For learning how to play an instrument, the best-proven method is guitar tabs (or any other instrument's tab). With guitar tabs, you have all the time in the world to learn a piece. You can slow down, go tone by tone, repeat some parts, and take enough time to learn.
Time plays a crucial role when learning the guitar. Only a minority of people are willing to dedicate their time to learn it. Are you in this group?
If you decide to go for it, the main question running through your mind will be “when will I become any good at playing?!” The honest answer is: “not in a while.” However, this isn't a reason to be discouraged.
It’s hard to become a good guitarist, but just as it's hard to become a good basketball player, broker, or chef. It’s hard to become good at anything. It takes time, 90% effort, and 10% pure dedication to reach mastery.
The only way to speed up this process is to use the right tools which will keep you on track.
When learning a new instrument, practising in the correct way is crucial. You acquire habits while learning, and if you develop bad ones, it takes even longer to reach the next level.
Troubleshooting songs, techniques, or finger positioning takes longer than learning correctly in the first place.
Check out our post on how to avoid bad habits here.
For learning how to play guitar, the best-proven method is tabs. With tabs, you have all the time in the world to learn a piece. You can slow down, go note by note, repeat parts, and take however long you need to learn a section.
Guitar tabs comes in different forms. They could be just a pdf file which you can read and practise from. However, when you order a tab from Paidtabs.com, it will also come as a 'Guitar Pro' file.
What is Guitar Pro?
Guitar Pro is a piece of software which can play back the piece you're learning, isolating parts and slowing down / speeding up the song to help you nail the part. It can be downloaded from www.guitar-pro.com.
You can upload the downloaded tab and import it into the software. This way, you'll have access to many features that will help you along your way. These include the following:
- A digital mixing console to isolate parts of the arrangement
- A built-in metronome and tuner
- Looping capabilities
- Relative tonality tools
- The option to plug in your instrument to the software
- The ability to compose your own tabs, with live playback functions
- Pre-loaded tabs and songs to get you started
Use the mixing console to isolate parts
Guitar Pro - Mixing Board
When learning new songs, focussed listening is essential. This is something a lot of beginners overlook. It's important to train your ear to isolate the parts of a song from one another in order to understand what they're made up of.
In the bottom right corner of Guitar Pro you'll find the mixing board. Here you can:
- Mute specific parts
- Change the volume of certain sounds
- Pan instruments in the stereo field
- Change the tonal qualities of each sound with equalizers
As a beginner, these tools will serve as an introduction to the world of mixing and arrangement. These are keys parts of the process of making music and skills you'll definitely want to develop.
These can also come in use when you want to isolate certain instruments. For example, if there are more instruments than guitar in the song, Guitar Pro allows you to strip these away and play back the arrangement as a solo guitar song. On the flip side, you could mute everything except the vocals, allowing you to play along with just the singer, testing out what you've learned.
Knowing when not to play is just as important as knowing what to. It's key to knowing when to leave a room for, say, a drum break or bass part, as well as how to really shine when it’s your turn to solo.
This tool in Guitar Pro will train your ear so that you'll be able to do so.
Guitar Pro - Metronome
In the age of the internet, we are flooded with videos of folks shredding at 220bpm. These kinds of videos are just the end result of long process of dedication and practise.
Whilst it can be tedious, the results speak for themselves. Playing things at speed relies on muscle memory. Muscle memory is what allows you to walk without having to consciously decide to make each step. Like walking, hitting the right notes at speed eventually becomes something you don't have to think about. Your fingers just know where to go.
In the middle of Guitar Pro, you'll find the metronome. Don’t be afraid to use its features.
Slow down to the tempo that suits you. At a tempo as slow as 50 BPM, you can make sure every note is played just right. For example, as shown in the photo below, you could decrease the tempo to almost half, say 60%, and loop just one section. This frees you up from having to manually replay sections whilst playing along with the track. You can also turn up the metronome's volume to make sure you can hear the pulse.
The loop and global tonality tools
The tool on the right of the tempo percentage is called global tonality. This allows you to change the overall pitch of the track, moving up or down in semitones. This is a slightly advanced feature that you will want to use more with time.
Fretboard, tuner and line in
Guitar Pro App - Extra Tools
On the far right hand side of the screen, you have a couple more useful features.
The button with the guitar headstock icon activates the fretboard view. If you are a lefty, this allows you to flip the fretboard position.
Guitar Pro App - Fretboard
This tool is handy for learning scales and notes. You can toggle on and off the note names and choose to highlight them within the scale.
Guitar Pro App - Fretboard Options
The following two buttons toggle the piano and drum views, giving you more insight into the other instruments in the arrangement.
Guitar Pro App - Piano View
The last two buttons activate the tuner and line input settings. Guitar Pro allows you to connect an instrument to the software via an audio interface. For beginners, this can be a much cheaper option than buying an amplifier as it allows you to monitor your playing through your headphones or computer's speakers. Within the software, you can adjust the input gain, output volume, limiting (compression) and adjust any latency.
Guitar Pro App - Line in Settings
Composing your music
Now, this is a more advanced area, but it can help to look at what lies ahead to keep yourself inspired and prepared.
Guitar Pro includes tools for composing your own music. Under the 'Note' tab, you will find options such as 'Chords' and 'Text'. As a beginner, regularly filling your creative toolkit with new material is key. Use this section of the app to learn cool chords used in anything from jazz and funk to heavy metal.
Even just a little bit of composing from early on will go a long way. After just a few months, you'll pick up speed and writing music will get much, much easier.
Learning songs through Guitar Tabs is quick and easy. Paying a teacher to learn the same amount of material would be much more expensive.
With professional guitar pro tabs, you can order any song and get a full transcription, note for note.
Be careful when downloading free guitar pro tabs. Ask anyone who's done it. Free tabs are frequently useless as they leave so much out. Often, they're just automatically generated by apps. As things stand, putting that much trust in a machine to successfully capture human creativity is at best a leap of faith.
Learning guitar with tabs is the most comfortable and relaxed approach there is. Further still, being able to add tabs to the Guitar Pro app and play along with them using all its features is a gold mine.