The other day I had a question from one of my online beginner students. The question was the following:

.....I love learning songs, but I noticed that a lot of other sites have you practicing just techniques, and play songs much later. How come your lessons are mainly songs and not just techniques?

Good question, so I think the answer deserves to be read by all.

In my years as a private guitar teacher before setting up my beginner guitar lesson website, I tried all sorts of methods of teaching the guitar. Until I started focusing the lesson agenda around songs, there were a lot of students who just did not have the motivation to practice at home, on their own time.

I was teaching mainly the techniques, riffs, and focusing on a lot of theory before having placed the emphasis on teaching easy guitar songs to beginners. This was good for students who were at an intermediate level, but not so good for beginners. Since the key to learning the guitar is practice, the beginners just weren't practicing enough. So I started thinking about how I could get them practicing more? I realized that the reason they were not practicing on their own time was that they just didn't have the motivation to do a bunch of exercise drills. The exercises were difficult on their own for beginners, and to top it off, they weren't even very musical, so they didn't see where they were heading.

Everybody wants to play songs.

Everybody wants to play songs.

Thats when I had an epiphany! Find some really famous, but easy to play guitar songs that have a variety of technical elements. My beginner students will already be familiar with the songs, they'll like them, want to play them, and actually devote their own time to practicing them. Since each song requires a variety of techniques to be played correctly, they'll be practicing the techniques as well! And it worked 🙂 They loved playing cool Metallica songs, retro Beatles songs, fast paced Green Day songs, etc.

My personal students were practicing the songs at home, and thereby practicing the techniques they needed to be able to play guitar and advance. My students were motivated to practice, since they knew what the outcome would be. The exercise drills were present when practicing the songs as well, but they were now very musical in nature. They could quickly show off to their parents or significant others, which is always rewarding, so everyone was happy.

This is why is centered around guitar songs. By learning songs, you inevitably practice every technique you need to become an able player. You're motivated to learn the song, thereby have an intrinsic motivation to practice. Now how great is that? 🙂

4 replies
  1. Jay Ziemer
    Jay Ziemer says:

    Hi, I am 52 years old, and I love music, from blues, rock to jazz. For myriad reasons, I just never stuck with my instrument of choice, the guitar. I, however, encouraged my three children to play and they all play their instruments well and with dedication, depending upon their ages. I get very frustrated trying to play simple songs, like Dylan’s “Knockin on Heaven’s Door. I would almost rather play scales and never be forced to put this practice together to yet again fail at another “simple love song.” I understand that I will never be a Jimi Hendrix or ever have the talent of my children, but I still want to make music. I get very upset and even sad. During my life, I have been able to put my mind and education into work to better my life the the lives of others. I just want to learn how to play music. I guess I am saying that perhaps learning the song is not for everyone. I need patience, which no longer comes easily.

  2. Tom Fontana -
    Tom Fontana - says:

    Yes, that’s my experience as well. Teaching them songs they love keeps beginners motivated, so they stick with it even through the techniques/concepts that are more difficult at first. That’s when other beginners, who don’t have that extra motivation, would probably find it too hard and quit.

  3. Trevor Axford
    Trevor Axford says:

    I totally agree this is the best way to teach/learn. I have been teaching on and off for over 20 years and students advance alot quicker learning songs. I took it one step further and get them to write down 30 songs they would like to learn. I then weed out the ones that would be too advanced for them. I had one student that is a Taylor Swift fan, in 6 weeks of lessons going from knowing 2 chords to playing 10 Taylor Swift songs. It kept her motivated playing songs she was interested in. I also challenged her by teaching her songs like Black Bird and Stairway to Heaven. Her father would pick her up and tell me how amazed he was at how fast she was learning. I do this with all my students and they all are advancing quite fast. Cool to see someone not having a clue how to play guitar to playing Stairway to Heaven.


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