Steve L’s Learning Log

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.

Congrats on your Guitarversary, Steve. I enjoyed the Fields of Gold recording. Well done on the picked finger-style interlude. Keep on keeping on!

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27Aug2023 - I have started Module 19 in Grade 3 this past week after spending the prior week reviewing the lesson videos with guitar in hand. Since one of the main lessons in this module is singing, for which I have already received a couple of years of training at the university level, I am using this as an opportunity to explore fingerstyle in more detail. I had planned on using the DVD lessons and book by
David Hamburger:

But the book starts with Travis fingerstyle and advances to acoustic fingerstyle blues.

Instead I am going to use a simpler book that I had on my shelf for several years:

It is easier and starts with the same 1st fingerstyle pattern in Justin’s lesson (that I am very familiar with and can play in my sleep) and has 14 pages of exercises for that fingerstyle pattern with different chord progression, so I can also use the exercises with the other fingerstyle patterns Justin demonstrates for which I am less familiar. I also liked the easier entry into Travis fingerstyle with the popular song fingerstyle patterns and chords (but not the whole song). When I complete this book, I will continue with the Hamburger Fingerstyle book, which will lead me back to acoustic blues again.

For electric, I am going back to the Rockschool Debut and Grade 1 electric exam songs that I had played through before starting back with Justin’s new course. I did not record, so my speed, tempo and accuracy are probably due for some work. I will be able to evaluate all of that if I record. I’ll probably start with the Premier exam songs from the new Rockschool method book. They are super easy and should give me some confidence as I learn to record using the new DAW and incorporate the provided Rockschool backing tracks.


9Sept2023 - while looking for Grade 2 electric guitar songs I discovered the video lesson for Smokestack Lightning blues song. It is labeled as a Grade 2 song, but I would call it a Grade 3+ or even a Grade 4. It is a series of blues riffs which also uses steady bass. I decided I needed to go ahead and learn steady bass to learn this song so I am starting to learn the steady bass exercises from the Acoustic Guitar Fingerstyle book, since Justin says learn what you need to learn to play songs.

22Sept2023 - I was inspired by a comment by @Richard_close2u to a post “ I recommend you go back to the beginner courses. I have read that Jack Nicklaus used to begin every pre-season by saying to his golf coach - teach me how to swing a golf club. It never hurts to go back to basics, ensure good habits and fill any gaps in learning, strengthen any weaknesses in technique.”
Since I have recently completed a year in Justin Guitar (new course, since I had previously completed the. Classic beginner course), I decided the take a week off from my Grade 3 lessons and review the basics in modules 0 - 7. I subscribed to the Justin Guitar app subscription for a year so I decided to review all the lessons in the app but listened at 1.5X speed to keep me alert. My review pace is 1 module each day - all lessons and the practice routine. I went back to the website to see the discussion threads for each lesson I completed and looked at unread posts.
Update - When I got to module 4 and 5, I started to slow down a little and started staying 2 days on each. The finger stretch exercise was introduced in Module 4. Since I have small hands, I was still adding that exercise in the practices at the beginning of Grade 3 and realized that I could still use some additional stretching. In module 5, Justin gives a strumming seminar in the strumming tips lesson and I realized that I had not fully explored what was covered in that lesson. In my opinion, strumming technique and automatic strumming with set strumming patterns, like many physical skills, gradually declines if you don’t practice and refresh your skills. When I practice scales and riffs and fingerpicking without much strumming, my strumming skills start going away. So this is a good skills refresh exercise this month.


27Oct2023 - Since I have purchased another year of the Justin app, I also got the Strumming foundations course, so after I completed the Grade 1 review in the app, I completed the strumming course to check my strumming foundations. I have also decided to use this time to finally record my 5 grade 1 songs, but with the added challenge of memorizing the lyrics. I have been setting up and learning to use my DAW, but decided to use the iPhone for these songs, since it is easier to set up and I have a limited amount of time in the morning. I have recorded 3 Little Birds and Hound Dog and will soon record Stand By Me and Ain’t No Sunshine. I will re-record the song That’s All Right, Mama, my first recording, with lyrics memorized and hope to add the songs A Horse No Name and Take Me Home, Country Roads to bring the total to seven, one song for each module in Grade 1. I can memorize the chords easily, but memorizing the lyrics has always been a challenge for me, so I have the lyrics on my phone and practice the lyrics during the day when I am walking.


Look forward to hearing them Steve. I’ve been wondering where you had disappeared to… it seems you got lost down the rabbit hole of DAWs.

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@Socio James, thanks. I am beginning to pull myself out of the rabbit hole. I recently got the Rode NT1 microphone to add to my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and found that you can’t record when others are watching television in the house. I finally gave up on the sophisticated software that was included with the Scarlett and decided to use GarageBand on my Mac to make life easier for me. I had the 5 songs on my incomplete consolidation list and while I was able to play the chords, because I can partly remember the chords playing by ear, I wanted to have some campfire songs I could play from memory. Also, I am working out interesting strums for the songs and can see how I can eventually add rhythm and bass track when I record in the DAW. It has been a little painful to put my blues and fingerstyle on hold for a month, but I had to concentrate and do a lot of repetition to get these memorized.

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30Oct2023 - I posted my 5 memorized campfire song to AVOYP:

My 5 Grade 1 campfire songs memorized lyrics

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