I've been learning guitar since last October. I've been progressing pretty well, although I wish I had more time as a single Dad in a relationship, a PhD candidate writing a dissertation proposal, and working a couple of side jobs (3-4 depending on the time of year). That being said, I've worked out the G-C change, E, E7, Em, Em7, A, Am, Am7, A7, D, D7, Dm, Fmaj7, tried my hand at some bar chords.

However, what is giving me some fits is learning songs online. I mean, when I check out a song in songbook/chord chart style and I practice it often rarely sounds recognizable. Obviously listening to the song helps a bit, but I have found this quite elusive.

Any advice? This has proven to be pretty frustrating at times!

(It may be an issue of tempo/when to change chords/strum pattern). If this is the case, can anyone give me some wisdom on how to proceed?

Thanks y'all!


For funzies, I have a Yamaha A1M that my fiance bought me as a quit-smoking present (she's as awesome as she sounds just for that)...and I have an Espana copy of a Gibson E335 that my closest friend gave me that his guitar teacher had given him (it's about 50-60) years old.
Last edited by Brent473 at May 17, 2016,
You sound like a busy boy. Good luck with the PhD, and I hope you can keep it all together.

I would get a sound editor - I use Cool Edit Pro, but Audacity works fine and is free - and record songs into it. Then listen very carefully, tooking advantage of the sound editors looping and slow-down capabilities.

To do this you also need to be able to recognise what key the recording is in, as it might not be the same as published charts. I usually pick keys from their pentatonic scales, but that is a bit of an ask for a beginner, but you can use tuner to identify specific notes in the recrording.
What style of play? The reason I ask is that when I started playing I bought music books and tried learning songs note by note...and nothing ever sounded like the recorded versions. That's because when you are playing it's only your guitar...you don't have drums, bass, whatever other instruments pump the music up like on the radio. I can play the "Blitzkrieg Bop" perfectly note for note. Technically I play it better than Johnny Ramone (at least according to Rocksmith 2014) but it still sounds kinda like shit because the rest of the band isn't in on it. If I play along with the song (rather than solo) it sounds great.

Anyway, that's my half baked theory on the topic. I'd highly recommend Rocksmith 2014 if you have something capable of playing it on (PS3 or PS4....don't know if they have it for XBOX). You learn while playing along with killer music. I don't think that, technique wise, it can teach you much. But it can teach you how to play songs. I've learned some Green Day songs and Blitzkrieg Bop on it. Huge selection of DLC also. If you like the older stuff like the Kinks, Hendrix, etc...they have those Try playing "Red House" with Jimmy Hendrix...I dare you
A lot of it comes down to capturing the essence of the song. There are countless acoustic cover versions of rock and metal songs out there that sound good.

Sounds a bit zen, but capturing the essence of the song hinges on several factors like dynamics and feel, timing. Laid back, ahead of the beat, in the pocket.

One way to get that in you is to listen to the record and play along. A lot.
A musician once said, "Your best teacher is your record collection."

Basically he was telling us in a polite way to get transcribing.
Quote by mdc
A musician once said, "Your best teacher is your record collection."

Basically he was telling us in a polite way to get transcribing.

My play improved dramatically when I started learning by ear, so there is definitely something to your point.

My nephew wants to learn to play. I bought him a Yamaha JR1 and printed him a chord chart. I gave him a couple lessons, but for my final comment I told him "Just pick it up and play it". I honestly believe if somebody just picks up a guitar and starts noodling around that eventually they'll learn how to play (even if their technique might be weird homebrewed stuff), especially if they are watching other players hands assiduously. How do we learn best? By aping others.

Anyway, my two cents, and probably not worth that much.
Thanks for the advice, fam.

Yeah, I guess I just need to dive in and play along with the recording. Otherwise, its probably not feasible to figure out the strumming and tempo of a song by memory or by looking at chord sheets. When in doubt, old faithful of D DU UDUD is a good place to start, especially for a ballad.
Be weary of "strumming patterns". Too many people try to figure out strumming patterns. If you concentrate on rhythm instead, then strumming patterns will eventually just come to you by ear with relative ease.
Yes - not everything is based on a clear, repetitive pattern on the strumming. It's a common approach to acoustic-y basic accompaniment, but outside of that, the right hand rhythms are melodic in themselves.

Quote by mdc
A musician once said, "Your best teacher is your record collection."

Basically he was telling us in a polite way to get transcribing.

Furthermore, you will learn songs much more easily if you already know and like them. And it's easier when you know right away whether you're playing something right/wrong, instead of having to go check everything against the recording.

I'd say to pick out songs that you can already picture in your head. Not only does it help to have a familiar sound, but once you get that *click* of playing the sound already in your head, that sound stays there pretty much forever.

Especially if you are just learning your chords and technique, pick one challenge at a time. Pick a couple songs you already really enjoy to learn quickly, and then one newer song to work out more slowly. You'll be glad to have an actual repertoire to play with after the challenging stuff tires you out.
Last edited by cdgraves at Jun 7, 2016,
As suggested certainly get an audio program that allows you to slow down the song without changing pitch. Audacity or Amazing Slow Downer are ideal and few more out there am sure.

Be able to sing the music in your head as well. Hear when the changes need to be made in either the notes or chords of the song. If you can "sing it" you will be better equipped to play it.
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