Stop Practicing Songs! (DO THIS INSTEAD)

Learning songs on the guitar is one of the most commonly performed exercises that we do as guitar players. And, there's certainly nothing wrong with "learning" songs.

In fact, I know for a fact that we can gain some fantastic ideas out of learning songs. But, the thing is, for some guitar students, songs are the ONLY thing that they end up doing. And, in those cases, non-stop song practice is pretty much one of the worst things you can do.

In this lesson, I’m going to show you the difference between "learning" a song and "practicing" a song. And, I'll explain why they are NOT the same. Because "song practice" is most often a total waste of time when it comes to getting stronger at; neck knowledge, scale and chord theory, as well as, technique.

Although I encourage my students to learn songs, I don’t like to encourage them to spend hours and hours of their week practicing songs. The reason why is my long term experience with this as a teacher.

Let me explain, I’ve taught guitar as my primary job since the year 1992, and I’ve had over 1000 guitar students sit down in front of me to trust me to teach them how to play. And, in all cases when a student won’t learn the core elements of how music operates on this instrument, (but instead, they insist on only learning songs), their progress on guitar - for the most part - maintains a flat line in respect the development of their skills.

So, the thing is… what do you do instead of practicing songs?

Well, you can still learn about songs, but rather than invest a lot of time in them, you should instead focus on 3 main principles of developing your skill out of them. And, that’s exactly what we’re going to cover in this video!

The first idea that I want to get into here is all about the note locations on the neck and what knowing that can do for you as a guitar player. I always insist that my students understand; how the notes lay on the neck, how scale shapes operate, and why these shapes are the catalyst for creating a direction of sound in music, (like for example if a song is; Major, Minor).

Let me show you an easy way to begin developing this…

1a). Major Notes on Neck Exercise:
Study the key of “C” notes on the neck first. Use diagram paper and recognize the tone and semi-tone distances that occur between the notes. Afterward, take the notes of other Major keys across the fingerboard as well.

1b). Minor Notes on Neck Exercise:
Study the key of “A” notes on the neck first. Use diagram paper and recognize the tone and semi-tone distances that occur between the notes. Afterward, take the notes of other Minor keys across the fingerboard as well.

The next important idea has to do with something I’d mentioned at the start of the video. And, it was when I said, I’m not opposed to “Learning” songs, but what I need you to understand, is that I have noticed over the years when guitar students only work on “practicing songs,” as the ONLY thing they do, (as their sole method of studying the guitar), what I’ve seen time and time again is that their progress flat lines.

So, lets focus on this idea of, "Expanding Upon Everything You Learn."

I want to suggest taking anything that you’ll learn from a piece you have studied and almost immediately use it in such a way that expands upon whatever that idea is based out of.

For example, if you learn a song and in that piece there’s a, “suspended” chord. Research what a suspended chord is - find out what the term means, and learn how it’s applied.

One of the popular ideas that we discover early on, (when it comes to using chords), is the difference between major and minor. The major’s and the minors are used in songs all the time, but do you really understand them?

Let’s take a closer look. Major and Minor Chords:
The Major and Minor chords are the most popular chords. You’ll find them applied in pretty much every one of the songs that you’ll ever learn.

And, you’ve probably seen several of them already. But, do you really know their details? Like for example the “D major and D Minor” chords.

What are their notes?

What are their chord formulas?
What makes them, “Maj. / Min?”

This work is excellent practice that most players never really get into!

Earlier, I mentioned “Suspended” Chords. Do you understand them?: They are another popular chord that most guitarists never really learn about.

These suspended chord types apply two common chords (that everyone should become familiar with). They are; “Suspended 2nd” and the, “Suspended 4th.”Below you'll find them applied off of the root note of "D."

What are their specific notes?

What are their chord formulas?
What makes them, "Sus2" and "Sus4"


I wanted to take a minute to let you know, that if you want to learn even more about scales and theory I have a great offer for you.

With any donation over $5, or any merchandise purchase from my Tee-Spring store, I’ll send you free copies of THREE of my most popular digital handouts.

One is called, “Harmonized Arpeggio Drills” (it’ll train you on developing your diatonic arpeggios).

Another one is my “Barre Chord” Handout which includes a page showing all the key signatures along with a chord progression that applies barre chords.

Plus, you’ll get my Notation Pack! It has 8 pages of important guitar worksheets for notating anything related to; music charts, guitar chord diagrams, and TAB.

As a BONUS, (from my "Over 40 and Still Can't Play a Scale" video), I'll also throw in a breakdown of all of the chords that are diatonic to the "F Major" scale.

As an EXTRA BONUS for my Phrygian Dominant video, I'll also throw in a breakdown featuring all of the chords that are diatonic to the Phrygian Dominant scale.

Just send me an email off of the contact page of to let me know about either your donation or your Merchandise purchase and I’ll email you those digital handouts within 24 hrs.    


The final topic that I want to cover has to do with one of the weakest areas when it comes to developing playing skill. And, it’s an area for where often times a guitar student will go ahead and wrongly learn a rhythm strum part for song section, like an; Intro., a Verse or maybe the songs Chorus section.

Sadly students will keep practicing the strum idea wrong, (quite often for a really long time), and they’ll unfortunately be using the totally incorrect rhythm guitar strumming pattern.

Now, there’s generally a rule that I like to use with my own students in how to get the correct strum pattern, and it’s actually quite simple!

Just listen to the part on the original recording and tap your finger to the groove of the strum pattern that you hear. Feel the beat in time and listen for each beat's accent.

Then, learn to sing that groove, (internalize it). Finally, duplicate that pattern with your strum-hand with down and up strums that feel correct to you.

If you do this simple approach of learning a groove, you’ll easily get a solid handle on a song’s proper rhythm strum part and you’ll be playing it near perfect to the song every time.



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