Learn to Play Songs

Person Holding Pen Leaning on Table

Whenever I meet a student for the first time I ask them a few questions:

Why do you want to learn to play the guitar?
What’s your favourite type of music?
Who would be your favorite artists/bands?
Do you wish to be a musician or do you just want to learn how to play songs?
The previous question constantly baffles them.
The solution is”Yes, there is a massive gap… to me anyway.”

If a student just wants to learn how to play songs then I find the songs they enjoy, work it out in various keys and then teach them the chords and anything else that they need to play the song exactly the way they hear it. This method is quite productive in them learning to play the tunes they love and in building a repertoire very fast. In a year some of my students have learnt between 30 and 50 songs.

I find that the students who prefer this method want quick results and don’t mind not knowing any music theory. Their goal is to simply play tunes and have fun. I, too, have a good deal of fun teaching them. One of the reasons I like this process is that I don’t need to enter heavy music theory details.

For those who need to be serious musicians my approach is different. We build up a repertoire of songs slowly, but they know each and every detail about music – reading, theory, scales, chords, arpeggios, improvisation and so forth.

This procedure is highly involved and teaches the student how to think like a musician, the way to listen as a musician and how to do as a musician. By the end of the courses the student can walk into any test and pass with flying colors, they will have the ability to pick up any piece of music, read it and play it.

It is about knowing how chords work in conjunction with scales, it is about knowing how to use scales, chords and arpeggios to improvise and create new melodies and harmonies; it is about understanding what a chord is by just listening to it.

I absolutely love this method.

So, in my estimation, there is a massive difference between just learning to play tunes and becoming a musician. One is not better than the other. The end goal is merely different. Which one would you choose?

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