The Madman's Learning Log

Great updates, as always, Toby. No doubt … The Madman is a Man with a Plan. You may feel the tarmac is still cold but from where I sit you continue to make steady progress that I don’t consider to be slow.

You are well disciplined and structured, following the paths that inspire you. Admire the way you link and integrate.

Perhaps a slightly different approach to recording and streaming to limit that Achilles Heel. I know you enjoy exploring, experimenting, and pushing the boundaries. But maybe settling on an approach and trying to use it consistently for OMs and recording for a wee while might save you some of the time spent diagnosing and resolving setup issues.

Look forward to more from the Studio in '24. Keep rocking on, my friend.

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As always, great update, Toby. Reading your latest entry it feels like I’m on a similar path as you but miles behind with training wheels still firmly on. It’s been a pleasure following you on the fingerstyle blues and blues rock soloing journey you took in 2023. Looking forward to following your planned journey for 2024.

Yes, pinch Toby’s process for laying out a yearly development plan.

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Been a bit busy the last few days and now have some time to reply.

Due to high winds, tall trees, broken trunks n branches and living on a main road (despite being in the sticks) with a fair amount of traffic a key time, aggri and freight, I’ve been out and about totting chains saws and climbing ladders. Never a dull moment. Think Madman Chainsaw Masa"Something". :axe: :open_mouth:

@NicoleKKB So thank you Nicole, the good thing about plans is actually sticking to them which I hope to this year. But mixing the music styles up should keep it interesting for sure. :sunglasses:

@roger_holland Roger like you said yours was an equally good read. Always good to draw a line in the sand and see what the next possibilities will be. I look forward to some deeper Dutch Blues diving, always good to push the boundaries. :wink:

@Jeff ain’t work a bummer ? I not only had that but I also had over 2 decades in Martial Arts, running a club and loads of courses and training weekends. Hardly surprising the 17 guitar years before retiring sucked before I found Justin. But hey ! Hang in there and use it as a destresser, Thanks for the comments on the last year its been fun and always good to share and get feedback. :+1:

@DavidP The man may have a plan but let’s hope they are more successful than Baldrick’s !
Structured yes, disciplined ? Well it depends on the wind but I try to stay the course for sure. The integration was always there but stepping back allows you to see the connection between what you think is 2 styles/genres. We know the Blues underpins all modern music but that 100W light bulb goes BANG when you see the dots join up. To be honest the recording has been really simple this year. Not many multi tracks and less Reaper, mainly straight into OBS and yes the standard portal into Zoom for the OMs. The tech issues have been a bit of a mystery but the biggest thing has just been RBS. Go figure ? 2024 ? We’ll see. :sunglasses:

@Socio James you are more than welcome to nick my framework, one reason I share if it inspires others, Speaking of which, you do yourself an injustice sir ! You have made great progress on your own acoustic Blues journey, so its been good to watch and be inspired by someone plotting a similar course. You should be proud of your achievements. Good job !

And on that score the “kid” has already delivered, so keep an eye on what-are-you-currently-listening-to. Posts to follow this weekend.

And on the JG Ground Up Review, after 2 days I am half way through Grade 1 Module 2 !!! Am I going too fast ?? :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:



A man with a plan, and lots of time for playing and practicing! Sounds like 2023 was a good year and 2024 will be as well.

You mentioned under the new grade system you’re not sure where you fit in. Isn’t the answer that you’ve graduated? There might be some updated tidbits but for the most part you finished the beginner & intermediate courses. I guess it means you can’t help out people with questions as easily… I wonder if that matters much, though.

Thanks JK appreciate the comments.

Funny I never signed up to graduate back in the day but I know what you mean as things are laid out now.

My Achilles heel is a lack of confidence in riffing, so I tend to shy away from that - huh just did an 1hr of hard rock metal riffing - so that’s part of the “review”.

But yes being able to help here when I can is a big thing for me. I have notice some subtle changes to some of the earlier lesson I’ve covered so far. Little things like thumb placement - no longer rigid centre neck at the start - allow me to be more in tune with the current syllabus. Does it matter ? Maybe not, there’s enough folk who have trodden the new path to make up for my ignorance. But for the sake of watching a few vids a day, its worth it for just the checks and balances.


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Well its been a week since I set out my stall for 2024. I spent a few days mapping out practice routines that reflect what I am currently learning/practicing, in the 3 core groups I intend to focus on. So the spreadsheet has been updated to reflect that and I have now assigned a 30 minute practice period to each main block ie Fingerstyle (Blues & Folk), Blues (Rhythm and Vocabulary/Soloing) and Hard Rock/Early Metal.

Early progress has been pretty good with a new acoustic Blues piece under my fingers in need of refinement. A longer Texas Blues style solo I really struggled with a year ago is beginning to fall into place or at least the first 12 bars. And an upbeat funky style Blues rhythm that made my head wobble last year, suddenly clicked. So laying a foundation down is paying dividends.
In roads into the Hard Rock has been to focus a mainly power chord work out with some fills. Early Days very loud and a lot of fun. :metal:

The Ground Up Review of Justin’s Grade system, saw me complete Grade 1 yesterday evening. :partying_face: I had a moment of panic when I checked out the How To Pass Grade One and could not recall a single song I’d memorized, let alone five. Flashback to CSEs and a blank sheet of paper. After getting my sheet together I summoned up 6 and announced myself as a Grade 1 Level Student - yee haar !!

So some observations on this process, before I get into Grade 2.

First get some damn songs in grained in my head !!

Things that impressed me compared to the Old Classic BC. I can now see why some folks make impressively fast progress given the new structure and material.

  • Riffs Already ! What a no brainer. Not one in sight on the old course and great for keeping folks interested. My earlier worries were misplaced as I mashed out the G1 riifs pdq and had a hoot !
  • Early Capos ! Again early introduction and explanation, against them just being discussed in song lessons.
  • Dm & the Pinkie !! OK now I understand all the Community questions. Ironically that is the fingering used in my Acoustic Blues so it all made sense.
  • Strumming Tips & Exploring ! The 5.2 section was a great resume and would have been fantastic back in the day. Ok most of it are the fundamentals of the old RUST DVDs but you had to buy them. I did,
  • Early Alternate Picking intro wow this never appeared until Old BC Stage 8 pretty much the end of Grade 2 now. Simple exercise but gets you started,
  • Early Air Changes - nah - never quite gelled with me but again introduced much sooner.
  • Feel Good Strumming - another great new pointer, especially for a frowny grumpy old git like me,

What surprised me ? Ear Training dropped as a subject and obviously now a separate course. And yes I was one of those folk who back in the day could not be assed. But hey never too late. Did some deep diving into the first ET lessons, surprisingly found Happy Birthday quite quickly and then in another couple of positions, which made me think I might just be able to do this now.
So I played what I heard in my head and finally found the intro to TNT Overture, 40 years late. So will now add a 10 minute session a day.

Strumming SOS (Rust revisit and fingers) plus PMT was always part of the plan but now added to the framework. Again outside the formal practice arena and better than watching tele.

So time to get my head down and crack on before the Clubs start up again. Be back in a few months or so to reflect on 1/4 progress,

Now ? It’s beer o’clock. :beers:

Laters peeps.



All sounds grand, Toby. Isn’t it wonderful and super encouraging when one finally manages something that has been a brdige too far for a while. Look forward to new chapters in AVOYP to enjoy your progress.

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Thank you David. I guess a year of focusing on mainly one style of music ie The Blues and listening to a lot of blooze based songs has also been a bonus. The darker months from late September to mid March have always been the most productive period for me but as Bob said the times are a changin. I was cutting the grass on New Years Eve !! Onwards and upwards :sunglasses:

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There is quite the difference between old and new content. I have watched alot of the “old” structure as well. Still a good structure, but I am happy he revamped it as it seems to be alot more structured at making you progress further with enough info to keep your mind and fingers in action! Mind you I tend to need several different practice sessions to cover it all and progress while still having fun!

So nice to hear from someone that has followed Justin’s old structure and now going through his new structure and giving an excellent review!!!:v:.

Rock on!

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Ironically even the Old Classic BC now on the website, is the revised old Classic Justin updated about 5 years ago and has added material to the BC I started 10 years ago. So good to see he has kept revising and moving forward. Same with his refilming song lessons, that now have revised content. He certainly does not sit on his laurels and we all benefit.



Time for another quick update before I press on with what’s planned for 2024.

Well it took a bit longer than Grade 1 but I finished Grade 2 a few days ago. I’ve actually put aside a few things that I wanted to brush up on (that I’ve not used in a while) and get the finger style Happy Birthday under my fingers, given what I have been learning the last year. It’s there but not flowing. Oh yeah and the Enter Sandman riff/intro - doable but clumsy and not the fingering I would use but as Justin says it is a picking exercise.

Grade 2 Observations

  • Was good to see the Stuck 3 4 chords officially taught early in the Grade. All you used to get in the old Stage 8 was the Big G but the other chords were then covered in stage specific song lessons and good to see some extras F6/9 Dadd11/F#

  • Early Open E minor Pentatonic was also good to see at the start. The A minor pent came in at Stage 7 !! Following on from that was the String Muting & 16th Strumming that cropped up in the old early Intermediate course, so again great early exposure for those starting the Beginner course now and with the new material. Man no wonder all you newbies are a doing so well. :angry:

  • Subtle changes to that freaking F chord. Index on E Be only good call and no practicing a full 6 string barre !!!

  • Another early Major scale appearance with the Open C Major scale. First on the scene back in the day was G Major at position three in Intermediate 1, boy how the times have changed. Add to that early Impros.

  • Chord Freedom was a new lesson completely and again a concept only covered in song lessons in the past.

  • Had fun with Tumbling Dice as I called it and mashed up a couple of toons that will go nowhere fast.

  • Riff Writing was also new and a fun exercise, paralleling stuff I’d covered on some non Justin courses.

  • And finally a 2 finger G7 wow, why did you make my life so hard back in the day. :angry: Oh yeah and 19 Slash Chords, I got a measly 4 !!!

Well what can I say you folks have never had it so good. After 17 years dicking around, when I found Justin’s Beginners Course it was a revelation. Structured layered building blocks all laid out before you. yes there were things missing but a lot was covered in the Intermediate Course.
But the current pathway is considerably better. And well worth the revisit.

The only thing I’d want to see changed is Justin’s Module closing comment of “Next Week we’ll be looking at …” Yeah I was think Next Month I’d still working on X Y or Z. I think this gives the impression that folks should be cracking out and mastering a module a week and in reality that will not happen You only need to look at the numerous posts by folks thinking they are under achieving or learning too slowly. A quick voice over edit of “Next TIME” would easily get rid of this notion and put things into perspective.
After all, it is a Marathon not a Sprint.

So now onto Grade 3, before finding my way backing the Intermediate territory I was at before everything changed. I was dipping my toes into Grade 3 a couple of years ago but it was still being randomly populated and proved to be very frustration to stick with it. Now its all laid out as a full end to end grade, I’ll work my way through it and expecting some familiar and new things.

So practice schedule has now been updated. I was going to start mapping out strumming patterns, as the SOS seems to suggest creating your own and as I have yet to come across the 40 odd patterns from RUST 1 and 2, so I am using these as a practice bed for finessing and playing with thicker picks.

I’ve also been a bit lapse on “official” ear training but one of the Blues classes is focusing on intervals combination, so I am getting a good exposure there.

Need to factor in a Grade 3 Timeslot, so will likely find another 20 minutes for that over winter.

So enough “talking” time to get playing.

Rock on peeps.



Interesting that you’re doing this review, Toby. It highlights how Justin always looks to improve the lessons. (E minor pentatonic, not C minor).
My interpretation of his “See you next week……” comment is that you could look at a new lesson each week. That’s a new lesson within each module, not a new module each week. I do agree though, that he could word it to give a better indication of pace.

Ooops yes typo corrected.

Well just a month after I updated my practice spreadsheet for 2024, its started to get a bit busy with additional notes and references.

So having watched the Time Boxing lesson again - I used it back in late 22 when it first came out - I’ve now created a more focused practice guide for my daily sessions.

Thought I’d share it here as an example for others, as I know there are a few old skool types like me that are unlikely to use the web sight MPA or whatever its called. I’ve used hyperlinks for various materials, so I don’t have to wade through folders to find individual tab PDFs or neck diagrams.

Hope some folk find it useful.



Wow :open_mouth: hangs head in shame I’ve got a few songs written down on a note on my phone that I’m currently practicing, I need to up my game :joy:

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Toby @TheMadman_tobyjenner
I really like making these sort of lists but the really hard part is actually doing what it says.


Guess I am lucky enough to have the time on my hands, plus I break it down into a couple or three sessions each day. Acoustic normally in the morning and maybe one “electric” Blues session but today I’ll have a couple of half hour blocks later.


But it is still easy to get side tracked. Just spent an extra 20 minutes on the Acoustic Blues trying to nail just one 2 bar section, that’s been doing my head in. So now time for a break !! :scream:


Nice share, Toby. I’m practicing with a spread sheet too, not as professional as yours, just days to the right, items downwards, a pencil to fill in is my best friend, since Richard and Lieven kick in with so much interesting but side tracking stuff, which has to be added to the planned routine…hurray for the triads :laughing: :joy:.


Mental note to self: Add more colour to practice spreadsheet(s) … :wink:


Ooo, you structured fools…just know that stability is hidden in chaos … :milky_way::upside_down_face:

I hope :roll_eyes:


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