Everyone always wonders how guitarists like Eddie Van Halen can play so quickly. The trick isn’t to start off at the speed of the song, but to slow it down to learn it accurately. Many beginning guitarists make the mistake of expecting to learn a song by practicing it as fast as the original. While it may work, it will most likely sound sloppy or have incorrect parts of the song. With the popularity of online tablature and the ability to slow down tracks- it’s as easy as ever to learn the songs slowed down.
Playing guitar is based on muscle memory, among other things, so just as in sports you have to train to get it right. When learning a solo or tricky part of a song, I would suggest starting out by slowing the song down on a program such as audacity and listening to the notes that are being played. It has worked best for me to work on the song (or solo) in sections so that I don’t get overwhelmed. Practice each part at a slower tempo, and as you master each tempo, move the speed up until you reach the normal tempo of the song. While I would recommend attempting to learn by ear, tablature can be a very helpful tool in learning new songs quickly as a beginner or expert.
Take the „Hotel California“ solo by „The Eagles“ for example. As a beginner guitarist it is quite an intimidating solo, but when you take it slow and part-by-part it seems much more doable. Learning it at full speed would be much more of a challenge due to all the technique being used.
In addition to learning the actual song, through this you are learning the techniques that make the song what it is. While you can fake your way through songs, it is always better to play them slow and steady so you can learn them correctly, then when you are eventually able to play it at it’s normal speed, it will sound perfect to the listener.
While it may seem more boring to learn this way, in the end you are learning the song in a more accurate way, and all in all it will sound much better and be easier to play. As a beginner, or even an expert, it is always important to learn technique when you can. Plus, guitar is all about constantly learning and bettering your playing abilities, so there is no need to „cheat“ through songs and learn them incorrectly.
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