This title may suggest that this post is about the feeling a guy or girl has when they approach someone that they are attracted to for the first time hoping to strike up a conversation. But, I’m afraid it is not about that for the most part. I am speaking mainly about trying to learn a new song that someone else has written. This can also help those that are thinking of picking up an instrument for the first time. One of the hardest things I have noticed with my students was that they are not used to having guitar playing as part of their everyday routine and hence they don’t practice as much.Or they become frustrated early on that they don’t know many songs. But the more you pratice, the better you become and the easier it will become to learn songs(sometimes,it happens by accident just from fiddling around,the start of learning a song by ear-no sheet music or instruction needed)Many people sometimes hear a song on the radio & are so intimidated by the artist’s prowess that they never even try to learn the piece, thinking “I’ll never be able to play that”. Much like the guy who sees a very good looking women at the bar and immediately says to himself “She will never want to talk to me”.
Approach anxiety is such a big issue that professional pick up artists, like my old friend Brad P have seminars on how to overcome it. Unfortunately, we musicians don’t have any such methods to defeat our anxiety when desiring to learn a new song (and I’m sure many musicians would never attend such a seminar, based on their egos alone) So, I guess we musicians just have to buckle down and overcome our anxiety on our own, with no outside help. Like approaching a member of the opposite sex, you ask yourself “what’s the worst that can happen?”, She is just a person like me and I know how to speak to people, or in this case it’s just a song and I know how to play an instrument. Of course in most cases, learning a new song won’t get you dirty looks from someone’s boyfriend that stepped into the bathroom for a minute or the cold shoulder from someone. So, just think of the positive outcome and of how great it will feel be to be able to play the song. It will help you with your own songwriting as well.
I unfortunately picked up a bad habit years ago after jamming with an older, more seasoned guitar played who stated “I don’t concentrate on other people’s stuff”. Trying to write my own music, I got less and less interested in playing some staple rock songs, unless my band was going to perform them. I think what really got me intimidated is all the changes in many songs, Not every song has 2 simple parts, some have lots of changes. But you need to remember : you are doing this at you own pace and for fun.
The best approach is to break up the song and learn it piece by piece. Go over each riff until you have mastered it and then piece them all together. Also, recognize what method of learning works best for you. If you can can learn it by ear after listening to the song (which in some cases is the most difficult)or you if know how to read sheet music or like use guitar tabs than use one of these approaches. Some people prefer video lessons, so they can see each thing being played by another person that has mastered the song already. But with any method, make sure you are learning it the right way.
Right now, I am learning how to play a song by the Rolling Stones called “Angie” At first I printed out guitar tabs and, I noticed some mistakes when I played the original, and afterwards adopted my own “fake version”. Since that wasn’t doing it for me anymore, and I really wanted to challenge myself and break some old bad habits, I found a really good video that teaches you how to play it the way I suggested most people learn a new song: piece by piece. To learn the song, you have to watch a few videos, but it is well worth it because you will learn it the right way.
I hope this helps with your song playing, and whether or not you are looking to play “Angie”, take a look at this video to see this very effective method that Matt uses to teach songs.