You’ve got some basic chords down pat, but when it comes to putting all your knowledge together into a song, it seems to take you forever. Maybe you can get through parts of short, relatively basic tunes, but not more complex songs. You wish you could speed up the learning process a little bit. Is there any way to?
To learn songs on a guitar faster, try these 11 tips:
- Use a guitar tab software or website
- Slow down songs on YouTube to 0.5 speed
- Start with the parts of the song that repeat
- Try an online guitar lesson service
- Begin with what’s easy, then move on to what’s hard
- Play some Rocksmith
- Pick up on recurring patterns through music theory
- Keep practicing the most common techniques
- Know your fretboard
- Check out other people’s versions of the song
- Practice, practice, practice
Not sure what Rocksmith is or how to switch a YouTube video to a slower speed? Worry not, as in this article, we’ll expand on each of these 11 actionable tips so you can start learning songs on guitar much quicker.
11 Tips for Learning Songs on Guitar Fast!
1. Take Advantage of Guitar Tab Websites
If you consider yourself a guitar beginner—and it’s more than okay if you do—then it makes no sense to try to guess the tabs to the song you want to learn.
Guitar tabs are great for learning new songs because the notation is intuitive and easy to understand for a beginner.
This makes it much easier to learn songs on guitar fast without reading traditional sheet music.
The good thing is that there are so many free guitar tab websites out there that you’ll pretty much be able to learn any song you want without paying a dime.
If it’s not a brand-new song that just released two days ago, then more than likely, you can find preexisting tabs for it online.
Instead of searching Google and blindly clicking the first result you see, we recommend you use sites like Songsterr, which has more than 500,000 tabs and counting. You can even filter them by difficulty and instruments.
The best part about Songsterr is that it offers playback functionality, so you can actually listen to midi tracks of the guitar tab and hear what it’s supposed to sound like, timing, etc.
Here’s an article I wrote recommending a few more guitar tab websites.
2. Listen to the Song Slowed Down
If a song goes a little too quickly for you, then you can easily waste hours going back to a certain section trying to hear all the notes. This is tiresome and more than a little annoying.
The next time you want to clearly hear a song’s notes, try a little trick. Go on YouTube and search the song (you can find almost any tune on there, so this shouldn’t prove too difficult).
Then click the gear, which takes you to settings. Under autoplay and annotations, you’ll see a playback speed section. This should be set to normal, but you want to change it to 0.5 speed. Now the song will play a good deal slower.
While you can tinker with the speed settings and make the tune even slower than 0.5 speed, the slower it becomes, the more distorted it will sound. You only want to be able to hear the notes, not morph the sound, so 0.5 speed should be more than sufficient.
Once you understand all of the notes in the section and can play along, gradually speed it up until you’re able to play it at full speed.
3. Learn the Repeating Parts of the Song Before Anything Else
When you play a song on guitar for the first time, do you start with the intro? Of course! What better place to begin, after all, right? Well, we encourage you to think a bit differently.
It can be a long haul to learn an entire song, making it easy to feel intimidated before you ever pick up your guitar. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could practice for a day or two and learn up to 25 percent of the song, maybe even more? You can if you put your attention on mastering the repeating parts first.
Imagine the song you’re trying to learn on guitar as a puzzle. It has a lot of pieces and you have to assemble them all. When you do a puzzle, maybe you put a few obvious centerpieces together. Then you do the corners. This makes the puzzle feel a lot more complete.
The same is true of your song. Whether that’s an intro riff, a bridge, a chorus, or a verse, once you know a part of a song that keeps coming up, you’ll feel like you learned a lot more of it. From there, you just have to learn the non-repeating parts and you’ll have a whole song under your belt!
4. Use an Online Guitar Lesson Service
Let’s face it. Sometimes, the fastest way to learn a song on guitar is just to have someone teach it to you.
It’s okay if you’re having a hard time playing a song. Perhaps you chose a more difficult tune to start with. You might even be new to the guitar and could use some more guidance.
Never be afraid to ask for help, such as through online guitar lessons. We recommend Guitar Tricks above all. It has a sterling reputation, having been around since 1998.
More than three million people have signed up to use Guitar Tricks to play all their favorite rock, pop, metal, or country songs on guitar. It’s no wonder that Guitar Tricks has taken home a slew of awards, including the Acoustic Guitar gold prize in the Player’s Choice Awards.
You can learn more than 1,000 songs through 11,000+ instructional lessons. Guitar Tricks doesn’t rush you through these lessons either, so even beginners feel comfortable. The lessons are designed for everyone, from green guitarists to more seasoned players looking to expand even further on their skills.
5. Nail the Easy Parts First, Then the Harder Ones
That little riff before the chorus seems simple enough to learn, but the bridge is a lot more complicated. You might want to start there so the rest of the song seems easier to play. It’s a nice line of thought, but not entirely correct. If you struggle enough with a more difficult part of the song right off the bat, you might get frustrated and quit altogether.
That would be unfortunate. After all, it’s not that you can’t play the song, just that you chose the wrong part to begin with. Instead, you want to start with those simple parts.
Nailing some parts of the song, even if they’re simple, keeps you motivated to finish learning the entire thing. You also feel boosted up and confident. That’ll put you in the correct mindset to soon nail that tough bridge as well.
6. Sharpen Your Skills with Rocksmith
Sometimes, after a long day of practicing your guitar, you need to take a break with a video game. Did you know you can continue learning guitar even through a game? No, we’re not talking about Guitar Hero or Rock Band here. Those are okay, but the game where you’ll really learn to play guitar is known as Rocksmith.
With Rocksmith, you plug in your real guitar to the game and choose from an expansive list of songs. The game instructs you on which strings to play so you can get into a good strumming rhythm. From there, it’s a lot like Rock Band or Guitar Hero, only instead of mashing colored buttons and making noise, you’re truly playing.
You’re still scored, and the game even lets you know how many notes you played correctly. It’s a great way to augment your growing skill set and learn some songs in a fun, interactive environment.
To learn more about Rocksmith, we wrote a great post about it here.
7. Identify Song Patterns for Easier Playing
Remember how earlier in the article we told you to learn the repeating parts of a song first? Another trick that makes you feel like you learned more of a song faster is to recognize which song patterns exist in the tune.
Having a bit of music theory knowledge will make it easier for you to pick up on these patterns, so that might be something you want to learn. Then, you should find it far easier to detect time signatures, chord makeup, and song keys. If you already have even basic knowledge in these areas, you can apply your skills and get through learning the song with less difficulty.
8. Don’t Let Your Common Techniques Get Rusty, Keep Practicing
If you want to look like a cool guitar player, it can be a little embarrassing to keep hammering on the basics. Like, come on, everyone knows them, so why practice them? Well, it’s like riding a bike. If you haven’t been on one since you were a kid, you’ll find you wobble and struggle for a bit.
To keep your skills as fresh as possible, that means devoting time to practicing the basics. We suggest you focus on areas like legato or pull-offs, alternate picking, and chord switching. Make sure you really, really know these skills. If you’re rusty or just not as knowledgeable in these areas as you can be, then practice makes perfect.
Once you know the basics, you don’t have to think about them when you play a song. They just come to you intuitively. That frees up your mind to learn new things.
9. Know Your Fretboard Very Well
Speaking of knowing things intuitively, if you haven’t already, it’s time to get comfortable with your fretboard. Now, when we say comfortable, we don’t mean you have to have the entire thing memorized. It’s alright if you’re not quite sure what all the names of the notes are, but you shouldn’t have a hard time locating any notes on the fretboard.
You should also know which sounds you’ll get from each note, especially when relative to the other nearby frets. When you want to switch pitch, you should be able to through your fretboard. All this is just like mastering the basic guitar techniques. The more innate knowledge you already have, the easier it becomes to concentrate on learning the song and nothing more.
10. Check out Other Fan Covers of the Song to Learn Hand Placement
If you want to play like a beloved guitar aficionado, you’ll probably hop on YouTube and look up the guitarist playing the song you want to learn in a live setting. That’s ultimately not very helpful for you.
This is a pro guitarist we’re talking about here, and their level of mastery is not the same as yours, at least not yet. Watching him or her in action can make you feel like the song is impossible to learn even though it isn’t.
Instead of watching the expert at work, look up other amateur guitarists on YouTube. Fan covers of songs usually abound if the tune is beloved enough. Watch several covers from different people. What do they do with their hands? How do they approach difficult notes? What tuning are they in? Through them, you could recognize mistakes you’re making or learn to play the song in a different way that works better for you.
11. Practice on a Consistent Schedule
We mentioned before that practice makes perfect, and it’s true. Now, we’re not saying to spend the next 10 hours playing the same song over and over. That’s almost like a form of torture and it’s going to make you more frustrated than accomplished.
You do want to get into a regular practicing schedule, though. If you can, play for a bit every day. It’s much better to devote 30 minutes of your day to daily practice than cramming in five or six hours on the weekend only.
Consistency is key. You need to make sure that you’re getting constant exposure to the song to build up muscle memory.
In addition, revisiting a song multiple times gives your brain time to process it in smaller chunks.
If you can sit down one day a week, grind out 5 hours, and don’t touch your guitar for the rest of the week, then you’ll surely forget everything you learned the next time you go to practice. This essentially wastes your time because you’ll need to relearn it.
Every guitar player has struggled to learn a song at some point or another. Whether you’re brand new at this or it’s just a tough song, it seems like an eternity before you can put even a semblance of a chorus or verse together.
With the tips we outlined in this article, you can accelerate your learning and have more songs to play. Above all, consistent practice will let you learn the song and move on to the next one. Good luck!