TRJs Learning Log

I have browsed a bit in the community, and was not sure that I should prepare a learning log. It seems somewhat of an effort, and to what use, as I am not following the grade precise JG grade 1-2-3 logic here to learn guitar. That would have been helpful some ten to fifteen years ago, when I started finding material to learn on the JG website. Nonetheless I guess, I hope to be progressing in the things that I do with a guitar, and with that I guess it is a good thing to put pegs in the ground where I am, and to leave a trail of breadcrumbs how I meander from one challenge to the next.

So, and taking a leaf out of the various examples of a Learning logs, there seems merit in recounting some history, of the things I have learned, and to register in a central place the material I have posted here, and probably update them as I will go on.

Broadly, in my guitar play, I am mostly acoustic. I am working on what Justin calls solo Blues, basically Country Blues, slowly working on a variety of styles and performers, dating back before the 2nd World War, until say the Folk revival period in the 1960’s, and the UK’s discovery of the Blues, through travelling emissaries such as Big Bill Broonzy and Brownie McGhee. My source for this is the DVD series by Stefan Grossman, which gives me more material than I can ever hope to master. So various songs by Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt, Rev Gary Davis, Big Bill Broonzy, Brownie McGhee and Robert Johnson are all on the Bucket list.

Solo however means alone, doesn’t it, and given that I am a member of a music club, where the emphasis is on harmonica playing, and the guitar work is mostly on accompaniment, Blues rhythm guitar is an important part of it. And, to boot, many great harmonica players were active in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the Chicago style Blues. So there is a bonus to be had to learn more different styles and the different guitar parts used in the accompaniment of people like Slim Harpo, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters etc. Also, when playing together in a Jam there is always the unavoidable question of doing a lead solo, which I have consistently ducked.

Finally there are many good songs in the various songbooks by JG, and have I think the complete series, both beginners books, the acoustic book, the vintage book as well as the rock guitar book. They are an excellent basis for wandering out of the straight blues repertoire, but also provided the material for the very first songs that I brought with me in the Harmonica club. Among the very first songs that I ever ‘performed’ in the club are straight out of the songbooks: ‘Where did you sleep last night’, ‘Folsom prison Blues’ and of course ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’, and they stayed with me all these years.

Somehow I would need a plan it seems, and that is where perhaps this Log may help me in mapping where I came from, and the particular challenges that I would face.


A great list of objectives. My brother and I are also into Country Blues. I have Stefan Grossman’s DVD on Blind Boy Fuller mainly because Rory Gallagher covered some of his songs but have studied Rev Gary Davis also. I have also been known to play blues harp. I’ll look out for some of your videos.

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Hi @rorystrat , thanks for the comments. I will likewise be very interested in your postings!
As to Gary Hart, as co-incidence would have it I just posted my attempt at Keep your lights trimmed and burning in AVOYP.

Hi Tjeerd, I think, that you have a very clear vision of what you wanna focus on and what sources might help you to reach your goals :slightly_smiling_face:.

Maybe writing a learning log is even more useful in your case. While following Justin’s course, the direction to proceed is quite clear. Just working on the current module and move forward to the next one.
Without this lead, it might be a bit more difficult to stay on track. A LL could be that lead for you :blush:.

I’m curious about your next steps :smiley:.

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Everyone learns in different ways and I often see comments in the community encouraging others to follow the "precise JG grade’… I feel those comments are well intentioned but they don’t take into account that what works for many doesn’t always work for some.



Hi @NicoleKKB, thank you very much for the encouragement. There is much to learn, and I am aware that in doing the things I do, in some sense I ‘skipped ahead’ and took short-cuts to where I wanted to go. There are definitely challenges that I did not take, which I would have needed to take with a more structured approach to learning. I hope to be filling some blanks soon.

Hi @tony thank you for the comment. I take your point. I think myself there are two parts into participating in this community. One is receiving and acknowledging the feedback from the community members, and the other is being able to provide feedback with the necessary kindness and depth to the community members that have contributed. Here the grading system helps, as it would inform one more or less the stage at which a community member is, and thus enables one to provide the help and feedback at the appropriate level. I feel a little bit hampered in the latter.


Good stuff Tjeerd, sometimes just writing your thoughts down can help you find a direction.

Good luck :slightly_smiling_face:

Hi Tjeerd, good you started your learning log. I think that a learning log is not only meant to document how someone progress linearly through the grades in the order than Justin has devised, but how someone progress (with the help of Justin Guitar lessons and any other resources he or she can find) through his or her own learning path. If progressing linearly works for someone is good. If progressing taking shortcuts through select material work for someone is good. Each approach has its advantages and disavantages. The log is also an opportuny for self reflection and receiving encouragement and advice from other guitar students (or Justin, or an approved teacher, by the way). Whenever you find a roadblock you can check if some of the material you have previously skipped may usefulf for you in that moment.

So we have arrived in March. Still figuring out how to use the learning log tool, but happy to share some of the activity down here. I report mostly on the goings on with our four man ensemble, that draws its name Blues@6 from the time we are scheduled to rehearse , on Mondays at six in the evening.

Tonight we’ll have our monthly Open stage event in the club. Because one of the Harmonica players I usually play these events can’t make it, it will be somewhat different then usual. There’ll be three songs that we plan.

You gotta walk that lonesome valley (Mississippi John Hurt)
Key to the highway (Brownie McGhee-ish)
Factory Girl (Rolling Stones)

I’ll sing only one of them, (You gotta walk that lonely valley) and leave my ukelele toting friend Adi to sing both others. He does a mean Robert Johnson and Mick Jagger. Our remaining harmonica player bravely will attempt to accompany You gotta walk, country blues/spirituals is a bit difficult for harmonica players, as it does not really follow the standard Blues Schema, making it difficult to improvise against. The only survival strategy was to learn to play the melody by heart.
And yes, Factory Girl. We started on that because one of us had been listening to it a whole day in a spotify playlist. It is a crazy two chord song, essentially its a D-major chord throughout, with one instance of the A chord in the last line. Due apologies to Keith Richards, who has a fine flatpicking arrangement around that D-chord. We kind of fake it with strumming and random lifting of one or more of the fretting hand fingers, but it pleases the harmonica players, who can use the resulting groove to improvise against.

Then, on Saturday it will be OM time here, where I am allowed a song - on Friday I will prepare the set-up again as last time, involving the detachable web-cam, and the audio interface. Double checking the audio by recording in Zoom, and using the OM link.

Lighting remains an issue, as all my walls are white, it would be soo much better with a dark background.

I havent fully decided yet what song to play, but I hope you’ll be satisfied.

The big thing however will be Monday evening - the four of us will play for an hour or so in a hotel venue, to entertain some good folk after they have completed a 2-3 day workshop, and after dinner, in a small conference Hotel.

It will be a two set occasion, where we’ll have the second set in its entirety. Then we will be complete, all four of us there! This is the set list that we have. I’ll hotlink in recordings that I have made and/or JG material its based on.

Title Performer Tonart
1 Green Onions Booker T and the MG-s F
2 Baby Scratch my Back Slim Harpo F
3 In the Pines/Where did you stay last night Leadbelly E
4 Kindhearted Woman Blues Robert Johnnson A
5 Sensitive Kind J.J. Cale Dm
6 Gallows Pole Willie Watson Dm
7 Don’t think twice its allright Bob Dylan E
8 I hear the Angels Singing Eric Bibb C
9 You gotta Walk that Lonesome Valley Mississippi John Hurt G
10 Key to the Highway Broonzy/Brownie McGhee E
11 Factory Girl Stones D
12 St. James Infirmary Trad. Am
13 All Along the Watchtower Bob Dylan Dm

We devoted 2 Monday sessions to practice all the songs in sequence, we set the sequence and looked intensely at anyone trying to introduce last minute changes. I am sure we’ll practice at home on Sunday, and we will see each other at six on Monday, and set up the venue and do a sound check.

I have made a mental note that I would like to be able to play lead licks with Green Onions, but haven’t come very far on that - as I haven’t done any fundamentals. Justin covers the solo in his Vintage Songbook and the accompanying lesson. My fingers find there way around positions 1, 2 and 3, but it does not have much to do with music yet. Plus making full bends at fret 3-4 is something of a physical challenge! I will have to look much more closely at the stuff that @TheMadman_tobyjenner is working on for his lead guitar skills.

As the set will be mostly acoustic, we have decided to bring one acoustic amp (Schertler JAM 100) with 3 connections, for the instruments, and the colleagues doing set 1 will bring a PA system and a small mixer board for the microphones (3). there will also be a tube amp for the harmonica players. For the first two numbers I’ll play my Ibanez hollow body with P90s, through a Boss Octaver pedal (and a looper if I am confident enough with Green Onions). Basically doing a bass melody riff throughout, and the trademark Slim Harpo riff on Scratch my back throughout the song, all in regular blues I, IV, V chord sequence in F major.

The Martin OMCPA4 will do the real work. Adi brings his custom made electric Uke, and between them the harmonica players have in excess of 24 harps in their holsters. Maybe we’ll record it on the iPhone with a Blue Mikey attached to it. Lets see!


Wow the whole thing sounds terrific. Best of luck with it all!

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Fantastic, Tjeerd.

Break a leg!

And your use of Learning Log is just fine … look forward to continuing to follow here.

Now any chance of videos from Monday evening?

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Hi Tjeerd, good luck with all performances scheduled for the upcoming days. I’m going after you in the JGC OM.

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Hi @DavidP , @sairfingers and @dobleA . Thanks for all the good wishes!

Well, a small update. We played in a slightly different constellation at our open mike last Thursday. Our main harpplayer could not make it. So we changed to songs that were relatively unfamiliar.

As some of you could observe, I had to cancel my participation to the OM. I had a deep cut in my leg, that had become inflamed, and it was touch and go before hospitalization on Friday, so I had to await the workings of an antibiotic. So I enjoyed the OM14 as a spectator, lying down, with ice wrapped around my leg.

Fortunately the situation cleared up, and I got a green light yesterday, medically.

Which meant we could do the Hotel gig.

I learned a lot from it, as did the others, because we are still relatively inexperienced. There were mistakes, in the playing and the singing, but nothing that was blatantly wrong, and having two rhythm instruments, and two singers helps in keeping the show rolling. When we noticed however that many of the audience were trying on to carry on conversations - we shortened a little bit the performance - and we switched it around a little - so as to end on the Dylan version of All along the Watchtower, which is where we can let the Bluesharmonica rip it, and where our colleagues from the first set Join us. (3 Guitars and 2 Harmonica’s). Then we did get a call for an encore, and we did the classic St. James Infirmary Blues.

What we apparently did not get right was the technical side - somehow the balance between the microphones and the instruments was wrong for the public, but we did not really notice it on stage, only afterwards from an iPhone recording made in front of the stage.

As one part of the gear came from the act before us, and one part was our own gear, we should have tested it well in advance of the gig - did not manage it, because we spent some time just building it up. Maybe its worth it to go over the set-up we have in the learning log.

@DavidP, we did make some video recordings during the set, but that will take a little time to make available.

Here are 2 soundcloud examples of how it was Green Onions as the opening, and St. James Infirmary


Bravo, Tjeerd. Firstly glad your leg is recovering.

Tricky thing … audience conversations. I guess this is influenced by whether the event is a music show or an ordinary evening out and there just happens to be some live music (rather than an in-house sound-system playing music in the background).

If it is the latter, then I reckon I’d just carry on and play what I had planned. If the former, then I consider the audience to be a little rude, to be talking through the show.

As for sound engineering. I know from the local OMs I participate in, plus the shows they run on other nights (performers are invited by the host) or the event I went to over Sat. This is not easy and requires a person to be manning a mixing desk, ideally situated in an appropriate place. The event on Sat was was all the poorer for poor sound setup.

Look forward to the video clips in due course.

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So pleased to hear your leg has sorted out and you’re in the clear, that sounds nasty to have to go through! It’s very interesting to read your experiences and learnings from the gigs and live playing as it’s something I would like to do (a live OM) later this year, so I’m happy to absorb others experiences!

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Hi @DavidP, it was a mix. It was in the dining room of a Hotel, and we were asked to play by the organiser of a workshop taking place at the hotel, whilst the other guests were unconnected. It was not to disturbing, we just saw that they were losing interest.

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Please do, it is a wonderful experience. However there are so many things to learn, that you’ll have to think about a first, and a second and a third already in advance. My experience is also, it is much easier to manage if you are not by yourself out there on stage - and if you are with someone you played with before, and trust…

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Hi Tjeerd, good you’re on your way to recovery and were able to do two of three of your live shows.

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Ok, we have arrived in March, and it is time for me to be explicit about what I would want to achieve this month.

  1. I have used JG’s Green Onions lesson to learn the bass riff as well as the chipping. As I mentioned I haven’t gotten round learning the solo, and to be fair its still beyond me. I would really need to work through the entire Blues Leadguitar course before I can do that. However I did find a complementing lesson online which takes the organ riff as well as the organ melody line onto the Guitar, which sounds great, and technically are closer to what I am used to. I would be able to master that, which then might make already a nice project for playing around with the looper. We have already done Green Onions, in our four person constellation, two Harmonica’s, a ukellele (Doing the chips) and the bass riff (Through an octaver pedal in a looper, and then doubled, palm muted), which is already nice.

  2. There is a lovely song by Mississippi John Hurt that I can play on the guitar, but I can’t manage to simultaneously sing and play, called “Make me a Pallet on your Floor”. I should just get on with it and structurally practice on the lyrics and the vocal parts.

  3. Keep working on Clapton’s version of Hey Hey for speed and accuracy, and finally starting on the lyrics of it.

  4. Record one AVOYP for March


Hi David, here you are, unfortunately I only have short takes, and not the complete numbers:

Green Onions, as our opening number.

Factory Girl, our vastly simplified version of it

St James Infirmary Blues , our encore.

You’ll notice that we still have to learn about getting the volume mix right. Both the Guitar and the Uke are too loud as compared to the singing and the harmonica.