In Praise of the Song

Are you a guitar player without a song to play? If you love playing riffs and leads, you may have achieved a degree of musical success without ever having learned to play a song from start to finish. And, if so, you are not alone.
 A lot of guitarists manage to avoid the sequential learning style that is often presented by a teacher or method and skip right to the parts of guitar playing that interest them the most. Avoiding whole-song playing seems to make sense not only to those players who love lead playing, but also to those who are either disinterested in singing or feel lacking in vocal skills. After all, what could be wrong with playing what you want to play?
I’m a big supporter of musicians devoting themselves first
and foremost to the music they love! I am also committed, however, to helping
guitarists continue to grow in those same areas and sometimes that means
investigating foreign territory. I have seldom met a songless guitarist who
didn’t, at some point, encounter
limitations in rhythm, form and more. These are problems that can be
solved simply by gaining an understanding of the complete song, including the
rhythm, harmony and melody. That understanding comes most readily by learning
to simultaneously sing and strum!
How do you know if
you need to learn (or return to learning) to play songs?
The first clue that you might benefit from learning songs
may be that you don’t want to! If you find yourself squirming at the thought,
consider that your resistance may be due solely to the fact that it seems like
a lot of unpleasant work! It’s never much fun to do something that you don’t
feel you are good at doing, but that’s the nature of stretching into new
territory. Just as when you first picked up a guitar, song playing will require
an investment period that involves discipline, but as you improve, your
enjoyment level will skyrocket! You will also certainly be happy for the
rewards in your general musicianship – and there are plenty of them!
How learning songs
will help your playing
Here is a partial list of the benefits
of song playing:
Correct or tighten up rhythm by singing the
melody while strumming or fingerpicking the pulse
Develop an awareness of and ability to
communicate about form, including the number of measures in each section and
the number of beats in each measure
Develop a heightened melodic sense and the
ability to tie in to or refer to the melody in solos
Aurally connect all of the musical elements
(rhythm, harmony, melody)
Strengthen memorization skills
Expand the overall feel for and response to the
song (an essential in the art of soloing!)
How to make it happen
Choose a song that you like, but be sure it’s a simple song,
preferably one that is written in 3/4 or 4/4 time, has a moderate tempo and no
more than three chords. Use a basic strum and take your time! The goal is not
to create a performance piece, but simply to learn to play a few songs
correctly. Don’t worry about your vocal quality, but instead focus on putting
all of the elements together.


A recording device can be handy for your work and a
metronome is essential. If you are not sure that your rhythm is correct, you
can contact me to assist you with your method, determine your level of
accuracy or help you with corrections. Also, be sure to check out Getting Started, which includes nine
songs with instructions and a CD, as well as more tips on song playing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *