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#1
I've been playing for about 10 years and the vast majority of my practice has come from learning songs that I loved start to finish. I'm not sure I would've stuck with it if I was running up and down scales all the time.

I feel that if you continually learn songs of different varieties and difficulties your skill will be comparable to someone that learns via a more structured routine. Plus, you get a keen insight to song structure.

Not saying my way is better because whatever method gets you there is cool but just wanted to get opinions and see if anyone has learned the same way.

Cheers...
#2
Thats exactly how I learned to play. Ive been playing for 11 years and I cant stand doing scales and modes and shit like that. I just look up tabs for a song and play it.
#3
Really, I'd recommend doing both. Learning songs, and doing boring exercises. Also, learning songs alone doesn't teach you music theory, so that needs to be thrown in there.
#4
youll never be able to write song just by learning songs. and once you know even the slightest bit of theory for example a natural minor scale in all positions improvising can make playing a million times funner.
#5
Quote by itamar100
youll never be able to write song just by learning songs. and once you know even the slightest bit of theory for example a natural minor scale in all positions improvising can make playing a million times funner.



Whoa... what the hell are you talking about?


OP:
Learn songs and do exercises.
#6
I've done thatall the time... My technique has really been better, and to the theoretical stuff, you do learn what notes fits well together etc. you just don't learn to name that series of notes. And I think that is what really confuses many people. Learning things ny the names of them. It doesn't help to know an A-minor scale, without learning to use it. But it helps knowing the A-minor scale, but not knowing the name of it.
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#7
Been playing for 12 years and that's how I've done the majority of my learning, mainly by recognizing patterns in the songs, seems to have worked really well. But I'm beginning to learn theory now when I have the time. Better late than never!
#8
ive been playing for around 2 years and i havent bothered, I also heard that the beatles never learned to read music or anything like that so you should be ok
#9
Quote by dylanrdw
ive been playing for around 2 years and i havent bothered, I also heard that the beatles never learned to read music or anything like that so you should be ok
While this is a good point, none of the Beatles were particularly skilled at their respective instruments either so it would be in your best interests to learn music theory or to read music if you want to play anything more technically demanding.
#10
Quote by TheRampantWhale
While this is a good point, none of the Beatles were particularly skilled at their respective instruments either so it would be in your best interests to learn music theory or to read music if you want to play anything more technically demanding.


I'm all for learning whatever you can but guys like Dave Grohl openly admit not being able to read one note of music and he seems to be doing pretty well
#11
Here's all that matters: what do you want to get out of playing the guitar?

If you have no desire to learn theory/how to read music/shred etc., then don't. There's no real right or wrong way to do this; people play the guitar to make music, and if you're making the kind of music you enjoy, then you're doing it "correctly".
#12
I've been playing for about 1.5 years. Mainly learnt by playing songs in the first years, then started looking up some scales and licks on the Internet, and practice with a metronome. Realize I've improved so much in terms of skills and theories. Also it wud be easier for u to make up ur own riff if u know dif scales. But I think playing guitar should be a fun thing to do, if u think it's boring, u shud learn it in the way u like
#13
Personally iv tried the music theory approach but I found that it started becoming a chore to play guitar. When I decided to just learn my favourite songs found tht I was getting better and better and now I'm writing my own songs. Yes I'm no Yingwe Malmsteen but I can atleast now start enjoyin the guitar more as a way of expression.
#14
Quote by deepfat
I'm all for learning whatever you can but guys like Dave Grohl openly admit not being able to read one note of music and he seems to be doing pretty well


Very very few guitar players, even the ones that do know theory, can read sheet music. Sheet music has no advantages over tabs for guitar, in my opinion, unless you're playing with an orchestra or maybe a jazz band that could be handing you sheet music. But not reading sheet music doesn't mean not knowing theory. I know plenty of theory and it would take me hours to read a minute or two of music. And while I personally find Dave Grohl's playing to be boring, think of it this way. If he's already good without knowing any theory, imagine how good he would be if he DID know it.

Quote by dylanrdw
ive been playing for around 2 years and i havent bothered, I also heard that the beatles never learned to read music or anything like that so you should be ok


For some reason I severely doubt this is true. Maybe I'm wrong though.
#15
Actually, here's a new response to everybody here who is saying they don't want to learn music theory, or are having fun without it.

Yes, it's possible to make good music without music theory. Hell, I'm willing to bet 90% of artists on the radio don't know a shred of it, not that I'd call them good music. And sure, maybe you're already having plenty of fun improving and writing without it, but here's the thing...


... Everything about music becomes easier, and more fun, once you've taken the time to do it. Sure, you have more fun improving and writing right now than you do taking the time to learn theory. But once you know the theory, improv and writing becomes so much better. And every great artist that doesn't know any theory, trust me, would be even better at what they do if they did take the time to learn it.
#16
Most folks used to only do this. No lessons or theory, they just learned enough songs that they started to recognize the patterns and get a feel for which one to use where, just like how we pick a mode these days for the same thing.

You can teach a person why you build something a certain way, or you can let him build it enough to notice for himself.

Now at the same time, the folks that prefer to learn songs and pick up on it are typically slower to understand the process, but plenty of our idols did it the exact same way. If it were a house, a good analogy would be to say you can be an architect (theory) that has to learn how to hammer nails (technique) or you can be good at hammering (technique) and gradually learn why you're hammering (theory).
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#17
Learning songs is good, but what I find works better is learning songs and taking excerpts from songs and turning them into exercises. And after that, start writing your own songs. That will test you more than anything.
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#18
Quote by Macabre_Turtle
Sheet music has no advantages over tabs for guitar, in my opinion, unless you're playing with an orchestra or maybe a jazz band that could be handing you sheet music.

I would have to disagree (to an extent) with this.
When you start out and have no knowledge what so ever and you want to be able to read some "instructions" on how a piece of music should be played then you will have to learn to read those "instructions", whether it be tab or sheet music.
Learning to read tab can be just as hard as learning to read sheet music.
The difference being tab is telling you where to put your finger on the fret board for a given note where sheet music is just telling you the note. This might make tab seem easier but the tab certainly wouldn't help you with the tempo if you didn't know the song.
I have only been learning for a few months so I like to have the tab with the sheet music (as in how it looks with Tux Guitar or Guitar Pro) and try and learn a song that way. I can't believe that anyone who is determined enough to learn to play the guitar well can't learn the very basics of sheet music, it is easy enough to learn the time value of crotchets, quavers etc. and learning what note is defined by where they are placed on the stave is really not hard at all.

All that said, I am a person who likes to understand the how and why of things I do work or don't so it makes sense for me to want to learn some theory at least.
#19
I'd say most people learn by playing songs. I know it's what i've been doing since i started 2.5years ago. I have no intention of stopping. I'm always improving cos i'm always challenging myself with more difficult music.
#20
I learn by learning songs.

But as said before, i also think knowing abit of music theory is great for understanding things.

Also something i am very new to but i've found very helpful is being able to read sheet music, since i've always wanted to learn some songs there are no "good" tabs for and my ear aint that good yet. So sheet is great for me for learning like piano or violin pieces.

Bottom line: In my opinion learning songs is the best way to learn. If something is hard in a song (like a alternate picking run) you don't go find an exercise to get better at Alternate picking, you practice that run!

Also i think you should go in for some music theory and reading sheet music. You don't have to know advanced theory, the basics and chord constructions and such will get you a long way!
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#21
Quote by deepfat

I feel that if you continually learn songs of different varieties and difficulties your skill will be comparable to someone that learns via a more structured routine. Plus, you get a keen insight to song structure.
Cheers...


After a while they will play circles around you. (unless you are really dedicated and also break down songs , analize them and not just learn them robotically)

Still.. usually those and i say usually! those who just learn songs and licks and have been playing for years.. kind of suck.. sure they can play the songs they learned pretty well, but on other areas they are lacking immensely, this hurts their musicianship, because they tend to overlook technique and theory.

This shows way further on their musical career where the structured practicers are struggling less with thechnique and have solid knowledge of scales , theory and many varied areas, they might have a limited repertoire (depending on the player) compared to song practicers, but all of a sudden they can learn songs perfectly in a couple of days while song practicers are still struggling, looking up chords and not seeing patterns.


Nevertheless, practice and effort can compensate for it, do what fits your goals and what works for you.
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#22
Well, I structure my practice with technique building exercises and learning songs. I know me, if I just sat around all day learning scales and modes, there is no way in hell I'd stick with it. Mixing in learning songs and compositions with structured exercises makes it fun.

I've read countless articles on how guitarists back in the day, especially blues guitarists, would just listen to records and figure out the licks and that's how they learned.

Budding guitarists today have it so much easier.
#23
Not trying to hijack the thread, just one thing i thought of atm.

Some of you say it is good to do exercises to develop technique. What if you do this, learn songs you like that still challange you, then parts of the songs would function as good exercises that are musical aswell.

Thoughts?
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#24
Quote by Sickz
Not trying to hijack the thread, just one thing i thought of atm.

Some of you say it is good to do exercises to develop technique. What if you do this, learn songs you like that still challange you, then parts of the songs would function as good exercises that are musical aswell.

Thoughts?


the best excercises are designed to tackle the most essential aspects of technique, they reflect on your overall playing, songs dont go through the 6 strings, or use all the possible permutations, or make you go through every possible timing methodically.

Again both work, but if effectiveness is the question the answer is obvious imo.

its a personal choice, the question you need to ask yourself is:

If you were given the choice of practicing some boring excercise for months and you knew it would make you get as good as if you practiced something fun for 2x that time.. what would you choosE?
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#25
Sheet music has no advantages over tabs for guitar, in my opinion


We can start with the fact that there simply is no way to represent rythmic duration very effectively with tablature, particularly if you're trying to represent something that is syncopated or significantly rythmically varied in some way. You can try to have dashes represent a pulse or 8th notes or 16th notes depending on the context, but if there's anything not rythmically "straight" about the music in question it often won't be sufficient.

Suppose there are some 8th note triplets thrown in there, and your dashes represent straight 8th notes. Or your dashes represent straight 16th notes, and there is a section in which some bursts of 32nd notes take place. What now? You gonna make confusing complications in the tablature like writing a note above like "the dashes represent a 32nd note duration here" and another note "they represent 16th notes again here"? That'd be ridiculous.

The advantage of tablature is that it represents the technical aspects of the music in terms of how it is executed on the guitar (upstroke, downstroke, hammer, pull, bend, vibrato, etc.). But it can be a rather limited or clunky devise when it comes to representing what's going on *musically*.

This is why all of the "tablature programs" have both a staff for notation and tabs and require you to select a note duration in terms of notation when you put a fret # in, because there would be no way to accurately represent anything without bringing the notation into it.
Last edited by Brainpolice2 at Nov 24, 2011,
#26
Quote by Brainpolice2
We can start with the fact that there simply is no way to represent rythmic duration very effectively with tablature, particularly if you're trying to represent something that is syncopated or significantly rythmically varied in some way. You can try to have dashes represent a pulse or 8th notes or 16th notes depending on the context, but if there's anything not rythmically "straight" about the music in question it often won't be sufficient. Suppose there are some 8th note triplets thrown in there, and your dashes represent straight 8th notes. What now?

The advantage of tablature is that it represents the technical aspects of the music in terms of how it is executed on the guitar (upstroke, downstroke, hammer, pull, bend, vibrato, etc.). But it can be a rather limited or clunky devise when it comes to representing what's going on *musically*.

This is why all of the "tablature programs" have both a staff for notation and tabs and require you to select a note duration in terms of notation when you put a fret # in, because there would be no way to accurately represent anything without bringing the notation into it.


Plus tabs aren't universal. You can't score a movie and use tabs for the saxophone and the guitar - that's just inefficient. And being unable to read sheet music completely is just...well...bad. Especially if you can't read key signatures, durations, time signatures etc. and ascribe meaning to them. You probably know a lot more about sheet music than you think, and if you don't, well, I'm sorry.

I personally love the idea of learning from writing your own songs. I do most of my learning by practicing theory compositionally and then mimicking it on guitar. This is actually how Misha Mansoor (Periphery) went from drums to guitar - he learned after producing electronic music for a while and figuring out how to do that with a guitar.
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#27
Quote by Henry Wilt
I would have to disagree (to an extent) with this.
When you start out and have no knowledge what so ever and you want to be able to read some "instructions" on how a piece of music should be played then you will have to learn to read those "instructions", whether it be tab or sheet music.
Learning to read tab can be just as hard as learning to read sheet music.
The difference being tab is telling you where to put your finger on the fret board for a given note where sheet music is just telling you the note. This might make tab seem easier but the tab certainly wouldn't help you with the tempo if you didn't know the song.
I have only been learning for a few months so I like to have the tab with the sheet music (as in how it looks with Tux Guitar or Guitar Pro) and try and learn a song that way. I can't believe that anyone who is determined enough to learn to play the guitar well can't learn the very basics of sheet music, it is easy enough to learn the time value of crotchets, quavers etc. and learning what note is defined by where they are placed on the stave is really not hard at all.

All that said, I am a person who likes to understand the how and why of things I do work or don't so it makes sense for me to want to learn some theory at least.


I can read sheet music, and I would highly suggest everybody at least figures out how it works. But, becoming fluent and quick at it on guitar seems pointless to me unless you have a very specific goal and reason you want to be able to do that, such as performing with orchestras or something along those lines. I say this because I've never seen sheet music for guitar that didn't have the tab right underneath it, and the rhythm and tempo can be notated just as well in tab as in sheet music.
#28
Quote by deepfat
I've been playing for about 10 years and the vast majority of my practice has come from learning songs that I loved start to finish. I'm not sure I would've stuck with it if I was running up and down scales all the time.

I feel that if you continually learn songs of different varieties and difficulties your skill will be comparable to someone that learns via a more structured routine. Plus, you get a keen insight to song structure.

Not saying my way is better because whatever method gets you there is cool but just wanted to get opinions and see if anyone has learned the same way.

Cheers...


It would depend on whether you actually focus on your technique while learning these songs, or whether you just force your hands 'through the motions' of playing
#30
I did. Did some music theory on the side to supplement my learning too, so I'm not just some random tab guitarist.
#31
If you're going to learn by learning songs, at least make sure you learn them by ear rather than from tabs. Tabs are great when you start out, or to quickly show someone something, but I think ultimately it's much more beneficial to learn by ear. After a while you'll find you can pick up fast phrases fairly quickly just by hearing them. Though admittedly I often use software to slow down stuff I'm transcribing. Either way, it's good to train your ear. If you splice this with a bit of music theory (at least learn what intervals are) it'll help with your detection of intervals, what sounds good over certain chords etc.
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#32
Quote by Macabre_Turtle
I can read sheet music, and I would highly suggest everybody at least figures out how it works. But, becoming fluent and quick at it on guitar seems pointless to me unless you have a very specific goal and reason you want to be able to do that, such as performing with orchestras or something along those lines. I say this because I've never seen sheet music for guitar that didn't have the tab right underneath it, and the rhythm and tempo can be notated just as well in tab as in sheet music.

My apologies if I was not clear, I never meant to imply that you could not read sheet music. I was merely using the "you" in generic terms as in "When somebody starts out" rather than you personally.
But check the post 2 above yours by Brainpolice2 which is stated far more eloquently than mine.
#33
Honestly, learning songs is a great way to learn to play the guitar. As long as you focus on really nailing it, you'll do just fine. Exercises are great for if you have something specific to work on but they aren't amazing for general improvement.

Quote by :-D
Here's all that matters: what do you want to get out of playing the guitar?

If you have no desire to learn theory/how to read music/shred etc., then don't. There's no real right or wrong way to do this; people play the guitar to make music, and if you're making the kind of music you enjoy, then you're doing it "correctly".


+1

If you're not aiming to be a professional guitarist, you don't have to learn or do anything.

Quote by Sickz
Some of you say it is good to do exercises to develop technique. What if you do this, learn songs you like that still challenge you, then parts of the songs would function as good exercises that are musical as well.

Thoughts?


Yeah, that can work. Personally I would only recommend practising exercises when they're more effective than songs at building technique in a particular area. For example, if you have trouble with string crossing, playing most songs will help, but this will improve your string crossing MUCH faster, simply because it contains a lot more string crossings - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOsvZdvVndo

That said, you could definitely write something that drills your skills just as effectively but isn't amusical.
#34
I've done nothing but learned some songs. Well, I know the theory because I have been playing trumpet for a long time. It was pretty easy for me to just start playing guitar. Of course I've learned some basic chords but I haven't taken any lessons and I have just played. I have transcribed tabs of the songs that I want to play. That helps you learning the song. But yeah... I think if you just practice scales and technique you will get bored. They come over time if you just play. Like if you learn some other people's solos you will learn how they play them and learn to make your own solo. IMO solos aren't made of scales they're made of licks (that are in some scale of course). But scales may limit your playing if you don't understand them. But you'll learn everything over time, you don't have to practice 7 hours a day to learn sweep picking.
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#35
The majority of what I learned by learning other songs is note relationships. How certain notes sound in context of other ones. How the band is using certain notes and intervals to create certain moods or vibes.

Scales and theory is boring if you don't spice it up once in a while with learning songs. And learning how that knowledge can be applied (or was used in) the songs you are learning.

But when you know scales and some theory it makes you able to learn songs much faster as you already have an extremely good idea of what will be played and where to play it.
#36
Been lurking on here for a little bit. Had to jump in on this one.

I've been playing off and on for little over 20 years. Recently, I found the time to start playing a little more and my kids have some interest. I will start teaching my kids the same way I learned.

My first teacher would give me 3 or 4 cords each week and tell me to learn them and write a song. Each week I would write a one, then we would go over it and he would show me how to break down the cords or add stuff to each song in different ways. How to play each song as rock, country, blues or jazz, whatever would fit. Eventually, it led to scales and how to add melodies in with the cord progressions.

After about a year he would let me bring in some songs (they were on cassettes then) and we would learn it by ear. I would "steal" stuff from other songs and make it my own. It was fun because it would be an hour long lesson, but usually an hour or more jam session after.

I pretty much play the same way today. I might even look in a book and take a few cords and turn it into something. I don't know how to read music or know anything about theory, but I just like to jam with friends and play on my own and I've mainly always played rhythm. I let the better players play lead.

tl;dr: write your own stuff, you'll learn faster.
#37
It really does depend on what you want to do as a guitarist.

I started of learning songs of my favorite artists, I would play them on my own, with a friend but most of the time I would play along with Guitar Pro. I learned many songs like this and practiced them everyday and I could play them well, but one thing I could not do well was improvise solos.


For me, I could only get so far by borrowing the odd Slash lick or using a subtle Jason Becker line, I would have had no idea how they came up with these and I could not transpose them into other keys because

a) I didn't know what a key was
b) I didn't know I had to
c) I didn't know why I had to transpose them


My improvising skills increased by like 5000% after I learned the basics of music theory. I now knew what scale certain licks belonged to, I could move them around the fretboard and I could transpose them into other keys to suit different backing tracks, but most importantly for me, I now knew how to change these licks into my own version. My song writing skills where improved also because I actually knew what I was doing and If I came up with a riff, I now knew what key it was in and what notes I had to make up verse's and chorus's. I still love to learn and play new songs, It helps me get new ideas to make my own stuff up, but nowhere near as much as I do now from learning music theory.


A small side note on learning to read music, I have never had an interest because I use Guitar Pro but I have found that knowing the basic's on how to read music will help you quite a bit when it comes to tabbing out your own music or other peoples if you use any software like this.
#38
learning songs gave me a way to figure out how to play them by discovering techniques by myself....well before i discovered this website. i didnt even know alternate picking was something to focus on...i just did it
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#39
Eh it's possible. The ability is the easy part. I started with just doing songs, but when you're in a band, you eventually find that you want a different sound, because all you know is what you've learned (songs) and writing becomes difficult
#40
I know how to read music, but I'm not very good at it. We had a music teacher in high school who wouldn't let us play unless we did sheet music and theory worksheets, so it kinda sunk in on accident. I can't read tabs at all, it confuses the s*** out of me, it just looks like numbers going everywhere. I do better just hearing a song and fiddling around until it sounds right. I've been writing songs/riffs since day one so that's more or less how I learned; I guess there's no real CORRECT way to do something like music.
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