5 Benefits of Learning Tunes
Several years ago, my friend invited me to a guitar show at Jamil Temple. As I was walking through I saw Jerry Sims playing guitar in the middle of the show. Jerry is a local legend, owner of Sims Music, and even has his own signature 7 string Ibanez guitar. After he finished playing I asked him my question I ask every great player: “What’s your best advice for improving as a player?”. Jerry thought for a moment and answered, “Learn Tunes. Honestly, to this day, I try to learn a tune a day.” I was hoping for some profound answer, instead I got, “Learn Tunes.” That has stuck with me since then and has proven to be a fact. Today, I want to share 5 ways learning tunes can improve your playing:
Every song is like a new puzzle or challenge with techniques of varying difficulty. Metallica taught me bends, hammers, and pulls. Dire Straits taught me hybrid picking and double stops. Van Halen taught me tapping. Stevie Ray taught me how to play single notes while muting others. I could go on for days. My technique is a conglomerate of all of the tunes I have learned. To this day, I am constantly challenged by the songs my students bring into the lesson room.
Some of the best riffs and songs I have written have come from learning other songs. There are so many great ideas buried in your favorite songs. The trick is to actually tear the song apart and research its innards. You can find lyrical wit, chord structure, melodies, rhythm patterns, sound effects, instrumentation, and so much more to create a pool of ideas to grab from.
3. Language and style
As I have mentioned before, music is a language. Just as Spanish, English, and German all have different characteristics and vocabulary, so do the various styles of music. Digging into songs can give you the vocabulary used in specific styles. I have delved into classical, jazz, blues, rock, bluegrass, metal, indie, grunge, and much more. Every style was a new exciting adventure for me, equipping me with a new set of vocabulary.
Your repertoire is directly proportionate to how many types of gigs you can play. If you can cover a large variety of styles and tunes, you will be able to play in a lot more situations. Also, it makes stepping into a gig easier if you have less to learn. This skill also transfers into original projects. Most music you play with others will have strains of songs that have been written before. The ideas you have garnered from your repertoire will help you in your creative process. More gigs equals more money. Having a large rep can definitely increase your worth.
I have found that my inspiration in music ebbs and flows. I do my best to keep it peaking. One of my favorite things to do is just listen to music, find something that moves me, and learn it. This almost always inspires me to play and also to write. I encourage you in your down spikes to explore and find new music that churns that inspiration back to the surface.
If you are practicing the same stuff everyday, it may be time to add something new and stretch yourself in a new direction. Try to challenge yourself into learning a new song everyday this week, but don’t just learn the song, learn from the song. Use it as a source of inspiration and a way to propel yourself to new territory and opportunities. Happy practicing!