12 Tips on How to Quickly Learn Guitar Songs

Published on 22 May 2024

4 minutes

Disclaimer: The information in this article is provided by the guest blogger and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of guitarguitar.


WARNING: This article is mostly aimed at beginner guitarists. But if you’re an intermediate or advanced player, you still might find some useful tips.

What’s the reason you first picked up a guitar? To play the songs you love, right? Nothing is more satisfying than nailing a tune that you’ve been finding tricky. Apart from maybe macaroni cheese. That’s also satisfying.

But learning new guitar songs isn’t just for fun, it’s how you improve. You can’t make progress just from practising scales. Besides, that’s so depressing. Which just means more macaroni cheese.

So you're looking for tips on how to learn a song on guitar as quickly as possible and the task at hand is to find satisfaction from learning new guitar songs and not just from macaroni cheese.

But if you’re a beginner guitarist, how do you find a song that you love; that's also within your reach as a guitar player? To overcome this, I've created a list of 11 tips on how to quickly learn guitar songs so you can learn to play the songs you love as quickly as possible!

How to Get Better at Guitar

How to find easy guitar songs

This list of easy guitar songs for beginners on my guitar website, Guitar Mammoth, has 100 easy songs with difficulty ratings so you can gauge if the song is a good level for you.

Another much more obvious route is just picking a song you love. But if you’re a beginner, you might not realise that the song is going to be too difficult for your skill level.

One trick is to find the song on a guitar tab website, and check the difficulty rating there.

Tips to learn guitar songs more quickly

1. Stop learning parts of songs

I’ve been playing guitar for over 25 years and I regret only learning parts of songs for so long. A riff here, a solo there, an intro part maybe. But once I started learning whole songs, and understanding a bit of music theory about the role of each chord in the song, it transformed my guitar playing and songwriting.

If you stop learning a song as soon as you get to an annoyingly hard part, how are you going to improve and break through that barrier? How are you going to understand how the verse and chorus parts work together so that you can write two parts that work together?

So you have a song, and you’re determined to learn it from start to finish, but how do you actually learn it faster?

2. Playing starts with your ears

It sounds obvious but listen to the song; really focus on the guitar part you want to learn.

Listen to it on repeat and fully focus your ears on each part. You need to internalise the sound so that when you come to play it, you’ll know instantly if you’re on the right track or not.

3. Find the right resource

Find a YouTube video, a chord chart, tab or sheet music (if you can read music) for the song. Find one that makes sense to you and that you find easy to digest.

4. Divide and Conquer

Break the song into smaller sections: intro, verse, chorus, bridge, solo. Focus on one section at a time. This makes the song less overwhelming and easier to manage.

5. Slow Practice

Practice slowly to ensure accuracy. Use a metronome to keep time. Gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable. Slow practice helps you catch mistakes and build muscle memory.

Top tip: if you’re learning a song on YouTube, you can use the settings to slow down the playback speed if you need to.

6. Chunking

Not only is it good to focus on one section of the song, like the verse part, but it’s good to break the section down even further into small, one-bar chunks. This is a great way to focus on the parts that you find tricky.

For example, maybe there’s a chord change you keep mucking up. Rather than play the whole section and keep tripping up on that chord change, focus on getting that chord change right. To do this, play the bar that’s giving you the most trouble on repeat. Have a break, and then do the same again.

This ‘chunking’ helps you build muscle memory and overcome the issue.

7. Play along

Once you’ve learned each of the sections, play along with the original track. This helps you match the timing and feel of the song.

8. Record yourself

Use your memo app on your phone, or even the video, to record yourself playing. You might not be aware of mistakes while you’re playing. But hearing (and seeing) it back really helps with this.

9. Patience and persistence

Progress can be slow but consistent effort is the key. With practising the guitar, 30 minutes every day is far better than a one-long session once a week.

If you’re really struggling, have a break. When I come back to the guitar the next day after struggling with something, I often find that I make the breakthrough more easily. It’s like my muscles have had time to internalise the learning.

10. Set goals

Set specific, achievable goals for each practice session. For example, aim to master the intro by the end of the week. Have long-term goals for mastering the entire song. Clear goals help you stay focused and measure your progress.

11. Memory techniques

Using visualisation can really help with muscle memory. Look at the fretboard and visualise your fingers moving on it. Sounds weird, but it works.

Also, as you nail the song, practice without looking at the guitar to really internalise the movements and make them as smooth as possible.

12. Play for others

Perform the song in front of friends or family. This really helps build your confidence with the song and gives you some positive feedback. Unless you really suck of course, so play for nice people.

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Final word

Learning new guitar songs quickly involves choosing the right song for you, getting a great learning resource, breaking the song into sections, and practising effectively.

Thankfully, we’re living in a golden age of guitar learning. When I started you had to buy tab books and so you were limited to the tabs you could find. Only the huge artists had books available and it got expensive.

But today, every popular song on earth has been tabbed online for free. And most of them have free lessons on YouTube.

But don’t do what I did - giving up when you’ve learned the famous riff. Learn all the sections, because that’s how you’ll make breakthroughs, and also become a better songwriter. And for me, that’s the point of learning an instrument - being able to express yourself and be creative.


Author: Drew Haselhurst

Bio: Drew Haselhurst has been playing guitar for over 25 years. He’s the founder of online guitar magazine Guitar Mammoth, helping guitarists suck less at guitar. When he’s not playing guitar or writing about it, he enjoys writing about himself in the third person. He’s also a super fan of the psychedelic metal band, Elder. Seriously, if you don't know them, stop reading and check them out now.

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