How To Manage A Difficult Piece Of Music On Guitar

For some guitarists, taking on a new piece of music is a walk in the park. For others, it's nothing more than a huge pain. Often times, if a guitarist is asked to learn a tune by heart they will have no clue where to begin or how to make it sound natural.

The aim when beginning a new song is:

  1. Reduce the effort and length of time it takes to learn. If a song has the potential to be learned in a couple days, why go spending months on it?
  2. Performing the tune as seamlessly and effortlessly as you can (without visibly thinking about what comes next in the tune).
  3. Memorizing the piece so you don't have to re-learn the entire thing when you come back to it in future performances (there may be some spots that need refreshing, but you should be able to get most of it pretty quickly).

There are a few different ways a guitarist or instrumentalist might choose to learn how to play a tune.

  • Many guitarists will repeatedly play the song in its entirety from beginning to the end. This works, but will limit you to only playing shorter, easier songs.
  • Some will choose to divide the tunes into shorter sections, and then learn those sections individually. This generally works better than the first method, but doesn't work well for really get good at the hard sections.
  • A better strategy that some use is to not only break up the tune in to shorter sections, but also focusing on the more challenging parts of the song. While this does work better, its still not entirely the most efficient and can still leave you sounding as though you are simply playing one line after another.

If none of these are the best method, then what is? I will show you in the following video where I explain to a student of mine how to make the tune they have been working on sound more natural. And how one can practice a song quicker and more effectively.

I also show some tips and tricks that I learned during my time working in theatre production (theatre actors are some of the hardest working creatives in the industry, and us musicians have lots we could learn from them!)

Have you heard of this practice method before? Cue-to-Cue (or also known as Q2Q) is a great way you can start practicing multiple songs within a limited time frame. It could really save your butt one day!w

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio