Steve L’s Learning Log

26June2023 - I tried out the new speaker on our outside porch and found that it has plenty of power. The volume indicator has 10 volume levels. I didn’t need to turn the volume to higher than level 3 for listening to music and can listened to my music at volume of level 1 for rock and louder pop. I briefly turned up to volume level 5, but worried about disturbing the neighbors. :slight_smile:

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28June2023 - having a new amp/modeling amp setup encourage you to find new sounds. I had previously only used my Fender Mustang Micro headphone amps with some cheap PC speakers, so I was interesting in how the amp models would sound with the new Marshall Middleton speaker. Also I wanted to see how the speaker handled bass notes on guitar. So I tuned the Strat to Drop D and just slapped to 3 lower strings with my fretting hand and recorded via my iPhone in my right hand. Was pleased to hear the resulting sounds I could get. I have attached to video. Sorry, it is not too musical but I can produce some interesting sounds, so indulge me this one time :slight_smile: .

New amp - some sound explorations - SteveL - 28June2023

I think the most interesting sounds are in the last minute of the video. BTW am using 90’s American (blue indicator light) model on Fender Mustang Micro which I think is hi-gain amp.

This experimenting with guitar and amp sounds is a little in the spirit of Jimi Hendrix, who probably spent hours experimenting with guitar sounds and tones. I find it enjoyable, so I will add a little of this each week to my electric guitar practice time.

01July2023 - Another NAD :slight_smile: It’s not much of a new amp. I purchased a Vox amPlug2 AC30 headphone amp when my Fender Mustang Micro headphone amp was dead when I tried to start practice. I had left it on again overnight, so I decided to buy a backup headphone amp for practice. The Vox amPlug2 headphone amps use batteries (2 x AAA) but they have an auto shutoff feature that is useful. Here is a couple of pictures of the new purchase:


The tone is not as good as the Fender Micro amp, but it has controls for gain and tone, which are not on the Fender Mustang Micro. It sounds a little thin in tone in small headphones, but the tone fattens up when played through a good bluetooth speaker. Here is a quick riff I played (Day Tripper, one of my favorite Beatles riffs) with the Vox amPlug2 AC30 into the new Marshall Middleton 50W bluetooth speaker via a 3.5mm audio cable:

Day Tripper riff with Vox amPlug2 AC30 and Marshall Middleton speaker

This was a quick one off video I made. I didn’t even bother to set up the tripod for the iPhone. Please pardon the imperfect riff, since it has been a few years since I played it. Also I need to do some experimenting to find the best tone for this riff. I think I need to increase both the gain and the tone. At least this is better than practicing on the electric guitar without any amplification.

03July2023 - Well, I am a slow learner, but it finally occurred to me that I will never finish the Grade 2 consolidation items I need to complete if I don’t set aside enough time. I have only had a couple of practices each week of unstructured practice and mostly practicing new songs for fun.
I have decided have 3 consecutive days of structured practice followed by 3 days of unscheduled practice time that I can use to finally set up my DAW, finish memorizing my songs from Grade 1, learn my songs for Grade 2 and finish my improvisations and transcriptions.

So I’ll have 3 days of timed Module 18 practice items on the electric guitar and 3 days of whatever, but only using my acoustic and the next week I will reverse with structured acoustic practice and doing different things with my electric guitar. I am the worlds worse at memorizing lyrics, but I think I can do it if I work on a song at least 3 days in a row. Of course adding the extra day each week of unstructured practice will mean it will take a minimum of 8 weeks or 2 months to finish each module, but like it has been said before - this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Steve, personally I think it’s a great idea. I am a big advocate for a mix of structured and unstructured. Its about finding that balance between learning and developing skills but also carving out some time to have fun and apply those skills.

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11July2023 - I am adding some acoustic blues to my practice this week.
I’ve played through some of the Complete Acoustic Blues Guitar book this week. It follows closely with Justin’s acoustic blues lessons in Grade 2 at first. I finally had some challenge with the 5 6 flat7 shuffle patterns since my pinkie is still a little weak. Also I noticed on page 44 (Boogie Woogie in E), bottom line, 1st measure that there is an implied 2 fret hand position shift when the tab goes from 2nd fret played with first finger to 6th fret played with 3rd finger. I was puzzled for a while until I saw that the next note is on the 4th fret played with the first finger, where there has to be a hand position change. This exercise is challenging enough in the last line that I will have to slow down in Transcribe at first before I can “Boogie” at full speed. It only took 2 days at 10 minutes per day to play through the first 19 mp3 audio tracks that takes you to page 44 (Track 20 - Track 1 is tuning notes) since it is mostly review of Justin’s grade 2 blues course material, especially since I played the 12 bar blues in all 5 CAGED keys during my consolidation practice.

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12July2023 - one more day of playing examples in Complete Acoustic Blues Guitar. The chapter Blues Strums has different 12 bar blues strumming patterns but just as importantly has some alternative chord shapes. I found it challenging to play the F7 shape, since my pinkie is short. This chord shape is derived from the 4 finger E7 chord, but I. Find the F7 barre chord easier to play. The strumming in E on page 48 has all alternate forms of E7, A7 and B7 chords. I noticed that if you only play the highest pitch 3 strings, you are playing all triads. I started slowing down on the Blues Soloing chapter, which introduces several scales and has lots of audio tracks. The Em pentatonic exercises coordinate with the Grade 2 and 3 blues examples in Justin’s course, but then the movable major pentatonic scale is introduced which is an intermediate skill level exercise. I looked ahead and saw that the blues scale was also introduced, but there was only one short sole exercise for each scale, then all the scale are listed on the next page, along with extensions.So my thought is that the moveable major pentatonic scale and the blues scales are given as an introduction that will be more fully explored later.

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Hey Steve,

Good to see you are making progress with the Complete Acoustic Blues Guitar Book and enjoying it.

You would have first come across this in Justin’s Classic Course along with some other variations worth exploring. I think he may cover this in some of the blues lessons in the Grade 3. Always worth checking out Justin’s lesson for a refresher and keep working on that little finger as it is a wonderful digit for applying embellishments.

That is good that you are thinking about hand positioning. Just in case you get puzzled again the fingering is given below the tab :wink:

This is a good exercise, similar to the 5 6 flat 7 shuffle exercise, for getting used to moving and repositioning the hand including the thumb. It will also help to put into practice air changes on the B7 chord.

Once you feel comfortable at playing those two boogie woogie pieces at tempo. A good song to have a look at for the rhythm guitar is T-Bone Walker - Papa Ain’t Salty. Listen to the rhythm part being played. Can you here the two boogie woogie patterns played in the song?

I am just getting back into practice mode and the F7 is a chord I’m struggling with as well. So you are not alone. But like other chords we just have to practice and find a way of playing them to our anatomy plus lots of Justin’s finger stretching exercises.

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James, thanks for the link. I have no problem with hearing the boogie woogie pattern in T-bone Walkers song. I have a Rhino Record Best of T-bone Walker compilation CD that I used to listen to a lot about 20 years ago, which has that song, so I was at least familiar with it. I’ll need to start listening to blues again if I am going to play it. I also don’t have problems with playing the boogie woogie patterns, but boogie woogie is usually played at a rapid tempo so I’ll probably need more than a day of practice to play at tempo especially with the hand position shift.

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James, I still have hope that I can train my pinkie. I’ve been doing pinkie drills, finger gym exercises and now legato drills in Grade 3 for about 6 months now. I still can’t hammer on with my pinkie on an acoustic guitar, when pressing down with the first or index finger, but I can get some sound on an electric. I can use the pinkie to hammer on Dsus4 chord from the D chord on acoustic.

Just for fun and to show my documentation of my pinky shortcomings here is a link to the picture I posted almost 1 year ago in Module 4 finger stretching discussion:

SteveL finger stretch hand picture

At least with my short stubby fingers I can bend strings on an acoustic and bend strings 3 semitones at the 5th fret highest E string string with my Strat strung with 10s.

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23July2023 - It is hard to believe, but I have only now (during Grade 3 studies) conquered my irrational fear of changing the strings on my two acoustic guitars. I finally watched Justin’s lesson in changing acoustic guitar strings in the Essential Knowledge section. I learned that my fear of changing acoustic guitar strings is a result of my ignorance. I thought the procedure for inserting the pegs was to place the end of the peg on the ball at the end of the string as you insert the string into the holes near the bridge and push down. As you can imagine, that resulted in a lot of occurrences of the peg popping loose and the string flying out. Justin’s suggestion to kink the string near the ball before inserting in the hole near the bridge and then inserting the pin is a brilliant solution to my personal problem. I also was uncertain of how much slack to leave in the string when attaching to the posts and Justin also made that very clear. Now I have changed my strings on my Taylor GS-mini and look forward to changing the strings on my Martin acoustic.


That’s nice to hear. Having learned to change strings reminded me of having learned to tie my shoes in that it became an automatic process after 3 or 4 attempts.

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Yes, using a guitar tech or luthier in the past makes me feel like I have been paying someone to tie my shoes for the last 30 years.

One Year anniversary notes 2023

14Aug2023 - I earned my one year anniversary badge on July 4, 2023, but haven’t responded until now. It seems awkward, in a way to celebrate one full year with Justin’s method. I completed the classic course a few years ago and played through all the songs in Beginner Book 1 and then gave up on Grade 4 practices due to lack of consistency in practice and frustration and boredom with my rigid practice schedule.

What I can celebrate is my first year of practicing almost every day in every week of the year. I have benefited from retiring, finding a fixed time of the day to practice near the beginning of the day and Justin’s new course. The new Grade 3 has been my anchor in having new things to learn while I consolidate Grades 1 and 2 and especially providing the tools to learn how to practice and learn.

Some important things I’ve learned in the last year:

  • Interacting with the JG Community while going through all the modules. I’ve gotten some important feedback and help along the way.
  • Recording yourself really does help with identifying weaknesses. I just starting recording and posting to YouTube and linking to the Community Recordings AVOYP section this year. It was a real eye opener with my recent videos playing electric guitar. But since in my lifetime, 90% of my playing has been on an acoustic, that shouldn’t have surprised me. Now I know where to work on weaknesses.
  • I’ve learned there is a big difference between playing a song in practice and playing to record for a video. It is the difference between just knowing and mastering. You have to know the song a lot better before you record. The same goes for with and without a metronome. The pressure of not stopping for the video or for the metronome, means you don’t have any time for thinking of the next chord hand position or note of a scale. Unfortunately in the past I’ve usually played through a song until I get it right one time and then go on to the next song.This year I’ve worked on songs every practice for up to 2 weeks, but I still need to improve that.
  • I’ve finally learned to not follow Justin’s practice routine rigidly, especially beginning in Grade 3. Justin says to adapt the practice schedule to your needs but in the past I ignored that. Now I readjust my practice, even after a few days of starting a module, as I learn where I need to focus my practice and what to add to keep me interested. I’ve also started taking the 50% fun/ 50% practice routine more seriously, by starting to have fun practice weeks followed by a week of structured practice. The gives me time to have some momentum on my fun guitar playing activities.
  • I’ve learned to not compare my progress to others in the community. I’m not going to progress, practicing 30-40 minutes each day as fast as someone practicing 2 to 4 hours a day.
  • Finally, after a year, I finally set aside the time (and overcame my reluctance) to change the strings on my 5 guitars - 2 acoustic, 2 electric and a classical. I’ve been putting off recording until I had fresh strings. BTW, it took me 10 days to complete the changing the strings on 5 guitars, because I am slow. I removed the strings one day and wiped down the fretboard with lemon oil on day 1 and replaced the strings on day 2, except for the classical which I replaced 1 at a time as recommended. FYI, I recommend the JG video for changing acoustic guitar strings for the method of attaching the strings to the tuning heads. It is simpler than the electric guitar video for changing strings, which is an older video. The tuning peg string attachment method works for acoustic and electric.

I still need to start using my DAW setup with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. I finally decide on using GarageBand after trying to use Ableton Live Lite with my near sighted vision. Since I don’t have a dedicated studio, I have to set everything up including mic stands and microphone before I record, so I have to set aside a good block of time.

I’m not posting any special videos as others have done for my 1 year anniversary. My AVOYP video of Fields of Gold gives a good measure of my progress to date though:

You can compare my first AVOYP video That’s All Right Mama (2nd video of 4th take version) posted on 14Sept2022 (public service message - you can start listening at 0:45 mark)

To my most recent acoustic AVOYP video Fields of Gold posted on 22Feb2023 (you can skep the talk and start listening at 1:00 mark):

To see some of my progress this year.

I’ve spent a lot of time practicing the Blues Study - Lick N’ Riff in Module 18, so maybe I can record a video of that before the end of the month.


You can also celebrate the progress that you have made over the course of the year. Good work maintaining that level of motivation, dedication and practice over the year. Best wishes for the next year.

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Congrats on your progress and your 1st Justin Year :confetti_ball:

Loved to read your insights.

50% fun/ 50%

Interesting point. I honestly had a hard time when the practice became one hour in the course and as I thought it was just a hobby, rather have some more “fun” sessions now and then. Sometimes it’s just nice to get back to what you learned and just play it for fun. Oftentimes it can help to reinforce older concepts not in the current routine and maybe to a spontaneous improvisation, exploration, songwriting etc. which also can help the progress.

Wish you a great keeping keeping on!

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James, thanks for the kind words and keeping it positive. I can hear the progress when I listened to the first and last videos again.

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Congratulations Steve on your guitar anniversary. Lots to be proud of there mate.
The ‘theme’ that stood out for me was you’ve got some structure, clarity and direction happening. That’ll be why you’re progressing so consistently.
Big year coming up for ya :+1:.
All the best.

Cheers, Shane

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Marcel, thanks for the congrats. I had to break up the hour practice into two 30 minute practices and then add the extra fun days. It takes 4 times longer to finish one practice session, but I have more fun

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Shane, thanks for your words of encouragement. Yes, Justin provides a framework for learning, so no matter what extra fun things I add from outside the course, I can still have a way to see that I am making progress.