How To Learn A Lot Of Songs Quickly

I have a pretty unique take on how to learn songs quickly that may go against everything you have ever learned, but it helped me a lot in several situations and has proven itself to be very useful.

For example in 2012 when I jumped in as a replacement-guitarist for a band and I had 2 weeks to learn their set 🙂

The main idea is:

Learn EVERYTHING at the same time.

“Wait what? Don’t you get overwhelmed?”

No.

Not if you approach it right.

Here is the only “common sense” part that you may find in this post:

Start with the PRACTICE of HARDEST part of the songs as soon as possible.

Usually the solos.

AND listen to the songs as much as you can in every opportunity you can.

Now to the more concrete, go-against-the-grain process.

I ALWAYS start with determining the song structure by creating MY OWN LEAD SHEET.

Even if you already have the notes or tablature files, do this anyway.

This helps massively to get to know the song and it’s structure, so you don’t get lost in the song or mix up parts.

I start by listening through the song and put time stamps to the song parts.

The time stamps are important for later.

It will look something like this:

0.00 – 0.24 Intro

0.24 – 0.48 Verse

0.48 – 1.02 Chorus

Once I got that for a whole song, I start finding the HARMONIES.

That means attaching chord progressions to every line that I have written.

It will look like this:

0.00 – 0.24 Intro   Am  |  G  | Am  | F G |

0.24 – 0.48 Verse  Am |  F  |  Am  |  G  |

0.48 – 1.02 Chorus Am  |  G  | Am  | F G |

So far it has been a pretty linear process and you can repeat this now for all other songs that you need to learn.

It may not be the most glamorous or exciting thing to do, but it will pay off massively.

Sometimes there may be guitar riffs or melodies that you want to transcribe and make a note for yourself too.

Here is an example of a lead sheet I recently did for auditioning for a symphonic metal opera band Imperial Age.

Keep in mind:

I usually don’t show these to anyone because they are simply my notes and they work for me.

I also use guitar pro to write tablature files for more complex parts.

Here is one example:

(Out of respect to the band this is NOT the correct version. They are still in the selection process, so not to give anything too much away, I will not show you the accurate solo transcript.)

This is where the time stamps come in handy.

If you are stuck with a certain part of the song, what you can do is load the song into a program called Audacity and skip straight to the right time stamp without looking around much.

Also helpful to put a section on loop to find the right chords.

So far everything has been foundational.

Let’s get specialised.

I practice each song for about 10-15 minutes and every time I try to spot things that I need to get automated.

For example if you miss a chord change or a transition to a song, I practice that for a while.

But I don’t go excessive on it and practice that part for 2h now. No.

Because once you get the hang of something and you start playing it and it “feels good”, you are not learning anything anymore.

This is the right time to move on to another song or another song part.

That is really the whole secret.

It still takes time of your day but for a professional musician, this should really be doable.

And it uses your time in the most effective way.

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