How To (Properly) Learn To Play A Song

Learning to play a song on the guitar involves 3 stages.   Learning, Practice and Performance.  Below I’ll advise you on each of these stages, the best methods for each and how to get to that point at which you can definitively say that you’ve learnt to play a song.

Stage 1: Learning 
This means specifically learning how to play the guitar parts that are in the song.  Learning any chord shapes you don’t already know, getting familiar with any melody lines, guitar solos or riffs, so you’re able to comfortably play a rough outline of each section of the song.  If you get it right now, stages 2 and 3 are much much easier!

Stage 2: Practice 
This means playing your guitar along with the original song.  This is such an important and often overlooked part of practising guitar!  Doing this not only cements the song’s structure in your mind, ie. how many times the chorus happens, how long the verse is, when the guitar solo happens etc.  But also any mistakes/rhythm slips/wrong chords or notes in your playing become very apparent as they clash with the song.  We urge you to play along with songs as part of regular practice, because otherwise, how would you know if you’re getting it wrong?

Stage 3: Performance 
This could mean a number of things.  It doesn’t have to literally mean performing the song to an audience.  It means playing the song, start to finish, in context, but without the backup of having the original song to play along to.  It could be:

  • Rehearsing/Performing the song with your band
  • Playing and singing the song yourself in a singer/songwriter style – By yourself, to a friend, busking, on YouTube, whatever!
  • Playing the song to a backing track.  (Great Guitar Backing Tracks here)
  • Making your own recording of the song using recording equipment/software

If you complete these 3 stages, we guarantee you won’t forget how to play that song in a very long time!

-Alex

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