Steve L’s Learning Log

5Feb2024 - New guitar amp day - I got a Positive Grid
Spark GO miniature amp this past week I like the portable size and the volume is all I need for practice.
I can store behind my computer monitor and grab and plug in when I practice:

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9Feb2024 - I made my first good recording from my Strat though the Spark Go clean (rhythm) channel preset into Garage Band. I made some earlier recordings and forgot to turn off the internal microphone in the laptop. This is the Wish You Were Here intro from my Grade 2 consolidation. It is not up to tempo (just 70 bpm) and had a few minor mistakes, but overall I was pleased with mostly playing on tempo with the click track and the tone of the chords with the guitar-amp combination:

(Stream episode Wish You Were Here - Spark Go - Strat - SteveL - 9Feb2024 - 2:9:24, 6.38 AM by Sbguitar podcast | Listen online for free on SoundCloud)

I also played on acoustic guitar and recorded on my iPhone with Justin’s metronome app running:
in background:

There are a few mistakes and I got off the tempo a few times but this is a good start to build on and hopefully I can record a better version in a few months

12Feb2024 - I am starting Module 21 today from Grade 3. I realized when looking at Justin’s practice routine description again that I have not tried to learn any Dreamer Songs in my practice routine. I probably am just staying away from the more advanced songs because I had gotten discouraged and given up. I have been practicing Campfire Songs and Developer Songs, which I will define as songs from grades I have completed and songs from the grade that I am currently practicing. So Dreamer Songs would be songs from grades ahead of me. It is time to attempt a few grade 4 songs in my practice routine.

To give me more time to practice songs, I have decided to change my practice schedule of alternating weeks of grade 3 practice and grade 2 consolidation and add a 3rd week of repertoire development with addition of practice material from videos and books outside of Justin. This will prepare me for Grade 4, since I have decided that is how I will structure the practice in Grade 4. The extra week will allow some flexibility in recording the final grade 2 repertoire and finally spending some time playing along with the original recording as I had resolved to do in January but sadly did not follow up on.

My grade 4 dreamer or challenge songs will all be acoustic guitar based songs. My electric guitar playing still lags my acoustic by at least a grade level since I have spent most of my life just playing acoustic. I am focusing on electric guitar in my grade 2 consolidation and continuing to record RockSchool Debut (Grade 1 level songs) with backing track.

25Feb2024 - I have decided to learn The Rolling Stones song “Angie” for my first dreamer song. It has been on my list for a LONG time. When I got interested electric blues guitar in 1999 and started buying everything on the blues I could find, I got this issue of Guitar Techniques:

Notice the featured song is Angie. I tried to learn a few times but didn’t have the patience or the good practice routines and learning practices that I needed. Hopefully from what I have learned from Justin so far and from pages 96-99 in the Vintage Songbook, I can master the intro some day.

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28Feb2024 - I have recorded a practice piece that I wrote with a simple chord progression of D to Dsus4, A7sus4 to A7, C9 without and with high G, and big G with module 11 fingerstyle pattern. I recorded first on my acoustic guitar:

Then I recorded playing on my classical guitar for comparison:

This is the first thing that I have played and recorded on my classical guitar. Notice I used a foot stool and positioned on my left leg. I haven’t played the classical in years. I did change the strings on my classical back in August, but the strings 1 and 2 (E and B) had gone out of tune enough to require turning the tuning pegs a full turn. I developed this while working on Grade 2 consolidation with Module 11 with sus chords and fingerstyle. Since, I am the strongest in this skill I decide to make a first stab at songwriting. This is just a short segment, but I could work it into a song later. I just practiced each for 10 minutes before recording, so it is not perfect.

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Given the different necks and spacings on the two guitars you’ve done a really good job. The classical was maybe a little cleaner performance wise but the steel strung sounds livelier, brighter, better.


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Brian, thanks for watching and for your positive feedback. I had to try the classical because I thought that the wider neck and spacing between the strings would help me get a cleaner sound. The acoustic could be cleaner with a lot more practice. They would both sound better with a better microphone.

07April2024 - I am continuing to progress in Grade 3 Module 21 and consolidate Grade 2 skills. I practice Justin 6 days a week. On Sundays I decided last year to use the church guitar (contemporary music) training DVDs from Musicademy (of the UK) since I had it laying around unused from 2007. I had already finished the 3 beginning DVDs and now going through the 3 song lesson DVDs, which just have chords and strums for songs and no lyrics, so they provide additional guitar practice. Here are a couple of examples. I had to transcribe the chord chards, strum patterns and finger style pattern by hand since I didn’t have any TAB or chord charts to use, so I guess that is also good practice. I only practice 20 to 30 minutes on Sunday so it takes a long time to transcribe and practice the short song segment but I am in no hurry on my “day off”.
Here is my 1st hand written chord chart:

Here is the practice song piece (I left out the F#m and G#m repeat segment):

Here is the other chord chart (I would have used GuitarPro but I haven’t learned how to put chord diagrams anywhere on the page):

and the other song lesson played from the transcribed page:

I didn’t include the song titles for 3 reasons:
1 - to reduce the chance of copyright issues
2 - to reduce the appearance of promoting religious songs
3 - mainly because I haven’t actually heard the original songs and don’t know them, so it is mostly irrelevant.

I am just including this two videos to show what I have worked on on my extra days for the last few months (e.g. I worked on the second song for 7 Sundays in Jan and Feb)…

I have also added some exercises from the Blues Guitar from Scratch book by Bruce Emory to my Module 21 practice routine to keep it interesting. Here is a recording I made of one of my favorite exercises where you play a harmonized version of the blues shuffle for E and A chords with thumb and one finger. It sounds a little like the intro to Clapton’s Change the World

GRADE 2 Consolidation demonstrations

For Grade 2 consolidation progress I have made records of my playing the E minor pentatonic, C major and A minor pentatonic scales and a shord demo of there power chords with an intro showing the master of proper string muting.

Playing the E minor pentatonic scale at 80, 100 and 120 BPM with all down picking

E minor pentatonic scale demonstration

Playing the C major scale at 80, 100 and 120 BPM and alternate picking:

C major scale demonstration

Playing the A minor pentatonic scale at 80, 100 and 120 BPM. I started with alternate picking and then at faster speeds I switched to all down picking without thinking since that is how I had learned in the past. I added a demo of the more complicated 3 ascending and descending pattern at 100 BPM since I have practiced that in the past, even before learning via Justin guitar.

A minor pentatonic scale demonstration

I played a demo of power chords with an intro showing the proper muting technique while picking individual notes for 6 and 5 string power chords:

Power Chords demonstration

I recorded all the grade 2 skill demos in one sitting. I wasn’t playing any song in the power chord video, I was just improvising a progression to show the different power chord movements.

11Apr2024 - Continuing with Grade 2 consolidation, with the new appreciation that I haven’t shown some mastery of a consolidation skill piece or song until I have recorded my performance, which is especially important if you don’t have a live teacher. Even though it has been 20 months since I first learned Happy Birthday in Grade 2 module 11, I went back and relearned since I haven’t played or practiced any in the last 20 months. I’m now in Grade 3 module 21, so I am running out of time to finish Grade 2 consolidation before I finish Grade 3. Here is my video:

I changed the way I practiced and created a TAB of the song incorporating all the hints in the lesson discussion:

I played through the melody (black notes) for each of the 4 sections or phrases 10 times using the index or first finger. Then I played through the melody notes for each of the 4 sections 10 times, but holding down or fretting the red bass note (but not playing with the thumb). Next I played each section slowly and played the bass notes with the thumb and the melody note with the index finger for each of the 4 sections. Then I slowly played through sections 1 and 2, then 3 and 4 and finally the whole song.

I even listened to the JG website song lesson again. It is interesting that the pdf is 3:4 meter and the TAB in the lesson video is written as 6 beats to the measure. I decided to do my tab as 3:4 meter or 3 beats to the measure. I started to use Guitar Pro, but I didn’t know how to split measure easily to display like above. I still have a lot to learn in GuitarPro.


18Apr2024 - I am continuing with final Grade 2 consolidation review and recordings with focus this week on the Blues lessons in module 13. I have recorded the blues progression in A with 70 bpm metronome:

Blues progression in A at 70 bpm- SteveL - 18Apr2024

and the beginner blues solo with 70 bpm metronome, both on my iPhone.

Beginner blues solo at 70 bpm - SteveL - 18Apr2024

I uploaded both tracks and synched in GarageBand and saved audio and uploaded to SoundCloud. This is the first time I have tried to do this and found out that I have to really expand the tracks in GarageBand to get precise synching of the two tracks. Here is the virtual duet created from the two recordings:

Virtual blues duet with progression in A and beginner blues solo - Steve

I got a little off rhythm in the last couple of measures ( I need to fight the impulse to rush to the finish), but otherwise I was surprised that I could get the two tracks to synch and sound like a blues duet. Now I just need to add a blues drum rhythm track and learn to play blues bass :slight_smile:

I’m far from an expert on Garageband or any DAW for that matter, but it sounds like you did not do the standard method of recording multiple tracks for a single piece. First, record the rhythm track in Garageband and then record the lead part over it. i.e. you listen to the recorded rhythm track while you record the lead part. No need to sync anything at all.

Unless I’m misunderstanding what you did :thinking:

Oh, btw, sounded pretty good!

@jjw John, you are correct. That is the normal way to create a 2 part track, but I had already recorded the two parts to a metronome and wanted to see how well they worked together. I did both recordings on my iPhone and imported into GarageBand as separate tracks, since I don’t have a permanent recording studio setup. I have just gotten a microphone recently, but haven’t started to record via a microphone with a DAW yet. I will get there eventually. :slight_smile:

BTW, thanks for listening and for the positive review of my playing.

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20Apr2024 - continuing with recording grade 2 skills and fun with blues.

I recorded the blues riff in A without palm muting:

Blues Riff in A with no palm muting - Steve

and with palm muting, both at 70 bpm:

Blues riff in A with palm muting - Steve

The palm muting needs more practice, but I will have plenty of that in the future.

I then playied my blues progression in A and recorded my first unrehearsed and untabbed blues solo on acoustic guitar. This will give a baseline to judge my improvement in the future:

my first recorded blues solo improv or jam - Steve

It’s a little ragged, especially in the first few bars. I had copied my blues progression in A rhythm track into Transcribe software and allowed to loop 4 times. Each time I tried to create a different solo. I am always surprised that I can do anything improvised.


21Apr2024 - As I approach the end of grade 3 and transition to Grade 4 I have modified my schedule. I first used the song week to work on grade 2 final consolidation review and recording to make sure I finished before I started grade 4, then I added a third week for songs, because you can’t leave out the songs. Then I decided to also add a week to explore all the other tutorial materials I have gathered over the years for fingerstyle, blues, rock, etc. I only allow about 40 to 45 min/day for practice, so I had to break up the practice sessions anyway and I takes about 4 weeks per module in grade 3. Now I am at 16 weeks or 4 months per module. It was getting hard for me to remember what I was working on in a given week so I added a weekly focus log. Here is the list for 6 months of 2024 (I am just planning a little ahead to allow for changes):

Of course, I still use my module practice table to list the practice schedule elements and record the date completed and my daily practice log to record details.

22Apr2024 - I made recordings of my Rockschool (RSL Awards) Debut Exam book song performances with backing track in GarageBand. I played these on my Strat and the bridge pickup into my Positive Grid Spark Go mini-Amp and the 2nd channel default lead amp model preset run directly into my laptop via USB cable and into GarageBand :

Hey Joe

If you can only listen to one and like blues, then listen to my lead guitar on Hoochie Coochie Man. This took the longest to master, since the beginning is call and response lead playing against the backing track and then lead with the backing track with a lot of syncopation in the tabbed solo.

Hoochie Coochie Man

Ain’t No Sunshine

Stand By Me

Stay With Me

Rockschool is not a method or tutorial. It is a series of graded exams for certification in the UK by RSL Awards Ltd. I am not trying to get credentials. I am just playing through the Rock Guitar performance exam song books for extra experience with electric guitar. The Debut grade level is the ground floor level or what I consider grade 1. I purchased the book via Amazon and use it mainly because the book comes with a link to downloadable professional backing tracks for each song. Since the RSL Performance Certificate requires playing 5 songs for an examiner, I decided to record 5 of the songs. When I record Grade 1 songs in the future, I’ll try to have improved tone from the amp and cleaner playing from the guitar.


2June2024 - I am happy to be starting Grade 3 Module 22 this week, the last module of Grade 3. In the next four months I will actually complete Grade 2 consolidation by mastering and performing a 10 song set of grade 2 songs, something i have never done before. I have recently learned that consolidation is not the review or revision of Grade 2 skills and exercises, but the actual application of those skill in songs. I have made a preliminary list of 10 songs that I will work on following Justin’s suggested steps for learning to play and sing songs. I will be working on the Rockschool Grade 1 (really grade 2 level) Electric Guitar exam songbook for my electric guitar practice and will select 5 songs to practice to record later. I will look at the beginning grade 4 lessons before I start grade 4 to prepare for starting grade 4 at the end of September.


Great to see your progress Steve.

Back in November, we discussed that we were both working on grade 3 and wanted to keep our motivation as high as possible. So, I’m really happy to see that we both successfully achieved our goals. :slight_smile:

On a positive note, the step between grade 3 and grade 4 appears smaller than I anticipated. So, that’s a good news for us.

It’s probably due to the 6 months consolidation that I did learning the first 10 songs in the JustinGuitar Rock Songbook which were ranging from grades 2 to 5.

Your consolidation plans seem similar so I’m pretty sure it will give good results. Grade 4 is a lot of fun, even more if you enjoy Blues.

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These are wise words and I thought it worth quoting :+1::+1:

So many songs Steve…I wish I were half as brave as you are, because no doubt that’s when we play songs that we actually learn about music! Have a good time with your playing! :blush:


Mathieu, thanks for the encouraging words. You are well ahead of me in learning rock guitar. I will probably start learning the songs in the Rock Songbook later this year. I am further along with acoustic guitar than I am with electric guitar, since I had learned how to play the fingerpicked songs like Dust in the Wind, Landslide and Blackbird a few years ago. But like Justin says, everyone has their strengths in guitar. I do hope to get better with electric rock guitar, but with just 20 to 40 minutes of practice each day I don’t expect to ever be great. I do enjoy the blues so I will definitely enjoy Grade 4. I hope you have great progress and fun as you learn grade 4.

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Thanks Sylvia. I read this somewhere in the community and it has encouraged my recent focus on songs.