How to learn a new song on guitar
Does it take you way to long to learn an entire song? If yes you are in the right place, I will show you how to accelerate your learning progress much faster.
When I am trying to learn a new song on guitar, first of all I take an overview of the different parts of the song. In general there are many parts who repeat themselves, which makes it easier to memorize and master the whole song.
Sometimes different sections don't repeat themselves one to one, but they are very similar. For example you could have different chord endings, differences in rhythm, additional licks, or different chord voicings. In this case you would mark the differences between them and practice them separately.
Start with the most difficult passages first
Some say to start with the easiest part of the song, to build up confidence and give you a victory. But I would always start with the hardest part of the song in the beginning (In terms of difficulty for you to play). Why? Because the hardest part in the song will be the one which takes you the longest time to master.
Think about how long it will take you to master the whole song, if you start with the easiest parts and spare up the hard passages to the end. It will take you way longer as if you've started right away with the hardest parts and than practiced them simultaneously on a continuous basis while memorizing and practicing the rest of the song.
Break things down
To be most effective in memorizing the different parts, you want to break things down as much as possible. Especially if there is much going on in a passage (for example lead guitar parts) you would want to memorize measure by measure.
If you are struggling lets say with a specific lick, you don't want to play the entire passage over and over until you can play it. This would take way to long and is very ineffective; you would want to break things down even more here and just focus on that single lick, until you can play it flawlessly, than go back to practice and memorize the entire section.
Once you have memorized the different sections and can play them flawless, you can put it all together and play and memorize the song in it's entirety.
If you've had a hard time to learn songs quickly in the past, you may now recognize that you've saddled the horse from the back. Many guitarists make the mistake to practice the easiest parts first and avoid the tough ones and practice by playing the song all the time from the front to the back, without isolating their mistakes.
If you want to be as effective as possible, start with the toughest parts and break things down as much as possible and you will find, that the time you spend on learning songs will go way down!
Author of this article is Marco von Baumbach, he is a guitar instructor in Wuppertal, Germany.