When Am I Ready to Move on from Grade 1 to Grade 2?

Hey there. The app says you’re ready for Grade 2 when “you’re comfortable with all the things covered so far In Modules 1-7.” We covered a lot of things, more than I can remember. Is there a checklist somewhere?

Also, unless I missed something, in Grade 1 we learned open chords, how to change between chords, and we learned strumming patterns which we practiced on muted strings. But we haven’t had a lesson yet on combining strumming patterns with chord changes. Is that correct? I’ve been playing along with about a dozen songs backing tracks, but just playing one down strum for each chord; I haven’t started using the strumming patterns for songs.

I think I’m ready for Grade 2 if the lesson plan structure hasn’t gotten yet to the point where we’re combining chord changes with strumming patterns— in other words, playing whole songs. If we’re supposed to already know how to do this, will someone kindly tell me which module to find instruction on this?

Thank you!

Hi Craig,

See the text below website lesson given prerequisite for moving onto Grade 2

You should be able to play 5 easy songs with chords and strumming patterns you have learned applied.

With regards to strumming, yes, practice the Strumming Patterns with Muted Strings. Once you have the Strumming pattern locked in and don’t need to think about it and have learned the chord progression, then you can start to apply them together.

Ideally, you want to pick 5 songs with the open chords you have learned. Preferably, pick songs with simple chord progressions that are easy to remember.

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I see. Thank you. I guess I should spend more time on the website instead of just using the app because there’s more info on the website, right? I thought just following along in the app would be enough.

I can play all the chords in Grade 1 and all of the chord changes. I’ve gotten familiar with about a dozen songs that I play with using the backing tracks. Some I am still playing at a tempo of less than 100%. I could easily pick five songs. For the purpose of finishing Grade 1, should I be aiming for playing the complete song without a backing track? So I need to memorize not just the strumming pattern (and be able to play it), but also the musical structure of the song? All that before I start any lessons in Grade 2?

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Hello @craigjnoble and welcome to the community.

Ain’t that the truth.
The website has everything in terms of lesson content. The app has some lesson content and its biggest benefit - the song playalong element.
Justin designed the App as a supplementary to the website in the first instance. The possibilities of app technology means it has become bigger as his ambition for it has grown and it is now something unto itself. But the website should also be a main reference for learning.
Not using the website also means not keeping up with Justin’s alter ego as he decides if he is good enough to move on from Grade 1: Nitsuj Grade 1 Practice | JustinGuitar.com

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Thanks again. So, I looked at that video. It was exactly what I needed, but it also has me scratching my head wondering why something so important was left out of the lessons presented in the app. I wish I had seen that video 3-4 weeks ago because it would have helped me have a better focus during my practice. Now that I know what I need to do, I’m guessing it will be another 3-4 weeks before I start Grade 2.

I’m also still wondering whether there is a lesson specifically on learning to apply a strumming pattern while making chord changes. Unless I missed something, his strumming lessons in Grade 1 have all been about strumming with the strings muted. I did find this one video from another teacher— Intro to Guitar Strumming: How to Change Chords IN TIME - YouTube. This seems like the missing link that Justin should add to the Grade 1 Beginners Course. How do I submit this as a suggestion?

Craig I’m not sure if there is a specific lesson as such…generally the approach would be strumming on beat 1 only to start with whilst moving between chords and then progressing to a point where you are using ALL downstrums for each beat of the bar (so four downstrums per bar on a 4:4 song) . At this point you should be able to play a song i.e. moving through the chord progression, whilst playing a downstrum for each beat.

Once you can do that you will probably have worked out how to apply the strumming patterns as they are simply about on what beat you strum the strings.

You probably want to start by strumming any open chord as you do when you strum the strings muted…it should be exactly the same except you’ll now play the chord properly…similarly you could then move from one chord to the another whilst continuing to repeat the strumming pattern.

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Hi Craig,

Justin introduces in Module 1 strumming on first beat of each bar to give you time to make your chord changes as you develop your ability to make the chord change and strum the chord right on the beat. As you do the practice your one minute changes your chord changes get better and you get better at this strumming pattern. Module 2 you progress to strumming down once every down beat. Once your comfortable with this Justin recommends that you try strumming your guitar only on beats one and three to get used to missing down strums and keeping that arm moving. In module 2 there is then a lesson specifically on how to change chords and keep strumming.

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There’s a section at the end of grade 1 on the website that asks for feedback for that grade. You should put any suggestions there.

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Hi Craig. I’m at the same spot as you and wondered the same thing about the strumming patterns. I had a helluva time getting through a mental block with Old Faithful, but have finally gotten to a point where it’s reliable and nearly thoughtless during muted strumming (lots of practice time). Putting a strumming pattern into a song was a whole other matter (and yes, I don’t think Justin covered that), but I figured that I should just start doing it when I felt I could. After repeated attempts and practice, I can now use it in songs pretty comfortably now, though my up strums need a lot of work still (pick angle).

Yea, the website is much more comprehensive than the app; I use the app just for song practice and the site for everything else. All of that is supplemented by the books, which I’m using for my song memorization stuff.

I wouldn’t sweat the transition from Grade 1 to Grade 2; I’m right there as well, working on my 5 songs. As everyone says, it’s a marathon, not a race. :wink:

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Your comment is really helpful. I’m going to have to look into books. I need to start collecting songs as Justin recommends.

Wow! I can’t thank you enough. All I needed was a nudge. I already had the two pieces; I just needed to put them together.

I chose two songs I’ve been practicing with the backing tracks with only one downstrum per bar (“Three Little Birds” and “Wish You Were Here”). It turns out the strumming pattern for both was a simple four downstrums per bar, so the hardest part was getting the tempo right. I practiced the tempo on muted strings using a metronome, and then when I tried playing again with the backing track, voila! I had more or less played the song.

It was rough around the edges, but I can now see that I’m more than ready to learn five songs. So, from now on I should be practicing the actual strumming patterns, not just one downstrum per bar…

Like I said, I can’t thank you enough. I was already sold on Justin Guitar, but the responsiveness and quality of help from the Justin Guitar community is the real wow factor.

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Happy to help and look forward to seeing you progress. When you are ready record yourself ( if only for yourself) so that you can reflect on how you are progressing.

I have a follow up question about when will I be ready to start Grade Two. It turns out that I’m close to being able to play five songs. A few of the songs I’ve been playing on the app have really simple strumming patterns (four downstrums per bar), and I was able to apply the complete strumming pattern and thus play the whole song (with some flubs of course). My question is—does it count as playing the song if I’m using the backing track? Or am I supposed to be able to play it from memory as if I brought my guitar to a party? This is for the purpose of completing Grade One and moving on to Grade 2. Either way, I think I’ll be ready within 2-4 weeks, which puts me at about the six-month mark of this journey. I don’t know if that makes me a slow learner, but I’m happy as long as I’m making progress.

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I moved on using the backing tracks always. So I think there is no problem with that.

Not at all, it has been told in another thread to use the number of the module as the number of recommended weeks. Adding from 1 to 7 is equal to 28 weeks which are 7 months for grade 1.

Either way, measuring the time in natural days is deceiving. Since not everyone has the same amount of time to practice. I prefer to count my progress in hours. I’m over 100 hours (in 1 year and a half) of practice and I’m on module 12, but having to go back a bit to consolidate my strumming and some chord changes (A and F). Then I just think that I’ve spent so much more time in games :upside_down_face:.

The case is that as long as you’re making progress, it is all fine. This is a marathon, a marathon to enjoy :grin:.

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All of this is super helpful and reassuring info. I practice every day for at least an hour (less the first couple months when I was building calluses), so I would say I’m at well over 100 hours, probably closer to 150, and I’m on Module 7, so that still seems slow by comparison. But I’m also learning that it really doesn’t matter how long it takes to learn as long as you’re motivated to learn and do learn.

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Which books do you recommend and why?

I’ve got 3 of Justin’s books - Beginner’s Songbook, Beginner’s Songbook Volume II, and the Rock Songbook. All of those are linked from the site. The Beginner Songbooks have a great selection of songs, with each having playing tips, strumming advice, and items that you can try when coming back to the song with more advanced knowledge. The Rock Songbook is a bit more advanced and I’m not quite there yet, but it’s fun to look through and experiment with stuff. I enjoy being able to lay a book out and play songs “offline”.

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Hi Craig, don’t worry about that. Had a very similar experience to yours, I also needed nearly 5 months through Grade 1, was very happy to have finished, until I sah Justin’s recommendation how to pass Grade 1 and that there should be a phase of consolidation and also the memorizing of 5 songs. First I was a little bit frustrated because I already had the feeling to be too slow. But to be honest, like you I wasn’t aware to use the strumming patterns in the songs, videos showed muted strings and in Justins course book recommendation was to do this later. In the app, strumming patterns are mostly very simplyfied… so end of the story was, that I couldn’t play that 5 Songs consistantly while using a suggested strumming pattern. So my consolidation took another 4-5 weeks and is still going on, while I was going through Module 8. Most of the songs in the app are much easier to play as in the songbook. I found out, that playing with the app is a very good Instrument to get into playing, into timing and rhythm, but it is much more difficult to play without, but that’s the target… so I’m working on playing without support too. Frustrating sometimes. I’ m in now for about 6,5 months and working through Module 8, while building up a solid basis. Not very fast, but it takes as long as it takes…I decided to consider the way as my target, I practice at least one hour a day, not because I have to, just because I’m having so much fun with it.

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I may have to get them. I do like the idea of playing songs “offline.” I have a few songbooks with guitar tab that I picked up for cheap at secondhand bookstores, but they were too advanced for me, especially the Led Zeppelin (my favorite group). Justin’s books are probably more appropriate for my skill level, so I think I’ll take the plunge. Thank you!

Your experience definitely sounds like mine. But that’s okay. Playing songs with backing tracks on the app where I can slow down the tempo has been key. I’ve been playing 1-1 1/2 hours a day not because I have to, but because I keep adding new songs I like with chord changes I’m practicing because I’m having so much fun.

When I finally realized how simple the strumming patterns were (in the app) for many of the songs I’ve been playing (“Three Little Birds,” “Sing,” “For What It’s Worth,” “Wish You Were Here”), I realized I was closer to finishing Grade One than I thought. In fact, there may be five songs that I simply have to memorize at this point because I can already play them just fine with the app.

I’ve gotta say this because it’s proven to be hugely helpful for me—this Justin Guitar community ROCKS. People have been so friendly and helpful with none of that snarkiness that seems to be everywhere on the Internet. So THANK YOU for the advice and words of encouragement!

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