As the man says, songs, songs, songs

How do you guys decide what to learn?

There are so many great songs that I want to learn but I’m struggling to choose which ones to do.

How do you then decide how long to spend on a song before you move on?

And finally, how do you decide which ones to keep in your repertoire?

Too many songs, not enough time! :confounded:


I used to challenge myself to learn one song a week. I usually came across a song I was interested in and made that the song of the (next) week. It was okay if I didn’t get it 100% right because I feel like leaving it rest for a while and going back to it later is a part of the learning process as well. But a week can be long enough for a song at your learning level.

You can make a playlist of songs you want to learn and let shuffle mood decide what to play. If you like playing the song keep it in your repetoire until you don’t.

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For now, my song choices are made based on modules that I am learning.
This being said, I have started to learn some songs that are a stretch for me, but I getting lots of enjoyment from this and its currently stopping me from practice!

In terms of how long to practice I think it depends if you get an attachment or not to the song.

I am trying to work on 3 groups os songs (campfire - play by heart, future campfire (can play with chord sheets and words) and dreamers.

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Did someone mention my name?


One of the things that I’ve always done is be diverse in my listening to music as you can probably guess from some of my posts; this is mainly to give me ideas for what I would like to have a go at next. On the old forum I posted a variety of music from classical to rock but as yet no metal, it’s something that I would like to have a go at but it can be way too fast for my brain to process :joy: so I’m just looking for the right piece.
TBH I don’t really like playing covers now, I’m interested in dreamy mood/ambience music; I’ve got some thoughts in mind but at the moment my fretting fingers are still healing from burning them!

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Hey Stefan,

Firstly, I play songs I like. Some are fairly simple to master at the basic chord/strumming level, and I’ll revisit them fairly regularly as my technique improves to try and up them to the next level.
There are a group of songs I have that I love to play, AND are great teaching songs. Thats what I really look for. One I’ve found over a longer period is Wish You Were Here which started very basically, then as I’ve developed, so has the 16th note strumming, more accurate picking, dynamics, solos etc.
I look for songs that relate to what I’ve been working on. When I started to play barre chords reasonably OK, I came
across Sister Golden Hair, a cracking tune that I love, and it really pushed me as its a fast song full of quick barre chord changes. Helped me out alot.
Started learning triads about a year ago, came across Jack and Dianne, full of triads. At the moment I’m working on Listen To The Music, another cracking tune, which contains many elements that I’m trying to develop; a particularly great teaching song for me. So this one will be around me for some time.

So I guess for me, a bit less than 2 years in, songs I love that develop specific skills are the ones I gravitate to, and are the ones that tend to hang around.
Cheers, Shane.

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Hi Stefan.

I started out with just playing the songs i really loved. But i found out rather quickly that i missed out a lot.
I also have this thing that its a lot of songs i really love/loved just dont work for me with a guitar. Of course i have limited skills and all songs can be added things inn it or played more advanced when my skills allow it.
So i keep an very very open mind these days on songs. I get a feel very soon if i connect with them, even if im just starting out and it sounds crap i get an instant feel for them.
So the number one for me is easy… i have to connect with the lyrics, it has too mean something too me in one way or another. If the lyrics is just nonsense and something i cant connect with or «front» then i dont want it in my reportoir.
I probably miss out a lot. But thats how it goes for me.

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My approach now is to keep the songs in my repertoire that I enjoy playing and focus on being able to play and sing from memory.

Then there are songs that just pop up and inspire me, with that element Shane mentioned of helping to become a better player. They may or may not go into the repertoire.

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Good questions and I think difficult ones to answer as it almost strikes at the heart of why am I learning guitar? Once you get a little way through the course then as you’ve identified you can play a lot of different songs and it’s difficult to know which ones to pick.

You have to pick songs you like and perhaps you have to think about which song styles you’d like to play and the genres. How do the different songs sit together? particularly if you want to build that setlist.

I think you have to recognise that you will learn more songs than you’ll ever remember or go back to and that some will “stick” and you’ll keep playing and others will fall by the wayside. There is also a difference between playing a song from a chord sheet and really knowing the song so that you can just play it when you pick up the guitar. YES I think it’s a good idea to have a song book as a reminder and prompt but you should already really know the song.

Another good reason for learning a song as others have said is because it stretches you or develops a particular technique. I find a song a really good way to develop or cement new techniques or styles.

In terms of how long you spend on a song then it needs to be long enough that you would be happy to perform it. No point learning the song if you are stumbling through it and wouldn’t be happy sharing it with others. As a minimum I would get it to a point where you are happy with the recording you do of it. Even if it’s still simply played then if you are well rehearsed on it it will sound good.

Also don’t worry about dumping a song if you’ve tried it and it doesn’t suit. It’s something I’ve only got more focussed on recently. As a band we would sometimes plough on with a song even if it really wasn’t going anywhere. Now after a few sessions we either say it’s in OR we ditch it and move on to something else…as you say so many songs to learn.

What I would also sat is that’s it taken years for me to get that focus! so I wouldn’t worry if you are early on in the journey.


Rossco hit the nail on the head here, Stefan.
You have learned enough of the basics to get you going in whatever direction you want.
You can play and sing simultaneously, have shared videos and even performed live, albeit online.
Having the E & A barre chords under your fingers, means you can have a bash at any song you like (in a simplified form).
I suggested in a different thread today you should have a bash at writing something yourself. You really should, just to see if you might enjoy it.
Meanwhile just enjoy learning whatever takes your fancy. I prefer choosing songs that I love but are less well known. You know it’s time to move on when you’ve recorded yourself playing the whole song as well as you can. (You can always revisit)
If you are looking for more concrete suggestions, have a go at this (pm me if you need the chords)
Oh yeah, while handing out advice, buy yourself a Trio+ :wink:

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I fully agree with what Jason said, just go with your taste in music, what you like at the moment but also pick those songs that are a challenge to yourself (one doesn’t contradict the other!). I pick songs pretty randomly usually depending what I like to listen to atm or what I also dreamed about playing.

However at this time around I have been strongly influenced by @DarrellW to pick a song so it’s not always me creating an idea in my head! :laughing:

Edit. Oh and worth mentioning I have youtube and spotify playlists with songs I want to learn, I keep adding only those I have a strong urge to learn in a moment I listen to particular song, so keeping those at a reasonable 20-30 tracks lists.

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The first 2 lines :ok_hand:…thats life :sunglasses: :blush:
“If you’re looking for a star
Then chances are you won’t go far”


The songs I have in my ‘repertoire’ tend to be ones that I’ve known for years prior to learning guitar. It’s much easier to learn a song if you’ve got the original melody and beat ingrained in your mind.

The other benefit of course is that my friends of the same age know the same songs so if a singalong breaks out at a get together the chances are I can play them. Lyrics are always the issue as everyone knows the first verse and chorus and then you’re on your own until the next chorus!

Then there is the song that requires a difficult new chord or technique. That can be a song I don’t particularly like but is a means to an end.

I find I don’t learn loads of new songs. What I do is go back and try to improve on my existing ones by adding little riffs or embellishments, perhaps using barre chords as a practice routine. I’d rather have a handful of songs that sound good (to my ears anyway) than lots of poor ones.

Having said all that there is a lot to be said for having a good I,IV,V knowledge in different keys. That allows you to bash out a simple version of pretty much anything. :smiley:

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Man that’s a toughie these days !

When I went through the old BC I played loads of stuff from the BSB books, especially the one Justin recommended and a lot that I really didn’t like, in fact probably 90% of them were off my radar musically. But that did not matter as it was about application of what I was learning. Am I ever gonna do Britknee at an Open Mic ? But that was an apprenticeship.

Then I went on to learning songs I like and songs I have always wanted to play and that what I am doing now but there so many and the old clock is ticking. I am half way through the Whotab list of albums and already have 17 songs listed. Add to those already stacked up and I’ll never run out of things to learn.

Biggest issue for me is that my favourite bands all feature 2 if not 3 “lead” guitarist and the tracks are so heavily layered, so parring them down to a simple one mad man and his guitar is always a challenge.

Repertoire wise, having discovered my voice 15 months ago, the setlist is songs a I can sing and play. So mainly the recording I have done via the Madman’s Diary and the Open Mic.
While learning new material I try to revisit the older ones to keep them luke warm.

The only thing I would add that, these days learning the core rhythm of something new does not take very long. Synchronising the singing and learning lyrics take longer, so I generally stick to old favourites that have been in my head half a century. Having said that my daughter feeds me current bands, with a “you just have to do this one”.

That’s me.


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Look forward to those days dawning :laughing:

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I thought that was called ‘Old Faithful’? :thinking: :wink:


Until you start with the 1/16th note strumming and accents…I think.

No that’s just 2 Old Faithfulls per bar :wink:


:laughing: I’ll take your word for it

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I’ve had an ear worm throughout today having read the topic title - so thought I’d pass it on: 'Listen To What The Man Said' - Track of the Week - YouTube

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