How do you learn songs on guitar?


I generally listen to the song and try to figure how to fake it so it sounds close (a bad way). My neighbor tends to watch guitar player teachers on YouTube and study videos etc. He does a good job in picking up some of the theory of playing and how to always find the appropriate notes to through into a solo. I had always just listened closely, played around at what I could to find parts that fit in and complemented what was going on.

A looper can be handy in putting down the basic chords to learn to solo over or to add a counterpoint or bass track to.

I’ve been playing (poorly) for a lot of years, but never really bothered to study theory or any of that. Now I’m getting into actually learning how, what where and when to play.


I used to learn by ear. Now that you can look up charts to everything it makes it too easy. I’ve learned around 10 guitar songs during this covid bs.

A while back I got asked to join this all woman band and we had to learn 30+ songs fast. I picked up most of the bass lines on YouTube. I just didn’t have the time to learn them myself.


YouTube does make it handy to learn songs that way… I’ve never taken any guitar lessons or tried to actually learn the “right” way to play anything - if there is such a thing.

As primarily a harmonica player I always hear in my head a part or what I think might fit in by fumbling around, then finding the right key harp then adding that in. With harmonica it is usually like the second chord in a progression that works - cross harp.


I really want to try and play harmonica. I played flute for many years and can usually fake a wind instrument okay. I’d like to try. Don’t know why I haven’t yet.


I’ve always used a combination of by ear (for strumming patterns and the melody nuances), plus tabs for chords. I’ve gotten better at picking out the key of a song by ear, but I still need tabs most of the time – probably if I stopped tabs I’d get better.

I think I do ok – if only because of how it sounds to me compared against the actual recording, and my friends seem to like it (they keep asking me to play at get togethers, when that was a thing).

Like @inky, I’ve learned a lot of songs during the quarantine. I’ve learned parts of Tommy Emmanuel’s The Wide Ocean, which is such a beautiful song, but its crazy hard if only because my hand doesn’t stretch the way his does! Currently working on Robert Plant’s All the Kings Horses, which sounds hard, but it’s not terrible once you get the hang of it.

For songs like All the Kings Horses that are tricky strumming wise, I won’t push myself too hard on it – but just make sure it becomes that kind of thing you do when you take a mini-break from things and you’re messing around for 5 mins here and there – and especially when you’re BS-ing on the phone with friends and family. It’s amazing how much you master when doing stuff like that. I learned Wilco’s Normal American Kids that way actually.

I love how Normal American Kids came out:
Normal American Kids (cover)


Tabs online mostly. But I took lessons for years when I was a teenager. And I read those silly guitar magazines, although I think Don’t Fear the Reaper was the only magazine tab that ever stuck with me. I’m 37 and I can finally play by ear now lmao


I used to buy music books with guitar charts in them and learn some songs that way. It was about the only way I could actually learn much of anything before the advent of the world wide web… other than friends teaching me a riff or picking pattern around a couple chords.