Should I be learning complex songs as a beginner?

This might seem like kind of a strange question, or a innapropriate question for this topic. But even though I am just in the second module, I sometimes try to play Dust in the Wind. Not very well, but I try to play it. And I have been getting better at it. The song is pretty complex for this module, but it is what makes guitar playing interesting, exciting, and even addictive. My brother says I shouldn’t play the song because it sounds immature and is a waste of time.
Justin talks about people getting bored out of playing an instrument because they try too much to play songs that are out of their league. It seems that every time I’ve been bored out of an instrument was because people told me NOT to play things out of my league. Maybe if I was at the point where Dust in the Wind WAS in my league, it would no longer inspire me. It’s almost as though some part of myself is trying to make the rest of me not bored of playing and immediately quit. What do you think. And tell me if this topic is innapropriate for this forum.


Hey Levi,

Nothing wrong with playing any song you like. Guitar is ultimately about your enjoyment of the instrument.
The one point I will make though is not to allow songs above your level to frustrate you. Have a go at them in the spirit of enjoyment, realising that mastering them will require more time on the guitar and development of skills. Justin refers to them as ‘Dreamers’.

Cheers, Shane


I recommend you watching this lesson:

Songs to practice


There’s nothing wrong with reaching higher, but as a complete beginner, you will want to keep to the order of the topics as presented in the course for a solid foundation of skills.

Even though this lesson is in Grade 3, it has quite a few takeaways for anyone learning something.


If you are learning and progressing theres nothing wrong with trying something above your level.

Just know its well above your level and you are what you are doing it for!

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Levi, quite a common question and I’ve nothing more to add to the answers provided.

I’ve moved the question over to Uncategorised which is the sub-category most often used for general questions that are not related to a specific lesson.

A very good question. I would have said stay away from the complex songs as recently as a year ago. Why did I change my mind?

A friend of mine started playing guitar recently, and when i asked him what song he was learning he said Clapton’s Tears in Heaven. My first reaction was horror, well possibly too strong a word. But rather than reacting I asked him what made him choose that song. He said it’s the one song he’s always dreamed of being able to play on the guitar.

Well, that’s the sort of passion I’m always keen to unearth.

Yet, I will caution in that my experience was that learning a much simpler song gave me the skills and the motivation to go on. So I’d encourage you to also find the easier songs to give you the easier wins that make a difference.

Nothing says you can’t learn an easier song and a complex song at the same time.

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Nobody watching from the outside is intuned to how much you’re enjoying the challenge of a song nor can they be intuned to whether you are becoming overwhelmed by a song.

If it does become overwhelming, table it for later. If you’re not overwhelmed then enjoy!

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This is a very good point. You could always following the course structure and allocate a slot within your practice time for working on a ‘Dreamers’ song.

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I am only on Grade 1 but when I was thinking about the five songs I needed I identified some of my favourites but when I looked into them I was concerned that they were too complex for my current ability so have picked some more straightforward ones. Another consideration was that I wanted to sing as well.
My personal view is that you need a good grounding in the basics before getting involved in more advanced complex stuff, but each to there own.


I think this is a tricky one to answer. My view would be learn songs a bit above your current level but don’t go too far. IF you stretch a little above your current level then you’ll probably find that whilst the song is difficult to learn it wont be long before you can master it. Stretch too far and you’ll sink a load of time into a song and may walk away with something that is passable but that you’ve sunk oodles of time into that could have been spent better on consolidating some of the basics that are needed. You can find your self learning guitar in a very narrow way if you do that rather than trying to keep your learning broad at the start.


You should mostly be learning songs at your level or slightly above your level. That’s peak learning, but if you play songs too far above your level you’re likely to just get frustrated.

That being said, if you go at it with the perspective of “let’s just gauge how difficult this song is for me” and not take it too seriously, I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying them out. It’s nice to try out dreamer songs as long as you go about them with the right context in mind.


Been pondering about a response to this one but Alex sums it up well.

My biggest issue doing this and I talk from 17 years of trying to learn stuff above my play grade without a strong foundation, is the temptation to look for short cuts and quick wins and make the songs fit your current ability. Its bound to happen or you’ll get frustrated and you’ll crash and burn and leave the guitar out with the trash, Cutting corners never works and trying to run when you have just learnt to stand normally doesn’t end well. You will possibly pick up some really bad habits and when you get to the level these songs are pitched you won’t have the knowledge and skills to play them properly. Because those bad habits will stick and you will keep using them to avoid the hard stuff.

If you can keep yourself honest and don’t try taking shorts I would say yes have a go, if they are a little beyond your level but don’t stray to far. What I learnt here with Justin, is a strong, wide deep foundation is key to everything that follows. Guess that why his structure is built the way it is !

Ask a builder what is most important thing when starting out on a house build. Digging the footings and laying the foundation or trying to lay the roof tiles, when the walls haven’t even been built. Yeah the roof may look fancy but not so much when the house collapses as the foundations were built on sand.

(Cue Mr Larsen whose house was built on a beach in the English tropics)

Been there done that got no where, came here. My 2 cents others may disagree.



I would suggest (as Justin does some where on this site) Nothing wrong with trying to learn a difficult song just learn them one at a time and think of it as a long term project. I did that with Layla acoustic version and over time I’ve gradually improved my version of that song. But it has taken me a long time to get it to a reasonable standard. The reason it has improved is because I’ve also stuck to learning the skills and practice that Justin’s lessons provide.

Welcome to the community Mark :notes::guitar:

Trying songs that are too hard for me but I love is probably the reason I still play guitar.

I’m currently learning both an electric piece & a fingerstyle piece that are way too hard for me, I’ll be lucky if I learn them this year, maybe even next year. But it’s those two songs that inspire me to practice every day. I mix in the stuff you are meant to as well like :wink:

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If you try something hard now and then besides levelling gradually with more realistic stuff, there is nothing wrong. It’s putting your toe in the water and see how far you’ve come.

Dust In The Wind is a great song and a good workout.
Don’t build your practice schedule around it but revisit it once a month or two weeks and feel what you brought along this new try. What went better? That’s where you progressed.

Having bigger projects is cool but work your way up instead of "from left from right, trying to hit every note sounding like a lagging dialup connection. Get the chord structure right first, get the flow going, feel the timing and groove. Know what chord shape you’ll be using and for how long. Get this goign on auto pilot by strumming it first and VERY fluent and consistent. If that works, you engrain the flow of the song and you can depend on a good base of muscle memory. NOW there is time to build the more complex picking on top of that layer.

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I found out the other day that I had been practising a Level 5 song. It was in one of JG’s song books and the chords didn’t look too difficult so gave it a go. Had bit of palm muting which is where I have got to in grade 2 so all good!!


Thank you! I did not realize until a few days ago that I was not supposed to post new topics in the category for the grades and modules.

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Thank you. I’ve already seen this video, but watching it again more carefully with specific apllication in mind, I think will be helpful