Table of Contents
I am learning guitar as an adult later in life and this blog and my YouTube channel are dedicated to showing my progress but also to inspire and help others to do the same as so many guitar players give up in the first year.
I will post each month on my progress so that you can see how I get on and I will share with you what I have learned and what frustrations I have had over that period. I will also share any tips and recommendations along the way that may help as well as things that I have tried and tested
At the end of this post, I showcase all of the songs I have learned and give a link to my second month of guitar progress at the end of the post.
So let’s get into it.
What I Learned In My First Month Of Playing Guitar
I recorded a video each week and uploaded it to YouTube this month to show my progress along with a final video to show the songs that I had started to learn.
Just learning to record for YouTube was a struggle, the format was a little crappy and I felt a bit uncomfortable in front of the camera. I also had to learn how to edit videos but I did my best to show what I had been learning.
The format changed a little as time went on, so look past the first weekly progress video if you can as I believe they have gotten better with time.
Summary Of What I Learned / Did / Recommend This Month:
- Hours of Guitar Practiced: 20 Hours
- Steel strings make your fingers hurt!
- A Finger Exercise – To increase dexterity
- Guitar Finger Exercise Tools Work! (check out my review here)
- Recording yourself is a great way to see progress and correct mistakes.
- Chords: A, Am, B7, C, C7, D, Dm, E, Em, FMaj7, G, G7,
- Songs I have been learning:
- Mad World – Gary Jules
- Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix (Simple version)
- What’s Up? – 4 Non-Blondes
- Working Class Hero – John Lennon
- How To Save A Life – The Fray
- Live Forever – Oasis
- Wonderwall – Oasis
- One – U2
- Anji – Davy Graham (My Project Song – Biggest Challenge)
Songs I Learned This Month:
This video below is of the songs that I learned this month.
Looking back now I find it a great motivator to see how much I have learned and what I have achieved in a month period. This is owed to the course that I am following because I believe I would never had developed this amount on my own or known what to learn next.
I believe a structured course and diligent learning really is the way to go when first starting to learn.
1 Week Guitar Progress (Stage 3 – Justin Guitar Beginner Course)
I started on Beginner Stage 3 of the Justin Course as I had previously learned the A, D, E, Am, Em and Dm chord along time ago and had done a quick recap prior to this video.
In actual fact, it was more than 10 to 15 years which is what I guesstimate in the video it was actually 21 years prior to recording that video that I had played a small amount on guitar. My parents had bought me an acoustic guitar as a Christmas present and I spent around 30 hours learning a few bits and pieces. One of the songs I tried to learn at the time was Stand By Me by Ben E King and I actually managed to learn it a little but then tried to play other songs and they all ended up sounding the same.
At the time of recording this video and during that week my fingers were really feeling the pain of forming chords on the steel strings and the guitar still felt like an alien object and my whole posture felt awkward.
I later learned some great ways to deal with fingertips and general finger pain when first learning guitar and wrote a post on it here 21 Tips For Guitar Finger Pain so if you are just starting to learn then I would urge you to check it out.
If you struggle with body and hand position then this article here Guitar Posture & Hand Position For Beginners [Illustrated Guide] from Andrew, he is a professional musician and offers some simple but effective ways to make sure you set yourself up correctly when starting to learn to prevent any issues further down the line.
60 Second Chord Changes
One of the key forms of practicing I was starting to learn this week was the ‘one-minute chord changes’ that Justin Guitar has. If you don’t know them you basically work on two chords and you alternate between them in a 60 second period, with one strum for each chord and see how many you can get. The aim is to get to 60 changes so one every second and once you get past this on all the chords for that stage then you are in good shape to move on to the next stage.
It is an excellent form of practice because it is so effective at improving your chord changes and making playing songs more fluid. What I found also really motivating was that you can see your progression, I write down the numbers that I achieve on a pad of paper for each chord change and then over the course of the week I work on improving those numbers. It is really motivating as it gives you something to work with.
I worked diligently on these changes over the week which is why I was able to hit all but one of the 60-second chord change goals.
I started the finger exercises this week as Justin suggests and my fingers just won’t stretch at the moment and my general finger dexterity feels like that of my 6-month-old baby daughter.
It is amazing, I spend most of my life thinking I can use my fingers perfectly adequate then you place a guitar in my hands and it highlights how inadequate they are. I will definitely be working at this over the coming weeks.
I have been working on one song this week Mad World by Gary Jules. I was actually able to play quite a bit of it as you can see if you watch the video above. I would like to be able to play this in fingerstyle one day as Justin runs through in various ways to play it from easy through to the more difficult
2 Week Guitar Progress (Stage 3 – Justin Guitar Beginner Course)
This week started well with my 60-second chord changes but seemed to get worse towards the end of it, strange. I have chalked it up to just being part of the learning process and have decided to just trust the process of practice that Justin prescribes.
When I do the changes themselves sometimes I get into a bit of a daydream so I think I might be getting a bit bored of doing them. I know they are important, however, so I have decided to keep on working through them.
I find the A chord particularly difficult at the moment, sometimes I think it is due to the size (width) of my sausage-like fingers making it difficult to cram them all into such a tight area (innuendo is going through my brain here but I will keep it to myself).
Finger Exercise Tool
So I have been struggling with strength in my ring and pinky finger so I decided to buy a guitar exercise tool because apparently, they can help increase your hand strength and finger strength.
Many people seem them as a gimmick but I am going to try one out and report back. All the reviews I have seen on Amazon say they are useful and serve a purpose so let’s find out. I will be trying it out over the next few weeks and will let you know. I am going to take it to work so it can be a stress buster as well as an opportunity to practice a little while away from the guitar.
I worked on three songs this week:
- Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix – This is a simplified version from Justin
- What’s Up? – 4 Non-Blondes
- Working Class Hero – John Lennon
You can see all three songs from about 10:30 in the video.
I think the one I can play the best is What’s Up? and I think the strum pattern on it is pretty cool. It was a kind of strange but really cool feeling when the strum pattern seemed to fall into place.
I am trying to think of a way to explain it, perhaps this may do it: You know when you have something that you have set up that feels comfortable like a drivers car position and then someone else uses the car and leaves it the way they had it, it feels a little odd but not totally unnatural right?
Well, it felt like that, you know, you wiggle a bit, adjust the seat, headrest, and mirror and then it all kind of falls into place and makes sense. Learning this strum pattern felt exactly like that.
Working Class Hero, however, did not feel like that at all haha. It was my first introduction to a picked bassline, a hammer-on and a rhythm of three which made it challenging for me. Cool techniques but it felt so awkward to play, although I really like the sound and the song grew on me as I wasn’t familiar with it.
Also as a side note, I was really impressed with Justin’s singing and playing on this one, a lot of passion shows through so it must be one of his favorite songs or maybe he has a particular connection with it, anyway worth checking out if you haven’t already.
I also saw a video from Steve Stine this week where he talked about having a ‘project song’ when you are learning guitar alongside ‘ego songs’.
So ‘ego’ songs are effectively songs that you can play with the knowledge that you have now. So if you know four chords and those four chords are the only ones in the song then it will be easier to play and you will learn in quite quickly therefore it massages your ‘ego’ so it is an ‘ego song’.
Project songs are songs that have techniques, chords or other elements that are new to you or it has an increased level of difficulty that will present additional challenges to you.
I liked the sound of this and decided to choose my own project song. The song I have chosen to learn is called Anji by Davy Graham which is a fingerpicked folk song, it has been covered by many like Simon and Garfunkel but Davy wrote the original.
In fact, I learned about it whilst reading a great book called Guitar Man by Will Hodgkinson (you can read my review of it here, it is well worth a read). The book inspired me to start this blog and my YouTube channel and is all about this music journalist who decides to learn the guitar later in life and seeks out famous guitarists to seek guidance and learn from.
He meets with Davy who has lived a lot of life and was all inspired by music and finding a new sound which lead him around the globe and he popularised the alternate tuning DADGAD.
Anyway, within the book Will decides to learn the song Anji because it used to be a benchmark for guitarists to prove themselves in England in the 1960s. So I have decided to take this one on.
One thing I wanted to add is that the joy I get from playing part of a song and recognizing it alongside the original is indescribable. A wave of happiness comes over me when I realize that yes I am capable of learning this instrument and that age is just a number.
The guitar is quickly becoming part of what I do, and I can’t recommend it enough to those looking for a new hobby.
3 Week Guitar Progress (Stage 4 – Justin Guitar Beginner Course)
After recording the videos of the last two weeks, I realized that I had no idea how well I was doing when completing the 60-second chord changes. I smashed the target and was clear to move on to the next stage but didn’t realize and ended up repeating what I had been learning.
Not a bad thing in the scheme of things but, whoops! I could have moved on a lot sooner. Nevermind, I am now on Stage 4 of the Justin Guitar Beginner course.
This week I have been working on my project song Anji which I mentioned last week and it is a serious challenge. I spent over an hour and a half getting my fingers used to it and I didn’t get past the intro, this song is going to take me a long time at this rate.
I even think looking ahead at the video that I am learning from, that the techniques are just beyond me at my current capability and that I may have to revisit this song as I progress in my journey.
I have really noticed this week when strumming, that I often catch the high E string on an up strum. Once I noticed it I couldn’t ignore it, I felt it crept into my playing on every song. However, when I watched the video back when editing I realize it wasn’t as bad as my ear was making out. Still, I think it is something to work on, so I am going to play around with the angle with which I hold the guitar and work on how I strum.
I also have been using a really light pick since I noticed this, I use a .38mm Dunlop pick and it is very ‘flappy’, well that is the way I would describe it anyway. This has helped with my strumming as it isn’t so thick that it catches on the strings. I would recommend checking them out if you are looking for some picks that help you as a beginner. I have written an article on the best picks to suit you and your playing type within this article here How To Stop Your Guitar Pick Moving, Slipping or Being Dropped.
Record Yourself Playing
One thing I would recommend after learning this week is to get into the habit of recording yourself. You don’t have to show it to anyone but as a way of improving your playing, it is invaluable.
You get to see any obvious mistakes you make, you get to see your finger placements and how you are forming chords. For example when I form the D chord my last finger goes down on its own and not together with the other two which is something I need to work on.
I also record myself when doing the 60-second chord changes, one so that I can count after the event and make sure I have achieved the correct number and two because I get and obvious errors in holding the guitar and finger and hand position.
Over time you get to see how you are improving week on week also which is a great benefit and if you are brave enough, you can share your progress with others. I have joined a few groups on Facebook for beginner guitar players which is one place you can share and also I am part of the Justin Guitar Community Pages. I share my progress on there under the section ‘Road Cases’ as I track my journey.
It is a good way of keeping a diary and all the people on there I have found to be really positive and they are constructive with their feedback to help you make changes if you need to or realize what you need to do next.
Finger Exercise Tool
So as I mentioned last week, I purchased a guitar finger exercise tool and have been using it at work. I was skeptical when buying it that it would help but It has proved to be really useful in more ways than I thought it would.
Let’s be straight, it won’t improve the speed between chord changes but it will improve your grip strength and finger strength and it can help you build calluses.
The tool has an adjustable grip strength that you can calibrate on each finger piston so it can suit everyone. I have found this useful for my ring and pinky finger which were particularly weak when prior to using it.
It has 6 raised plastic bump lines under the rubber grip that simulate strings. These help you to build your calluses in the first few weeks and help maintain them, thereafter.
I use it while at work, sat at my desk, and it has been proven to work. I have increased the tension on the finger pistons as I have gone and I have worked out how to use it effectively to simulate different chords. I talk about the different exercises that you can do with it in my review here Best Guitar Finger Exercise Tool and Ways To Use it Effectively, so if you are looking to purchase one then I would recommend reading it before you do.
Justin Guitar Beginner Song Books 1 & 2
As you will likely know if you are following the Justin Guitar Beginner Course, it is free, 100%, no cost. However, I wanted to contribute as I feel he does so much for the beginner and I decided to buy the two beginner guitar songbooks that he has.
The books have proved to be really useful. They detail out the songs appropriate for each stage of the course so that you can pick one that will work for the level you are at.
Within the books, they detail the strum patterns also which you don’t get on the videos. This has proved invaluable for learning the strum pattern for Wonderwall and the other songs so I would highly recommend them.
4 Week Guitar Progress (Stage 4 – Justin Guitar Beginner Course)
I have really struggled this week and I am still on Stage 4. The main struggle has been with the 60-second chord changes for the 7th Chord changes so that is between the B7, C7, G7, and FMaj7.
It was very frustrating for me so I took a break and tried to play some songs that I had learned previously to give me a shot of confidence / little ego boost to get me back on track.
However, when I did this it didn’t have the desired effect, haha. The songs that I had learned didn’t sound as good as I previously thought but maybe this was just because I was in a negative frame of mind due to other things going on in my head.
A negative frame of mind has cropped up in my life before and I have suffered from depression bouts in my life and so over the years, I have come to recognize the change but more often than not can’t pinpoint the reason.
Learning guitar has really helped though as it serves as a good distraction. It stops my mind from working away as it is occupied in learning and I get to develop a new skill, so it has been a real positive for me. I talk about it a lot more in my article here How Learning Guitar Helps Depression.
So overall I felt I was drifting backward in my learning this week and it felt demotivating but at the end of all I got through it and as a result, I learned something. I learned that a guitar journey is going to be frustrating at times and it is going to have ups and downs just like learning anything else.
I took some time to really think about it and did some research and created a list or an arsenal of thoughts that I could draw upon should the situation arise again (this is very much how I deal with onsets of depression and it works for me). This list I put together I then filled out and put into a blog article here How To Beat Guitar Learning Frustration for Older Beginners. So If you have felt frustrated in your learning or want some help when you do it is well worth a read.
If you don’t then just be aware it will happen, just as Thanos says in Avengers: Endgame ‘I am inevitable’ but by learning how to beat it then you will be in a position to say ‘And I …am Iron Man’.
Project Song Progress
This is one area where I have actually pushed the needle forward, a bit. I believe learning guitar is about small improvements wherever you can so that they compound over time and equal decent progress.
There is always something to learn even from mistakes as this week has proved. As I always like to say ‘You only fail when you give up’, grit and determination will always win out in the end.
Finger Pain and Calluses
One positive thing I have noticed this week though is that my calluses have really built up and I can now play easily for over an hour without noticing any pain.
So it seems the first few weeks are painful to uncomfortable and the third and fourth weeks are when the calluses seem to really have formed.
If you are just starting to learn then maybe you can take some solace in this, haha.
What Next? 2 Month Guitar Progress Breakdown
I hope you can join me on my journey, so if you would like to keep updated then please subscribe to my YouTube Channel here and sign up for my email updates here. I won’t spam you, I just want to keep in contact with like-minded people.
I would love to hear from any of you learning to play guitar and if you have any questions, comments or want to tell me how you are getting on then please leave them in the comments section below. I will do my best to answer them and provide any help, feedback, and encouragement I can.
All the best, good luck in your guitar journey and don’t forget to check out my 2 Month Guitar Progress here. Look forward to seeing you there.