I’m an older ( teen in the 70’s) adult. I am currently a beginning intermediate. I was wondering if there was an average amount of time it takes you guys to learn songs. I struggle with the songs and it seems to take me forever to learn a song decently. I practice a total of 1.5 hrs a day. The first hour I practice Justin’s lessons and the rest of the time I practice a song. It literally can take me 6-8 weeks to get …just ok.
It takes me a while too. Some songs take weeks (maybe 3-12) to get memorized WHAT I need to do, then often a couple more months to get my fingers to go there and sound barely ok.
The things that complicate this for are:
- outside stuff I need to learn - I still work, and when I have high demands there, I cannot learn much in the evenings.
- how frequently the song repeats - If the song is a repeating riff, I can get it in memory pretty fast, i think it took 3 days for Smokestack Lightning. It took another 3 weeks to get the hand/brain coordination mostly working, then another 2 months to get it consistent enough I can add embellishments. Songs that do not repeat take me far longer. I worked on Ja Nuns Hons Pris for maybe 4 months before I could get all 15 bars of it into memory. I am still not happy with my dynamics after 8 months and can still make large mistakes.
- How much like the original I am trying to sound - If I need to learn or get proficient at a technique, that can cause me a long delay in learning a song. It might be better to simplify, but often I don’t like that approach. I do wonder if it would be faster.
- Rabbit holes - sometimes I fiddle instead of concentrated practice.
I consider myself kind of slow to learn songs and also maybe a little too fast at moving through the classwork. I am drooling over the grade 4 work and am trying to do a good job with consolidating the grade 3 work. I am getting very impatient. I think my biggest issue is with accuracy on both pick and fretting. If I could solve those troubles, I could do a far faster job of working thru the lessons.
EDIT: what I didn’t mention above is that “3 days” is equivalent to 3 practice sessions that may be 10-20 minutes on a song.
It really depends on the song for me, if it’s just something like power chords or basic open chords it doesn’t take long. If there are multiple parts and a couple of different riffs it might take me a couple of days to memorize and a week or more to actually start playing well.
To clarify, are you talking about memorizing a song, playing it well, or both?
Wow, thanks, I feel almost exactly the same way. I too work and I find concentrating sometimes difficult ( tired, stress). I do find that I do better on weekends when my stress level is low and I am well rested. Yeah, its funny alot of songs contain embellishements that take time in itself to get down. The songs that sound the best to me are when there are more than 3 basic chords and strumming. I have a feeling the more experienced you are technically the faster you will pick up songs ( I know, kinda obvious). I was just thinking I just might not have the aptitude for the guitar, just thinking of switching to playing the radio
I agree, it depends on the song. I’m currently trying to learn California Dreaming and I find switching between an E7 and an F barre pretty challenging, I can play F barre by itself pretty well, its just the consistent ( in time) switching I find difficult. I am not too worried about memorizing right now. With the time I have at home with the guitar I try to practice my technique more than worry about memorization.
Hi David and welcome to the community!
Interesting question and I’ll agree with others in that it really depends on the song, chords, if there are any awkward chord or strumming changes and so on. I’m also curious, how many songs are you learning at any one time? I tend to have 3 on the go at any one time, usually all at different stages with one always “close” to being happy with. I find that whilst there’ll be some in that trio that are progressing more slowly, I don’t get too frustrated as the others will probably be moving along faster.
If you mean memorising, I simply do not try. I prepare and follow out a chord chart. If I’m going to learn and perform this song once and only once, it is not worth memorising. If I end up performing it enough times, I’ll have learned it naturally anyway.
If you mean playing well, it’s been 3 years and I still do not have a song I am happy about how well I play.
Wow Serhat I think you’re being a bit harsh on yourself there buddy!
I’m a Grade 3 player. As an example, one song I recently learned in less than 2 hours of practice, including getting it up to original tempo. Another song, I’ve been working on it for 4 months and I still struggle with 2 of the 7 chords in it.
I thought the first one was gonna take forever and the second one would be easy, but it worked out the opposite of my expectations.
So, you never know.
For me then, I work on 2 songs at a time and it takes me about a month before I usually feel comfortable enough playing it to post in the AVOYP section of the forum. Sometimes it can take longer, I practiced my performance for the JG open mic for maybe 2 months? Still screwed some of it up when performing. Feel like I’d need a set of songs that I’ve been playing months or even years before it felt easy.
So I think part of the issues with learning on-line by yourself is that you have no point of reference. Sure, we are all different, some learn quicker than others but there is no one really to compare myself to (just to get a sense of what is normal or average so that we can gauge our progress), thankfully we have this forum which I never thought of using before. By the way, I usually try to learn 2 songs at a time. Thanks for all the input!
I have been following Justin guitar lessons for a couple years now. For learning songs I think it depends on the song. Some I really want to learn and never get it down at all. For others I just hear a song and think I can play that. I look up the tab and have a basic understanding within a couple hours and I’m ready to play within a week or so. The key Is finding your own sound. I don’t try to sound exactly like the original artist. Recognizable yes but we already have a Johnny cash or Steven Tyler version or whatever artist you chose -there is only one you and I believe you should focus on your work as an artist of music. I only sing and play together. I find it hard just to play without singing. Many here do not sing at all it’s a personal choice. Try to take it as slow and easy as you need to.
I can only share my experience with learning songs and it may not be very helpful, but anyway. So, I divide learning songs into structure learning and technique learning. Usually these two parts are closely related, but not always. And while technique is a general thing, structure is unique for each song. For example, I can play a lot of songs with tabs, so they’re within my capabilities, but can’t play them from memory. I need to sit and learn each patr, how many times this riff is played, how many bars the bridge takes and so on.
And usually it takes me a long time to learn a song from start to finish, but it’s partly to my surrounding, very limited free time and inconsistent practice. I spent about a year playing Holiday to get it to the point when it sounds good enough to share with you. Learning Californication without the solo took me about 8 month, but I still can’t play it without mistakes.
This. Depends on the song. Strumming open chord, power chords, barre chords I know with a straightforward rhythm? Minutes to learn. New complicated chords, picking patterns, hard riffs, lead lines? Days, months or years depending.
Serhat I’ve heard you play, it makes me sad to hear that. Your playing is good, and your multi-instrumental talent is: WOW.
You dont want to do it too much but occasionally learning a song that is below your current skill level is a great thing to do. It’s quick and fun and provides a bit of balance from the more challenging stuff.
How do you practiced it? Because I can’t even say a word while playing, only counting and it’s also a challenge sometimes.
Thanks, both, you made my day
Let me explain what I mean without making this about my self-confidence:
Recently, I’ve been frequenting jams around London. Often, there will be a new musician (whether an instrumentalist or a vocalist) I hear for the first time and upon hearing the first few seconds of their playing, I’ll go “Wow, who is this person???”. I think we sometimes describe that as “professional-level” playing here.
Even if we play the same notes, same chords on a song and make no mistakes throughout, my playing sounds nothing like theirs. Hard to know what exactly that is, but I think it is a combination of timing, dynamics, and clarity.
(I always go and ask these people how long they’ve been playing/singing. I haven’t heard anything less than 15 years or later than when they were 10.)
So, my chord changes can sound “good” to someone who’s just playing for two months, but at the same time, I hear a lot in them that sounds like a mistake to me. What I’m trying to say here is, there is no single point in time where you go from “can’t do” to “can do”. It is always a progression (although non-linear and there are some leaps).
And my other point - no point in trying to memorise a song if you are not particularly passionate about memorising that specific song. I would advise everyone to prepare a chord chart and follow along, which in itself is an important skill to play with other people.
If you are able to follow a chord chart throughout a song, you learned it. Then playing it better is a gradual process that will continue as long as you keep practising.
“Ages” is my answer It rarely is like I wish it to be, as a strategy I’m learning to be more selective and put on my plate only the songs I really love, or if I choose one just because it’s fun I first check how practicing it will help me to achieve my learning goals.
While you are right about finding your own sound, Jeff, I think the ability to imitate the original artist is important when practising. You generally want to be able to play like them (even if not at the same proficiency level, or a simplified version depending on the difficulty) so that you have improved your skills, but then you may choose not to.