Essentials for Guitarists

By Mike Furry, Guitar and Bass Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Mike Furry, Guitar and Bass Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Mike Furry

As a guitar instructor in Boulder, one of the most common questions I’m asked during a music lesson is “how do I learn this song?” As I answer my students’ question, I find that the most essential elements needed, in order to learn any composition, are often overlooked by students.

When a student comes to me wanting to learn The Beatles, I always ask them “what does it mean to truly learn the song?” The most common answer I get is “to know the chords.” Knowing the harmony is one of the essential elements to memorizing any composition but there are several other fundamental techniques that will help a student on their journey to committing the song to memory.

Rhythm is the name of the game. Without rhythm there can be no music (in the traditional sense). Rhythm is usually the first obstacle I encounter when teaching students a new song. Students often want to learn the notes before they learn the rhythm and I believe it should be the other way. If someone can sing the rhythm to a melody then they are more than half way to learning how to play it on guitar.

Listen to the recording! This seems like an obvious statement but time and again students are not spending enough time listening to the recording. The more you hear the song, the more the song is committed to your long-term memory. The key is to listen to the song so many times that the student can:

  1. Play along with the recording
  2. Perform the song in its entirety.

Practice every day! It makes sense to think practicing for two hours once a week is better than 10 minutes everyday but it is not. It is more efficient to practice for five minutes everyday than two hours once a week because there has to be consistency. The more consistent the practice routine, the more advanced the student.

“Nothing in life is hard, it’s just unfamiliar.”

– Rodney Booth


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