Is there any better feeling than surprising your partner with something that fills their heart full of love and joy?! One of my favorite things to do is to learn a guitar song my significant other has been listening to so I can surprise them with it later on. In this lesson, I’m going to teach you how to do the same thing in just 4 easy steps. Get ready for a happy surprise that they’ll never forget! Let’s get started.
Let’s break down how to learn a guitar song into four steps:
- Chord Progressions
- Strumming Patterns
In our overview, we’re going to break the song apart piece by piece to see what we need to learn overall. I strongly recommend that if the song has a guitar solo in it, take it out unless you are SUPER gung-ho. The reason being that that can take lots of time and playing a guitar solo without a backing track can get messy pretty quickly. Let’s focus more on the main parts of the song and take it from there.
When I break down how to learn a guitar song I generally look for a couple key pieces of structure. The pieces I look for are as follows:
The intro is generally an instrumental bit that we hear before the singing starts. The verse is generally where the singing starts and it will be something we hear over and over with different lyrics each time. The chorus is the main theme of the song and it’s repeated several times with the same lyrics. A bridge is something that takes us away from the chords of the verse or the chorus and then usually brings us back into the chorus. An outro is usually the same as the intro and it’s usually instrumental after all the singing has finished.
Not all songs have all of these elements in them but they are common elements we will see in the majority of songs. The reason I break these down is because the structure of the verse is generally the exact same each time you play it so if we can learn how to play verse 1, we already know how to play verse 2! Therefore, it’s easier to break it down into sections so that we can learn them individually and then throw them all together.
Example of a Guitar Song Structure
A simple song structure could look exactly like this:
Intro – Verse 1 – Chorus – Verse 2 – Chorus – Outro
If this is the case, all we need to do is learn three different parts, the intro, verse and chorus and then just repeat them multiple times. Let’s continue on and learn how to master those parts!
When we are learning a guitar song, it’s good to know all of the chords we’re going to need to use. I would recommend taking a look at the chords we’ll need for the verse first and make sure that you can play them all. If you need to work on getting chords a little cleaner, I have a great lesson about it right here.
Once you’ve got all the chords that you’ll need for each section nice and clean, it’s important to start working on our individual chord transitions to make sure that those are nice and clean as well. If you’re looking for a simpler way to break down your chord transitions and make it less work, I strongly recommend my lesson on chord transitions which you can find right here.
Once you feel good about playing the chords and chord transitions, let’s move on to the next step!
3. Chord Progressions
Chord progressions are a group of chord transitions that we play in a row. An example chord progression could look like this:
D C G D
Here we see we play a D then transition to a C then to a G and back to a D. This is a VERY common chord progression and off the top of my head, I know it’s the progression for “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and “Can’t You See” by the Marshall Tucker Band.
This might be one of two or three progressions in a song but if you can master one at a time, then we can throw them together later on once they’re all clean to start putting all the pieces together.
Take a look at the different chord progressions you have in the song you’re learning. Learn them one at a time by breaking it down into three steps:
- Clean Chords
- Clean Chord Transitions
- Combine Transitions Into Progressions
This is a great way to break it down into manageable pieces so you can get it all clean bit by bit. Once you feel like you’ve got your chord progressions down, let’s take a look at the cherry on top, adding strumming patterns into the progressions to start making it sound more and more like the song.
4. Strumming Patterns
Strumming Patterns can be tricky to learn but my advice is to ALWAYS keep that strumming hand moving. For a great three-step lesson on how to figure out strumming patterns on your own, make sure to check out my lesson right here.
Work on the strumming pattern over just one chord to make sure that you feel comfortable with it. Once you feel good with the strumming pattern, start throwing it in with our chord transitions. Take it slow to start. There’s no need to rush here as we are going for consistency over speed. We want to try to make our strumming pattern the same over each chord progression.
Keep in mind, strumming patterns might change between different sections of the song. Therefore you might have a different strumming pattern with a different chord progression which is why I break them down separately.
Final Steps to Learn a Guitar Song
In the final steps to learn a guitar song, let’s put this all together in a nice flow so we can see how to take all of our hard work and put it together. Here’s a checklist to make sure we have all the necessary steps to make a song happen:
- Identify what parts of the song we have to learn i.e. intro, verse, chorus, etc
- Learn the chords we’ll need for each section and can play them well
- Practice the chord transitions we’re going to need and can play them well
- Memorize the chord progressions we need to make and can play all of the chord transitions that make up the chord progression
- Know the strumming pattern(s) and can play it/them over one chord
- Can play the strumming pattern(s) over our chord transitions and progressions
- Put all of the chord progressions in order and play through them to finish the song!
The easier we make each individual piece of learning a guitar song, the easier it will be to master them individually and then put them together. This can be tough if it’s your first time learning a guitar song all the way through but the more you do it, the easier it will get!
I can’t wait for you to see that smile on your partner’s face and I have this feeling that it’s going to make all of the hard work you put in worth it ten times over.
If You Want to Take it to the Next Level
If you’re really looking for a great step-by-step guide into putting an entire song together, my eBook “Fundamentals of Guitar (Book 1 of 3)” will get you there in no time. This eBook contains videos and over 60 pages of information to give you a behind-the-scenes look at all of the fundamentals that go into learning a song. Click right here to check it out!
Go forth and crush it!