especially if you have your open chords down, but you can always skip over the ones that don’t apply to you.

Justin has a lot of the stuff you want to learn spread throughout the course. There are quite a few strumming lessons in grade one and two that you may find helpful. There are also good goal setting and practice routine lessons in grade 3.

I would also encourage you to focus on learning songs. Maybe pick a few that have some of the skills you want to learn, such as a more dynamic strumming pattern or a solo you really love and focus your practice around learning them! I know for me personally, a lot of my practice revolves around learning the skills I need to play a particular song.

Also, as a final tip, Justin also has a lot of smaller, more focused specialty courses that you may find helpful. The vast majority are free. Maybe do a quick search of the available lessons on the website and see if any of those would be helpful to you. There is one called major scale maestro I believe that may be of interest to you.

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always best to start at # 1 and breeze your way thru if its easy for you. eventually you’ll find your niche

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Welcome, @dlemire60 !

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Welcome David! I was similar coming in to the course and, like many others have said above, I recommend starting at the beginning. I picked up some useful tips and tricks on the way through, plus confirmed some of the stuff I thought I knew was in fact correct, giving me the confidence to move forward in the course knowing I hadn’t skipped over anything crucial along the way.
All the best with your journey! :smiley: :+1:

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A lot of the things in your introductory post remind me of my situation when I first found Justin’s web site. I was something of a “career beginner,” too, with “head knowledge” and some playing ability in the intermediate category, but no repertoire. If there was a band playing some blues I could play along and improvise, but if an aunt at a family gathering asked me to play a song I had to just demo a few riffs and parts from songs and mumble something about needing a band…

What I did was find the “beginner consolidation” video (things may have changed since then – this was some time ago) and go through everything to “graduate” the beginner module. I looked for things I couldn’t do and filled in any gaps. Now, at the time, I think “10 songs you can play all the way through” or something like that was part of those requirements. I couldn’t do that, so I went about learning 10 songs all the way through.

Of note, I found this much easier and satisfying on an acoustic, which was a surprise because I tended to prefer electric at that point. But when I play electric I tend to want it to be in a band-type environment, and for whatever reason I found it very satisfying to learn and play complete songs on the acoustic, instead. (If you work on singing while playing, too, that makes it even better.) This isn’t really a recommendation; it’s just an observation from my experience and preferences. Your mileage may vary, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning complete songs on the electric. Just depends on you.

I then did the same thing with the Intermediate module’s consolidation video. It listed everything I should be able to do after completing the intermediate module. I looked for the things I could do. This time there were more of them. I filled in those gaps. And I continued to learn more repertoire.

So my advice:

  • Go through the beginner module. Do an honest evaluation and look for things you can’t do. When you find some, add those to your practice routine.
  • Make learning songs a primary goal and part of your practice. Complete songs, all the way through. I bet you know all sorts of riffs and bits from songs (because that’s how I was). But these should be complete songs you can bust out when somebody points at the guitar in the corner and says “Hey, you play guitar. Play us something!”
  • When you can honestly satisfy the requirements of the beginner module, do the same thing with the intermediate module. Honest evaluation. If you look at the intermediate requirements and find that it’s just a few holes, just work on the holes. If you look at the requirements and find you’re missing half or more then I’d just do the entire module from the beginning.

Since you already know that repertoire is a gaping hole, I’d probably set up a practice routine something like this:

  • 25% technique
  • 25% theory
  • 50% repertoire

Later you could change it, reducing repertoire to 25% or so and balancing it out with transcription and ear training.

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Hello David and welcome to the Community. I found your introduction very interesting. I restarted playing the guitar after 20 or so years and I actually wondered “where to start from?” Now I would say “right from the beginning!” as I found out my Foundations were weak, I thought for example my chording skills were strong and along the way I found out more bad habits I wish to admit. Hopefully you’ve done better, but checking your Foundations first seems a very good starting point nevertheless, it’ll also help you to procede more confidently in your journey. Have fun and see you around here :blush:

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Hello David.
A very warm welcome to JustinGuitar and the community.

You have had lots of good (and quite consistent) advice so far.
Fixing bad habits, relearning to create new, good habits is never anything but a good choice.
Going back to the beginning to learn to be a guitarist is a good idea. Jack Nicklaus, quite an achiever by anyone’s reckoning, would start each and every golf season by visiting his teacher to review his game and basically ask that he teach him how to play.

My mantra - and I haven’t written it for a few weeks - is learn songs, learn songs, learn songs.
I will leave it there without padding and hope you come to understand why I keep saying it.

If you want any help, guidance or advice as you go along then just ask.
Cheers
Richard
:slight_smile:

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I’m frankly amazed at the absolute consistency of the responses to my question. My initial reaction, after the first few messages, was maybe to push back on the basis of limited time. After all, I conquered the Mel Bay Modern Guitar Method back in the 70s, so good to go, right? :grinning: But if I’m asking a question I should be willing to listen to the replies. So I “hit the (virtual) books” yesterday and did Modules 0 and 1, with much of the video played at 2x speed to save some time, and felt it was time well spent. So: thanks for the advice, I think I’ll be continuing down this path.

P.S. @J.W.C – I think I know at least one guitar podcast you listen to!

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That’s interesting! I don’t listen to any podcasts, so I’m curious about what made you think so, and what podcast you have in mind.

I used the Mel Bay Modern Guitar Method, too, in the 60’s. Brings back memories :blush:

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“career beginning” is a phrase I picked up from Lee Anderson’s “Play Guitar” podcast. It resonated pretty strongly with me. I’d walked away from the instrument entirely for about 16 months, after too much head space occupied with “coulda / shoulda” about my guitar career. About my 60th birthday I decided to reset, bought a BMG Special and an Ibanez semi-hollow, and an Katana 50 Mk II as gifts to myself. I have managed more fun and fewer regrets, but I won’t claim to have built mighty guitar skills in the last 2 years. I’m about to upgrade my recording setup with a nifty new mini-PC and audio interface, replacing the >decade old refurb desktop I’ve been using; hopefully that will make recording feel more accessible.

It was one of things my teacher used, along with learning songs, mostly in the form of chord-melody type playing. In retrospect, I wanted to play rock and he was really a jazz guy, so while I learned a lot from him I might have had a very different guitar journey with a different teacher.

Ah, I see. I grabbed that from your initial post (I thought it was a pretty good phrase, too).

Same here. My teacher played with local jazz and big bands. The thing that affected my early journey primarily was that I was a poor student. I didn’t appreciate the need to work to develop skills. For that, I apologize, Don (my early teacher). I know you tried.

:grinning: I’d forgotten that was in there. I listen to a handful of music-related podcasts:

1 Play Guitar (Lee Anderson)
2 Guitar Music Theory (Desi Serna)
3 Brainjo Bites (Josh Turknett, subset of his brainjo jam)
4 Wong Notes (Cory Wong)
5 Dipped in Tone (Rhett Schull / Zach Broyles)
6 History of Rock & Roll in 500 Songs (Andrew Hickey)

1-3 are educational, 4-6 are mostly entertainment. I find Desi Serna’s “how does this song work?” episodes particularly worthwhile.

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