What’s your process when mastering a song?

Hi everyone!

I want to get serious and structured with practicing and playing guitar again. I got to the beginning of grade 3, but the last year (roughly) I haven’t practiced consistently and basically just messed around a bit whenever I picked up the guitar. I noticed that when playing songs, I have only very few that I can comfortably play from beginning to end. Mostly its a patience thing I guess, but also I noticed that when I practice a song, I follows justin’s lesson and have the songbook in front of me and just try to make it work. However I don’t really play along to the recording of songs because mostly I can’t keep up with the speed and get somewhat intimidated. Especially when it are songs with relatively easy chords. For example: Somebody to love by Jefferson airplane has easy chords, but when I play along to the recording I never get to the end of it without having to stop and start over.

My question is basically, how do you guys go about in learning a song and mastering it?

Thanks so much in advance for any tips/tricks/advice :smiley:



I’ll let you know if I ever “master” one! :rofl:

Seriously, if you can’t play along with a record, find it on YouTube and use the feature that lets you change the playback speed. It keeps it in the same pitch, just slower. I find that 85-90% speed usually works until I get comfortable with the song.


Back right off on the tempo. Get the chords and strumming pattern right. Slowly bring the tempo up and the go another 5-10 bpm faster. When you back it off the standard tempo it will feel easier.

Slowly slowly cactchy monkey. Simples.


I will learn the chords, chord progression and strumming patterns, then play the song REALLY SLOW. Like 60bpm slow. Then I’ll start bringing the speed up until I find the areas where I’m struggling. I’ll add the struggling parts to my daily practice routine, so I focus on those spots for 5 minutes straight.

Wash, rinse, repeat until I’m able to play the song all the way thru at the “proper” tempo.


Hi Inge,

Is your struggle primarily not being able to play full songs at the appropriate speed? If so, I would not play along with the original recording and slow down to a speed where you can play the song all the way through. Once you are comfortable with that, then slowly speed it up until you can play at the correct tempo.

If a specific chord change is giving you trouble, I would spend a few minutes of your practice routine each day working on that specific change.

Overall, patience and practice help a lot! I’ve had times where I have been frustrated at not being able to play a specific riff, lick etc… But I find that it gets easier the more I play in general. Sometimes moving onto a different song and returning to the original one later after you have developed your skill a little better can make a big difference :+1:


I agree with you @markr31, this feature in YouTube is really good especially when playing really fast songs like Thunderstruck by AC/DC!

  1. Acquire great intentions
  2. Find suitable YouTube tutorial
  3. Watch said video
  4. Practice for an hour
  5. Resign completely deflated
  6. Burn guitar



Mostly its the appropriate speed! Also sometimes its when i want to learn a song from a songbook and I find it too difficult to get the chords right. I have these songbooks like: “ first 50 songs to play on acoustic guitar” “ first 50 songs to strum on guitar”. “ first 50 songs to fingerpick on guitar”. They say that its accessible and all, but sometimes they use chords that I haven’t encountered and it doesn’t sound the way it should and it makes me feel like an idiot.

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There is a lot of click bait out there on YouTube promising world. Most are not fit for purpose.

Until you get to intermediate level, I would encourage folks to stick with Justin’s system. Learn the techniques and chords he presents step by step. Apply them to the songs he recommends. That way you will build a strong foundation. A lot of the “50 songs to blah blah” have foundations built on sand. When you get to Justin’s intermediate level you will have enough knowledge and techniques in your hands, to not only start looking for reliable tutors who are out there in the world but the ability to spot the Snake Oil salesmen who are just looking you to :+1: and :smile: on their channels.

So no you are not an idiot, you are just straying off course. Which is exactly what these click bait channels want you to do. Get back on Justin’s road map and leave all that other “stuff” until you have the ability to see it for what it is !

Footnote - In case folks think I am narrow minded. Yes there are good tutor’s out there on the web but in 27 years I have found Justin’s Beginner to Intermediate the most structured and layered teaching method to build a deep and wide foundation on which everything is based. The first 17 years I was going round in circles. After nearly 10 years with Justin I now have the knowledge and experience to identify reliable and confident teaching resources. And random YouTube searches are not high on the list of starting points.

But hey that is just my world view and I am sure many armchair experts would beg to differ.



Hi Toby,

I couldn’t agree more with you, and I know I am straying off course at times.
The only thing I have to clarify is that the songbooks I am referring to are official Hal Leonard published books, not YouTube channels. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.nl/Should-Acoustic-Guitar-GUITARE-English-ebook/dp/B00TDXUB4K/re

I just get so enthousiastic at times that I buy extra songbooks from time to time and then eventually get confused because it might be just a bit out of my league as of yet.

Maybe another question if you don’t mind me asking, but what would you advise me to do to get back on track? Revisit grade 2 before trying to catch on to grade 3 again?

Hi Inge, I would revisit the Grade 1 and 2 consolidation lessons and do a check list. Be honest with yourself and tick off what you are confident with and what you feel needs work on… pick some songs at those levels from Justin’s recommended song lessons that cover those lesson materials… slow it down and gradually build up the bpm as you progress. Try to apply at least one song for each of the techniques and chord fingerings.

Edit: and revisit your feedback on wonderwall you did very well. So as you say it’s just getting back on track in the learning process.

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Related issue - After some practice with a new song, there may be one sequence that is particularly troublesome every time it appears. I start playing the song and just instinctively speed up to a normal tempo because it sounds good for a significant portion and then hit the roadblock on the hard sequence. Then the whole thing crashes. It’s hard to play the easier parts slow and hard to play the difficult parts fast.

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I would echo all advice here so far. Keep it all as simple as you can. You can’t go far wrong following Justin’s course and his songs books/song app. Yes when you are starting out the songs will not exactly sound like they should. I think Justins app and particularly the song part help here as it gives you some positive feedback in “playing along” with the band. Obviously you an also slow down tracks which will help as well.

Another thing not mentioned a lot on here but there are now “approved” real world Justin teachers. So if you are having a roadblock on how to proceed or how to structure your learning I’m sure a couple of lessons with them might help. They are all done virtually a I understand it.

Finally in relation to your last question I would just practice the part you are struggling with at a slow speed until you can play it without thinking about it. So much of learning guitar is about repeating things continuously until you are not thinking about it and it’s automatic. It can take a long time but that is what you have to do…no shortcuts unfortunately. After 13 years that is what I still do all the time…just stand there repeating sections of songs I’m struggling with time after time after time. I know ultimately I’ll get it down in a matter days, weeks or even months sometimes.


Hi Inge! Great question. Initially I thought you meant “mastering a song” in DAWs… :rofl:

Probably you could check these out, hope it helps =)

I recommend practising with the original recording -possibly slowed down a bit to begin with. Try to ditch the song book. You have to get used to playing without it…. It’ll train your ears and memory. Trust me on this :slight_smile: With the band I play a 50 song set without any papers, no problem. Yet for a very few songs I initially “cheated” and wrote out a chord chart - just to get a quick start - and those same songs were the ones I had problem with later when trying to memorize… despite them not being more complex than the rest.

When playing along with recording, try to avoid stopping when you make a mistake. Try to recover and pick it up again, and play to the end. Then di another pass at it!

I think sometimes people underestimate how many times it takes to properly learn a song. Playing through new material should be fun, and you can do it 10-15 times per day no problem :slight_smile:

Good luck!


I’ll let you know once I master some song :smiley: Because 9 times out of 10 I’m just doing my own thing and incorporating some segments from the original here and there. But, here’s how I do it:

  1. Learn the chords (which chord goes where)
  2. Learn a strumming pattern depending on what timing the song is.
  3. Peactice the song in free-flow (without metronome), until you know it well.
  4. Practice with metronome with various speeds (or, like me, cling to the usual 100-120 BPM lol)
  5. Profit (?)

DAW? :see_no_evil:

Hi Inge,
I tend to use Justin’s song App and sing and play along with the songs on there. The great thing is that you can alter the tempo of the song whilst you get used to it.
Lots of good advice has been given already but I would consider putting the tricky bits into your daily technical practice session too.
Lots of luck with your moving forward👍


That is a great question. The easiest way to do it is cut the speed in half and don’t try to keep up with the album. Once you can play it smoother pick up the tempo when ready. The most important thing is to know what word the chords change on. Try playing only the chords on the words that change (strumming once), then step 2 is to gradually add a steady downstrum. If you look at my last video here( linkin park) I play dm on “I “ then dreamed I was missing (Am on missing) . You were so scared ( c chord) and so on. After you get the basic melody and timing then fancy it up . Hope this helps


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Comments and recommendations on this thread probably some of the best since I joined the community. Thanks all!