When I am teaching a song to someone, or for that matter, to myself; I often think about how much learning a song is like carving a face from a block of wood.
It wouldn’t make much sense to start carving the eyelids and forehead wrinkles when you haven’t even knocked down the corners of the chunk of wood, would it? There are several steps to carving a face, as illustrated in this picture: first you do some basic markings to guide you through the process. Then, you start to get a general shape of the head, adding in details slowly. The face begins to take shape long before the details are in place, and it is only after certain steps are taken, that one can begin to work on those little details, like the eyebrows and hairlines.
So it is with music, as well.
First you take a look at the song you want to learn. What are the chords involved? Are there any extra hard ones you need to spend a little time on first?
(This might be the first carving picture – where you are marking the wood, and starting to knock some of the corners off.)
Then, without even trying to play the song – can you make the transitions from one chord to the next?
(Knock some more of the corners off.)
Then, try the song slowly and evenly – perhaps not even paying much attention to the lyrics – just keeping a simple strum.
(3rd picture? You start to carve out a little of the major facial features…)
Pretty soon, it begins to resemble the song you are working on.
Perhaps, you start to add the lyrics, keeping your tempo down to a manageable pace.
See – you are building your new song on a sturdy foundation ( to change metaphors a bit) and as you add details, they will fall into place and won’t have to be re-learned when you find that you had missed something earlier.
Fancy strums and tricky background vocals can be the final touches on your new masterpiece.
Like the woodcarver – patience is a virtue. Take your time and have fun doing so –
all in good time.
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