Learning to learn.


Most of us can’t learn new material fast enough. I know that when I’m learning a new song, I can’t wait to sound like the real thing. So I dig in, learn the notes and start the process of getting the song under my fingers. What is that process? How do we learn new songs as quickly as possible?

The answer has several parts:

  • Make sure you have accurate sheet music/tab. Frustration will soon set in when you start to learn the riff from bad notation and everything sounds wrong. Not all tabs are created equal, so be sure to try several tabs to find the one that sounds the best. Also, most tabs on the internet are made by average people like you and me who can make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to tweak notes here and there to make things sound better or make things easier to play.
  • Use your ear. Trust your ear. If it doesn’t sound right to you then it isn’t right. Re-check the tab. Are there instructions about using a capo or alternate tuning? If you miss instructions about capos and tuning you’ll never get the correct sound! Most importantly, don’t take the written notation as the word of the guitar gods. Ultimately, the notes needs to sound good, not look good on paper.
  • Know your music theory. I know, I know. This part of the answer is the least fun and ultra-lame. But the reality is that the more you know about music theory, the more quickly you’ll be able to fill in the gaps that the notation doesn’t cover. Even basic concepts like the major scale and its corresponding chords will help a ton.
  • Use a metronome. Playing the notes with the correct rhythm is just as important as playing the correct notes. Repeat after me: “I must always use a metronome. Always.”
  • Amazing Slow Downer. This handy software is great for slowing a song down while keeping the same pitch. It truly is amazing. You can use it to loop between two points so you can study just one measure at a time. I use it all of the time and I find it essential to learning difficult parts. You can find it at http://www.ronimusic.com/. It costs $50, so if you want a cheaper though less flexible alternative you can use the speed settings in Windows Media Player: just go to Play>Play speed>Fast or normal or slow.
  • Take it slllloooowwwwww! I left this one for last because it is the most important by far. You need to take things slowly. I mean really slow. Play one note at a time at a very deliberate pace until it is memorized. Then increase the tempo, maybe 5 beats per minute. Practice again until it sounds smooth. When it sounds smooth, increase the tempo again. Repeat this process in 5 bpm increments until you are playing at full speed. I guarantee this process will get you to the finish line faster than trying to learn the song at full speed.

If you keep all of these things in mind, you’ll be learning new songs and riffs faster than ever. The key is patience and discipline. Oh and yeah, have fun too!

For more information about me and the guitar lessons that I give, visit www.ewguitar.com.

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2 responses to “Learning to learn.

  1. Great job Earle ! Now if only my hands stop cramping i can practice ! Thanks for staying in touch !

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