For budding musicians, one of the best points that comes early on in their musical journey is their desire and ability to play along with popular songs.
For guitarists, this urge often comes right out of the gate, before the musician has mastered many of the other basic concepts of the instrument.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, since the desire to play well known songs is not only a common occurrence, but an essential trait of an enthusiastic young musician. In fact, many guitarists pick up the instrument simply because they want to learn to play their favorite tunes.
The trick is to make sure they do it in a way that also furthers their playing. That means picking those songs because of the chords they use, and finding pieces that have the right combination of ease, difficulty, and interest for the beginner.
Studying The Tab
Whenever a student begins to tackle a new piece, the first step should always be to study the guitar tab or chord progression he is going to need to learn.
To do this, find a resource like http://onlineguitartab.com and follow along with the written chord progression as you listen to the song. Most versions will have the lyrics written beneath the chords, making it easy to follow even for students who don’t read a lot of music.
Two popular choices for beginners are the Hotel California guitar tab, as well as Cat Stevens’ Father and Son. Both of these songs use common chord progressions that should be playable by most beginners.
If you don’t know how to read a tab yet, watch this video first:
Learn Chords Individually
Once you’ve studied the chart, it’s time to go through and learn the chords individually. Before you attempt to play the song, make a list of all the chords it contains.
Do you know all of the chords? Which chords are you unfamiliar with?
Ideally, you’ll want to pick a song that has some familiar chords, and some new ones. That’s the best way to challenge yourself without feeling overwhelmed by the number of new chords to learn.
Put It Together
Once you can play every chord individually, it’s time to put everything together.
When you’re playing through the song for the first time, make sure to play as slowly as you need to in order to make sure you play each and every chord correctly.
Try to maintain a sense of time, even on your first attempt, but don’t add in extra melodic lines or try to sing…you can save that for later.
After playing the song slowly a couple of times, begin to gradually speed up your playing. You can also break it down into different sections, and focus more time and energy on measures that are particularly difficult.
If you can do that, you’ll soon be able to master any reasonable song, even if you’re just starting out!