There are countless guitarists out there who were first inspired to pick up their instrument after listening to a certain song that made them fall in love with the sound of a guitar. These songs ultimately shape our style as we learn them in order to better understand and absorb the magic that caught our attention in the first place. But it's not always easy, especially for beginners. While there's no getting around the practice and dedication needed to learn a new song, there are a few things you can do to learn them faster. With these tips, you can spend less time learning and more time playing the songs you love.
We begin with a tip that, while should be obvious, too many of us fail to stick with. While going with the flow and jamming out in the middle of trying to learn a new song might be fun, it’s also very unproductive. Don’t waste your time – if your goal is to learn a song or a certain part of it such as the intro, solo, etc., stick with it. All the tips and mental shortcuts out there won’t do you any good if your mind is constantly getting away from the mission at hand.
Learn In Sections
Instead of trying to learn a song note by note, from beginning to end, it will be much easier if you first memorize the song by its structure. Every song has a certain form such as intro, verse, chorus, verse and so on. By breaking it down this way, you'll quickly have a basic roadmap of the entire song – a much faster process than simply trying to learn it from the first note to the last. After you have the structure down, you can start focusing on the more complex parts. For songs with very erratic structures – we suggest putting those on endless repeat!
Play It Slow But Correct
When we play something new too quickly and too soon, we tend to make a lot of mistakes, many of tend to stick with us. We then have to unlearn the mistake and re-learn the part correctly, which ultimately takes longer. The slower and more correct you play it the first time, the quicker you will be able to get it up to speed and performance-worthy. The reason for this involves the brain having to only work enough to learn it correctly. Once you have the song down note for note, you can then move on to the other aspects such as tempo, rhythm, and tone.
Don’t Skip The Difficult Parts
Many players gravitate towards the easy parts of songs and just brush over the hard parts, meaning they don’t actually learn the entire song correctly. Once you have the easy parts down, completely focus on those difficult passages. Make the best use of your time. Your brain will generally soak up the easy stuff quickly but will take longer for the hard stuff. Go into your practice sessions with this in mind.
Break Down A Song Before You Practice
Instead of just figuring out the chords to a song, try to get your head geared towards listening to the deeper aspects. Is the key major or minor? Does that key change in a part of the song? Which chords are major and which are minor? Depending on your skill level, you might not be able to break down a song that deep yet but as you become a more experienced player, many of these aspects will begin to jump out at you naturally. The best thing about this is that with practice you can begin to do this without a guitar, allowing you to get started on learning a song while you’re driving to work or waiting for the bus. The more you’re able to break down and absorb by just listening, the better prepared you’ll be when you actually have a guitar in your hand.
Play The Song In A Different Key
This is more of a bonus tip that might not make you learn a song faster, but it will definitely help you better understand it. This tip might also be a bit tougher for beginners to quickly implement but it is a good tip nonetheless. After you learn any song, regardless of the genre, make it a habit of trying to play it in at least one or two different keys. This will force you to start thinking about the notes/chords of each song in terms of their musical relation to one another as opposed to their physical position on a fretboard. As a bonus, you’ll also enhance your ability to quickly change a song’s key, an underrated skill that that comes in handy when playing with singers who are more comfortable performing at certain registers.
Don't forget, every musician learns at their own pace. While these tips should definitely help you learn and memorize songs faster, rushing too fast will only cause you to stumble. Relax and enjoy the process because there are fewer things as satisfying as finally nailing down your favorite tune! And never be afraid to look for help. With the power of the internet, you can easily browse tabs for your favorite song or even find a video on YouTube with step by step instructions! And if you're in the market for a new piece of gear, you can always chat with one of our PAL Pros by using the Contact Us chat box below!
Your Turn to Sound Off!
What techniques do you use to learn songs faster?