Stuartw’s Learning Log

I’ve made peace with my ability to learn, my drive and discipline to practice and so no longer experience any significant frustration. I do sometimes feel a moment of (unfavourable) comparison and envy coming on and squash that as quickly as possible.

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The same. Gave up a while ago worrying about others progression. Doesn’t do your head any good!

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It doesn’t :slight_smile:

No it didn’t, thanks. It just boils down to me spending more time to the lessons. It’ll stick at some point.

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April 2024.

Well, here we go again with another annual update to my LL or whatever you would call it. This time last year my dad had just died so that last 12months has been a bit odd without him although, as he believed, he has gone to a better place!

It’s about 4 years since I started this journey and would say that I am still (mostly) enjoying it, although there have been quite a few frustrations along the way again. According to someone (I can’t remember who) frustrations are a good thing! This is going to be a long journey!

I can happily say that I have completed Grade 2 and am OK with most of the topics covered in the course apart from:

  • String muting – I can’t this to sound right. It’s either all dead strings or not, with no halfway house. I also end up scratching my hand on the bridge.
  • Fingerstyle- Had a go at this, but that’s about it. Can just about do Happy Birthday, although harder than expected. Not sure if I will be progressing anymore of this. Time will tell. I noted on the discussion part of this that ‘other stuff to concentrate on with the limited practice time I have’. Still holds true.
  • Re-active listening – I don’t (and still don’t) get this. I did the exercises but as I noted in the discussion most of the notes work for me! Had quite a long discussion with @BurnsRhythm mid-year about developing the musical ear which helped.

As I noted this time last year, I can do the full barre F chord (up & down the neck) but chord changes to and from the barre are still giving me some grief at this point and are not really OK for songs! I’m doing PFC’s at every practice session to help with this and am using songs with the F barre in them also as practice.

As an aside I can also use the ‘A’ shape barre chords but again changing to/from is an issue.

I have progressed the Music Theory Course and have now passed Grade 3. Not started Grade 4 yet as have other things to worry about.

Again, as I noted last year I did try to record myself but not managed to satisfactorily do this. I know that Justin says that we should record ourselves but not really seeing how this will benefit me. I know what my problems are! I have no intention of recording as have no desire to perform whether live, for friends/family, OM’s or AVOYP. It’s just not something that I am comfortable with. Not being able to sing probably doesn’t help.

The major change in the came in August in response to one of my posts about Livestream #3. This is in a thread called “I feel disheartened at my own progress having watched Livestream #3!

I’m not going to bore you with rehashing all this again, but the main outcome was that I gave myself a bit of a slap and worked out a plan for going forward!

There were a couple of comments that are worth noting:

@Richard_close2u – you made a comment about ‘what things do I need the most’? I’m guessing the answer is learn songs. The problem with this, as I have said before, is that I don’t know or like most of the songs listed, but as @TheMadman_tobyjenner says you have to play a lot of stuff that you don’t like to get the playing ability. I get that!

Bottom line I have been practicing a lot of songs (even ones I don’t like) and seen some major improvement in lots of things.

As part of this I have been using Songbook Pro to store the tabs for songs. This is a great program and use it a lot.

As part of the ‘plan’ I finally created a spreadsheet for my training** in September, which is split into columns for warm up/scales/strumming/chords/songs, etc., and am using this as the basis for all practice, although not all get done at each session. I am finding the songs bit more interesting and helpful.**

I have also consciously stopped watching OM’s or AVOYP videos because of this as comparing yourself to others doesn’t help.

Due to the ‘learning songs’ I have just about stopped the ‘blues’ bit but may come back to that at some point.

I have started Grade 3 this year (2024) but module 15 is doing nothing for me really. The ‘6 guitar areas you should practice’ makes sense but have found the ‘ear training‘ bit difficult (and probably won’t be progressing this) and improvisation is not really my bag at this time. To be honest I have never really got improv. as it just seems to be random notes.

The D shape explorer lesson was useful, and I am using the various options in songs.

Have had a go at ‘linking chords using scales’ but can’t do this quick enough at the moment to make any use of it in songs. Before you say it, slowly does it!

Also had a go at transcribing songs. Let’s just say that I don’t think that I will be pursuing this one much. The songs listed to have a go at are just not my taste & too distorted to make any sense of. I had a look at Molly’s Lips on YT and still couldn’t work out what they were playing. How does this make me a better player?

The practice for this module suggests and hour but can’t always find the full 60mins. Some days it’s only 20-30mins. so have to pick & choose for the time available.

I need to talk about ‘clubs’. Initially I thought that these were an excellent idea but my enthusiasm waned quickly when realised that being ‘live’ was an issue in that there were no sub-titles. My ongoing hearing issues make this difficult and I’m trying to keep what I have.

In October I attended the first Music Theory Live Class 1, but found it way too advanced for my level of knowledge and nothing like what I was expecting. Too many fancy chords which I never knew existed and overall very difficult to follow. A lot of the items where explained too quickly to make any sense of.

Didn’t help that I missed the first 10mins. as I couldn’t figure out the audio. Probably only the second time I have used zoom as generally use Teams.

Overall I have ended up watching about 2 and a bit ‘club’s’ and that was it. As Justin has done with some of his recordings videos of these would be useful to allow me to go back.

The other issue with the initial clubs was there were too many in a short period of time, with some at odd times for me.

Aspirations for 2024 –

  • I will carry on with Grade 3, but, like the other grades, may be on it a while.
  • I have decided that at some point in the year I’m going to go back to the ‘blues’ again. Not sure when yet.
  • I will also we trying to progress Music Theory Grade 4.
  • Learn more songs. Because I don’t sing I like to find songs with interesting chord progressions & multiple chords to provide a bit of interest, together with dynamics. Playing A, D & E (in whatever order) can get a bit boring!

If you are still reading, thanks.

Overall, the first half my year was treading water but has improved a lot since then and am mostly enjoying it with the usual frustrations!

As usual I don’ have enough practice time as the pressure of life (work and my poorly mum) will always impact on this, although I am trying to get as much as possible.

Thanks to Justin and the team for the excellent lessons and thanks to you lot on the forums. I know that I don’t post very often as I still feel that, at this point, I don’t have enough expertise to comment on people’s technique, etc.

I have been thinking a lot recently about this guitar playing thing and come to the conclusion that we are very privileged to have the opportunity to do this and should therefore make the most of it while we can. There must be millions of people in this world of ours that don’t have this opportunity.

Looking forward to another year of practice and playing.

See you in a year😊


Sorry to hear about the loss of your Dad and about your poorly Mum. Ageing parents are always a worry.

Excellent update!
Full and comprehensive, but above all, very honest.
You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into where you want to go with your guitar playing and what you can get out of it.
Like many of us reaching the end of Grade2 and starting Grade3, you realise that not everything in Grade3 will suit you. No harm in having a look at everything, but you can give more time to what interests you.

You’re right - trying to help others isn’t easy. We can all do our bit though.
It’s good to hear that our discussion helped in some way.

I totally get what you’re saying about recording. I don’t even record for myself. My take on it is that a recording is how I played it yesterday. I listen to how I’m playing it right now and try to improve it on the fly. Self assessment is a great tool.

Seems like you have a plan going forward. Good luck with the next 12 months! :guitar:

Stuart @Stuartw, thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I’ve just passed the 6-month mark in my “guitar project,” and I want you to know that you inspire me. I don’t share all of your challenges, but I do face some that you’ve mentioned and others that you haven’t. What I find so uplifting about this community is that we all share the desire to “do this thing,” so we persevere through the frustrations - not just with learning how to coax the sounds we want from these instruments, but with doing that while making our way through the rest of our lives, too.

You “putting it out there” in this log is a bold act. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you are making a very substantive contribution to this community and supporting others who are “where you used to be.”

I thank you for your commitment to the process. I hope it brings joy to your life, because you’ve certainly added some to mine.

Thank you for an in-depth honest annual review Stuart! You have a way with words, so it was also an interesting read.

I was glad to read this. It’s a long journey and the goal is never reached to be honest. But I guess that’s what makes it interesting.

Thank you for sticking with it and being part of this community! See you around the forum and see you in this thread in 12 months!

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Hey Stuart lots of good stuff here and all of a positive nature. I know you have presented a lot of self negativity in the past and a focus on Can’t not Can but you seem to be turning that around. I am another xls man , so if a spreadsheet works for you go for it. But in my opinion, you are moving forward and as I always say, this is not a sprint. Take your own time. I think you now realise this. it is up to you how long things take. Some will be quick some will be slow but it doesn’t matter. You are making progress, that is all that matters.

Keep going Stu !!


Great update Stuart. I always enjoying reading what others, particularly regulars, are up to.
Detailed and honest, which is where you wanna be I reckon. Some real great progress over the last year.

Just one comment if I may, re recording yourself. I’d encourage you to think about revisiting this; for your ongoing development, not for performing etc.

As with many things in life, we can be blind to some of our actions and behaviours. ( Just ask my wife :rofl:).

Recording your practice, particularly in areas that are problematic, can, and will, highlight actions, techniquesc etc that you are doing subconsciously that are hindering progress.
Also, hearing your song playing with focused ears, away from the act of playing the guitar, will be different. It puts you in the seat of the audience member.

I have found that recording my practice/ song playing to be both a very illuminating, and highly beneficial thing to do on a regular basis.

All the best.

Cheers, Shane

Thanks for responding to my post, which didn’t happen overnight and took 2-3 weeks work to review all that I have done over the year and give some thought as to where I want to go this coming year.

No point not being. Otherwise you are fooling yourself.

I’ve had a quick look through Grade 3. Not sure how I will get on with it but time will tell.

Thank you.

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Glad I can help but to be honest didn’t realise that I inspired anyone!

Indeed. If only I had more time.

You know what, it does bring joy and happy that it has helped you.

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Not sure about the way with words as only got a C in my English ‘O’ level all those years ago!

You certainly will, on both counts.

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Indeed I did and yes I’m a lot happy with things, subject to the usual frustrations of my hands not doing what they are supposed to!

I know. I borrowed the idea from you. :slight_smile: It works well for me.

I’m glad you think so as I don’t always see it.

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Thank you.

I know that I said that I would never do this but I believe that I have also said in other threads that you never know. I’ll se how things go during the year.

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Stuart @Stuartw

Apologies for not responding sooner to your LL but I wanted to give it considered response and when I come to do that, I find you posted it 10 days ago!!!

Sorry to hear that you have had a difficult time recently and sympathise with you, I am sure there are many in the community who have been through that sort of period, as I have.

You mention frustration, I think that is just par for the course, they come in different forms as you progress, but I think they are always going to be there.

You seem to be at about the same stage as me, out of Grade 2 and into Grade 3. To me Grade 3 is when Justin stops spoon feeding you what to do and some of the things you just have to work out yourself. The less said about Ear Training and Reactive listening the better.

I like finger style don’t give up on it as it adds a bit of flavour to some songs, however I differentiate that from trying to play Happy Birthday, to me that is almost Classic guitar playing.

Yes, the ability to play the E shaped barre chord by itself is one thing but being able to change in and out of it in a song is something quite different. Interesting you mention A shaped barre chords, I think Justin misses a trick here, as Bm occurs in the Keys of G, D and A and therefore comes up in a lot of songs, I know you could get away with B7 in a lot of songs. It comes up in Grade 4 and like you I gave it a go in the early stages of Grade 2 as I needed it.

Music theory – definitely worth pursuing that, not sure it lets you play any better but if you are like me, I need to know what I am doing and why. I think chords in the key and the basic theory of transposing is an essential skill to have as a minimum for a guitar player.

If you don’t like recording yourself then don’t do it but there are some real benefits.

Comparing yourself to others as you note was an issue, there is a natural tendency to do that, but we all have different abilities and learn at different rates. I did this comparison initially when I joined the guitar club and there are some very accomplished players, some of retirement age and have been playing since they were teenagers, I had to get realistic I was never going to reach their standard starting very late in life.

Totally agree that playing songs is what it is all about I think you have to overcome the hurdle of just playing the songs you like and be prepared to have a go at any song, you never know you might get to like them.

Big tick for SongbookPro, all my songs are stored there.

There are things like you in Grade 3 are difficult if you don’t have a good musical ear, I have watched all the transcribing video but not really had a go as I know I would be wasting my time, far better off spending it on other aspects for now.

I have joined some of the JG clubs, but there is obvious difficulty in that you have people attending with different abilities and knowledge so you can’t cater for everybody, all of the time.

Yes, I created a spreadsheet to cover all of the things I wanted to do in a practice session but must make a mental note and use it.

I noted near the end about treading water, but you have made some progress recently, I think this stepped approach to learning is fairly common, but no expert on that.

Sorry a bit lengthy but at least you are still playing and looking forward to the next year, hope it goes OK.


No apology needed.

Thanks for taking the time to read through my update, which, as I have noted, took some time to put together.


As you have noted this, in my view, should be earlier in the course.

I am and not going away any time soon!