I'll explain.

Obviously, as a pastime, a thing for performance purposes, etc., learning songs is useful, and probably, learning a tricky solo will bring advances in technical prowess or whatever.

However, do you intelligent people (that's not even idle flattery - the answers I've seen in MusTalk are always thoughtful, although sometimes slightly harsh ) think that learning entire songs is necessary? With all the rhythm parts, or even just one guitar's line throughout the whole song?

The same for solos, although I can already see the benefits of them.

For an example, I'm going to go for something totally unheard of and unpredictable.

Stairway to Heaven.

I can play the main melody of the intro, but then when it moves to open position chords, I start to lose the plot - not because I can't play it, but because I never remember exactly which chord or melody comes next, and I start playing the breakdown in the intro, or making the (epic) breakdown last four times as long as it does. But, the only real reason for learning all those arpeggios would be to train my brain, and if I were to cover the song (which I'm not going to), so I gave up

I could probably sing you most of the main phrases of the solo, but I can only play the first few bars, with some vague idea of what comes next (although that little phrase that repeats 12 times kills me - I still can't get the rhythm ), even though I was given a Led Zeppelin classics tab book containing the complete solo - I just can't be bothered to sit down and learn the entire thing, so I just learnt some choice licks, enough to get across the main gist of the solo (or the beginning and the end) and moved on to something else.

This is my attitude to all songs, really - in general, I learn the riff, check out the chords for chorus/verse, look what position the solo starts in, then play along a couple of times to the CD, then get bored and move on. Exceptions are songs that I love (Sweet Child of Mine, (although, I can play a basic version of the verses rhythm part (no embellishments to the chords, but there are the arpeggios), but my knowledge of the song dies just when the wah kicks in halfway through the solo ) a couple of other Guns numbers, blah-blah.
The other exception is easy songs like Slither, in which there are four chords and one riff, transposed three times

TL;DR ... Hehehe, I went wild, didn't I :P See thread title.
i'm the same. although lately i have been playing a few songs all the way through, like another brick in the wall (pt II) minus the solo bit at the end, also tom petty & the heartbreakers' song 'free fallin' although thats one of the easiest songs EVER... and of course, stairway to heaven, can play that aswell.

but i would say it's worth learning songs all the way through. i got a sense of accomplishment by playing a song all the way through rather than riffs or solo's. plus also, learning songs all the way through means if you don't like/cant do a particular section, just do what some musicians do live and change it... keep the lyrics but change the guitar. thats also quite fun to do.
To me, I think the accomplishment would be the only reason for learning songs.

And I lied in the original post - I have been attempting to do some of what you said (Dempsey) - I am butting my head against a cover of Lily Allen's Littlest Things, and failing non-stop. My approach is to learn the original song, then gradually make it more blues/rock-y, which is more acceptable to me (although Lily Allen kicks ass :P )
It depends, if the parts u leave out have musical ideas, technique's or licks u can't play, u will be losing out on some stuff.

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It's worth it.

Not only does it help you progress, it gives you something fun to play, rather than saying "hey guys, watch me play scale runs at 180BPM!" (until/if you get to shred speed, that is).

Also, if you can't even remember a whole song, then learn songs for that reason. Once you start writing, you can't be forgetting a lick or riff that you wrote. If you're giving up because you're bored with the song, then you've obviously got to picks songs that you like more.

It also helps to influence your playing/writing style, and trains your hands for different techniques.
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Last edited by Athetosis at Nov 13, 2008,
To know a song is to be able to play it folowing a score or something like that. You dont need to remember all the chords of every song you know, but if you dont want to miss some positions or parts, just get used to write in anyway you can the songs that you like to play. It's also a good way to remember the variations you've made, if you "correct" on the paper your first cover with your new ideas.

Anyway, you dont need to know all the parts of a song to make a cover. I think you can cut and paste as you want. Look at some advertisements on TV.
i don't know any songs all the way through yet...

but tbh some songs i would love to be able to play the whole way through simply because i love them so much. and its a good skill to learn i think being able to play for a whole song etc. the only songs imclose to learning all the way through are...plug in baby, californication, purple haze, paranoid and some acoitsic stuff...most for band but some for personal enjoyment , i reckon its only any point learnignn songs all the way through if u enjoy them or they are interesting to play,m green day stuff i find poiinltess learning
It's not essential and I've never found it particularly enjoyable. Playing along to songs especially I consider to be a bit juvenile, even though I only stopped doing it a few months back. I still learn bits and bobs, and riffs to improve my playing but I don't see learning full songs as necessary.

If you want to play covers of course you need to though but my only motivation for improving at guitar is that it will help me in writing music and riffs.
It is great for tons of reasons.

-It teaches you song structure, particularly how your influences go about their songs
-helps build skill, solos involve different things at times and can help improve - same goes for riffs
-helps you in terms of knowing when to do what... not all songs sound good with overdrive, but some do and learning songs in full can help you understand good times to do what for when you write your own songs. (big issue i use to have was i would use chorus for everything but it really gets to be too buch - now my singer has same issue and its hard to talk him out of his addiction for it)
There is a BIG difference in being able to play various chunks of a song, and playing a song all the way through from the start to finish first time without screwing up.
I understand the thought of it being boring, but it completes the skill and stamina gap and will make you a stronger more confident player. It's like, anyone can sprint 100 metres, but can you sprint for miles.
If you get bored, learn the lyrics aswell and perform the whole thing, vocals, rythm and solo's. That'll keep you busy.
A lot of times, I'll end up just hating a particular part to a song, or won't be able to play it. And I might just give up on it for a while, but I feel that learning songs is a very important part of your development as a musician. Once you've seen and heard the same progression so many times, possibly in multiple different keys, you start to recognize it. You're basically training your ear when learning songs, but it doesn't feel like that's what you're doing.

Ear training aside (though it is an incredibly important thing), you also tend to develop your technique a bit more when you learn full songs. You might just give up on a part because you can't play it perfectly, or whatever. This is just my opinion, but I think that you should sit down with a metronome and really work at songs/parts that you can't play. Not to the point where you don't like the song anymore, because you still wanna enjoy playing a song, but enough to be able to play the part. If something is outside of your current skill range, just set it aside until you can play it.

The long and the short of things is that learning other people's music is a great way to develop your technique and your ear a bit, and enjoy the whole process a little bit more. It's sorta like playing basketball; you'll play basketball (or any other game/physical activity) because you enjoy it. You'll stay physically fit in the process, but it won't be the reason why you're doing it. The same is true with the guitar. You'll learn a song that you love because you enjoy that song, and you wanna play it (or whatever your motivation is). Most times, you're not going to learn a song just so that you can become a better guitarist.

By the way, rhythm guitar is very important. Learning other peoples music (particularly songs that have broken rhythms, rather than just straight 8th or 16th note rhythms, or whatever) will help you develop your rhythm chops. Metal tends to be a really good genre to play to do this, but you can do it with whatever genre you like.
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Quote by gabcd86
I'll explain.

Obviously, as a pastime, a thing for performance purposes, etc., learning songs is useful, and probably, learning a tricky solo will bring advances in technical prowess or whatever.

However, do you intelligent people (that's not even idle flattery - the answers I've seen in MusTalk are always thoughtful, although sometimes slightly harsh ) think that learning entire songs is necessary? With all the rhythm parts, or even just one guitar's line throughout the whole song?

not always... first of all, learning absolutely every nuance, inflection and slight rhythmic & melodic variation in a guitar part is impossible... what benefit do you get for knowing that on the 9th bar of the 2nd verse, the 4th 8th note chord is palm-muted 10% heavier than the others?

so, there's degrees of learning...

you don't always have to NAIL a part to a microscopic level to extract the benefit from learning it
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I'm probably like most people in that I rarely learn an entire song, and I'd go as far to say that I probably learn 10 licks, riffs or what have you, to every full song I sit down and learn. I will admit though, learning a song start to finish is an important part of playing guitar and learning only riffs and licks will not help you accomplish your goals as a musician.

Assuming you want to play in a band or at least jam with friends, you're obviously going to need to be able to play a song through and through. Not only that though, learning different songs from different artists does several things; it trains your ear for chord progressions and licks (after 6 years of playing, I can usually hear a lick in a song and find it in the proper octave in about 5 seconds, this is a very useful skill to have especially if you're playing with other musicians. You have to be able to play "on the fly" so to speak, and be disciplined enough to make things work in the moment; as we know, playing random notes on the fretboard doesn't work too well). It also teaches you how songs are put together, I often find when learning a song that I notice things that I never noticed before, maybe a simple pause in the bridge, or an extension of a lick. These things are important to learn because if you are playing a song in it's entirety for the first time, and it has any degree of difficulty, I guarantee there are some aspects of the song you have overlooked, and your timing will be off in places.

The main thing is to have fun, but for me I need to challenge myself to learn songs in their entirety. After all, you don't pay $15 an album to hear them screw around on their guitar like you do, you want to hear a full, well-written, polished song. Music isn't about a killer riff that you would just love to be able to play, music is about constructing a great song by trial and error, with the end result being a fluent piece of music.

EDIT: Accidentally replied to a thread after doing a search, sorry for reviving an oldie

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Last edited by Mike1109 at Feb 3, 2009,
Yes, it's worth it. You'll discover lots of chops from different players to add to your armour, and you'll learn about their phrasing ideas.

For phrasing - Jeff Beck ftw!
Why wouldn't you learn the whole song. It's the lamest thing ever when you hear someone play the opening riff to master of puppets and then cut out and say "that's all i know". Learn the whole song and then you'll feel like you've accomplished something and you'll become a better guitarist and better musician in general in the process.
^ Learning a riff is fine, but when you learn the whole song you get a more complete perspective, especially in terms of form.
i think it's important because it teaches you how to connect riffs and things like that.
Theres alot of reasons, learning a song makes you feel good about your skills, it can increase your skills, its fun to play songs you know and love, and a boatload of other reasons, I remember when I could play all the rhythm parts on Rust in Peace from Megadeth I was very happy, and I had gotten alot better learning them.
Yes, learning full songs is worth it. If you like a song, but only learn the intro or main riff, then you are missing how the song flows with all it's part, the general atmosphere and probably alot of things that MAKE the main riff good. So yes, learn full songs.
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Learning other songs lets you learn new techniques of composition, allows you to improve your guitar technique, and doubles your social cool points