Learning songs - what's working for me (beginner grade 3)

Hi - I’m a beginner who finished grade 3 a few weeks ago. I decided I really want to be able to play basic songs well, and make them sound good, before I try and learn any more technique. So maybe I’m not really qualified to be giving any advice but wanted to share what’s working for me…

I went through a few iterations of trying to focus on song practice - focusing one or two songs until i get them “perfect” (doesn’t work, lose concentration, and get bored of the same song every day, and stop long before anywhere close to “perfect”). Then going to the other extreme - 7 songs a day, 5 minutes per song. Was interesting at the start - I like variety - and you can definitely make surprising progress with 5 minutes a day, but found I reached a plateau of being sort of able to play it but not close to a performance level.

What is really working for me now is the framework from this article: How to Quickly Memorise (and Remember) Guitar Songs | Pathfinder Guitar — Pathfinder Guitar

It breaks down to:

  • 10 mins practice a song you sort of know but not very well - Song A
  • 5 mins focusing on a difficult part of Song A
  • 15 mins on a new song you want to learn - Song B
  • 3 x 5 mins each on songs you know already - Songs C, D, E
  • 15 mins again on Song B

I went through the list of songs that have Justin lessons up to grade 3 and wrote down a few in category A, a lot in category B, and I’ve probably got only 3 songs I could say I know well for category C, D, E.

It really worked for me - the 10 and 15 minute sessions were just long enough to get proper practice on difficult details without boredom, the switch to songs I know already helped keep things fresh and the return to another 15 mins on the new song accelerated learning new songs from weeks to days. And I enjoy rotating songs out of Song B category into Song A for the future, and what was Song A (improver) becomes a Song C/D/E piece eventually etc.

Then I record what I play and realise how much worse it still all sounds in reality compared to what is in my head when I’m playing…

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Hi Sajid,
As long as you keep practicing songs and recording yourself then you’ll get there, and when you keep looking for technique when things go wrong and practice that that`s good … I myself have 100 + songs that I still have to finish (but I did finish a lot)… this is possible if you have enough time and do what you do well, then more and more “blocks” fall into place and you get a large framework,
And you finished grade 3 …that is a lot frame :clap: :sunglasses:
Greetings,Rogier

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This is a great link…I’ve been struggling with this myself. Going to try to add this to my routine.

Do you sing as well? I’m thinking through how to add singing to this frame work.

To sing, you need to memorize:

  1. The lyrics
  2. The melody - especially starting notes of each phrase
  3. The phrasing - how the lyrics map to the chords and rhythm of the song (hardest part for me - maybe should be #1)

Any thoughts?

Glad you found it useful. I don’t personally sing at the moment - I have zero natural ability to hit notes though do intend to improve this by using some of the techniques in the course.

Regarding how to apply the article to singing - I think the general reason why the routine works for me is the combination of sufficient repetition with enough changing up to not lose concentration or motivation.

So I guess you could use the framework to split between different aspects of singing, but maybe that would get boring focusing all the time on one song. Maybe it would be better to still use the framework to cover a few different songs, but within the 15 mins practice time for the newest song, first few days/weeks may be on the guitar part, then use that time in later days for the lyrics and some combination etc.

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Thank you for making that discussion. I can relate and I’ll start using that framework for my grade 3 song pratice. The article that you linked also seems interesting.

I’ve only been following this template for a few days, but it’s already helping my song practice…a lot!

I started with my list of songs - a Song Kanban, as per this Substack post:

(Lots of other great stuff there too - strongly recommend!)

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But I changed Josh’s column headers to ones I felt were more intuitive, and modified the practice routine as follows:

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So far, this is working really well for me.

I set a timer when I start each section in the practice routine (I prefer my old wind-up mechanical kitchen timer than my phone for some reason).

The hour goes by quickly - when my timer dings, I often want to spend a few more minutes on each section of the routine. But it also keeps me more aware of my mental state…

Am I bored? Am I frustrated? Is my mind wandering?

…in a very useful way.

Highly recommend you try this approach if you are struggling to find a good practice routine!

(If there’s any interest, I can share a blank PDF template of the Song Kanban and Practice Routine)

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@saj78 @Tbushell Thanks to you both Sajid and Tom for the suggested song practice routines and related articles. I like the idea of having a defined improve, learn new, review and learn more new routine. I’ll be adding that to my daily practice routine as I slowly add more new songs to my Grade 1 consolidation while reviewing and improving older songs as I going into the upcoming Grades.