“I Only Want To Learn This One Song On Guitar!”
Occasionally I’ll meet a new guitar player who decides they only want to learn how to play one song on the guitar. It could be that they are wanting to play a certain song for their spouse or significant other at an upcoming special event. They say that they don't really care about playing the guitar in general but that they just want to learn this one song. But it usually reveals that the student is afraid they don’t have what it takes to really get good enough to play a lot of songs well on the guitar.
I always reply, “What a waste! The skills required to play that one song are the same skills required to play almost every other song!”
What the reality is
The reality is if you learn how to play one song really well, you can play many songs really well. So even if you have a deadline to learn a particular song, know that you don't always have to be working on that song for six solid months to master it. You can actually master a song by working on various other songs and skills that feed into what is required to play the one song you originally sought after.
For instance, if the song you are wanting to learn has the chords G D Em C, and your instructor thinks you should learn Knocking On Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan, which has the chords G D Am C, you should take that song very seriously, because mastering the Bob Dylan song will directly help you master the other song. But even if the other song has none of the same chords, it is still worth learning because the muscle memory and finger independence that is developed by practicing any chords will help you play other chords as well.
Another example of improving your chords without actually playing chords is working on single-note lines (simple melodies or scales, typically). The student says, “I don’t care about learning a G Major Scale! Teach me some Katy Perry!”
Ok, I’ve never met a student who said exactly that, but you get the idea.
Here’s the cool thing
— a simple scale requires finger independence, solid timing and a steady beat, good posture (yes, this is important), and controlled movement. Guess what? That’s right, you need all these things to become a chord strumming master!
So allow your guitar teacher to take you down the rabbit hole a little further than you expected, and I think you’ll be happy with what you discover over time.
About The Author: The Bourassity, AKA Eric Bourassa, is a guitar-wielding, bad-music-fighting superhero who teaches rock guitar lessons in Fort Worth by day and sleeps by night. Thrilling, no?