Many guitar teachers have told us that one of the chief complaints that their students voice to them is that they can’t play a song from beginning to end – they know the chords to the song; they know the words; they can play bits and pieces of a song; but they just can’t seem to put those bits and pieces into the cohesive form of a complete song.
Play Guitar Progressions Over and Over
What seems to stop many aspiring guitarists from playing (and singing) a complete song is their lack of faith in their commitment to playing a song over and over again, enjoying the process of slowing it all down to play one part of a song – whether it be giving your best effort to finger and play a single chord or progressing from one chord phrase to the following chord phrase – and then moving on to the next part of the song. No matter how long it might take you to work your way through that particular passage of the song, the rewards for hanging in there and allowing yourself to pass through it, with whatever you can muster, will be well worth the effort. Don’t despair if any part of a song seems impossible to master; doing your best to play it and move on the next part will eventually yield a smoother and more recognizable rendition of the song you’re trying to learn.
Learning New Guitar Chords
When I first started to learn how to play guitar standards (songs like Stardust, Fly Me To The Moon, The Best Is Yet To Come) on the guitar, I found the prospect of learning the many new chord forms (for example: guitar chords like E7 and A7 augmented, Bm7flat5, or C#diminished) daunting and seemingly impossible. However, I decided that I was going to master the ability to play and integrate new chords and chord progressions into my repertoire, so I purchased a fake book with hundreds of standard songs and a very good chord book – at the time the best available resource was Mel Bay’s Deluxe Encyclopedia of Guitar Chords by Bill Bay – and I began the slow, albeit pleasurable, experience of placing my fingers on the strings and frets in unfamiliar configurations and positions.
Making Friends with The Process of Learning Guitar
The first song I learned that fit this adventurous criteria was Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words), written by Bart Howard, and, between looking up the chords in the aforementioned guitar chord dictionary, the measured process of assimilating my new-found chord shapes, singing the accompanying words, and attempting to string together chord phrases, my first run-through of Fly Me To The Moon took over an hour to complete. One might be inclined to think that it was a tortuous and unpleasant process, however, delving in so deeply was, in reality, meditative, soothing, and reassuring in that I was allowing myself the enjoyment of tackling something that I had long been afraid of. Not only that, but subsequent run-throughs became increasingly easier and more productive, and I was eventually (a couple of months later) able to play Fly Me To The Moon along with the Frank Sinatra / Count Basie rendition.
Playing a Song Over and Over Again on The Guitar
To sum up, my point is that, in order to learn how to play a complete song on the guitar, you have to be willing to slow things down, dive in, and do a song over and over again, while allowing the learning process to fill you with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment each step along the way.