Learn Guitar Solos And Songs Faster : A Simple Technique

March 04, 2015

Here's the question:

Would you like to learn your next guitar solo faster? I can't hear anything. Did you say yes?

OK. Here's how you can do it. But first let's examine what is the most common approach that aspiring guitar players use when learning a new guitar solo.

The process may look something like this (assume we are going to learn solo from "Stairway to Heaven"):

  • You listen to the whole solo for a few times to get a big picture;
  • You download a tab (hopefully not) or start transcribing (learning the solo by ear and creating your own tab or notation);
  • Once you are done transcribing, you start practicing the first lick and continue until the end

Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

For a long time this was the way how I approached any new song or solo. Always from start to the end. I mean, it is not the worst approach in the world, but there is a better way how you can do it.

Why this might not be the optimal approach?

To answer this question let's consider how are guitar solos usually (not always) built. Most of the times the solo starts with a simple melody to catch listener's ear. After few repetitions and variations to this original theme, the solo may slowly evolve until it reaches the climax. At this point the guitar player would throw his flashiest and fastest licks in, usually incorporating the most difficult techniques. After the climax the solo would slowly fade away.

Now, it is not important that not all the solos follow this pattern; the critical thing is that often the most difficult parts are not at the beginning but more likely in the middle or at the end. And in order to learn the solo in the most efficient way, you should ... start with the most difficult licks first. I call this "DF (difficult first) technique."

It sounds really obvious as I am writing this, but for a long time this was not obvious to me at all. I always started right at the beginning and slowly moved through the solo (but not always reaching the end:-) ). I haven't even thought about trying some other approach when learning new stuff.

If you are anything like me, you probably also may find it obvious and yet you have never tried to learn things the other way around.

How to learn guitar solos faster by using DF technique:

  • Listen to the solo few times to get a big picture;
  • Identify the most difficult passages, licks, techniques and start transcribing those;
  • Start learning the most difficult parts first, then learn the rest of the song.

Learning the most difficult parts first has quite a few advantages:

If you start your practice session with learning the most challenging stuff, you can use your best energy to tackle it. Your attention is high; you are fresh and rested, ready to take on. By taking advantage of your peak state, learning the hardest part will take you much less time than if you are fatigued.

Starting with the most difficult licks means that you will spend much more time with it, than if you go from the beginning to the end.

If you want to find out if a given solos isn't too hard for you, start by learning the most difficult parts. It will show you what kind of difficulty you can expect.

When you've learned the hard stuff, the rest is a piece of cake.

If you learn solo based on the difficulty levels, it will prevent the common mistake that you know the beginning of the piece much better than the rest. You will end up much more confident with you playing.

I could go on and on with the advantages of learning the tough parts first, but I think that is not necessary. You get the point.

What I want you to do is just try it. Take this technique with you and try it when you start learning new song or solo. And once you are done, let me know how that worked for you.

In the video below I summarize the main points of this blog post.

About the author:

By Lukas Kyska, founder of The Aspiring Guitarist blog where he helps guitar players overcome mental barriers and plateaus and shares scientifically proven ways to practice properly and learn faster.

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