Efficiency is a key part of my teaching method - efficient technique, efficient practice, and even efficient learning.
Today we'll look at a 3 step process for learning a new piece of music in the most efficient way possible. This method can be applied to an entire song or just a part of a song (solo, riff, chord progression, etc.).
1. Listen until the music is internalized. Most people make the mistake of trying to learn new music with guitar in hand. But before you pick up your guitar, take a few minutes to listen attentively to the music you're learning. Listen until you can clearly hear the music in your mind. If you have sheet music or a chord chart, listen while reading the music.
2. Sing along, without your guitar. In Step 2, sing the guitar part along with the recording. In this step, you still haven't picked up your guitar. Make sure your rhythms and pitches are accurate. If the guitar part is chordal, pick a part to sing.
3. Grab your guitar and put it all together. If you've done your homework with Steps 1 and 2, this is the easy part. In Steps 1 and 2, you're memorizing (internalizing) the music. That makes the final step of playing it on your guitar so much easier. You already know what the rhythms and pitches should sound like. You already know the contour of the lines. You already know where the song is going harmonically.
Depending on the song I'm learning, I'll usually listen through it 5-10 times before I ever grab my guitar. When I do grab my guitar, I usually only have to play through the song once or twice to have it down. Of course, there are usually tricky spots I'll have to iron out.
If I can do it, anyone can! That's the great thing about this process.
Learning new music is both a mental and physical pursuit. This process separates the two, first focusing on the mental aspect (internalization) and then adding the physical aspect (playing it on your instrument). Assuming you have basic guitar technique figured out, most of the work will be in the first category. Therefore, most of your practice time when learning new songs should be spent on listening and internalizing the music. That's the streamlined approach.
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