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Old 09-14-2017, 02:51 AM
brancher brancher is offline
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First I look at the text/music/tab/whatever and get the chords down - strumming, switching, transitions, etc. I don't worry too much about words yet. Then I go thru either a recording or other, nad listen to how the song flows and transits between verses, breaks, lead, etc. Usually takes me around 3,000 plays or so.

Then I practice, with lyrics, vocal tone, etc --- stopping/slowing for more technical parts until I get a good package. another 5,000 times through the tune.

Then, after playing it different ways (fingers/picks/both, neck positions, etc) I try to come up with "my version".

Then I play it about 12,000,000 times or so to burn it in so I won't forget it under stress. numbers may be a little off... maybe it just seems like 12,000,000.
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Old 09-14-2017, 07:08 AM
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Mr Fixit eh Mr Fixit eh is offline
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I like to listen to the song a whole bunch of times until it's kind of 'locked in'. Then I go hunting for a good chordsheet for the song. Then I try and sing along and pretty quickly figure out what key and chord shapes I need to be using to sing within my vocal range.

Ok, so now we're making good progress, but it is still rough. I go searching to find the sheet music for the song. Now I'm not an expert with musical score, but it helps me figure out the timing and where the musical rests are located. Once I've got the timing and phrasing worked out, its just a matter of practice and working out little enhancements to make the song my own.

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Old 09-14-2017, 09:03 AM
jaymarsch jaymarsch is offline
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It took me a while to learn to use my ears rather than my eyes to learn a new song but it is worth the time that it takes. It does take practice and being willing to get things wrong at first. A lot of trial and error. But, ear training makes you a better guitar player and musician in the long run.

If you start with a simple song with one guitar part it will make things easier at first. I would definitely encourage you to give it a try even if you don't feel ready.

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Old 09-14-2017, 12:15 PM
tdq tdq is offline
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It does depend on what the song is and where I heard it - if its poppy or country I'll just do it by ear. If it's jazz I'll look it up in Realbook or similar. If it's a fingerpicking tune I'll look at lots of youtube - there's usually many different versions - find a version I like and learn from that - often I'll down load it and put it into Reaper where I can slow it down and work on sections.

Many years ago I did a workshop with an accomplished guitarist and someone asked him the very same question. He said to listen to it many, many times, then play your own version. Easier said than done of course but I like the idea and usually don't try to get it down note for note, just get in the ball park then get my own take on it.
Case in point - Toby Walker recently posted a version of "Saturday Night Rub". I thought that looked like fun but after looking at many versions on youtube and listening to Broonzy's version I decided to go with Woody Mann's version. Toby's was awesome of course but Woody's version suited me better. My version doesn't sound anything like his but it was my jumping off point.
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Last edited by tdq; 09-14-2017 at 12:17 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 09-15-2017, 02:05 PM
AgentKooper AgentKooper is offline
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Just wanted to chime in to say what a fantastic post/thread this is. Thanks to all who have described their processes. I feel like I learned something important from just about every comment so far.
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Old 09-15-2017, 10:26 PM
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TBman TBman is offline
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The very first thing I do is sit down with the tab in front of me and listen to the original and read along with the music without a guitar on my lap.

Many of the songs I attempt to play are over my head (too fast) so I have to take it one measure at a time, find where everything is, play it over and over to build muscle memory and try to keep the correct note duration adjusted for the speed I'm learning at. A lot of times is just a matter of playing the song a lot over time and it falls into place eventually. Sometimes I will have to do a study guide of sorts of pieces of the song and put it into guitar pro and throw repeat starts and stops around the measures and just repeat until my fingers fall off.

Other times I will put the whole song into GuitarPro and play along first very slowly and then bring it up over time. The difficult part for me is having the patience not to go too fast just to play along with the mp3 of the song. Going too fast too soon just teaches you how to make fast mistakes. So I'll bring a tune from 80 to 150 bpm over time, but the work to bring it to the final 170 takes longer than that initial 80 to 150. What I like to do is go right back to 130 bpm and practice it over and over slowly to reinforce it and then work it to the 170. Right now I have a few songs at that stage where I can do them at 150ish, but the quality degrades bringing the tune to 170+ bpm for the whole thing. This whole process for a tune is long term. These tunes that I do are a constant work in progress

I like to be able to play a whole tune through slowly and then bring the whole thing up to speed as opposed to learning one section at a time and bring that to performance speed, then the next, etc.

Just as important to my playing and practicing is just learning tunes that are at or just below my pay grade so that I can entertain myself and it isn't all work. These tunes I can learn to play sometimes in a couple of hours, other times in a couple of sittings. I try to find tunes that are only 1 to 2 pages long, 3 at most. There are a tons of good tunes that I pass over only because they are 4,5 or 6 pages long. These tunes just get boring to me after awhile.

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Old 09-17-2017, 06:47 AM
s1120 s1120 is offline
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Well I struggle a lot, so might not be the one to help... but here is what I do.. I normaly start with a tab, or video that shows the song.. Ill get some signature riffs down from it, and muddle through, and fill the blanks using a chord chart. Im normally a little more simple playing, but try to spice it up and make it my own. I tend to finger pick, but throw some strumming in also to change it up. Im slow, so it can be a pit plodding at times, but its mine... It takes me a LONG time to learn a song before I can make it through without blowing it..
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Old 09-18-2017, 11:22 AM
KFP55 KFP55 is offline
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Thanks all, this has been INCREDIBLY helpful. I guess I had thought I was in the minority in how long it takes me to learn something new....slowed it all down and have been making progress using many of the tips above....thank you!
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Old 09-18-2017, 10:29 PM
Photojeep Photojeep is offline
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I know I'm a little late to the party but when I've been asked to play a song, for funerals mostly, and I don't know it or know it very well, I head to youtube to find the "official" release from the artist. This gets the song into my head a bit. I'll play it over and over at least 10 times to get it to sink in. I then look up chords using the name of the same artist I've been listening to. Most of the time I get something pretty close. Yes, there have been a few wrong chords but they usually are easy to fix. Then I play along with the youtube video to get the song out of my head and into my hands. Then I transpose it if the original key doesn't fit my voice (I find most music is in a tenor's key and I haven't been a tenor since I was 12...) I then spend the next few hours/days/weeks learning it in my key or if it's already in my key, I spend the time learning the lyrics. The older I become, the harder lyrics are to learn.

The entire process can take as short as a day or as long as a month.


ps, (I think the internet is the BEST thing to happen to learning songs.)
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