Why You Have Trouble Learning Songs On The Guitar From Start To Finish, All The Way Through, And How To Fix This

By Simon Candy

So you have the music to a song you want to learn on guitar. You also have a recording of that song, and the technical ability to be able to play it. Yet you struggle big time trying to get the song down on the guitar from start to finish. 

So why is that, and what is the best way to learn a song on guitar?

In this article I am going to provide you with some proven methods of how to go about learning songs on guitar. This is a very common problem, and the source of many frustrations for guitar players of all kinds. Simply having the tablature and recording to the song you want to learn is no guarantee you are going to be able to get it down from start to finish. 

I can certainly relate. There were many times in my early years of playing that I would become very frustrated when learning songs on guitar. I can remember friends asking me to play a whole song and struggling to even get close to it. I had absolutely no clue of how to go about this at all. On the surface it seemed pretty simple, you start at the beginning of the song and work your way through to the end. 

How wrong that assumption was!

If you are interested in saving yourself a load of time and frustration when learning the songs you love on guitar then you need proven methods that work in getting a song down so that you can play it all the way through, from start to finish. Apart from banging your head against a wall, or maybe destroying a guitar or two along the way, the consequences of not overcoming this problem of learning songs on guitar is huge. The all too common false belief is that you don’t have what it takes, that it’s all too hard. 

Stop! This is NOT true.

How sad it would be if you were to quit playing guitar altogether, due to the belief that you were not capable of learning a song and being able to play it through from start to finish. The real reason, however, is you just don’t know the best ways to go about learning songs on guitar. 

Lets change that right now.

 

How To Learn Those Hard Parts That Drive You Nuts, To Any Song

Trying to tackle a song you are learning in one big piece is crazy. Playing the song as a whole is the end result, not a starting point. There is a lot of muscle memory that generally needs developing to be able to play songs, not to mention the different skill sets required from you, the player, to be able to play them all the way through. 

So to combat this, we need to break the song down into smaller sections. One of the best ways to do this when learning the song, is to divide it into it’s natural sections such as Intro, Verse, Chorus, Bridge etc. You would then go about working on these areas in isolation.

But here is the really important part. Don’t get bogged down in any one area of the song. You must rotate through each section you are working on regularly. 

Why? 

There are two main reasons: 

1. Getting stale on a song you are learning is common and often leads you to giving up on it and trying something else “new”. Rotating through sections, that are likely to be different from each other, will keep it fresh and avoid this happening. 

2. The fact that different sections of a song often require different guitar playing skills means that you will be developing your own playing in the best ways possible. That is, you will be rotating not only the sections of a song, but the different skills and techniques required to play the song such as chord changes, strumming, picking, solo and riff playing, etc. Regularly rotating through the different areas of guitar playing is an extremely effective strategy in itself, and you will be doing it at the same time as getting a song down. That is what you call efficient practice.

 

Simplify The Song You Are Learning So You Can Play Through From Start To Finish Now

While the above is very important to do when learning a song, it is equally important to also be playing along to the whole song. But how do you do that? Isn’t that why we are breaking the song down in the first place, because we can’t play it all the way through yet?

The answer is to simplify it as much as you need to, so that you CAN play through the whole thing. So this might mean to leave all the tricky parts out and just play the chords. If you even struggle a bit with that, leave the strumming out so you have more time to make the chord changes required to play through the song from start to finish. Why bother doing this?

The answer is because you will be working on different skills as a musician and guitar player compared to when you break the song down into smaller parts. Think about it. At no point when you break the song down, sometimes into very small parts, are you working on keeping time, or on the feel of the song in regard to the varying dynamics from one section to the next, or learning the actual format of the song (ie. what things happen in what order).

However, when you simplify the song your are learning, so that you can play it all the way through, you ARE working on all these skills. Not only that, but you also get to hear the more detailed parts, that you are working on when breaking the song down, in actual context. This will make it a lot easier for you to put them back into the song when these parts are ready.

 

Why Do All This? It Seems Faster And Easier To Just Learn The Song From Start To Finish

On the surface, this may be the way you feel, however it just isn’t true. Sure, there are some songs you can do this with because they are very easy for you to play. I’m talking like 3 chord songs here that require a bit of strumming and your on your way. However most songs you want to learn will need to be broken down and worked on in isolation as illustrated above. 

As a result of doing this, you will have an ever growing list of songs that you will be able to play all the way through from start to finish. You will become more and more confident with your own playing as it dramatically improves because of the WAY you are learning your songs. 

The process of learning songs on the guitar will become much faster for you too as your playing improves. While you will still break things down, and simplify songs so that you can play them the whole way through, you wont need to do this for the same amount of time as you may do in the beginning.

You will feel great when friends ask you to play a whole song, and you can actually do it! You’ll be ready to play in bands or just jam with friends, and most importantly, you will believe that you CAN play songs from start to finish and that you DO have what it takes to play guitar.

 

How to Isolate A Part So You Can Get It Down For Good 

Let me now give you an example of how to isolate a part of a song so that you can target it, and get it down for good. Here is what could be a pre chorus to a song:

 

Learning Songs Article Pre Chorus Image

Learning Songs Article Pre Chorus Image 2

 

 

And here is a part that you may need to isolate and give extra attention to:

 

Learning Songs Article Part Pre Chorus Image

 

 

 

Instead of playing the pre chorus as a whole, it is better to isolate the specific part that needs work. By doing this you will play it many more times over in a 5 or 10 minute practice session compared to playing the pre chorus as a whole. This will ensure that you get it down quicker because you are specifically targeting the weak links in your song and as a result, playing them more often.

 

To get a full and complete method of how to go about learning songs on guitar so that you can play them all the way through from start to finish, check out this free ebook and audio on how to learn songs on guitar.