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When I practice on my acoustic, it usually consists of me practicing songs that I like until I get them to sound right, and can play it most of the way through.  For example, I've been playing Dear Prudence for a while now, and it's starting to sound really good, but I've put a lot of hours into learning to play this well.  


Am I practicing efficiently by learning songs this way, or should I be focusing on something else?  To clarify, I don't think I'm really stretching beyond my abilities; I'm not trying to dive into Clapton's stuff or what have you, but the songs I'm interested in are probably beyond beginner ability.


Any and all advice is welcome, I love playing more than anything and just want to get better. Thanks!

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I am just a beginner, hope you don't mind me asking, are you strumming/singing, or picking?  Thanks.

Well, it's all of the above to be honest.  Some stuff I'm working on is fingerpicking, some is picking with a plectrum, and some is strumming.  And I'm not the best singer in the world, so I'm not too worried about playing while singing.

I learned 199 songs in about 6 months from scratch, strumming and singing.  My secret is that I loved each song as I learn them, play them with all the feelings and intensity in my body, whichever song caught my fancy that particular day.  And I was learning so I can impress some girl... what else.  When you love what you do, your body will automatically allow you to learn very fast, and you learn even without proper lessons, nor "proper" practices.  Motivation = Instant Mastery of the craft, period.

I decided early, that since I am old and not likely to be anything but a lonely amateur the rest of my life, I went for numbers, I want to learn and master as many songs as I can, perhaps all songs I ever like since birth.  If I mess with picking and doing leads at the beginning of each song and memorizing them by hard, I would probably be stuck with 20 or 30 songs AT BEST so far.  But instead I went just for strumming only, and not bothering to remember any song by hard instead relying 100% of the time on looking at the song sheets I arranged and produced, with the chords transposed to suit my vocal range.  I am no singer either, never, not even church/school choir as a kid, but now, totally different world.

How many open chords have I learned?  All the practical ones, many many dozens.  Learned especially fast when I want to transpose the chords to suit my vocal range, capo tend to cause the strings to go out-of-tune a lot faster, so motivation there to learn more open chords.  Now I can transpose not just up 2 or down 2, but actually rotate around the octave skipping every other half-note, or something like that, which is not a problem since half note probably don't make that much difference to your vocal range. 

All in just 6 months from next to NOTHING, amazing.  But then again I am in my 40's and full-time retired and healthy, so perhaps I am rare in that I got both the time and the health to do whatever I like.. including turning perfectly fine 6-string guitars into 5-stringers... LOL

It is not practice that makes you good at the craft, it is LOVE, love that you get in return when you are good and able to impress the girl..

But then when the girl dumps you, you probably wouldn't touch the guitar for a long, long, time... LOL

Hi Kevin,

Hopefully there are some tutors who will respond to this, a couple of things you might want to look into:

- firstly, if your happy with what your doing, then fine, everyone's got a different groove,

- everything I've read about the pros is they practice, practice till the muscle memory, positioning etc is 100% repeatable, then they start playing 'music', i.e. instead of thinking of what they're playing , they 'feel' what they're playing.

- True - Famous golf player, holed the 18th to win, reporter says to him in interview, "that was a lucky putt on the 18th to win", Golfer replies, "Yeh, interesting that, the 'MORE' i practice, the 'luckier' I get !!!!

- Practice slow, position accurate to get muscle memory, the speed will come naturally,

and lastly, most of the practice techniques I've got from tutors is to break up your practice time, warm up, technique practice, work on piece of the week, work on piece of the month, and maybe some work on really difficult piece for that year.  

The thinking behind the structure of your practice time sectioning up different aspects is that one will benefit the other and you'll make better progress overall.  You still have the 'blast' out of tunes you know for fun, but if that's all you do, most tutors would say your not progressing.

Hope those thoughts helpful until you get some replies from others,

All the bests, Mike

Thanks for the reply Mike, I think that's the kind of advice I need.  I suspect that dividing my practice time to work on specific things will help me progress faster than I currently am.  


I am happy with what I'm doing in the sense that I couldn't be happier when I play, but I'm not entirely happy with my rate of progression.  I understand that getting better takes hours and hours of practice (which I'm willing to put in) but I reckon practicing correctly will help speed things up.  Thanks again!

I agree with Mike.


I'm new to the guitar but I've been playing the banjo for a year and a half.  My banjo skills improved dramatically when my practice routine became more about technique and not just playing songs or trying to play faster.  The routine starts with at least fifteen minutes of simple banjo rolls with a metronome (actually, it's a series of bass lines I created in Garage Band with various tempos).  I work on hitting the strings cleanly and clearly, getting the best tone from the banjo.  At some point I add in the left hand along with chord changes, all the while working my timing.  This fifteen minutes very often extends into 20 to 30 minutes.  I like it because I can hear the difference when I play songs and others have really noticed it as well. 


Getting the technique right when I practice with the metronome helps me know the technique will be right when I practice a song.  Getting the songs right in practice gives me confidence when I play the songs with others.


I started a guitar class last week and haven't had a whole lot yet to work on.  But I'm already playing a mean "Horse With No Name" :) . 


While its good to get one song down and practice it over time you should also incorporate other material.  IMO you are risking learning one thing very well and when you go to the next thing your starting all over and will put as many hours into it as the first piece.  Its mechanical.  If you are learning a couple things at a time you're able to vary what it is you're doing and learn different techniques as used in each song or practice material.  You may spend as many hours learning two or three pieces as you would one piece.  In the end you'll have three pieces - not one.


It is important tyo learn songs. While learning songs It also helps you with chord changes. But, if you are only practicing songs in the key of G you will only lean that key and limit yourself. So it is important to practice chord shapes and chord changes as well as songs.

Hi, Kevin,

I work on two or three songs at a time, so I have a little variety. I also work on some technical things each time I practice, such as chords, scales, or finger exercises. Sometimes I'll go back to something I haven't played for a while, to refresh my memory. It sounds as if you're really enjoying what you're doing, and I think that's really important-it encourages you to keep on learning!


   My practice/learning songs changes from time to time, but one thing I've been doing which I find helps, is while checking Emails and other computer stuff, I have the song or songs I want to learn playing in the back ground say on youtube, I listen to the song by many diffrent people not just the original musician, (gives diffrent perspectives) that puts the tune, in your head, and you pick up a pattern of the words/story the musician is telling, which seems to help me learn the song quicker. 



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