Before anyone can learn to play the chords or melody to a song, they will need to know how the song goes. Unfortunately this is not the fastest thing to teach, but it definitely is not boring. Learning how a song goes is a skill that every musician will need to know. Professionals use this skill just as much as anyone else. So how can you learn this skill?
First let’s define what learning a song means. It is necessary to be able to hear the song internally before you will successfully be able to play it. It will be impossible to memorize a melody on the guitar if you don’t know how it goes. Try this test to see if you know a song: Sing the song out loud. Did you do it? Is there a part you couldn’t remember? Don’t worry about the words, just the sounds. If you need to learn a song better here is how you do it.
- Pick a song you want to learn.
- Listen to the song a lot. The more you listen to the song the better.
- Sing or hum along with the music. I have found this to be the most important part to quickly ingrain a melody into your memory.
- Repeat part 2 and 3 a lot. The harder the music you are trying to learn, the more you will need to do this. If you are a beginner learning Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you may not need to listen to it as much as a professional learning a difficult jazz transcription.
This is simple, and fun. You will learn more songs and you will be able to apply them to your instrument. Keep in mind that an instrument is an extension of your voice. If you cannot sing it, you cannot play it. Keep in mind, I did not say sing well!
Do you want to learn more about guitar than open chords? The next step is to start learning some melodies. There are many different ways to learn melodies. I am going to give you two ways to learn melodies quickly.
- Pick a song that you know well. The better you know the song, the easier you will learn a melody. The better you know the song, the longer you will remember it. This Is the most basic foundation to learn any song. Tomorrows post will be about learning a new song better.
- Go on YouTube and look up a lesson for the song you are learning. You can look up “How to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on guitar”. There is pretty much a lesson for every song you will ever want to play in your entire career. This is an easy way to learn, because you can visually see someone’s hand and they tell you what they are playing.
- Memorize the melody. This is the most important part of learning guitar. Everything you work on should make its way to your memory.
- Practice it over and over. The more you practice it, the better you get at playing it. The more you repeat it, the better you will remember it years from now.
Here is the second approach to learning a melody. This approach is a little bit harder to learn at first, but will make learning faster in the future. This approach will also make it easier to reference a melody you once knew, but forgot.
- Pick a song that you know well. This is for the same reason mentioned above.
- Print off guitar tab for the song you want to learn. This is for two reasons. First: It is there for you to easily access while you are learning it. Second: Store it in a 3 ring binder with a paper protector so that you can keep it for years. You can see your progress and it will be a easy reference if you forget it.
- Memorize the melody. This is for the same reason mentioned above.
- Practice it over and over. This is for the same reason mentioned above.
As you see, the two approaches are very similar. These are both easy to do, and it will be fun. Enjoy!
You may be wondering what a motif is, and if you are keep reading. A motive, also known as motif, is simply a connected melody. The best way to explain this is by comparing music to language. When you are playing a melody or solo you are in essence telling a story. A motive is building the story and keeping the same theme. Take this story for example: I bought bubble gum. Clouds are very dark. Then They danced.” This type of story is not connected and leaves people with nothing to hang on to. A good story has a theme. A good solo has a motif.
Giving listeners something to grab onto is something that can set the average garage guitarist apart from the experienced pro. Take for example the song “You are so beautiful”, The words are “you are so beautiful to me” over and over except for a small amount. These lyrics are simple, but the listener can hold on to it and sing with it. The most catchy melodies are repetitive. Applying this concept in your playing can bring clarity and coherence to your playing to make you sound much better than you really are. All you need to do is find a simple melody you like and expand upon it.
What makes a good motif? A motif can be any very simple lick. You can pick a nursery rhyme or make your own 3 or 4 note riff. Once you have this as your basis and you introduced it at the beginning of your solo, you can expand upon it. Adding more notes, sequencing, rhythmic variation are all things you can use to expand upon your motif. I should clarify that the motif should not be long. It should be short and used as a guideline for building your melodies. Also I should make it clear that you can deviate from your motif whenever you want and however you want. The motif is just a great tool to connect your solo and make it sound logical and easy to grasp to the audience.
When should you use motif development? Is this for certain styles? Motif development can be used anytime and any style. If you are playing a style such as country where you may have a 4 – 8 measure solo motive development is great. Many great solos in country are based off of a theme. An example of this is “kiss a girl” by Keith Urban. If you are playing more of the instrumental style such as jazz or progressive rock this technique is great because it can expand your ideas much further. We guitarist only have a limited amount of licks and we need a way to keep them fresh. Motif development is great for this. An example in jazz of motif development is Sonny Rollins “St. Thomas” on the record “Sonny Rollins”.
This is a fun technique you can use and it will be your best friend if you work with it. It is the easiest way to make your solo sound logical and make it interesting to listen to. Have fun experimenting with motif development and have fun becoming a story-teller. Feel free to share your opinions below.