Too many ways to play songs


To quote Mr. Dylan “There’s too much confusion I can’t get no relief…”

I’m pretty sure the answer to my question is going to be - Just don’t do that, Learn one way!!! :slight_smile:

Invariably, I will see a lesson for a song I like (typically, YouTube).
Then, I will watch lessons for that song by the 5 or 6 very good instructors that I follow (including Justin, of course :slight_smile: to see how they play or teach it.

Sometimes I like the way one teacher teaches/plays a song, but maybe not another song.

So, I end up with liking one instructor’s intro, but liking somebody else’s strumming pattern or somebody else uses different keys/chords etc.

And, I end up just confused as to how I want to learn and play the song.
These are, usually, upper-level beginner songs.

One example would be - You Ain’t Going Nowhere by Bob Dylan (a super easy chord progression, but with a lot of different ways to play it - I know about using different patterns for the verses/chorus so it’s not redundant and boring sounding)
But, there’s just too many choices haha

Simple D DU UDU
Boom chucka on the 1
Boom chucka on the 1 and 3 DDU DDU
Using walk-ups
Arpeggio the + 4 + with the high 3 strings (EBG)

I need to find some way to stop my ceaseless searching when learning a song :slight_smile:



Enjoy them all for what they bring!

Sounds pretty similar to my rabbit hole experiences :slightly_smiling_face:

I find that some teachers are more suited to their own particular genres, all have their own teaching style.

Justin will be painstakingly accurate
Carl Brown may just go with the flow
Paul Davids could add a flowing melody
Marty will focus on a particular experience level…

Some songs are just hard to find and any version is welcome!

I tend to base my renditions on the version I like most (or quickly realise I’m not ready for so will go with another) but may steal elements from others - usually when a section gets too tough. :slightly_smiling_face:

Ultimately, when I have the technical aspects learnt, I switch over to practicing “my way”. Just makes songs easier to remember using your own chord shapes, strumming patterns etc.

Whoever you watch will likely teach you something new, throw them all in the pot…

You really can get inspiration from anywhere

Hi Andrew you might want to check out Rick Beato. he has a new video out which suggests learning songs is by listening and transcribing and nothing else. The way it has always been done pre YouTube. Good luck with however you do it, but ears are the best in MHO. :smiley:

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I’m a beginner so I look for the easiest version that sounds authentic. Sometimes if a lesson is too easy then you could play it along to the original but if it’s just a few chords with a really basic strumming pattern then you’ll get bored of it really soon.
If I hear something in another version that I like then I might add that later but I concentrate on one version at a time.
I don’t care if I’m playing note for note with the original, I want something that is fun to play and is similar enough to the original that only a real pedant would call out. There’s such a thing as “good enough” so don’t allow guitar playing to become a form of torture


Make your own arrangements. It’s fun.

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No need to be too rigid, mix it up a bit it’s more interesting!

Take them all in mind, then start with a version that you can actually play without too much difficulty.

Once you can play it reasonably, expand it to include whatever elements you like from other versions or explore your own.

I like to start by listening to the original multiple times… thinking “mindfully” about what I like most about the song & what parts I want to change…
I always start with a very basic strumming pattern & slow it down to learn the song structure but keeping the end goal in mind…
After I can play the very basic version through to the end by heart, I start to speed it up & singing along.
Once I have a “rough cut” version, it’s time to add embellishments or personalize “my song”!
One thing to note: this is all for a rhythm guitar. I don’t have the chops yet for soloing.
My 2 $… :grin:



Many songs I do, I do go look at various videos on said song.
I also check out the tabs for the song if I can find them.

Since I play by myself, I figure it’s up to me to come up with something that ‘I’ think sounds good. I may use bits and pieces of what I’ve observed or read in tabs. Then I put it all together, which may take me much time and experimentation.
After weeks or months, I have a song I can play. Granted it may be played how I think it sounds and I likely never get any song to be perfect as to the original song done by it’s composer. Hopefully, it sounds enough like the original that folks that listen to me can at least recognize the song… :slight_smile:


Mal and Tod have made some good suggestions. Listen to the song you want to learn, find out why you like it and how you want to play it. Then try and figure out yourself by ear as much as you can. That won’t be easy at first but use the various tutorials to help you piece it all together what you could not figure out yourself. Over time you’ll get better at the “finding it out by yourself”. Invaluable skill when you want to play a song for which there is no tutorial around, no live version of the original artist playing the song, and only some obscure covers.

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…and when you’ve found it please share it as I need it as well!

Listening to the original recording and work out your own arrangement might be a good idea, not the easiest path but a very rewarding one.

I once noticed different teachers using different patterns for the same song and they were all fine and I thought “well, my pattern will be fine as well as long as it sounds and feels good!”

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“It’s only right that you should play the way you feel it.”
–Stevie Nicks

Scroll through the member recordings and most of the time players are putting their own spin on their tracks. Lessons and original recordings are just suggestions. Seems odd to view multiple/new/different approaches to a song as confusing or a rabbit hole. All of these things go into your personal musical blender on your way to finding your own voice on the instrument.

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I can relate somewhat to what you’re saying. The solos too are often played in different parts of the neck by different players.

The flipside is that its a great learning experience, that is transferable to other songs. Gives you lots of great ideas. I find that quite a few of my songs are a mixture of different arrangements, and my own ideas.

Remember too that many songs contain more than one guitar part, so there’s naturally going to be an amout of variation in arranging it for one guitar.

We’re actually pretty spoilt in this day and age to have such things at our fingertips; albeit with the occasional analysis paralysis.

Cheers Shane



You can separate your practice from your playing. In other words practice foundational skills like learning chord progressions, chord forms (triads, bar) scales, improvisation, etc, and then play songs that utilize those skills. Always playing by rote can be restrictive and has some limitations.

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I know your post was lighthearted, however you have actually raised something quite interesting that goes deeper than just guitar. Part of my job involves looking at technology and the way it impacts society, particularly young people. Your post touches on the tension that exist between the benefits of technology and a potential downfall.

Every day we consume WAY more information than we ever have before and are switching our brains off less than ever. There is a lot of research into the impact this has on brain development and wellbeing. One of things that often comes up is that while the internet provides great opportunities to people (being able to learn guitar online) it can lead to people feeling overwhelmed by choice (having too many options).

Anyone who has read online reviews before purchasing something or has started googling medical symptoms before going to the doctor is probably aware of that feeling. This is the guitar version of that. 20 years ago, we all learnt through listening to recordings and one or two sources of truth (maybe a teacher and a tab/book), now we have the benefit of hundreds of different sources, but as you said in the original post, it is about finding that balance.

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My advice FWIW (and that may be but a tuppence) pay close attention to Justin’s song lesson, then create create your own arrangement that fits your current skills and taste, then expand that arrangement as your skills advance. FWIW


That’s a really great point, I am regularly subject to what I like to call “Paralysis By Analysis”, when I am researching items as I find that there is soooo much information available sometimes that I just end up doing nothing :rofl: :face_with_spiral_eyes:

Fortunately this does not happen in my guitar journey, so back to the subject of the thread, as a beginner I tend to learn the basic song from JG if its available or if not somewhere else or just look up chords and listen to the song (it’s usually a song I know anyway) then play it in whatever style suits my level including any embellishments that again fit my level at the time.