Steve L’s Learning Log

30 Dec 2022 - I want to keep myself honest during the consolidation phase. I don’t want to look back and realized that I had left topics uncompleted in my haste to advance to a higher grade level. I did a thorough review of all the Grade 1 and 2 lessons and identified some lessons that have not been completed:

Beginning Guitar course - uncompleted topics that should be completed during the consolidation period

Grade 1:

Module 5: YOUR OWN SONGBOOK - I haven’t done enough on this, just a couple of songs

Module 7: MEMORIZE EASY SONGS - definately deficit in this area. Only have a couple of songs memorized.

Grade 2

Module 8: MUTING STRINGS DELIBERATELY - review this entire lesson, not good at this technique, mostly I use precise strumming

Module 9: YOUR CHORD BOOK - haven’t done this. Starting to use One Minute changes chord dictionary.

Module 10: Practice 5 common chord progressions: until you have the progressions memorized

Module 11: INTRODUCTION TO DICE SONGWRITING -should actually try to do this exercise

Module 12: CREATE YOUR OWN GUITAR RIFF - try to do this exercise

Module 13: BEGINNER BLUES SOLO - need to download Guitar Pro version of Blues Solo since I purchased but haven’t used.

Module 13: BLUES IMPROV - need to record an improve and annotate in Guitar Pro.

Module 13: 12 BAR SHUFFLE RIFF - play and record on video for critique

Module 14: DEVELOPING REPERTOIRE - need to work on this - don’t have 10 songs and do open mic.

Module 14: HOME RECORDING - finish setting up DAW and make new recording with DAW

While I am working on completing these lessons, I can also work on active listening and transcribing by playing through all of the songs in the Beginner Songbooks 1 and 2 that do not have a song lesson video. I can listen to the original recording and work out the rhythm and any embellishments myself by active listening and transcribing. This should be somewhat easy since I already have the chords (and therefore the key) and performance notes. I just need to listen to the recorded song to create my own lessons.

I am also playing some songs from the Complete Guitar Player Songbook (Omnibus Second Editions with books 1,2 and 3). I had got it a few years back to go with the Complete Guitar Player book by Russ Shipton which I had gone through but skipped over a few more difficult sections. I kept using the songbook since it had some songs which were not in the list of songs on Justin guitar and until recently was my go to book for Bob Dylan songs. It is mostly grade 1 and 2 level songs, so it gives another source for songs such as Morning Has Broken.


2 Jan2023 - when I started trying to play the songs in the 2 beginner songbooks without song lesson videos, I realized that I have not played along to the original recordings for any of the songs I have learned. I have played along with Justin in the song lesson videos and played with the app, but the true test of my ear is playing along with the original recording. My resolution is to make more use of the original recordings and listen and play along beginning with the easier songs and working up beginning some grade 4 songs this year.

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4 Jan2023 - with all of the review and consolidation and song practice, it is easy to forgot to also focus on Grade 3 practice material. I have decided the best plan at this point, until I have completed the items identified above from grade 2, is to alternate days that I work on grade 2 completion items and Grade 3 practice exercises.

I can see that going forward in this course I will probably have the mindset of using lessons and songs from 3 grades. So for instance, I am reviewing Grade 2, I am actively working on Grade 3 and I will occasionally look ahead and find challenge lessons or songs from Grade 4.

One last thing. My wife and I just adapted a couple of small rescue dogs 3 week ago, so my morning practice schedule had to be adjusted. Due to walking the dogs first thing in the morning, the early morning practice routine suddenly shrunk from 40 minutes to 30 minutes. But it still continues every day. Life intrudes, but you just have to adjust. I am trying to find other time during the day to listen to songs, work on music knowledge activities and listen to lesson videos.


Bravo Steve, good reflection and planning that is sure to set you up for continued progress. I look forward to hearing the further recordings as you consolidate in Gr2.

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@DavidP Thanks. I am finding as I advance (trying to create a practice plan for the first module in Grade 3) that planning, developing and constantly adjusting a practice schedule to my changing needs is as challenging as learning to play the guitar. Balancing the old and new songs and technical exercises to meet the sometimes conflicting goals of “practice what you don’t know” and “keep it fun” is a constant ongoing learning process.

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12Jan2023 - I spent the month of December playing old and new songs and did not spend much time on the module 15 exercises. My loose practice schedule resulted in fun but I felt some frustration with the progress in Grade 3, so I spent a week refining my overly complicated 3 day practice schedule proposed on Nov. 20.

I realized several things:

1 - I need to include some time blocking in my routine to keep me on track with technical exercises.

2 - Having the same routine every day is tiresome to me and doesn’t allow for enough flexibility.

3 - When I worked on new songs, that tended to take up all remaining time as songs become more challenging.

So my answer is to split the 1 hour practice schedule into 2 x 30 min. routines with a 10 min. warmup for 2 days. I preceded with 1 day with a 10 min. warmup and 30 minute practice session for learning new songs and/or recording.

Here are the routines that I have worked out for Grade 3 Module 15 and Module 16:

For maximum variety you can do the first 3 days on acoustic and repeat for 3 more days with electric guitar and the 7th day can be whatever you want or just rest your fingers.

If you need to work more on new songs or recordings you can repeat day 1 after day 2 and then day 1 after day 3 and repeat day 3, followed by day 1. Day 3 has most of the exercises specific to the modules and you have exercises every other day:

Day 1-songs, 2-exercises, 3-songs, 4-exercises, 5-songs, 6-exercises and day 7 whatever. I will probably follow this schedule of alternating more flexible days with more structured days until I get caught up with the Grade 2 consolidation items identified earlier and reduce my backlog of songs to record.

As you can see, this organization of the practice routine provides a lot more flexibility and works within a 40 min. practice time constraint. I’ll try this for a few weeks and see if it needs more tweaking.


That looks like a sensible approach, Steve. Hope it works well for you.

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Hi Steve, looks a good path to try. If it works you can have a more even progress with technique and songs and one progress may foster the other. My approach is somewhat similar, a 40 min. technique practice routine split in the two weekend days, song maintenance at the end of each weekend session, and short weekday sessions to work on newer songs.

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21Jan2023 - I haven’t used the recently purchased Scarlett 2i2 audio interface because I found it impossible to use on my 13” Apple laptop. My older flatscreen TV was not up to the task resolution-wise. Just got a relatively cheap 43” 4K TV upgrade so I should be able to use with the software. There is a little latency with wireless airplay connection and the onscreen cursor, but that doesn’t affect recording.

The new Module 15 routine is working out well, so I will start transitioning to Module 16 next week.

Steve, I’m curious as to what makes this impossible?

My guess would be that it is conenctivity between the 2i2 and the Apple’s connector, which may not be a standard USB compatible with the 2i2? I(f so I imagine there is some kind of adapter, though that may come at a price.

Good to hear you are making progress through Grade 3.

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David, The problem was that I had trouble reading the controls and text on the 13 inch screen of my laptop. When you get older, focusing on small print can be a problem. I probably could have resized the resolution on my laptop, but opted for a larger monitor via the new smart TV which I had to replace anyway, since the other television was 15 years old.

29Jan2023 - Starting the Module 16 practice routine this week. I am finally figuring out an approach to learning that I can stick with. I had to continue module 15 practice because I had left out an important step. It is not good enough to watch a lesson video and think that you understand and can repeat what you learned. I seems obvious but I have learned that you must watch some lesson videos with guitar in hand and stop, backup and repeat until you can play on the guitar. Only then can you start practice. You don’t have enough time to learn during the limited practice time. I finished with all the module 15 lesson videos with guitar in hand. Then I was doing the module 15 practice routine every other day and working on the module 16 lesson videos on the off days. I am also watching the module 17 lesson videos ahead of time outside of my practice time. Here is my lesson completion schedule:

JG Grade 3 study notes:

Dates I listened to lesson video with guitar in hand

Module 15
D chord shape explorer - 18:53. 4Jan2023
Finger gym exercise - 15:14 10Jan2023
Linking chords with scales - 11:34. 11Jan2023
A capo for two - 24:55. 12Jan2023

Module 16
Chord shapes up the neck - 35:04. 23Jan2023
Play Greensleeves. - 16:54. 25 and 27Jan2023

One of the things I have learned is to temper my expectation on the time to complete the modules given my more limited practice time. Justin says to spend at least 2 weeks on module 16, which I assume is based on a 6 day/week practice schedule. I am only doing the module 16 practice routine twice per week (half the routine each day) with song practice days. So I would need to spend a minimum of 6 weeks on module 16 to achieve the same level of practice time.


18Feb2023 - I created a practice log table to record the completion of the practice elements for Module 16 with space for 12 days of the 1 hour practice routines. I completed most of the first hour of the routine on Feb. 7 and Feb. 9. I also started a notes page with daily notes to keep track of variations in my practice.

I’ve been practicing the Grade 3 songs “Fields of Gold” (acoustic) and “Fortunate Son” (electric) for eventual recording. On Feb. 11, I started focusing each 30-40 minute practice session to one of those 2 songs, alternating each day. I’ve practice “Fortunate Son” for 5 days and “Fields of Gold” for at least 5 days.

I had wondered which song I would try to record first and today I tried to play “Fortunate Son” at full speed with the recording. I had to reduce the speed to 3/4 speed to keep up so i will try to record “Fields of Gold” this month and hopefully demonstrate a mastery of the F chord and incorporating push rhythms and Am to Asus2 and C to Csus4 embellishments. I will keep working on “Fortunate Son” until I can play the intro at recorded tempo or close to the normal tempo and play the power chords with Justin’s suggested rhythm and left hand lift mute technique with precision.


Thanks for the update, Steve, and keep on keeping on! I look forward to the recordings

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21 March 2023 - I have finally settled on a Grade 3 practice routine. I started by using the practice app on the website with Module 16, but after a week I decided to go back to “old school” methods - i.e. notebook, paper practice table and practice log. I have noticed several people mentioning having problems adjusting to Grade 3 practices after the more rigid Grade 1 and 2 practice routines, so I thought that I would continue to share the results of my struggles to find what practice routine works for me.

Here is my practice notebook binder and dividers:

Notice the 5 sections: Review, current practice, planning or future and the chord and song book sections.

Here is my practice routine table for Grade 3 Module 16:

Finally I am including my current practice log for module 16:

notice that I have a lot of variation in practices and it is taking me a long time to finish module 16, because I took a couple of weeks to practice before I recorded my last song and because I am using the 3 day practice routine I described above on 12Jan.


Hi Steve, I think that taking longer to complete a module while simultaneously working in other guitar projects is fine, specially if you’re starting with Grade 3. I’m not there yet but I’ve read about how it is more self-directed learning.

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@dobleA Andres, Thanks. I am able to tolerate the length of time (but impatient to finish) for this module, but I have read comments from others that had problems. They get discouraged and quit. I thought that my detailed example might provide encouragement to continue.


05April2023 - I finally finished Module 16 of Grade 3 and starting Module 17 today. I was so happy to finish Module 16 at the end that it reminded me of the story of the person observing someone beating their head against the wall. They ask “Why are you beating your head against the wall?”. The other replies - “Because it feels so good when I stop!”. Not that I approve of head-banging behavior, except for the musical variety, but the story seems to apply here.

When you split a 1 hour practice routine over 2 days and include a free day between 2 day practice sets, then you only finish 2 days of practice routine each week. For a 2 week minimum as Justin suggests, that means it will take a minimum of 6 weeks to finish, assuming 6 days of practice/week. I also used several days to prepare for recordings,so I ended up spending 8 weeks or 2 months on Module 16, which made it seem to drag on and on. What has kept me going is looking forward to working on blues again in module 18, so I have started adding blues practice to my routine in the form of practicing one of the blues licks from Grade 4.

I carefully considered my goals in the first Module 17 lesson and can say that my goals include playing all of James Taylor songs with the exact fingerstyle arrangements. But my big goal which started in 1999 is to be able to play many of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s music like Texas Flood. After my last recording, I realized to reach that goal, I need to spend more time practicing on the electric guitar. Most of my practice has been with my acoustic guitar so I will go back and record some of the Grade 1 and 2 songs for electric guitar and work on staying in the groove with a metronome and playing with the original music. This will be my Grade 2 consolidation for electric guitar to add to the acoustic guitar consolidation.


8April2023 - I had looked at the Module 17 lesson videos more than a month ago, so I now have actively played along with the lessons that demonstrate a technique on the guitar. I am copying my iPad notes to remind me of when I did this:

Module 17 - play guitar along with lessons

 C Chord Shape Explorer - 13:12. 05Apr2023


 THUMB & FINGER STRUMS - 12:44   07Apr2023


I also modified the suggested Module 17 practice routine to include my electric guitar consolidation and organized the practice elements into electric and acoustic guitar specific elements so that I focus on one guitar each day of practice.

Here is the practice routine I will use starting Monday:

For the blues lead studies, I am using the Beginning Blues Guitar by David Hamburger which has a DVD and the National Guitar Workshop Blues Guitar Lessons volume 1 book (with 50 tabbed lessons and CD) both by Alfred Music press. I’ll also incorporate some studies from the book Total Rock Guitar by Troy Stetina as I complete the electric guitar consolidation. These are all old books that I have collected over the years. This should help keep me from getting bored.

I also have the books Fingerstyle Guitar from Scratch and Blues Guitar from Scratch by Bruce Emory for Acoustic Guitar supplemental material which I may add gradually. The truth is that I have accumulated more guitar books in the last 25 years than I can play through in a lifetime with over 3 feet of shelf space with guitar method books (and that was after I gave away about 30 method books I could purchase on Kindle that I view on my iPad Pro), as well as 5 guitar mags on my iPad with archived issues going back to 2009, a lot of DVDs and of course YouTube, so I have to be selective and stay focused on Justin’s website or I could lose my way again :slight_smile:

I was going to wait to start Grade 4 theory, but since it is all about triads, I can watch the videos outside of my regular practice time.

Also, if I finish learning the thumb and finger technique, I will start on the Strumming Techniques 2 course.


22April2023 - I added my April 2023 AVOYP - playing California Dreamin transcribed intro and solo. Eventually I will add the complete song with singing.

California Dreamin - playing transcribed intro and solo

I also added the Strumming Techniques 2 to my practice routine.