Teach Yourself Guitar. Part Four - Learning Songs

Part Four of the Teach Yourself Guitar series. This time, looking at benefits of, and reasons for, learning songs by other musicians.

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Welcome back to the Teach Yourself Guitar series. We're about to reach the halfway point after this article; the fourth out of eight. In this particular piece, we'll be looking at the methods, uses and reasons for learning songs. We'll also be considering how best to maximise your learning dependant on your own needs, and also how to balance what you might be learning with what you already know. This article is mostly in preparation for the four articles upcoming. Using songs that you wish to learn, you will be learning about music itself, while also learning as much practise material as possible. The next sections are about balancing and applying theory, so the songs you learn now will be used as reference to what comes next. Ultimately, I can not and will not be telling you exactly what songs to learn, or exactly what benefit each song will be to you. Instead, I will be using examples from my own experiences to hopefully guide your learning and make sure you learn as much as possible. You will never progress faster as a guitarist than you will at the very beginning of your playing. Basically, the choices are up to you. From here on out, the choice of your pursuits are yours and yours alone. We're ready when you are ladies and gents. Let's get to it.

Teach Yourself Guitar by Tom Colohue

Part Four: Learning Songs The Benefits Of Learning Songs Ultimate-Guitar.com has a tremendous archive of tabs that are available for anybody to use. You don't need to be logged in, or even to have an account to access them. Whether you like jazz, blues or metal, chances are you can find what you're looking for. When learning a song you're actually passively learning quite a lot more. If you know the song, you already know how it should sound and if, for example, you stumble across an inaccurate tab, chances are your ear will tell you so. Due to this, learning to play music by your favourite band or musician, as opposed to one you're not particularly aware of, is extremely beneficial, for the following reasons:
  • It will provide you with more to practise. Every song you learn, when both learning and playing, is providing your fingers with practise. This means that both hands will become more capable the more you play, and the more songs you know.
  • It will make you more comfortable with your fretboard. When learning via tab, you are instructed as to exactly where your fingers should be. This could be anywhere on the fretboard, meaning that you will be playing in different areas. This makes you more comfortable with different positions and different fret sizes.
  • It will introduce you to the practical aspects of techniques. Most songs, though not all, contain technical play of some kind. Once you know how to read it and how to do it, finding it on tabs will show you conventions for use. Learning how others do it can only help you in doing it. This will help you understand how and when to use these techniques yourself.
  • It will provide you with ideas for when you write songs on your own. Experience in many different things shows when writing songs. Everything you learn from other songs can be adapted and incorporated into your own music.
  • It will give you a point of reference when learning theory. Later on, when you are looking at music theory, you will be using everything you have learned as examples of how theory works. The more you learn, the more examples you will have to use. Theory can be very difficult to learn without seeing it in action, so examples come in extremely handy. Scrolling The Archives First you need to know what song you want to learn. I would suggest you choose a song which you know, love and have heard a thousand times. You will know, because of this, how the song should sound. Chances are, when you play a song you know for the first time, it will bring quite a smile to your face. At the top of the Ultimate-Guitar website, beneath the main banner and advertisement, there is a text box and a drop-down menu. These are what you'll be using to search for songs. Click on the drop-down menu and you'll be given several options of what to search for. When looking for tabs you'll be using the first two options. Use 'Song Names' when you want to search for a song by title. Use 'Band Names' if you wish to search for all the songs done by a certain band. Type what you're looking for into the text box and click 'Search!' You'll be presented with a list of tabs if you searched for songs, which you can then choose from using ratings and types of tab. The name of the band will be on the left. If you chose to search for a certain band, you'll be presented with a list of bands. Choosing one will present you not only with song tabs, but also album tabs. If you're having trouble finding tabs, try using 911tabs.com, which searches other tab sites as well as UG. Reading Guitar Tablature You're not going to get very far learning songs unless you know how to read tabs. I won't go over it myself, as it has already been done marvellously elsewhere. To learn how to read tabs, read this lesson, which describes it quite definitively. Sections Or Songs There are plenty of parts in most songs. There are also many ways that you could break songs down. When you're first learning especially, it can be useful to break things into sections and work on one piece at a time. This also means that you can work your way up to harder pieces, using easier pieces. A few parts of a song stand out very strongly. Some songs have main riffs, which aid in the overall definition of the song. These can stand alone and tend to be fairly recognisable. Learning main riffs is a good start when you begin to learn songs. The other major section capable of easy seperation is the solo. Solos are typically a guitarist's opportunity to show off their own level of technical mastery. This means that they are both very difficult and very worthwhile to learn. If you wish to focus on your technical play, learning solos is an affective way to do this. However, it is important that you don't focus entirely on learning riffs and solos. What we're trying to do here is to supply you with experience playing songs. This, without a doubt, will help you when it comes to writing your own. Most music is considerably more than just riffs and solos, so it's important that you learn all the sections in between, otherwise you'll be less prepared to write them when that time comes. Also, learning different and varied ways of doing things can only aid in the long run. Choosing Your Songs You have the option of every tab available to you for which songs you could learn. However, this is not really the best use of your time. You want to be considering your own knowledge of music at current when it comes to making these decisions. I don't mean playing it, I mean listening to it. Choose a band that you're inherently familiar with. A band whose members you can name, whose solos you adore and who's rhythms you can hum. The point of this is simple: if you know the songs, then you have a good idea what songs are going to help with what you're looking for. At first, the choices will be quite simple. What you'll be looking for are the slowest and easiest songs or sections. Over time, with practise of the things you do know, you'll be training your fingers ready for the faster and harder stuff. As you progress, you may wish to focus your learning a little more. If, for example, you're having trouble with bends, you can choose songs or sections that pay more attention to them. In learning to play them, you'll also find yourself capable of hearing them in the music you listen to. The more you practise something, the more adept you will become at it. Nevertheless, it is quite possible to learn technique in ways that are detrimental to your playing. For a detailed look at how to practise the major left hand techniques, read this article. That's all for this installment of Teach Yourself Guitar. If you only picked up a guitar to learn songs by your favourite band, congratulations, you're there. Keep looking up songs and learn whatever you wish to learn. Your journey ends here. For those who wish to continue, from here on out we're going to be looking at using everything you've learned so far. Next time we're going to be looking at balancing all of this practical work with the theoretical side. I hope to see you then. Goodbye for now. Tom Colohue Ultimate-Guitar.com 2009
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    16 comments sorted by best / new / date

      decayingdave
      darianivan wrote: its cool. a little too much common sense stuff but good
      Yes, but if you've spent time reading noob questions, you'll see that common sense isn't all that common! As for the article, brilliant. I mean, It highlighted what I already knew, but for an absolute learner, this article's a must. One thing... where you said it's best to start slow, It's a good idea, but if you learn everything at the same pace then when you wanna learn riffs which are much faster, you may struggle - Hence the reason why I started off learning moderately fast horror/punk tunes.
      The_String_Man
      honestly, there are no songs that i could play faithfully (i.e. same exact solo),as i tend to improvise. need more practice, i think hehe.
      KingXNothing
      The_String_Man wrote: honestly, there are no songs that i could play faithfully (i.e. same exact solo),as i tend to improvise. need more practice, i think hehe.
      yea i know watcha mean, there is no solo i can play 100% the same
      cgolden
      Yeah, about starting slow, I've been playing guitar for about 8 months, and I started out playing stuff like Trivium, and I'm already able to play many of the solos they play (minus sweeping...) So I think you need to start playing with whatever you listen to.
      MABnificent
      cgolden wrote: Yeah, about starting slow, I've been playing guitar for about 8 months, and I started out playing stuff like Trivium, and I'm already able to play many of the solos they play (minus sweeping...) So I think you need to start playing with whatever you listen to.
      i did the same but when you get to the really hard stuff you will need to slow down and practice slowly and you'll probably find (or at least i did) that you developed alot of bad habits that are hard to break, for example i learned the solo to gunshot to the head of trepidation a few months after i started playing although a tad messy and rushed, and now even though it should be easy for me now i still make some of the mistakes i used to make when i first learned it.
      Zappabootlicker
      i did the same but when you get to the really hard stuff you will need to slow down and practice slowly and you'll probably find (or at least i did) that you developed alot of bad habits that are hard to break, for example i learned the solo to gunshot to the head of trepidation a few months after i started playing although a tad messy and rushed, and now even though it should be easy for me now i still make some of the mistakes i used to make when i first learned it.
      hell yeah, i hear that OMG the amount of bad habits i have where basically what i would do is learn a song at the correct tempo and then play it double the speed, rofl, i never used my pinky,horrible picking technique and bad muting, ah theres too much bad stuff to mention, so learn slow and play fast
      PhoenixLivesInP
      I don't know, what's the meaning of this article. Buy yourself a guitar and start playing! Reading of this will never help you with your play
      yamitenshi
      PhoenixLivesInP wrote: I don't know, what's the meaning of this article. Buy yourself a guitar and start playing! Reading of this will never help you with your play
      Actually, I think it's a good starting point if you're a starting guitar player without any lessons (like me). Most of this stuff I already know, but I do learn new things from these articles. Sure, they don't teach you exactly how to play, and they certainly won't correct any mistakes, but they may help you learn things better, and maybe prevent some bad things (like for example, never using your pinky finger, and then finding out you should have). So, great articles IMHO, can't wait for the next one!
      clintlawton
      ive only been playing for about a year.I have never had a lesson except from here.These articals help me to know im headed in the right direction.Thanks