This week I wanted to have a look at how you can improve your process of learning songs.
The main ingredients that we will be looking at are, the “Pace” that you learn songs, how “Accurate” your playing is once you have learnt a song, and what you can do to better “Retain” the knowledge you have gained.
Because there is a lot of information here, I have split this into three posts to make it easier to follow. Some of the items below will fall into both categories, but we will mostly be focusing on things you can do to increase your song learning “Pace”.
Listen to the song again… and again… and again… and again…
Listening to a song that you are going to play is by far one of the best things you can do while learning it. Listening to it on repeat is even better. In the beginning, you’ll pretty much get to the point where you don’t want to listen to the song anymore. When you hit that point, take a short break, then keep listening!
You want to be as familiar with the song as possible, and be able to hear particular parts in your head without even trying. Knowing the song like the back of your hand is essential not only to learning it faster, but will also affect accuracy. After you have a few songs under your belt, you will find that this process starts getting much quicker.
Find the Song Chords, Sheet Music, Lead Sheet or Tab
Having the chords for your song readily available will make it so much quicker than trying to guess what chords you should be using. Also if you know how to read Sheet music, a Lead Sheet or Tab, I would highly recommend using them. If not completely, at least as a guide.
You could get chord / song books from your local music shop or online, there are multiple places to get these. Alternatively there are guitar tab and music score libraries online where you can get tabs, some free, some at a price.
Ultimate-Guitar.com or Chordie.com are good places to start, if you haven’t checked it out before. Be mindful though that the tabs on these sites can be uploaded by anyone, so there is a high possibility of errors. Still though, some of the tabs and chord sheets on there are really great.
Use Your Ears and Practice Along to Songs
By practicing along to the song, you are more likely to pick up on any possible mistakes that could have been in the music you’re reading from. Your will also hear your mistakes loud and clear, which will help you to start training your ear. Having a developed ear for music decreases any guesswork, and will speed up your learning process.
There are some great tools to help you with ear training online! I would recommend checking out MusicTheory.net if you want to get serious about training your ear. They have lot’s of great tools to help you out.
Learn more songs… start with easier ones
This one is not so obvious, but learning songs other than the goliath you may be trying to tackle is really important. You will gain more skills from learning 10 songs that use pretty much the same chords, rather than spending forever on a single piece, only to get a ¼ way through before you give up.
You will burn yourself out pushing yourself way beyond your limits. You will also get joy in knowing that you have more songs under your belt, and when someone asks you to play, you have a few tunes you can rip out for them.
One or two more things
There is something to be said for seeking guidance from others. Whether it is a teacher, a short course, online tutorials, videos or a blog post like this one, (Congrats! Your already making steps towards improving your playing, just by reading this!) getting that extra little push, or piece of new information could be just what you need to open a door you didn’t even know existed.
Also, getting out of your comfort zone is so important! Try doing something you haven’t tried yet with your focus on learning. I believe Orrin Woodward put it best, when he said “Success is on the other side of your comfort zone”.
Let me know if this helped you at all, and keep your eyes peeled for the next article in this series.