Tom's tentative tinkering

Hi guys, I love the accountability of a LL (have been lurking for a week or so reading other ones), and decided to join you guys in writing about my progress. Hopefully it will keep me on track, perhaps pick up some tips and maybe even record myself at some point…

My name is Tom, I’m 40, I’m from the UK but now live in Ireland. I have an unconventional job in that I am a professional online poker player, and also teach poker to students. Me and my business partner actually run a team (yes there are such things!) where we teach advanced strategy to budding students, stake them to play and split profits with them.
I used to be a sales person for printing business for 15 years, but what I do now is way more fun, because it was always my passion, so doing it for a job is awesome.

I’m at the point where I wanted another hobby. Like quite a few people I have read about, I first had a go at playing the guitar in my early teens, probably like 14 or something. I played for about a year or so and then gave it up. It was harder than I imagined and I used to go to guitar lessons once a week with a guy that I really did not get on with, as such I didn’t practice and our weekly lessons didn’t go anywhere (not surprising if you don’t practice right?)

Fast forward to about 2 months ago and I just had the urge to buy a guitar and give it another go. I had been watching content on youtube for a while and just wanted to give it another shot. I went to the local store and bought this guitar
It’s an acoustic, but you can plug it in if you want and has a built in tuner, has a nice sound, seems OK as a starter :slight_smile:

So I have been working through the lessons in order and am up to Module 9 Grade 2, but having looked at some other people’ logs and from my own scrappy playing I have kinda realised that I have been rushing through everything a bit quick. When I heard something along the lines of ‘do the practice routine’ and then spend some time playing songs, I just did the scheduled practice session and then jumped on the app and started having a go at every song I knew the cords for, just playing along, pretty badly I must admit, and then jumping to the next one. I’m getting in around an hour a day at this point, but as I say most of it is just playing songs badly.
I don’t know 75% of the songs on there so have mainly been just discovering new stuff.
The problem is I haven’t tried to play anything more than 3-4 times so haven’t really mastered anything.
I can do normally anywhere from 35 (tough ones) up to around 55 (easy ones) for the cord changes in a minute, so I felt I was always OK to move on, I seemed to ‘pass’ each stage for the drills but I have not mastered the art of playing anything clean yet.
So I think I just pause and consolidate as you guys say, and try and polish what I have learned so far before going any further, and also try and learn a few songs from beginning to end and play them accurately.

I did grade 1 and 2 of the music theory course, enjoyed those and passed the tests just fine so will probably pay the extra and crack on with those too. I used to play some brass instruments as a young boy and at that time I could read music although I’ve forgotten most of it but I think that helps with the concepts in the basic grades of the music theory so far which is mainly just learning about notes so far.

I feel like my strumming needs a lot of work. I can do the old faithful pattern easy, but adding dynamics to a repetitive rhythm I find tough, it might sounds OK for a bar or two and then slips.

I also experimented with finger picking which I really like as well and plan to keep practicing this too. One question about that - do you need nails to get a clean note? I dont really have much of a nail and when I pluck the strings they sound really muted, maybe im using too much flesh and need to ‘ping’ them a bit more to get decent volume… will keep experimenting!

I rambled on way longer than expected so will leave it there and report on my new routine once I have it figured out!

Good luck and have fun guys! :notes:


Hey Tom, great to read your story. I started off doing only fingerstyle as that was my passion. Over time I’ve also used a pick as some songs just want to be strummed. I personally play my fingerstyle with my nails cut short, so it’s the fleshy pad that contacts the string. I have let my nails grow at times and know other players who use their nails, it’s a personal taste thing in my view. I like the sound I get without nails, one challenge with it is it’s not very loud.

When I was learning, besides the one minute chord changes I also enjoyed playing songs. I did stick with a single song until I had it sufficiently tidy before moving on to other songs. The sense of accomplishment when I could finally play the song all the way through really motivated me to keep playing.

Strumming does take a while to master. It’s great you’ve got old faithful working. Over time you’ll find new patterns and they’ll take hold. Just takes time.


Enjoyed the log and your reflections Tom. Sounds like you have reflected well and the insights you’ve shared will surely help you to focus, pace yourself, and lay a solid foundation.

Two months is a short duration, so I suggest that you revisit the Grade 1 completion guideline and assure yourself that you are solid in ticking the boxes. Many people make simple recordings of themself playing a few songs that showcase the skills learned in grade 1 (you’ll see those posts in #record-yourself-progress-performance:audio-video-of-you-playing) which is a great way to get feedback and encouragement.

Learning guitar, like many things, is a real ‘slow to go fast’ thing. Taking your time to be solid in the early days will serve you well further on down the road.

Guitar looks cool, thanks for the picture.

Rock on!


Hi Tom, welcome to the community. Great start to your learning log and good to see that you are reflecting on your learning.

As David says two months is quite short to work your way through to module 9 of Grade 2. That is a lot of ground covered in a short period of time which sounds like you have recognised that with your intention to pause and consolidate everything that you have learned before moving any further. I would suggest maybe complete the first lesson of Module 9 “the dreaded F chord” then revisit the Grade 1 completion guidelines and work your way through ticking off the pass criteria. Identify any areas that you need to work on and use the my practice tool assistant to develop practice routine(s) to work on those aspects. My reasoning behind suggesting doing the F Chord lesson before revisiting the Grade 1 material is that you are currently at that lesson and it would allow you to work on the F Chord whilst you’re consolidating the Grade 1 material. What do you think @DavidP would that be sensible approach?

I like these words of wisdom. Accuracy before speed. Practice perfectly.

I would highly recommend Justin’s strumming techniques course. I found the first part to be a perfect companion to completing Grade 1.

You don’t need play with your fingernails to be successful with fingerpicking. If you do play with your finger nails your tone will be a bit brighter and your volume a bit louder. If you play with the flesh I would expect that over time your skin will toughen up and the sound you produce will improve.

Guitar looks good. Look forward to following your progress.


Hi Tom welcome aboard!
The other guys have said it all. After 8 weeks there is no way you should be at Grade 2 module 9. By travelling so fast you’re only cheating yourself.
You’ve said it yourself, go back and consolidate.
Post something on AVoYP and get some feedback.

Look forward to more from you.


Thanks for the feedback, yeah there is something really enticing about fingerstyle that gets me excited, although I think for now I will keep it to around 25% of my work volume. I am mainly trying to learn this song: (Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) Guitar Lesson - Six String Fingerpicking) I will just have to play it a fair bit slower than the original for a good while yet but I really like the song and was a huge Green Day fan back in the day. Thanks for letting me know nails are not required, that makes me feel better! I don’t really want long nails, so if plenty of people play without that’s cool I will stick with it.

Thanks for your ideas, and for your hard work being active in the community with everyone, it’s nice to see your words of encouragement. Yeah I will try to record something with my old iphone 6 as that’s all I have but I am sure it will be OK enough for this purpose once I have a song or 2 practiced for more than a few tries! I will for sure go back and make sure I have everything nailed before moving forward. I had no great desire to rush particularly, but I realise now that’s exactly what I did!

Yeah for sure I agree 100% with what you’re saying, and I also agree that incorporating the F chord is just worth it alongside everything else, I have the time to be doing at least some practice on this one with also revisiting Grade 1 materials. I was actually super pumped that the first time I made the shape I got all 6 strings to ring out clear, which I was shocked about given how Justin presented it, however it takes about 2-3 seconds set up time and as soon as I tried to jam along to a song with real chord changes then I realised how much work there is to air change into this and get it sounding good, definitely gonna be a long term project to chip away at.
Thanks for recommending the strumming course, I saw it mentioned elsewhere but couldnt find it, I feel like this is a ‘bit hidden’ with the site navigation of the courses, and seeing as it is extra paid content could be better shown to Grade 1 guys, because I am snap-buying this for 10quid extra! Haha

Thanks for the welcome and the follow - for sure, I realise my mistake but the good news is that there is loads to work on now for some time so I will get to that immediately!


Just keep at it mate. It is a tricky little fingerstyle arrangement compared to what is covered in Justin’s Grade 1 and 2 Courses. Have you checked out Justin’s song lesson?

1 Like

No I will have a look, thanks!

1 Like

you bet you came to the right place; I guess you already figured out following Justin’s plan is a safe gamble. You’ll learn fast as all the players around this table gladly let you look into their cards.
Some started off small but are now all-in in the music/guitar/singing stuff!

Now it’s up to you;
Turn off that poker face and show those mean and quirky guitar faces! :smiley:

See you around!


Haha - epic intro to the thread, I suspect you have played some? :wink:

OK based on your guy’s feedback I spent all evening creating a hub of notes and comments on where I think I am at with various aspects of the Grade 1 content.
Going back through all of these lessons and looking at the notes that came along with the video has been super useful (I initially just watched them all on my phone through the app instead of doing them on my PC with the lesson notes).
Lots of good tips I missed the first time around, and quite some honest reflection on where I think I need to improve.
Also going to review all chord changes in 1 place as per the PFC tracker I made to see where the weak spots are.
Tomorrow I get to build my new consolidation routine for the next few weeks and start on my song library!
I used Notion for this but I think you guys can view it with an online link


Hi Tom, I’ll have a look tomorrow and let you know any thoughts or suggestions that I have that may help you.

What is your background to fingerstyle? Have you done any of Chris’ lessons? Chris I believe tends to label his songs lessons as beginner on the basis of having completed his fingerstyle beginner course.

I had a quick look at that lesson, what’s really good about it is it’s a simple fingerstyle pattern. This will get your thumb and fingers used to being where they should be and working independently. The next step after that is to use an alternating bass note on songs where the pattern is played multiple times for the one chord. It opens up lots of possibilities.

Hi Tony (@tony) is the song not playing the alternating bass note on beats 1, 2 and 4 skipping beat 3?

1 Like

In the intro (first 20 seconds of the video), he’s playing G (twice), Cadd9 (once) and D (once). In the G he plays the same bass note twice with his thumb and only on the E string. In other songs where I play G multiple times, I alternate the bass between the E and the D strings. I’m only referring to the note he’s playing with his thumb.

Hi Tony (@tony) in the intro/verse for example in the G chord he is playing on beat one String 6 with the thumb, then on beat 2 playing string 4 with the thumb and then on Beat 4 playing string 4 again with the thumb. Similarly he is using the thumb for beats 1, 3 and 4 for the Cadd9 and D chord. That’s what’s made me think he is playing alternating bass. Thanks for the clarifications.

@kravean sorry for asking so many questions to Tony on you’re post but figured it would be of interest to you and Tony has been playing fingerstyle for some time so a good opportunity to pick his brains on a song you’re learning.

@Socio - I went back and played the video at a slower speed and you are right, he is alternating the bass notes with his thumb. My apologies.

1 Like

@tony thanks. What I didn’t get was the Cadd9 as I expected him to alternate between the 5th and 4th strings but he appears to alternate between the 5th and 3rd string. The G chord and D chord alternating bass make sense to me.

Yeah, I tend to alternate on the E A and D strings, but I think there are songs where I go to the G string. Can’t honestly say for sure, it’s whatever sounds ok in the song.

1 Like

just a little, I’m absolutelynot good at it and my only forte is disturbing people with how loose my style is :stuck_out_tongue:

I love playing very complex board games and yet I can’t seem to remember properly when to check and call etc. and I forget all the combinations and their relative value…all that while I learned yathzee when I was 4 and still remember all the points values etc :stuck_out_tongue:

in short; it’s not for mebut I know who to book a session with if I want to learn :smiley:

1 Like