Episode 33 of the Bite-Size Guitar Podcast looks at how to learn songs faster on guitar and make the most out of your practice sessions.
This episode will give you tips and advice on how to learn songs faster as well as develop more confidence in the songs you play.
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Check out these resources to help you learn songs faster on guitar:
- How to Learn Songs on Guitar
- How to Learn Songs by Ear (Episode 13)
- When to Move on When Learning a Song (Episode 10)
- How Long Does it Take to Learn a Song on Guitar
- Guitar Pro 7 Review
The above guides and episodes will cover some useful tips and advice on top of what has been covered in this episode.
Podcast Episode 33 Transcript
Hi, I’m Aaron from guitargearfinder.com and this is episode 33 of the Bite-Size Guitar podcast.
In this episode, I’ll talk about how you can learn and master songs faster on guitar. I’ll cover a few simple tips and practice tools you can use to speed up how long it takes to memorize and master songs.
Break the Song Into Parts
The first tip to learning and mastering songs faster is to break the song down into small parts and focus on only one part at a time.
For some guitarists this is obvious, but I see a lot of students try to learn songs by starting at the start of the song, then working through from start to finish.
If your goal is to learn songs faster, starting at the start and working through from start to finish isn’t the best way. You can learn songs that way, but you’ll learn faster by breaking the song down into parts, then work on one part at a time.
You might work on the chorus section first, then move on to the bridge, then the verse, then the intro, or any order you feel makes the most sense to you.
Some people like to start with the easiest parts of the song then work their way to the harder sections later. Other guitarists like to start with the hardest parts. It’s up to you how you work on each part of the song, the main point is to focus on one part at a time.
The reason you want to focus on one part of the song at a time is to help with memorization and muscle memory. When you first go to learn a song, what you’re really trying to do at this initial stage is to memorize the parts and where your fingers go.
Imagine you had to memorize ten different phone numbers. That’s a lot of numbers to memorize. Instead of trying to memorize all ten at once, it makes sense to focus on one phone number and work on it until you memorize it, then work on the next phone number.
By focusing on one phone number at a time, you’re able to memorize each number faster and you’ll be able to remember far more than if you tried to memorize everything all at once.
It’s the same with learning a song on guitar. It’s faster and easier to try and memorize one part at a time. Focus on one section and don’t be tempted to move on to the next section until you can clearly see you’ve built up a decent memory of the part.
Once you memorize a part of the song, you can move on to the next part, but regularly revisit the first part to keep it fresh in your mind. For example, you might spend 10 minutes practicing a new part of the song, then at the end of those 10 minutes, go back to any other parts you’ve already learned and play through them for a minute or two.
Repetition is the key to building muscle memory, so keep returning to parts you’ve already learned to keep them fresh in your mind.
There’s a lot I can talk about with repetition and building muscle memory, but the main point is that you get better results when you focus on one part at a time rather than trying to learn the entire song as one long piece. The smaller the parts you break the song down into, the faster you’ll be able to learn each part.
Use Guitar Pro
The next tip is to use tools to help you learn the song faster. The main tool I use and recommend is Guitar Pro. I explain Guitar Pro and how to use it on my website, so check out the review and tutorials for more details.
Guitar Pro has a few built-in tools you can use to help you learn and master song parts faster. There’s a speed trainer tool you can use to work on building up the speed you can play the parts, you can play along with the other instruments or mute different instruments to help you focus on different parts.
You can even slow the song down and practice playing along with the parts at any tempo with or without a metronome.
There are other apps and tools you can use to do what Guitar Pro does, but the main point is that making use of tools like these can have a big impact on how fast you learn something new.
On the page for this episode, I’ve included a link to a tutorial that shows exactly how to use Guitar Pro to work on learning a song faster. Whether you have Guitar Pro or not, check it out to learn how to use tools like Guitar Pro to improve the quality of your practice.
Focus on Accuracy, then Speed
The next tip is to focus your practice efforts on accuracy first, then speed second. Again, this will be obvious to more experienced guitarists, but it’s worth talking about.
If there’s a song you really want to learn, you’re going to have an urge to try and play it at full speed straight away. You want to be able to play the song properly, not a slowed-down version.
But when it comes to properly learn something, you need to resist that urge. If you rush learning a song just so you can play it at full speed, you’ll likely end up only being able to play a sloppy version of the song.
The problem is that it might not even sound sloppy to you until somebody mentions it or you hear a recording of yourself.
When you rush and try to learn a song too fast, you pick up bad habits and sloppiness in your technique. To avoid this, you need to force yourself to start out slow. I mean very slow. To the point where you’re almost frustrated by how slow you’re playing.
You want to start out as slow as possible so you can focus on accuracy. Play the parts of the song so slow that you have plenty of time to think about where each finger needs to go and position each finger in the perfect position on the string. If you play a mistake, that means you’re playing too fast and you need to slow down. You should start out so slow that it’s hard to make a mistake.
Whenever I first introduce this way of practicing with new students, they hesitate. It doesn’t feel like you’re making progress when you’re playing a song at a ridiculously slow tempo. But after a while, they find out that by learning a song this way, it builds a solid skill foundation for them. When they go to speed up their playing, they don’t struggle and everything seems to feel effortless.
It sounds counter-intuitive to learn a song faster by playing it slower, but it works.
By taking a bit of extra time in the beginning to focus completely on your technique and accuracy, you save so much time later on. You won’t need to re-learn sections where your technique was sloppy and you won’t need to re-think which fingers you’re using to play different parts.
Start out as slow as possible when learning any part of a new song. Use a metronome if you want to force yourself to stay at a slow tempo and focus completely on your accuracy.
Only build the tempo up if you can keep your accuracy at 100%. If you start noticing mistakes creep into your playing, slow down again and get rid of those mistakes.
Memorize the Song Transcription
The last tip I’ll cover in this episode, and there are more tips and advice on the website if you want to learn more, the last tip is to work on memorizing the Guitar TAB or Standard Notation for the song parts when you don’t have your guitar with you.
This is a great way to work on a song when you’re away from your guitar. Not only does it help you learn the song faster, but you’ll also build up your confidence in learning the song before you even pick up your guitar.
The way to do this is to download the Guitar TAB for the song or get the physical sheet music. Either keep a version of it on your smartphone, or take the physical sheet music with you wherever you go.
Whenever you have a spare few minutes, walk through the song and try to memorize the order of the notes, the chords used, the techniques, and everything else.
Walk through the guitar riffs one note at a time and imagine which fingers you should use to play each note. Read through a section, then look away from the sheet music and try to recite each note and chord in your mind.
It might feel strange to do this, but you’ll quickly appreciate it when you go back to your guitar afterwards. If you can get to the point where you memorize the entire song, when you go to pick up your guitar, you’ll be able to focus 100% on practicing the parts instead of also trying to remember what the parts are.
In other words, you won’t have to split your mind between learning what the parts and and how to play them. You can just focus on how to play them.
It might not seem like much, but applying the tips covered in this episode to your playing can make a big difference to how fast you learn songs, and how effectively you learn them.
This week, pick one or more of these tips and try to apply it to your practice routine. Pick a new song to work on and try out what I’ve been talking about.
Use the guides on my website as reference to help you work on your song. Check out more tips and the guides mentioned in this episode at guitargearfinder.com/podcast/episode-33
See how you go improving the way you learn songs and I’ll talk to you next time.