Practicing perfect songs

If I understand the concept of practicing perfectly, when practicing if you make a mistake in a scale for example, you should slow down and do it again properly so you don’t reinforce the error. Or if you play a song at a certain speed and it is a bit sloppy you should slow it down and play it to the speed so your chord changes are smooth.

If this is correct, in the case of a song, how do you get yourself up to a certain BPM without reinforcing poor play? Take Blowin in the Wind which is 177 BPM in the practice app. I can do this at about 60 BPM but any higher my fingers are all thumbs.

Should I keep practicing and once play is good at a certain BPM set it higher? Or should I go for broke and set it high and try to catch up? I have been using the latter approach but I think it is the wrong approach if I consider the practice perfect method.

Any thoughts?

Atilla I would suggest you do not play the catch up game, that’s doomed to failure in most case. Chose a BPM that you can play the song or scale cleanly. Slowly increment BPM by about 5 BPM, get that clean, then add another 5 BPM. Wash rinse repeat. If 5 BPM is too much and you crash and burn, go for a 2 BPM increase. Slowly slowly catchy :monkey:


Yes, that is my line of thinking as well, however in the beginner course Justin recommends two methods for learning chords. 1 minute fast changes and chord perfect practice. I wonder if I should take this approach for practicing songs as well. I would be interested to hear from others much more experienced what they find effective.

Listen to the madman (@TheMadman_tobyjenner). I think one minute changes was introduced at the start to get beginners used to moving their fingers about quickly but as @stitch would say practice sloppy, play sloppy. So I would practice slowly and accurately and increase the tempo just as Toby suggested.


Hi Atilla,

I think your struggle is a common one for many working their way through the beginniners course. While the OMCs/chord perfect exercises are great for helping develop the muscle memory needed to switch between chords, I think some have a tendency to go a little overboard with them. There have been those that proudly proclaim that they can do 100+ OMCs, but cannot play through a song.

If your goal is to be able to apply what you learn to make music, please listen to @TheMadman_tobyjenner and slow down. I know it is frustrating not being able to play a song at full tempo from the get go- I struggle with this too. But you will be a lot happier in the long run if you can play a song through cleanly rather than speeding through making mistakes. As a Justin often says “practice makes permanent”. Speeding through will only make it harder to correct mistakes down the road.

Hope this helps!


I’d suggest slowing down if the whole song is difficult at a given tempo, however if it’s just one section or chord change then I’d practice that in isolation until it’s as good as the rest of the song. Otherwise that section will always be weaker.

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Ok, all makes sense, thanks for the feedback.

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I am a beginner. Listen to @TheMadman_tobyjenner and @Socio, They know what they’re talking about. I am working on The House of the Rising Sun. I am using the app, I had to start it at 50% because, well, there’s that pesky F chord involved. I am now at 60%. I’ve been at this at least 2 months and probably will be slowly increasing over the next 2-3 months. (hopefully)

eta: And @Jenndye429 and @mathsjunky had good points, too.


@kestrel I feel the pain about practicing at slow tempo - sometimes the tempo I need for accuracy is so slow that the song sounds super distorted and almost unmusical?! If that happens I try and do a switch in my mind that I’m not so much as playing a song but doing a technical exercise to maintain rhythm or consistent chord changes or what ever. Like others have said above, it can be real help to identify which are your weakest points within the song and then focus attention on these areas. In time, the tempo starts to creep up without compromising execution.

Fellow beginner here also “woodchopping in the House of the Rising Sun”. I found it helpful to isolate the D to F chord change and do one minute of “perfect chord change” followed by one minute of “Fast chord change” as a warmup before practicing the song at whatever speed I can do that day.

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I go back to “cord perfect” changes all the time. When working on a song with cord changes (not that that ever happens…:wink:) taking time, again and again to stop and just work on the cords sequence and changes without worrying about the right hand always helps me. Let go of the strumming pattern every so often, mute the strings or massively simplify strumming and work in those changes, slowly increasing the tempo, try making the changes in time.

I think trying to work with both hands in a song is hard. Of course it has to happen, but spending time with each hand alone helps a lot. I am trying to do this with finger style, but wow, it is psychologically difficult.


@TheMadman_tobyjenner is right.

Along with what he said, do the same thing but with sections of the song. Do the first part at 60 BPM. Increase to 65. Get to where you can do that cleanly and go to 70. And so on.

Do the same with the next section. And the next. As you increase your speed with the sections, piece them together. When you can do two sections, for instance, at 70 or 75, try to play them both together at that speed.

Slow is how you get fast.


I’m doing a similar practice. OMC for D to mini F, and then Perfect changes of D to Mini F to Am.

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There are two main approaches to this: slow and perfect, or fast and perfect.

For slow, you slow it down until you can play it without mistakes, and then slowly increase the speed, 5-10 bpm at a time. Others have described this very well in this thread.

For the fast approach, you practice at tempo, but you break the song down to the smallest parts - individual notes and chords and strums - and you practice those individual parts. So you’d practice just two strums, up and down, until you have it down. Or going from one note to the next, or a single hammer on, or a single chord change. You break the song down into tiny parts, practice the individual parts, and then put the parts together, such that you end up practicing larger and larger parts as you master each segment.

Personally, I tend to use the slow approach, as it at least sounds like a song and I find breaking a song up into small parts more difficult and tedious, but some advocate for the fast approach. And you can always combine them, such as breaking a song down into parts and then practicing them. For example, if it’s a single chord change or bend or section is giving you trouble, isolate that and practice just that - such as the chord change practice that others mentioned.