Trouble with song practicing

Hey so i’m a beginner guitar player and wouldn’t consider myself intermediate but hopefully on the pathway to that. Im in grade 2 so you would think i’d know at least like 3 beginner songs.
But basically i cant seem to master a song and i dont know why. If someone asked me to play a song for them I wouldn’t be able to🥲
Ive tried brown eyed girl and surfin usa (the second one im not terrible at though) and many other song lessons from justin but i can’t actually master a single song i try to learn. I kinda learn but not master small bits of songs i like which is fun i guess but not effective for improvement.
I want to change that though during grade 2 so can anyone help me with how to practice?


Why cant you learn or play them?

I think without knowing more and given you have only joined in sept 22 (less than a year ago)…

1 - dont be so hard on yourself
2 - slow down and practice more songs at lower levels


I agree with Rob :slightly_smiling_face:

Have you tried the app? That’s a really convenient way to ease into the playing of songs in my opinion :nerd_face: You can slow the songs down as much as you would like and you also get recommended strumming patterns.


Louis @Wetchie

Another questions, are you just playing the chords or are you singing as well?

Michael :question:

Hello Louis, I can relate to what you have written and this is what I’m doing to overcome this difficulty: I copy and paste the lyrics from Internet to a word processor page and I “study” and adjust the structure of the song in a way that it becomes clear and immediately recognizable to the eye. After printing I write the chords with a pencil at each practice session and then I erase them and write them again and again trying to drag them out from memory…this was not easy in the beginning, but it becomes easier and easier along the way. Also I put some kind of sign in the sheet where the chord progression changes and I focus on those section as well as the transitioning from one section to another, as I always struggle to keep time there.

Hope this might be useful to you to take some idea and work out your own strategy, depending on what you specifically struggle with.
And as others have said, be indulgent to yourself, things do get better along the way :blush:


Hi Louis, you’re doing the right thing acknowledging a problem and reaching out for some advice.

I’m gonna be serving up a bit of tough love here.

Before even considering moving to Grade 2 I would suggest you need many more than three songs under your belt. So please hold it there. Pause in your forwards progress through the Grades given you are not yet able to play songs.

From Grade 1 Module 5 : your own songbook

From Grade 1 Module 7: memorise easy songs

… I cant seem to master a song and I dont know why…

There is simply no substitute for playing them and playing them very often. Playing songs needs to be an intrinsic part of your practice sessions, something you have built in and non-negotiable. How often / how many times have you tried to play the songs you mention?

… I can’t actually master a single song I try to learn. I kinda learn but not master small bits of songs i like which is fun i guess but not effective for improvement.

Are you learning small bits of songs that overall are too difficult for you? Riffs from songs that you can’t play any of the verse / chorus sections? If yes, then this is common, yo’re not the first to do this, but be aware that it is the opposite of good learning and many people have given up in frustration when they followed this approach. Learn simple songs with simple strumming - songs that do not fluctuate between easy parts and much more difficult parts.

Go to the Songs page:

Filter by Grade 1 and you’ll find 110 video lessons for songs you can select from.

I want to change that though during grade 2 …

I urge you to change that before you begin Grade 2.

…can anyone help me with how to practice?

Go back to basics, learn simple songs with simple strumming, play them through from start to finish, many, many times as an intrinsic part of your daily practice. If you have reached the end of Grade 1 and have most of the skills learned, then rewrite a practice routine so that the vast proportion of your time is spent on songs rather than isolated skills.

I hope that helps.
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide & Approved Teacher


Some great advice already here Louis, especially the don’t be so hard on yourself point that Rob makes!! Maybe I can add a little additional food for thought for the slightly longer term and it builds on the repertoire building Justin talks about and Richard highlights above. The songs you’re choosing to learn, are they songs you really want to learn? I wonder if it’s more about your interest in the songs you’re going after.

At your stage there will be an element of some module suggested songs being a little bit box ticking to cover certain chords and changes, I found that with some of the early minor chord songs, not ones I wanted to learn but they reinforced the OMC exercises behind them. Do I play them now? Nope, and I didn’t learn them to the point I can recall them now. Having said that, if you’re in grade 2 I would hope that there’s enough of a selection of songs available to you now to have 3 (or 5 ideally?) that you do really want to learn. With those follow the advice of first just listen to the song, really listen to it, like 10 times over, it ingrains so much of the flow in your brain before you even pick up the guitar, it’s a big step to learning.

Good luck, and keep at it :slight_smile:


Some great advice from @Richard_close2u here already, I’ll just double down on this bit…

If you want to remember songs, print them out and play them every day for a month. The whole song. Even twice in a row each day.

You’ll have a hard time not remembering it.


Among the more salient points already presented, I think a question worth asking oneself is:

“What does it mean to me to master a song at my level of play?”

This is about setting realistic expectations and goals.

My point is that the perfectionist in me wants to “master” songs and play them like Justin, or the original artist, or some other accomplished guitarist I saw playing it.

However, that is simply not achievable at my level.

“Mastery” probably isn’t the right term. We need to achieve skill level appropriate competence with the songs we play, and often play simplified versions of them such that we actually can achieve something close to this.

Over time and with growing skills, the songs we continue to work on will grow with us. There is no set “finished” point in song mastery.

My goals are to play close to or at tempo, smooth cord changes without major flubs or hesitations, even and (mostly) consistent strumming. Dynamics is a work in progress, and singing…well, I am trying.
Memorizing comes with playing and trying.

So, in the mental game that comes with learning to play guitar, make sure that you aren’t holding yourself back with unrealistic expectations. “Master” songs to your skill level and be happy. Advance your skill level over time and be happy. Learn more songs and be happy.


Very well put. When practising a song, I think there comes a point where you achieve:

  • Not making a significant mistake most of the time
  • Not able to make a significant difference in how it sounds even with hours of practice

If these two happened, I think it is time to move on to potentially come back to the same song in, say, 6 months or more.


Yeah im not a great singer :joy: so i just play the chords, no singing @MAT1953

Also this is really helpful thanks everyone. Looks like I will pause my progress in grade 2 and learn at least 5 new grade 1 songs. I was raising my own expectations too high i guess. I think i will put a couple of songs on my songbook (which i never really used) so that one day when someone asks me to play a song I’ll have one on hand :smiley:


That sounds like a great plan, Louis :+1::smiley:.
If you like to get some feedback on them, you can post a recording of you playing the songs :slightly_smiling_face:. And don’t forget to have fun :grinning:.

You may want to try the app. I slow the songs down and turn off the vocals. Seems to be working. I’m also in Grade 1 and staying put for a while. I just don’t feel like I’m ready for Grade 2. Hope this helps.

Louis @Wetchie

I felt the same way about singing when I started to learn and joined the community at the beginning of last year and said so at the time.

However I was persuaded that I should sing by some prominent community members. Without doubt it is the MOST IMPORTANT advice I have received from the community.

Ok you have to learn the lyrics but I find I associate the chords and when to change with the words and this helps to remember the song. I am not a good singer but I decided to take lessons and my teacher says I am improving

You don’t have to do what I am doing but Justin has a lesson on singing, How not to suck at singing! - YouTube there is a part where you just talk your way through the lyrics, point 3, perhaps a worth a look at.

It has been said many times everything takes practice, sometimes a lot of practice, keep at it you will get there.



Hi Louis, oh blimey I understand your frustration. I’m currently embedding grade 2 and believe me, I still struggle to get from one end of a a song to the other without getting something wrong. But I see this as the challenge and I play all my songs every day as well as some technical stuff. Slow and steady I think. Great advice given from everyone. #RichardClose2you is an excellent teacher and has a gift for breaking down the learning into manageable chunks. Great guidance from him.
Good luck on your journey and don’t forget to have fun.


I can relate to what you’re saying and my progress now is only slightly better than yours. I got frustrated at the end of one of the early modules on Justin’s site when he talked about trying to get chord changes up to 30 per minute then at the same time he recommended learning to play some songs. I was able to do chord changes for many of the open chords at well over 30/min however trying to play a song while maintaining a strumming pattern was a much higher skill. I have used the app a bit and found that by slowing the tempo down a lot I’m able to do some of the songs. I also started just working on the easiest songs I could find, such as Mad World (Gary Jules), Ball and Chain (Social Distortion) or Blowing in the Wind, which only have 3 chords. I recommend trying to learn some strumming patterns with one chord at a time, then progress to changing between two or three chords while maintaining that strumming pattern. It took a while before I could even do that much but I eventually got it for simpler songs. It’s a slow process but progress does come if you keep at it. My chord changes between most of the open chords are up to 50-60 per minute if I just go back and forth between two or three chords (one strum each) and with that speed I’m finding that it’s coming easier when I go to play songs. Now I’m working on changing between barre chords and open chords and can only do that about 30 times/minute so I can’t really play a song properly if it involves a barre chord, like Wild Horses or House of the Rising Sun.

I recently was looking at my dashboard to figure out where I was in my guitar journey only to discover I hadn’t finished Grade 3, even though I’m deep into Grade 4 on other parts (theory, blues etc.) Well I got back into Grade 3 and got to the songs for this level. I realized that I really don’t have that many songs that I can play realistically well. As long as I can look at a chart I can play the following songs, Hide Your Love Away, Here, There, and Everywhere, Wish You Were Here, Brown Eye Girl, Green Onions, Already Gone (chord version), Bad Moon Rising and Goo Goo Muck. Of those songs I can sing to Hide Your Love Away and Green Onions :laughing:! I’ve been learning guitar for about 4 years now and I have a good grasp on the theory and understanding of why certain notes work best with certain chords, but this review has me thinking I should work more learning actual songs than I can realistically play with good proficiency. I don’t have any aspirations to be in a band or playing live (yet), but I would like to be able to play songs for my friends when the possibility presents itself. So I really appreciate the advice others have provided on this thread, it has been helpful in my self assessment. Now back to practicing!!

I find that singing helps me memorize and remember songs. And I’ve come to find that I enjoy singing and playing more than I enjoy just playing. It’s a whole additional instrument added to the mix. Everyone ultimately does their own thing and finds their own path, of course, but my advice is to go ahead and sing, even if you think you can’t or that your voice is bad or whatever. Give it a shot, and a chance. Like anything, you’ll get better with practice. (And if you decide to focus on it, you can get a lot better – again, just like anything.)


I like what @J.W.C is saying. I am not good at singing and even more bashful about it (childhood choir trauma…).

But I do think singing is an important part of playing guitar. Sure, there is a boatload of classical and fingerstyle repertoire that doesn’t need singing and I intend to play a lot of that. But singing is you, in the music and singing is fun, especially with others. Even if I don’t sing well, just belting it out anyway is fun. In the types of moments I play for others, no one really cares if my performance is perfect. It is just for the fun of it, so why not?


Yes, I have been thinking about this regarding moving forward. I can mostly play the guitar through but not successfully match the vocals properly in the song I am learning before moving on. I can sing, and I’m learning the guitar. As I struggle with that second song, I’m thinking about what time to start the next set of lessons while continuing to work on the song.