Steve L’s Learning Log

15Nov2023 - Back on 27Aug2023, I said: 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.

I finally finished recording the 6 Rockshool Premier exam pieces in my Focusrite / GarageBand DAW setup. That’s 11 months after I bought the Scarlett Focusrite 2i2 last December. I searched the Justin Guitar community site and I only saw a couple of mentions of Rockschool (RSLAwards) exams and nobody posting anything, so I wondered if either there is no interest or there is some prohibition regarding this material. Regardless I am boldly going forward and posting my SoundCloud sound clips. Note that the Debut exam has been the ground floor or “grade” 1 exam in the past. The Premiere exam seems to have been added recently as a “preschool” level exam. The “method book” is just an intro to reading notes in the first position in TAB, along with some simple 1 finger open chord fragments and 1 finger power chords to prepare you for the 6 exam pieces in different styles or genres. They are so simple that they are barely recognizable as that style (except for rock and metal), but I think it could be a supplement for Grade 1 electric guitar practice.
Since it has no associated video, you would want to wait until after module 4 before trying these exercises.

This is a lot of firsts for me. The first time recording electric guitar with a DAW, the first time using the guitar modeling amps and tones in GarageBand, the first time playing along to a backing track while recording and the first time using SoundCloud.

All of these songs were played on my Fender Strat (Mexican model, no humbucker) using the bridge pickup through the Focusrite and into GarageBand with different amp models and tone settings. I spent a week learning the songs and a week recording, so it is not perfect. I can identify a couple of mistakes in each piece, but that gives me something to work on and also lets you know that this is not a professional record LOL.

All of these SoundCloud recordings are about 45 to 55 seconds long.

If you don’t want to listen to all 6 tracks, listen to the Country - Road to Nashville and the Metal - Lead Boots one after the other. Both were played on a Strat with single coil bridge pickup - just different GarageBand tone settings. If you are new to this like I am, you will be amazed at the range of tones you can achieve one guitar.

Rock - Rock City: Rock City

( GarageBand electric guitar amp tone preset: Crunch Guitar / Broke Up Brit )

Pop - Party People. Party People

( GarageBand electric guitar amp tone preset: Clean Guitar / Amazing Tweed )
I missed the F#, 4th String, 4th Fret, when my pinkie failed me. That specific note was not in the practice exercises, just the F# for String 6, Fret 1.

Country - Road to Nashville: Road to Nashville

( GarageBand electric guitar amp tone preset: Clean Guitar / Chicken Pickin’ - I got that tone recommendation from a YouTube GarageBand video)

Metal - Lead Boots : Lead Boots

(The SoundCloud files is mislabeled. I used the Strat on this also (no humbucker), after I found that my Epiphone LP had a short in the wiring. I used GarageBand amp tone preset of Crunch Guitar/Heartbroken. I was amazed at the tone I got. This tone also came from a YouTube GarageBand video tone setting recommendation )

Indie - Parka Life: Parka Life

( GarageBand electric guitar amp tone preset: Clean Guitar / Brit and Clean )

Hip Hop - Represent: Represent

( GarageBand electric guitar amp tone preset: Clean Guitar / Brit and Clean )

I am mostly putting these here as a reference for where I am with playing electric guitar, since most of my experience has been playing the acoustic guitar. It is also a first step to recording the exam pieces for the Rockschool Guitar Debut grade which I am using as a supplement to the electric guitar songs in the Justin Guitar website.

Good to see you making progress Steve.

I can only assume its because folk here are learning Justin’s structured courses and not using Rockschool -of which I have little if any knowledge - but hey if it works for you, rock on.

@TheMadman_tobyjenner Toby, thanks. I can understand that there is enough in JG course and songs to keep yourself occupied for life. Rockschool is not a course, just a series of song books graded from 0 to 8 to use for exams in the UK. I had seen the song selections featured in Total Guitar and Guitar Techniques magazines, both UK based guitar magazines, which I get online on my iPad since I am in the US. I have purchased books 0 to 2 on Amazon and book 2 had two page tabbed versions of Californication and Enter Sandman, which are also in Justins song lessons. Justin has written a column for years in the Guitar Techniques magazine. Since the Rockschool exam pieces have been in the same issue, I was just surprised that there had been so little mention on such a large group. I got interested because the exam books have professional backing tracks that you can download for the song, which will come in handy when I start recording real songs. I don’t plan on paying to take the guitar performance exams, but I thought that working through the graded songs could supplement Justin’s songs in the earlier grades and provide another way to test my progress.


19Nov2023 - progress update and planning notes for myself - Tomorrow I will continue with the module 19 practice routine. I started module 19 on the 21st of August and have had a lot of diversions and lapses in my practice. I had 9 days in September where I missed practice entirely. During the hot summer months we had started walking our dogs earlier and I was playing or practicing guitar later, but now I am back to guitar first thing in the morning. I have also taken time away from Grade 3 practice to finally finish some personal consolidation goals.:

  1. I took time off to do annual review of basics. I listened to all the Grade 1 videos and did practice routines for a week in the JG app and redid the Strumming Foundations course in the app.

  2. I finally memorized the chords and lyrics from five Grade 1 songs and performed on acoustic guitar while singing from memory, not using chord/lyric song sheet.

  3. I finally set up my FocusRite / GarageBand DAW and learned how to record my electric playing along with a backing track, using some simple rock guitar studies in different styles from the Rockschool Premiere exam book.

I will continue with Grade 3 module 19 practice tomorrow. I will do a week of module 19 practice, then continue with the Grade 2 consolidation review on alternate weeks going through all the Grade 2 videos in the JG app, complete Grade 2 consolidation goals as they appear in the lessons and practice Grade 2 songs. That suggests a path forward for my practice. When I finish Grade 2 consolidation, then I can start learning Grade 4 with Grade 3 review and songs on alternate weeks. I can see that you need 3 levels - learning, practice and finally perform.

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26Nov26 - since I have been working on fingerstyle in my acoustic guitar practice for Module 19, I thought that I would add a couple of recordings of simple fingerstyle (just pattern 1) with nice fretwork from a book I have been using Fingerstyle Guitar From Scratch. I am only on page 9 but I like the arrangements with interesting chord voicings. I played both exercises through twice and in both cases the second time is the charm. Some day I will get over camera shyness.

Excercise 9a:
(Note: I have small hands, so the F chord with thumb and transition to the D7/F# was difficulty for me. Fortunately I wasn’t picking the high E or string 1).

Exercise 9b:
(I tried the second time with stiffer fingers and firmer attack with better volume)

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We both are working on grade 3 since a few months, so I enjoy reading your learning log from times to times. We are almost at the same place, since I started module 20 pratice today.

I found some modules really fun like Greensleeves and Blues lead fingerstyle and some other modules less fun.

Did you have some motivation problems too in grade 3 ? Maybe I’m not the only one haha ?

Anyway, I need to keep my focus and stop procrastinating as I trust Justin’s learning plan. I want to start 2024 with grade 4 as there are modules about barre chords and blues.

@math07 Thanks for taking the time to look at my learning log. I do have motivation problems, but keep a table of my practice progress and return to the schedule after doing something else. I am going the regular practice schedule every other week and will start module 20 in another 2 weeks. I plan to start on grade 4 next year also. Good luck with staying on track and progress getting to grade 4.

You are making good progress, Steve. Your fingers and thumb on the righthand look quite tense, or maybe just the angle of thethumb and the way it curls up.

I suggest sticking to the technique in the first video. It was loud enough and the second seemed to get some extra string buzz, maybe through the use of a heavier action?

The thumbover technique may improve over time. Certainly in my case it was totally beyond me for the first few years of playing and then at a point I could manage the D/F#. Nothing specific done, just a result of the playing and practice over time.

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Enjoyed listening to these Steve, as they are similar to some of the folk finger style patterns I have been working on. Good advice from David but I would add for the buzzing in the 2nd recording, I think it is due to your fingers being a distance from the fret, especially when fretting in both 3rd and 1st. The teacher of the Blues Acoustic course I have been doing this year often shows the fingering using the pinkie instead of the ring finger for those shapes. Also allow for bass runs to be played on the 6th and 5th while the 3rd string rings out. Took me a while to get used to it but not having to finger full chords for this type of playing gives you options. You may find it useful.


@DavidP David, thanks for taking the time to look at my learning log videos. Your comment about my thumb was interesting, since it was pointed out to me early in my Justin Guitar journey by @Tbushell that I had a “hitchhikers” thumb. Here is my picture from Module 0, How to Hold a Pick that illustrates the point (first picture):

I appreciate your observations and advice. I’ll probably avoid trying to fingerpick harder, especially when I get my Rode NT1 condenser microphone set up.

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27Nov2023 - I started review of Grade 2 videos on the JG app today. I will alternate between Grade 2 review and continuing with Grade 3 on alternate weeks. As i come to items that are on my Grade 2 consolidation list I can record and close out that item if I think the progress is sufficient. This is my big push to finish Grade 2 consolidation. Hopefully when I finish Grade 3 in about 6 to 7 more months. I will have finished Grade 2 consolidation and be ready to focus on Grade 4, with eventual review of Grade 3 material. If I finish Grade 2 consolidation before finishing Grade 3, then I will start learning a few songs from Grade 4 so that i will have 3 levels of song from Grades 2, 3 and 4.

Toby, thanks for the advice. I will give your suggestion a try next time.

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28Nov2023 - I realized while rewatching the Muting Strings Deliberately lesson in Module 8, that I had completely forgotten the intent and content of this lesson. I thought it was about muting strings while playing chords. Wrong! This is about deliberate string muting while playing scales and single note riffs and phrases. I will have to rewatch this a few more times and get it fixed in memory and try to practice. I remember SRV saying that part of his signature tone was due to lots of deliberate string muting while playing his blues solos. I found that with my fat stubby fingers string muting comes easily with my fretting hand, but pick hand muting will take some time. At least I only have to use pick hand muting on ascending lines or phrases or playing from to 6th to the 1st string.