To carry on from last weeks article, this week we will be moving onto the second part of the song learning equation, “Accuracy”.

When I was starting out with guitar, I had trouble learning new songs too. Often it was very frustrating, not understanding what was going wrong, or when mistakes were being made. I might learn a song, then a day or two later I would try playing along to the song. Well, I quickly realised that something wasn’t working, and the worst of it all… I had no idea what was going wrong, so I had no idea at all how to fix the problem.

If this at all sounds like you, your in luck. I have spent years researching into the topic, and now that your here you don’t have to go through the struggle I did. So lets talk about Accuracy shall we?

Fretboard Familiarity

I’d like to compare learning the fretboard, to travelling to a destination for the first time;

Alright so you’ve been invited to a friends house warming and its the first time going there. Unfortunately they didn’t have time to give you directions, just an address… So what happens now? You’ll probably look at a GPS or Google Maps, maybe even a street directory. Now that you have the directions, you can follow a long and get to the house warming.

It’s been several weeks now, and you have been to your friends house several times now. You no longer need the GPS, Google Maps or Street Directory. Why? Because you have built a map in your mind of how to get there, and what streets to turn down.

Really knowing the guitar fretboard will give you the ‘road map’ you need to play chords, scales, and even pinpoint individual notes anywhere on the neck. It opens up the door to creative freedom, by handing you a map to direct you. Of course you still have to do all of the driving, but it takes so much guesswork out of the equation, and makes learning music so much easier.

Finger Independence, Strength and Accuracy

What is Finger Independence? Well, I’m glad you asked!
“Finger Independence”refers to the ability your fingers have to work on their own or independently.

Try this – Hold your hand up in front of you, with your palm towards your face (don’t worry your not required to face palm or slap yourself for this). Now try moving each of your fingers one at a time. Can you move your pinky without your ring finger moving as well? Most likely the answer is no.

So what can we do to change this?

Well, using many variations of Chromatic Scales work great. Just make sure you are focusing on your “Accuracy” and keeping your fingers close to the fret board the whole time. You want to avoid your fingers flying off the fretboard, and robbing you of precious milliseconds (yep they can make a big difference).

Ask yourself these questions:

  • are my fingers close enough to the fretboard, or are they flying around?
  • can I hear buzzing, dull notes or silence where it shouldn’t be?
  • are my fingers fretting the notes correctly?
  • are any fingers moving when they shouldn’t?
  • is my strumming hand playing the right strings?
  • am I holding the pick appropriately?

By gaining finger independence you will be spending less time focusing on getting the chords, and notes sounding right. You’ll also free up your brain-space for more important things like learning songs. As a bonus, you’re also going to increase your pace of learning (discussed in last weeks article Learn Songs Better, Faster Part 1).

Use Tab or Score Software

The benefit of using a type of score or tab software, is that you not only get to hear the music, but you get to see the music light up in front of you as it plays. My favourite tool for doing this is Guitar Pro. It’s great for people who want to learn songs, and its great for advanced users who want to transcribe a song, or write their own music. If you’re interested in GuitarPro you can head over to the Resources page to check it out, or can click here to try it out for free, or even get your own copy of Guitar Pro;

Guitar Pro: a complete workshop for guitarists at an affordable price

My two favourite features of Guitar Pro are the Speed Trainer and Note Selection. The Speed Trainer is great for slowing down difficult sections and even lightening fast virtuoso guitar licks. While the Note Selection feature does exactly that. You can select as little or as many notes as you like, press play, and they will repeat until you press stop. This leads me to the next item;


Slow the song Down

Now this does not mean that you have to play slow all of the time, on the contrary! It is really important to that you work on your speed. However, if you don’t have a song memorised correctly (including muscle memory) you are never going to attain the accuracy you are seeking.

By slowing down the song, you are giving your brain and fingers a chance to connect the dots (or frets rather). When you first approach the song, try going half the speed you ‘think’ you are comfortable with and make sure you are playing all notes with precise accuracy.

When you slow down, you will notice your mistakes faster, meaning you will correct them sooner. You will most likely find that you were making mistakes that you just couldn’t see or hear before. Once you are feeling comfortable at that speed, bump it up a couple beats per minute and repeat the same process. Gradually increasing the speed will help ensure you are playing accurately, not sloppy, and with better results.

One or Two more things

It’s so easy to be judgemental of yourself. It can be very hindering and detrimental to your practice. Each time you find yourself judging and making a claim like “I can’t do this” or “This is way to hard” your programming your brain to loose interest. To work around this mental blockade, when you catch yourself saying or thinking things like this, try adjusting the sentence to something more like this; “I can’t do this, YET” and “This is pretty difficult, maybe I can try it another way, or seek help”.

Practicing your scales, chords, arpeggios is just as important as focusing on learning songs. You need to find a good balance between the two in order for you to progress faster. If you’re feeling bad about your practice or progress at any point, keep persisting and don’t give up! Your already that much closer to becoming the guitarist you want to be.

Let me know how this article helped you, or if there is anything you would like to talk more about.

Learn Songs Better, Faster Part 2 – Accuracy
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