WM's Long Way To The Top - Log

Hello! My re-introduction post is HERE if you wish to read that.

Since I’ve been a beginner before, I zoomed through all modules of Grade 1 of the Beginner’s Course and will hang out at the end until I feel I’m where I need to be. I know how to form the chords, strum, etc; I just need to remind my hands how to do them and build the callouses! It’s also good to have watched the videos and played along with Justin to ensure I am not fooling myself with my technique or anything else. If I’m going to re-start, I may as well re-start on the right foot, right?

While I am making Beginner, Grade 1 solid, I will also re-start work on the Major Scale and knowing the fretboard.

One of my goals before I had hand surgery was to slow down on the “learning things” to actually play songs. I want to learn set of songs (my songbook) up to my current level and then add complexity as I progress through the courses and modules. Ultimately I’d like to be able to sing some songs as well, something I’ve never been able to do. When at the beach or around the fire, I’ve always just banged out some chords, never sang. And drank heavily, let’s not forget that.

So … here we go!


At the end of Beginner - Grade 1, where I will be hanging out for a while, I used the provided practice plan for my daily. Traditionally, I’ve been a “Know a bunch, can play not much” kind of person. To fix that, I have chosen three songs and will not move on to Grade 2 until I can play them to “Grade 1 Ability”, or what I feel I personally should be able to do after Grade 1. I’ve chosen three (well, two) songs that I’d like to eventually learn how to sing, so I’d better be able to play them well, right? I also have Major Scale - Pattern 1 on my list and will use it for alternate picking practice.

1 Beginner Finger Stretch 1’ - 1 mins
2 Alternate Picking Single String - 1 mins
3 Chord Perfect: G - 2 mins
4 Chord Perfect: ANY! - 1 mins
5 One Minute Changes: G to C - 1 mins
6 One Minute Changes: G to D - 1 mins
7 One Minute Changes: C to D - 1 mins
8 Strumming L6 (6:8) - 2 mins
9 Major Scale - Pattern 1 - 10 mins
10 Practice Heroes by David Bowie - 5 mins
11 Practice Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix - 5 mins
12 Practice Twist And Shout by The Beatles - 5 mins


I decided to use the songs I’ve chosen to play to dust off my Guitar Pro skills. I need to watch myself on this as I’ll spend too much time playing around with Guitar Pro, and not enough time playing the guitar.

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Being January 1st, 2024, I figured I would put my Goals and Approaches for the Guitar here in my Learning Log.

  • Use Justin’s Practice App, or another way to accomplish the same
  • Practicing songs is my reward for putting in the technical work portion of my practice items
  • Do more “doing” instead of “preparing to do”
  • Realize that it can take months to complete a Grade, and it’s the best way for me to do it
  • Have a smaller set of songs to work on instead of a large stack
  • Continue to approach certain songs in order to learn to sing and play at the same time
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Realising it takes time is my biggest problem, I have decided to stop moving through modules and consolidate all I have learned so far and try to perfect the songs I have.
I am looking at the songs I am learning and identifying the chord changes that are causing me problems and concentrating on them.
Continuing to learn the pentatonic and major scales along with notes of the fretboard and their relevant positions.
This should probably keep me busy for months.

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Yes this is something that escaped me in my previous attempts to learn guitar. I would feel I should complete and “get” each module in a course in a few days and move on. I didn’t think that I should do that because I was awesome, but because that’s what I thought humans should do; therefore, it just wasn’t for me. So now that I’ve picked the guitar back up, I DID zoom through Grade 1, and it was a refresher, but I’m hanging out at the end until I feel I can move on. I’ll probably do that with Grade 2 also. I’ll spend the right amount of time on each module, then hang out at the end and reinforce everything on Grade 2 until it’s time to move on. Most likely, each grade will take longer to progress from than the last.

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As I was heading towards “Hanging out at the end of Grade 1” I watched Justin’s “How to PASS Grade 1” video. Great video, hope he does one of those in all the grades. I feel the video is a great reality check for self-assessments. Having said that, here are the things that are still to be done for me to pass Grade 1. All are “In Progress”

  • Memorize 5 songs without referencing the sheet music
  • Play a song in front of someone, or video it for upload and show someone
  • Ear Training Grade 1

I will complete these items to ensure I am prepared for Grade 2.


One of the songs that I am choosing to play for Grade 1 is one that I want to place in my songbook “going forward” and to eventually learn how to sing. It is David Bowie’s “Heroes”, the Live at the Bridge School version. The reason I have chosen this version is that he sings it a bit lower and a bit more “Spoken” and it would be easier for me to pull off. The strum pattern that is used in that version is something I COULD figure out and do, but I’m not going to. I’m going to do a Grade 1 version, learn the song, and evolve it as I move through Grade 2 and beyond.

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Well I took the plunge and joined a playing/singing group in the local area. I was mulling it over but a few recent comments in another thread made me just do it and stop being a sissy about it. It’s a Folk Music group, but I don’t really care as that’s not the point. They have a stack of printouts that they use to select from and take turns choosing to play or sing. I’m sure the first few times I will fake it and play softly and they go from there. I’ll have to pay attention to the typical strum techniques and patterns and work those into my daily practice. I’ve practiced country and bluegrass before, so I’ll bet it won’t be totally unfamiliar.
So … here we go.


HEY! Justin has a Folk course! Well! I think I’ll check into that.

Ah dang it’s Grade 5 and fingerstyle. Well I’ll look into it anyway.

After looking at the Intro to the Folk Fingerstyle Intro video, I don’t think I’m ready for it. Justin clearly lays out what he feels one needs to know to progress through it, and I’m a ways away from it. I’ll work on it!

I am moving on to Beginner Grade 2. I have satisfied Justin’s criteria for Grade 1 and feel good about things. The five songs that I memorized without referencing sheet music are ones I had on my list to “take forward” so I’ll continue to play those and hammer them into my brain even deeper. They are porch songs and I will add complexity to them (or not) as my abilities allow. Somewhere along Grade 2 is as far as I’ve ever gone in my guitar journey, so I look forward to taking each Module slowly and surely, whereas before I’d just get through it and move on.

The first meetup of the Play/Sing Folk Jam Band was canceled due to a case of Covid, but I signed up for the next one, which is in about three weeks. I know that the songs they choose will be at random, but I hope to get a sense of a basic set that I can practice to get by on most of the songs. I’m a fan of Justin’s One Minute Changes if done with focus and not done sloppily, so I’ll use them once I get the Perfect Chord version down.


Ah, Perfect Fast Changes … I like it. I think many of us have landed on this already. I modified One Minute Changes myself to become less sloppy as time went on to how many I could do with reasonable accuracy within one minute. This evolves that even further.

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Here is my current practice routine. I’ll keep this for a few days until I get comfortable with the “Stuck 3 & 4” chords, then move on to the next module. The Perfect Chord Changes 1-9 are from a random chord from the “8 Essential Beginner Chords” to one of the “Stuck 3 & 4” chords to reinforce the shape. I’m already ok with my fingers forming those shapes, but I want to put in the back of my head some of the chords that I never used much but may come up here and there as Justin says they should.

  • Beginner Finger Stretch 1’ - 1 mins
  • Major Scale - Pattern 1 - 10 mins
  • Perfect Fast Change #01 - 1 mins
  • Perfect Fast Change #02 - 1 mins
  • Perfect Fast Change #03 - 1 mins
  • Perfect Fast Change #04 - 1 mins
  • Perfect Fast Change #05 - 1 mins
  • Perfect Fast Change #06 - 1 mins
  • Perfect Fast Change #07 - 1 mins
  • Perfect Fast Change #08 - 1 mins
  • Practice Heroes by David Bowie - 5 mins
  • Practice Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix - 5 mins
  • Practice Twist And Shout by The Beatles - 5 mins

Since Justin as the E Minor Pent scale in Grade 2, I’ve taken the Major Scale out and put the E Minor Pent scale in. Sure, I could leave them both in, but I don’t want to overload practice. I want to stick with what Justin wants me to do, and if I add anything else I want that to be an exception, like an extra song, or chords from the Folk group I’m jumping into.

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Today I purchased a humidifier for the room I keep my guitars in. The range is all over for what the internet says is ideal, so I have my humidifier set at 50%. I have a humidity meter arriving soon so hopefully they reasonably agree and I can keep my guitars safe.

I know this is trivial, but today I got some non-glare protective sheets to put printouts in for things I know I want to keep. I don’t print EVERYTHING out and put it on my music stand or binder, but if I’m developing a song, working a scale, etc., I do. Organizing makes me feel good, and this is part of it.

In my course and module I’m working on the E min Pentationic and naming the open notes on the fretboard. I figured that I can run the scale but then also run it while naming the notes involved. I figure if I can do that up and down it’s better practice.


Things are slowing down, and the learning is beginning. Up until recently, it’s been reviewed and made sure no bad habits had formed. That’s all done, and I’m at Module 8 Consolidation, and the work has begun. The only thing left for me to pass Module 8 is to memorize the notes in the Open Position. Justin has as a requirement that I could alternatively “find them out quickly,” but I’m going to just get it over with and commit them to memory, and then keep that item in my practice to keep reinforcing it over time and, of course, hopefully expanding it. If all goes well, this should be by the end of this coming weekend. This should also allow me to polish up the “Wish You Were Here” opening riff, “Heroes” by David Bowie, and “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix. Basic versions, anyway.