7 July 2008

5 Ways to Play Through Guitar Song Learning Blocks

How many times have you started learning to play a song only to discover one little passage that trips you up? You are blocked on the whole song by just a few bars.

It might be a chord that you haven't mastered yet, or an unfamiliar change that trips up your fingers. Whatever the cause it can be a real frustration when you have songs that you like and can only "almost" play.

Worse, difficult passages like this can get you so worried you mess up other parts of the song, too. Now wouldn't it be good news if there was a simple way to reduce the pressure and play through these problem parts without difficulty?

The following five tips are going to show you just how to do that. They will help you to relax, play through the problem, and feel good because you can play the whole song.

Of course, you'll still have work to do to master the difficulty. But you can do it at your own pace without pressure to finish the song.

1. Silence

If the difficult passage isn't too long, simply stop playing for a bar or so. The contrast with the rest of the sound makes for a great effect in many songs.

To give it extra effect you can use the break to clap your hands or wave, working the audience into a frenzy of excitement.

2. Substitute chord

Try a different chord as substitute for the one you have trouble with. If you have an extended chord, like a 7th, 6th or something, just play the vanilla chord without the substitution.

You can get fancier with this by learning more about chord theory and substitutions.

3. Just one note

If the substitute chord is still too hard then play just one note. The root, 3rd or 5th notes of a chord are good choices in just about any situation.

You can let the note ring or repeat it as appropriate. If you start to feel confident with one note, try adding another, e.g. root and 5th, and pick them one after the other in a little arpeggio.

4. Scratch

Use your guitar to play some percussive noise. Mute the strings with your left hand, place them on the strings without pressing down and strum the strings. You'll get a percussive scratching sound that sounds nice in many situations.

You can try other maneouvres to vary your percussion effect: tap on the guitar wood, for example.

5. Mix it up

Finally, to give your playing some spice, use a combination of the above techniques. Mix up a little silence with one strum of a substitute chord, mix percussive scratches with single notes. Use your imagination to build up something interesting...

There you have five techniques that will get you through those tricky passages in songs you learn. You can also use the techniques when you forget part of a song while you are playing.

Use the techniques to feel more relaxed and play through difficult passages. You can use them while you take the time you need to practice and master the part you can't play.

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