Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Justin Guitar

justin guitar

Ok.  You can see from recent posts that I am getting back into playing the guitar.  For some of you who have known me for a while, this may seem like a joke.  I have tried numerous times to get “back” into it.  But when it comes down to it, I was never as “into it” as I thought I was.

Like every youth pastor in the world, I learned every first position chord in the book.  I could play pretty much any worship song (especially with a capo) since almost every worship song has a very predictable progression. 

I bought my first electric when I graduated high school.  It was a hot pink tanara that had a repaired neck.  My mom paid for it for my birthday present.  It was garbage, but it was funny.  I learned the chords on it and played it at church a few times.  Once I learned power chords and how to play a few riffs in drop d tuning, I thought I was on my way to being “good.”  So I used my credit card and purchased a tweed amp stack and an Ibanez RG550 guitar.  It was a good deal and I loved playing them, but of course I thought that by playing the same things over and over again and learning a couple of songs here and there,  I would get better.

I did not.

Over the years since college, I have bought a few different guitars.  There were times in my life where I learned King’s X songs and could play some pretty intricate riffs by learning the tabulature to the music.  But I never really got any better. 

The last decade has had me in churches where there have been teenagers that have been amazing guitarists and I have never had a challenge or reason to get my guitar out and play it.  So I didn’t much at all.

Until this last few weeks.  Brandon had told me about some online lessons that he was taking and I could see quite a bit of rapid improvement in his playing.  He upgraded to a Fender Tele guitar and a cool Vox amp stack.  It was fun to watch his excitement.  While I watched this, I noted that I really needed a hobby too.  So even though I had a guitar and an amp, I went searching for a guitar that would be easier to play.  I sold the guitar and amp and purchased:

A Yamaha AES620 Guitar.  This is a guitar that I researched after learning that Ty Tabor had played them on stage along with his AES920 guitar.  Every review, every guitar magazine called this guitar an incredible value.  They said that it had an amazing sound.  They said that it was just an incredible guitar for the money.  I searched and quickly realized, I did not have the money.  After an extended search, I found a Craigslist ad in Roanoke VA for the guitar.  The guy was selling it for $200.  It needed a new pickup but he was willing to take my payment and ship it.

I replaced the broken pickup with a cool ‘59 humbucker that I found and I love the sound.

I also picked up the Blackheart Handsome Devil amp that I reviewed the other day.

But, was I really going to use it?  Or would it collect dust in my office?

That question was answered when I found www.justingutiar.com

I was searching for online lessons and found one by Justin Sandercoe.  He lives in the UK and films himself giving guitar lessons.  But not just a couple, or a few.  Hundreds of lessons.  I was shocked when I found them, but I had to ask: which ones are for me?  Where do I begin?  So I found his homepage. 

His homepage gives you all the info you need to get started.  I could see that some of the beginners lessons were too rudimentary for me.  But some of them showed me technique that I had never learned on my own. Some of them showed me that I was making things more difficult than they had to be.  So I have to unlearn some bad habits while I learn the new. 

I also found that some of his beginners courses contain things that I had never heard about, and in his style of teaching, they were very seminal to development. 

When I did take lessons in college, I usually spent most of the time chatting and hanging out with my teacher.  I was pretty embarrassed to play for him, and thought I would learn the most by watching him play and explain what he was doing.  This obviously did not work for me.

I had already known some music theory from my violin days, and learned the Pentatonic blues scale from my teacher.  But I did not know why it was pentatonic and why it was important.  Justin not only talks about what you should learn, but shows you how to learn it and why it matters. 

He has a progression to his teaching.  First learn technique.  Then some chords.  Then a few songs so that you can practice your chords.  He has great exercises to go with these teaching how to get from chord to chord quicker.  He gives you a few songs that you can play as you progress through the lessons. He even teaches some cool distinctive fingerings and techniques to make the songs sound cooler.  So, he not only teaches you how to play the chords “Save Tonight” by Eagle Eye Cherry.  He teaches you the cool strumming rhythm and finger patterns that make it sound “next level.”

He them moves to the pentatonic scale and while I am learning the scale, and how to play it cleaner and faster, I am also taking his lessons on the blues style of playing.  I have been in the blues stuff for a week, have learned the scales and some licks to play, and can already play some rudimentary solo patterns.

I can see a dramatic difference in how I play and how I sound in only the couple of weeks that I have been learning his stuff.  This is amazing.

The other cool thing is that while I learn through the blues stuff, I can still go back and learn finger stretching and strengthening exercises and learn more about barre chords and how to play them, as well as learn some songs. 

I can do it through his style of teaching, at my own pace.  I can watch the lessons as many times as I want, and can find songs that he stretches my abilities in order to play.


That’s right.  All of this stuff is on there for free.  All of the videos are on youtube, all of the explanations and resources are on his site.  He does sell some products, but you don’t need to pay a thing or buy anything to go through every lesson.  He does take donations and does want to sell some products, but there is no pressure, no commercials, no being taken advantage of. 

I can not give a higher recommendation to anyone who wants to learn guitar or who wants to get better at guitar than to take Justin’s methods and start learning.  I am having a blast and learning how to make my new guitar and amp sound pretty cool.


  1. this is so true..

    I have also found the JustinGuitar to be the best guitar course online. It is even better structured than many of the big commercial sites.

    And it is FREE...

  2. I completely and fully endorse his site.

  3. Hey, thanks so much for the write up. I too am picking up the guitar again after over a decade (I started in college). I've already started his beginner's course.

    I see your post was written a few years ago. How has your guitar playing progressed?