What should be the procedure a guitarist should follow in order to learn a new piece. Consider that I dont intend to emphasise a particular skill or ability but rather a method that would lead to the balanced development and practice of the various skills a guitarist must have.

Please mention your learning method in the order that the steps should be followed and after how much trying should one move onto the next step if one hits a wall. Try to detail the procedure as well. For example: You mention ear training. Which part of the song should one start with- the baseline or the Chords or the melody or something else.

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    Are you talking about learning by ear (e.g. from a recording), from a printed sheet in standard notation, or from tablature? Commented May 30, 2020 at 10:07
  • I am talking about a method which ensures the development of a variety of skills like learing by ear , sheet notation or tablature or any other ideas or methods that should be followed. Commented May 30, 2020 at 10:09
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    The question is too broad to have an easy, specific answer. One thing is to build a specific skill, for which you need to repeatedly practice it, and another, different one is to learn a new piece. I'm confused as to what is it that you want, and what your current level is.
    – mkorman
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 17:58
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    Answers to this question may contain useful information that is applicable to learning to play a song (music.stackexchange.com/q/30075/16897). Also, while this is about learning a song on piano, many of the methodologies described in the answers to this question (music.stackexchange.com/q/42920/16897) are also applicable to learning a song on guitar. Commented May 30, 2020 at 18:49
  • @mkorman - the skills for learning a new piece are those used for learning any piece, there cannot be specific skills for learning one piece. Hence my answer, which lists skills needed for learning any piece. I certainly don't believe in learning one song,then moving on to learning the next, and so on. It's what a lot seem to do, and it's a non-joined-up process of learning, consequentially a slow one.
    – Tim
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 19:00

2 Answers 2


You seem to be asking a very specific question. Now "how do you learn guitar" but "how does an experienced guitarist learn a new piece". To my knowledge there is no "method" or "algorithm" for this. Since everyone is different we may all take different approaches.

The only way my procedure will make sense to anyone is for you to know what I do.

The constraints of THIS algorithm are:

  1. That you can read music.

  2. That you have access to a recording of the piece you want to learn.

  3. They you already have developed some skills on the guitar and can figure out things by ear.

There is more than one scenario for "Learning a new song". As a classical guitarist I may way to put a piece in my performance repertoire. I will do the following.

  1. Get the sheet music.

  2. Find a recording of the piece if it exists, Segovia, Romero, Bream, etc.

I will first assess the quality of the sheet music for arrangement. Are there fingerings? etc. If so then I commence to learning that arrangement. In "learning" the arrangement I aspire to get to a point where the piece is completely memorized. You must be "off book" for this to be a real professional piece. I start by playing through the piece beginning to end in free time, without metronome, not trying to get it perfect but to understand the terrain. Then I pencil in spots that might be challenging. I am assuming that the piece does NOT require a new technique, but if it does then I need to woodshed that technique as part of learning the piece. I commit one phrase, line, or system, to memory each day. Each section (4 or 8 bars depending on the piece) is learnt in isolation from the others. I already have a feel for what is required. Once I have the entire piece memorized in pieces, I try to get through it without looking at the music. After this milestone is reached I start working each small section up to speed with the metronome focusing on different pieces each day but ALWAYS playing the piece from beginning to end slowly as a warm up so I don't forget it. At this point I start listing to recordings to see what tempo others have played it at and what embellishments may have been added. I continue on this path until the entire piece is memorized and can be played up to speed with all dynamics without stopping or getting lost. Then I go off metronome and record myself playing it as if performing. Polish up any weak spots.

As a Rock or Jazz guitarist I might try the same approach but I'd rely more on playing along with the CD or other recorded version of the tune. These styles are usually a bit easier to pick up by ear and the critics more forgiving on improv, and putting your own touch on it. Classical players do this as well but everyone knows the famous arrangements and can identify if you really know it and are embellishing or faking it. That's a tougher crowd. But the same idea applies, isolate parts you understand and can play, consult sheet music or TAB as needed and commit the tune to memory. Be sure you can "play it in your head" and recall everything. This is the only way to ensure expert performance.

Now, if you are asking about what techniques to learn etc. All of them, one at a time. Work up clean speed with the m-nome. This is a life long processes

  • Only a couple of minor points with this comprehensive answer. Fingering and tab. Fingering is often the product of someone trying to be helpful - but not aware of my physiology or preferred places to play, and the same to a degree with tab. I may well decide to play something somewhere else on the neck. So why spend time on a red herring? +1.
    – Tim
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 5:40
  • The same may well be true of classical guitar arrangements but that doesn't make it a red herring. Its still a good starting point. If your physiology makes it impossible or uncomfortable you may have to write your own
    – user50691
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 10:04

*Learn scales. Majors, minors, maj pentatonic, min pentatonic, maj blues, min blues. That's for starters. Reason, simple. Once you know scales, you can hear a piece and recognise which scale it uses, and you have a set of usable notes immediately.

*Learn how to find the root note/chord of whatever you listen to. That's always the best starting point when working out a song.

  • Learn chords - maj. min. dom7, m7, maj7, 6ths.That's for starters. Being able to recognise the sound of a chord means you don't need to search through loads.

*Learn chord families. The 7 chords which work together diatonically. Reason is simple - in a given key, you can expect certain chords to go sequentially.

*Learn the circle of fifths. It's a useful tool to find your way round when the piece strays off diatonics.

*If you have to learn a piece per se, do not consider it as an isolated item. The notes and chords in it will be duplicated in other pieces in the same key. Reason - some I play with, having vast repertoires, still haven't twigged that if a piece starts on, say, E, there's a good chance there'll be some A and B(7) chords in there too.


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