Working on songs from zero

I’d also try to be as efficient as possible with your time. If you haven’t already look into Justin’s video on time boxing.

I use Justin’s practice assistant for this. Separating my practice into 5 minute chunks. I might work on rhythm for a song for 5 minutes then switch to chord changes for another 5.” And so on. If you’re time poor every minute counts.

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I don’t find nearly as much time to practice as I’d like to, but one great way I find to practice is on my lunch break at work. Most days I can practice ~ 40 minutes out of my hour lunch break. I leave an electric guitar (that’s not worth much) at work, and I have an AmPlug I use so I can hear myself but with my office door shut nobody else can hear me (or not too much anyway). So if practicing on your lunch break at work is possible, that’s a great way to get some good practice time in.


For some reason when I read the question I thought you meant writing songs - you mean learning songs?

I’m in a similar situation to Alexis, so learning new songs happens in the evenings after the kids are asleep. I don’t watch much TV, and very seldom play video games. Learning new songs from zero is mentally tiring so I only do that when I feel like it, but practicing ones I already know to get better is possible even when tired.

I think it can really depend what your life balance is like. If you have to get up super early and have a long commute, or travel for work frequently, it’s going to be hard. I’m fortunate in that I have reasonable work/life balance.


Yes. I am the living proof of how effective the Justin timeboxing is haha. I learned that when I just started guitar with Justin vids, and it helps me to improve tremendously in no time

For my current stage “practising” have different meaning in a way that I need to actually study the songs xD (figure out the way I play on guitar)

Listened to Andy Mckee’s Rylynn and realised I know bit part of the song but never got to finish learning it T.T (same as the most recent song on my learning log…)

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Never thought of that. That is certainly creative use of time! I usually would read books during spare time in work. In my humble opinion,
having a good mentality and lifestyle would indirectly improve my guitar playing, wouldnt it? =)

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I think @jkahn makes an important point here. I know I could get in more practice time if I made different choices with how I spend my time. I think there is a fine line between rest & relaxation and ‘wasting’ time eg watching TV just to unwind is not necessarily bad but can easily become a bad habit that consumes lots of time.


I usually try to get one to two hours of practice in daily. But that doesn’t always work, since i attend school in the evenings, twice a week, and on friday evenings, nothing gets done. So that leaves the other days of the week to get some practice done. And even that isn’t all that simple, because every now and then, i get the urge to watch the latest episode of this or that series i’m following.
It’ll always be an excersice, i guess, in what i want to do and what i know i must do.
The important thing for me is not to fret about it.

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a dedicated place in the house, doesn’t need to be a place reserved for guitaring only. Just a place where you can go to, to get in the right mindset.

Timeboxing is mentioned before; knowing in the morning or the day before when you want to spend x amount of time sure helps.

Remove distractions and manage expectations; I tell my family I’ll be up “making music” for the coming hour or so. Try to get done what needs to be done (that day) first though. When you have kids, timeboxing becomes even more crucial.

Then, when you are in your place, time and “zone”; approach the song properly: Tip: Memorizing songs

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Learning songs is a different discipline to practicing. I’ve never devoted much time to practicing until recently so my time was spent learning songs. As Justin says, you need to play the song through at least 5 times before you start. To really learn the song, I would put it on a CD and play it in the car on the way to/from work.

At home I have software that lets me slow down, change pitch, edit and loop songs or parts of songs. So to learn I have to be in front of a computer. Often this would be in a bedroom away from the children as they got older. I had to snatch whatever time I could which probably meant learning things in a rush and never really mastering them.

Now I’m semi-retired I have more time and can “practice” in the morning first thing but learning songs needs more focus so is later in the day.

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Some terrific comments here already on carving out time, practice segmentation and where you have set up / set aside to practice.

In terms of the process itself, I think accepting that alot / most songs will be a lengthy process to go through and master is fundamental with the limited time most of us have. Baby steps is key and I do like to follow alot of Justin’s advice here. Mainly, if it’s a song I don’t know that well to really listen to it a number of time, and augment that with say listening to songs I want to learn in the car. Actually getting it under my fingers is about simplicity at first, single strums per bar to get changes and timing understood which can help identify sections or chord changes that may need more work. Things like that can be worked on in OMC exercises for that particular song. If there’s any single string pieces or picking needed that’s also broken into a dedicated section of my practice. Then in time begin to piece it all together, get a strumming pattern going and it should come together :slight_smile:

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I am quite lucky. The kids have grown and gone. I work 7-3 and my wife does a split shift, so in the afternoon she leave for work at about 2.30 and I get home at about 3.30. That leaves me a good couple of hours every day to get some practice in. Obviously life gets in the way sometimes but other than that all is good.

I do tend to find that during the week I practice OMC’s and scales, that sort of thing, along with songs but at weekends, that will just be for playing songs.

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Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts :sparkling_heart: I would go through each of your comments carefully and find different insights :sunglasses:

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Hi Peter! Found your thoughts intriguing, and thinking of you must going through some difficult guitar solos similar to me :sweat_smile: And it does take some skills, which may have been the reason why professional guitarists picking up songs at a faster pace.

For my situation, I have enough muscle memory to execute most basic techniques, so my problems are to first figure out the songs (this is mentally exhausting, really :rofl:), then tackle the technical difficulty for specific song (by means of practising to develop muscle memory do help, but there many other aspects that contribute to the difficulties)

Then it comes to when I need to put it to work. That alone takes some serious motivation and reasons lol. Personally I am single young adult (the youth, haha) right now I will try to adopt fellow ideas here and squeeze out some time for the study of new songs

Thank you so much and have a great day =)

I just have my time slot booked in the evenings which I try (and mostly being successful at it) not to miss out on. Help the fact I don’t have children too so plenty more time available to my disposal comparing to many other people :wink: Also nowadays I don’t do warmups or exercises - I just jump the gun with stuff I am learning straight away and if I am a bit wobbly at the start I just use a song I previously learnt that has some similarities to one I am learning now. That way I can warm up quicker and in a more fun way :wink:

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@DarkWillowTM hi you must be learning by ear like me too. That’s quite a skill. I’ve had years (decades) to develop it. Software helps but that didn’t exist when I started.

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i was fortunate in that I worked from home which helped from 2 perspectives. I had more time due to no time spent traveling, and the guitar was always close at hand for a quick song or two.

I recall a few years back one of the team members kept a guitar in the office and at lunch and various breaks it would come out for a quick tune or two.

For me the biggest thing was the mindset that made it a daily routine no matter what. It became part of my lifestyle, similar to having a cuppa the first thing in the morning.


As another dad with full time job, I’ve given up on learning songs for the most part!

I’ve come to accept that I’ll never have enough time to learn a complicated song note for note, and that’s OK, I do not need to.

Instead, I’m focusing on becoming a good musician first, good guitarist second.

What that means for me is, rather than knowing a number of specific songs, being able adapt to different situations as quickly and well as possible.

For e.g. if a jam is coming up, I’d like to be able to learn a few songs in a few days to an acceptable level to perform. I’d like to be able to go to a blues jam and play songs that I do not necessarily know in advance. Be able to quickly learn a few songs to fill in for a guitarist role at the last minute. Like a dep guitarist.

To achieve that, I’m focusing my practices on musicianship, things like being able to play a chord progression in a given key without preparation, play the same chords in high or low registers to avoid conflicting with other guitarists, have good timing, know how to play different rhythms in different musical styles, improvise, and similar.

The idea is to spend the majority of my time for general improvements so I can quickly prepare for an upcoming opportunity to perform - without learning the details of the songs very well, but by performing them at a decent level.


I’m also fairly busy; I’m working and putting myself through a new university degree. I would say learning a new song is a lot like eating an elephant: you just take one bite at a time. It might take you a lot longer than someone who can practice for eight hours. You can still make a lot of progress, even with practice sessions of 10-20 minutes as many days-per-week as possible. Divide the song into managable chunks and practice each one, and then start putting them together. I, for one, actually enjoy the progress I’m making, even on short little practice sessions.


Hi there,

It is interesting that you asked this. I was thinking the name thing lately, why is it so darn hard to find time to squeeze in time for music? I don’t know if any of this will help, but a few things that have helped me in the past are:

  1. schedule time in the day to practice. If it is 5 PM on Tuesday Thursday only, stick to it like you are showing up for work or school.
  2. Keep your guitar out in plain view. A guitar in the case under the bed or in the closet is less likely to be played than one on a stand in plain view.
  3. Start with the 5 minutes plan. Say I will practice for 5 minutes a day, which is better than no minutes. In most cases the 5 minutes will turn into a lot longer. If it doesn’t, don’t beat yourself up because there will be days the music just flows through you and you can’t put the guitar down.
  4. New songs specifically-look in all kinds of places. Justin has several lessons, but he can only offer so much. Find something that interests you and google the tab. If it is too hard, try something else that seems to fir your ability. Maybe you like Metallica, but if it is beyond what you can do, broaden your horizons. Tom Petty, Green Day, even AC DC can be easy to learn and fun. Try anything from your favorite artist and you might be surprised that you can play the song. The main thing to get down is where the chords change and how many bars of each. A simple strum will work to get you going and you can always improve later.

I just added some new songs here after being inactive for a month. After failures and delays, I just got up and tried again once the dust settled. With a will there is a way. You can do it if I can. A 12 hour work day is a short day for me plus wife and kids too. I still don’t give up the dream of playing guitar and playing with skill.



Hello friends! Such wonderful comments I have been reading and rereading.

I consider myself unlucky for not having wife and children yet. On the bright side, I could consider myself young (<4 years to go before I become middle age uncle T.T)

To work on songs from zero, got to sort out the goals and motivation. After getting the mindset down, it is time to work on it, and work on it until it works. And when it is about time management, it is about prioritizing life events.

On guitar and music, my first priority is to work on music projects to be published on YouTube. And I will commit to learn new songs (new tricks essentially) to be applied on the project. If I ever getting busy in the future, and I could find some time to work on music projects, then I will find time to work on new songs.

Every morning I will go through the repertoire (selected songs), and it is inpiring to do so :sparkling_heart: (Oshio’s Wings You are the Hero make my day happier, really =) )