Nowadays every song is at your disposal on Spotify and Youtube, and you can also find how to play these songs on guitar tablature and guitar lesson websites. Having access to everything instantly makes you want to hear and learn things quicker, easier, faster, better and have more of it.
The tricky part is we tend to forget to dig deeper into the songs. We move on to the next and the next and might not give it the time and attention it deserves.
I’m also guilty of learning songs fast, effective and efficiently for teaching and gig purposes, but there are also times I just want to dive deeply into a song and absorb every single detail.
It’s an immense joy to take the time to learn, practice, and figure out all the nuances and things that make the song what it really is. Total immersion.
You slowly digest the song and learn an incredible amount of craftsmanship that’s built into the song that you probably don’t hear at the surface. You will appreciate and enjoy the song a whole lot more when you take the slow and thorough approach.
You don’t have to do this with every song, but at least with the songs you really love. Start with one or two songs and enjoy the process.
Here are the keys:
– First listen to original song from beginning to end with full and undivided attention. Let it really sink in. Enjoy it for what it is.
– After you’ve listened to the song as a whole, learn to separate the instruments with your ears. Start focusing solely on one instrument throughout the whole track. Ignore the rest. First you listen to the acoustic guitar. Notice the different strumming patterns or rhythmic variations, listen to dynamics (soft, loud, fragile, steady, or rough) subtle chord changes, riffs, lead fills between chords, sound and effects, anything that attracts your attention.
– Play the song again and now listen solely to the 2nd guitar if there is one. Again listen closely, isolate the guitar, and rule out all the other instruments. This is something you can learn by practicing. It takes time and effort but you’ll get really good at it. If it’s a lead guitar part listen to the phrasing.
– Next focus solely on the bass guitar, the drums, the piano, or other instruments one by one. This way the song will really open up to you. It expands and improves your experience of the song. It really comes alive.
– Look also for other versions of the song on Youtube. Type in “name artist” + acoustic, “name artist” + live, “name artist” + cover, etc. If the song is a typical piano song and someone has made it into a good acoustic guitar cover you could really benefit from that.
– Transcribe the chords to the song and/or check them out on chord websites, from sheet music or books. Look for chord embellishments, sus2 and sus4’s, maj6, maj7, dom7 or add9, slash chords, anything that spices up the chord progression.
– Figure out the song or parts of the song by ear with use of appropriate and effective tools. This will develop your musical ear and help you really dig into the structure and technicalities of the song.
– Also take the time to read the tablature slowly and thoroughly. Work out the details in your playing by reading the tabs with precision. All the different angles of study give new insights.
– Memorize the chord progression of the song. Analyze the structure of the song and learn to play the song from beginning to end. Take your time to make it your own.
– Check out the lyrics of the song. What is the story about. Notice how much more meaningful the song gets once you understand the words to the music. Also listen how the music and lyrics are intertwined. How and where does the melody and harmony enhance the words of the song. That’s where the real art is hidden in good music.
– Check out the vocals. How does the artist sing? Listen closely and study the dynamics, breathing pauses, intensity, character and authenticity. What can you learn by studying the singer and the song. How can it improve your vocals?
– Everyday study, practice and play the song. Listen to it over and over again and add something to the song you didn’t hear or play before. You’ll develop an ear for details and become a much better musician because of it.
Pick your song today!