How To Learn Difficult Songs

How To Learn Difficult Songs

          This will be a shorter post, but only because this is a very easy thing to learn. The only thing you need besides your guitar is a computer or a smartphone/iPod. I wish I had figured this method out way earlier in my quest to be a good guitar player. I started playing when I was around 11-12. My mom taught me how to play all the open chords on an acoustic guitar, and that's pretty much all I knew for several years. I learned how to play power chords when I was on the worship team of a small church, and I was very sloppy with it. Even when I started teaching songs on my Youtube channel in 2009, I was still pretty bad. I think the only reason those videos got a lot of views was because nobody else was doing that sort of thing consistently. It wasn't until 2015 that I even seriously attempted to learn something difficult. So that's 13-14 years of bad/mediocre playing to get to where I am now, when I could've done that in just 6 months or less. The first difficult song I learned was "Composure" by August Burns Red. I started to learn it after I went to one of their shows in February 2015. In less than a month I was able to play "Composure" well enough to post a cover of it on Youtube. I posted it in March, and if you watch it, you can see that I still hadn't quite mastered it. The way I held the pick was still weird (which makes a huge difference btw), and you can see the look of pure concentration on my face. I couldn't even get into the song, because I was counting the patterns of the breakdowns in my head. Just a few months later, I learned how to play one that was quite a bit more difficult: "Identity" by August Burns Red. If you watch my cover of that one, you can see an obvious improvement. It's not only because I started using this technique that I was able to improve like I did, but because I was doing it, I was forced to change how I played altogether (Pick technique, left hand position, etc.)

The Method

difficult guitar tabs

          ANYWAY. Here's the secret, and it's probably going to seem a bit anticlimactic. All you have to do is slow the song down. That's it. If you want to play a difficult song, and the tabs for it look something like the picture on the right, don't be intimidated. Any guitar player can learn how to play any song, and this is the best method to do it. If you have a computer, just download Audacity. It's a simple, free program that lets you edit audio files. There's a ton of programs that can do this, but Audacity is just the one I use. Depending on the difficulty of the song, you can slow it down by different amounts. For a song like "Composure", I started by slowing it down 30%. You can do this by highlighting the song and going up to 'Effect' > 'Change Tempo'. For a song like "Thirty and Seven" (Which is probably the most difficult song I currently know), I started by slowing it down by 40%. Playing at this slow speed helps especially with songs that are very technical and have uncommon time signatures, like a lot of ABR songs do. Playing at 30%-40% slower will help you figure out how it 'feels' to play the notes in relation to the rest of the song, rather than just memorizing which notes are played when. Once you feel like you can play the riff at that speed, bump it up by 5% at a time. I've found that if you start at 30%, it takes the longest to get from 30% to 15%. By that time, you'll have memorized the riff and you will just have to get the muscle memory down for the faster speeds. Soon enough, you'll be able to play any song you want without even looking at the neck of your guitar. As long as you have good left and right hand technique (Which I'll go over in a future post), you can master any song you want within 1-2 weeks. If you have any question about this method (or anything else really), leave a comment below or check out the request page on this site \m/

Guitar Intonation

Guitar Intonation

My Studio Gear

My Studio Gear