5 Simple Tricks: Learn Songs Quicker
Posted: November 25th, 2016 by Ashley Saunders
If you’re like most guitarist you’ll end up getting called to play a function gig at short notice. This means you’ll have to learn 30 + new songs quickly, including learning solos and finding guitar tones. Here are five simple tricks which will enable you to learn songs quicker and get more gigs.
#1 Learn To Read Music
For some gigs being able to read music is important. However, being able to sight read (i.e. play a song without ever hearing or seeing it before) is a whole different kettle of fish. What I mean is being able to look through a chart and follow the chord changes, understand each section (i.e. what is a verse, chorus, bridge, etc.) and then be able to play the song with little rehearsal while following the notation.
Here’s the thing, I can’t read music very well, but I can follow a chart well enough to keep employed. I also know that with guitar parts, they’re usually written out wrong, Thanks keyboard players! However, having some notation, regardless of how wrong, allows me to learn the part quicker and enables me to get through the list of song faster. Oh, and sight reading, floors me – it’s a specific skill only a few people ever master.
#2 Work on the Critical
If you have huge number of songs to learn, the best thing to do is to divide them into three lists. A list of songs which need work, maybe there is a tricky solo or involved guitar part. The second list of songs will have songs which need a some work. Something like a song with a weird structure or a specific guitar sound. And the third list will be songs with no guitar or just simple chords.
We’ll start with the third list, it’s a good idea to play through these song first. Check or write out charts, play through them a couple of times and then leave them for the gig. Remember songs which are fairly straight forward can always be read on the gig.
With the other two lists, I’d isolate what’s difficult. Is it the guitar solo? Does the song have a completed guitar riff or part? Is the song’s arrangement unusual? Do you need to tweak your rig in order to get a specific tone? I’d then work on that section for an hour or two and try to nail it.
#3 Listen to the Radio
While there’s not much guitar on the radio these days, the radio still provides a great way to learn how to play guitar better. Spend an hour when you can just jamming with the radio. Try to find the song’s key first, then try to build some chords around the changes you can hear. It will be tough at the start. But if you keep doing it, you’ll become more confidant as a player and a better follower!
#4 Become A Great Follower
If you want more gigs, then become a great follower. What this mean is, if you know roughly each section of a song, then you’ll be fine if the Musical Director or singer calls another chorus or points at you for a guitar solo over the second half of the bridge. If you’re stuck in the chart or admiring the ladies, then it’s likely that you’ll be easily distracted and come off looking like a amateur. You don’t have to look bad on a gig, you just need to prepare better. As well as jamming with the radio, get out to local jam nights.
#5 Know Your Guitar Gear
It’s likely if you have 30 plus songs to learn that you’ll also need to cover a wide range of guitar sounds. One way to get more guitar tones out of what you already have is to picking more/less or by adjusting the guitar’s volume. This sounds really simplistic, but could mean you can remove an overdrive pedal or two from the your pedalboard. Another trick is to use two overdrive pedals which can be combined together for heavier guitar sounds. This allows you to create more guitar tones without needing extra pedals set for specific sounds.
Another way to simplify is to buy a multi FXs which can cover all modulation or delay sounds. The more you play with your rig, and try different combinations, the more you’ll find ways to create tones on the fly which sound close to the guitar sound on the track. And, always carry a clean booster or an EQ, both are super useful, especially in a weird sounding room.