You’re sittin’ with your friends, and you have just now played 1-2 songs that you know and you like. Your friends had fun and sang as well! Alright! That’s awesome. But what now? Well… Can’t you think of any other songs to play? C’mon! Just yesterday you know you played some really cool song. But it doesn’t spring into your mind just now when you want it the most! Damnnn. Sounds familiar?
We all encounter that problem when we are starting out on the guitar, and if we will not organize ourselves, we will keep struggling and never reach the full potential of fun we can get out of our guitar. The solution for fast improvement is here with me my friends, and it is all about developing your REPERTOIRE and have it written down somewhere. Read ahead for the best ways on how to do it and in no time you will have a great list of songs that you love and can play BY HEART. (It’s always fun to have a big chord book with many other songs but today we will talk about your faves that you are always ready to play by heart)
By the way – we cana remember a lot of songs by heart but not all of them, so read here about how to make DIY chord books with hundreds of songs!
Step 1 to Having A Repertoire That Just Keeps On Flowing – Work On Your Basic List Of Favorite Songs And Write It Down On A Note
This is your repertoire list! In it, you write down all the songs that you know at least half decently and that you LOVE playing. There are too many songs in this world to be busy wasting your time on songs you do not enjoy to the fullest. I also suggest you throw in a few different music genres in there so you will have different tricks up your sleeves for every mood.
This list will be our starting point. I Suggest working with a note on your smartphone because it will always be accessible wherever you are. If you are more comfortable with putting that on a physical note that will be put in your guitar case – by all means go ahead and do what you know that will work best for you. By the way, I have a lot more to say about using smartphone notes to your surprising benefits as a musician and you are welcome to read about it here.
Step 2 – Numeric Evaluation (see picture at the bottom)
This is not a college test, but a mere reflection of yourself and how you can do with every song. This self-evaluation is what will push you to the next level as a musician.
Soooo you always thought that you can easily nail Californication. Piece of cake. Alright, start playing the song. Whoops! You successfuly made it through the intro and the first verse, but you can’t remember almost any of the words of the second verse huh? What about the rest of the verses? What about the C-part guitar role, do you know the chords for that part? AND this my friends, is where 90% of guitarists fall, and fail to entertain. Yes, as musicians we are also entertainers, and if you can’t make it through a song so you are not going to cut it. You can be MEDIOCRE, everyone can be. But don’t you wanna be more than that? Don’t you wanna be the awesome guy who can play many songs and have everyone in the house/campfire/whatever singing, having a blast and just “give people kicks”?
OK, so now work through the songs from your list one by one and give yourself a 1-5 grade on each one, on a scale where 1 means that you barely know the basic chord progression of the verse and 5 means that you can nail the whole song flawlessly, you can sing all the lyrics, you know all the cool original licks and so on. If you can still put some more work on that song, it shouldn’t be a 5. You can do that evaluation slowly over a couple of days or in one sitting. (On The Dock Of The Bay…)
Step 3 – GET THE NUMBERS UP. Slowly And Gradually Start Taking One Song At A Time And Improve Your Show Abilities With It.
You will be grateful for your repertoire list because it will provide you with an exact personal improvement plan specified for YOUR favorite tunes. Usually, you will find yourself with a list that consists mostly of 3’s and even 2’s, and only a few of your faves and most played songs will be 4 if you will be honest with yourself. Only a few will be hittin’ the 5 if any. Suddenly it hits you that we almost never give songs the respect they deserve and learn to play and sing them all the way in or even halfway in! That will be great since you will now know where you have room to work on everything.
Now, whenever you have some extra playing time with the guitar, pull out your list and check out what you wanna work on? “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival is only a 3? Great. Usually you will know why you wrote down that 3 and if not, a quick run over it will show you all your weaknesses. Pick somewhere and start working on it where you need it the most. Whether it’s putting some time in to memorising the lyrics, working on that bridge part where you never seem to remember the chord progression, getting the harmonica solo polished, or getting that catchy riff figured out from the “Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river” part. Maybe listen again to the original.
Usually by the end of this short “improvement session” for that song, you will be able to take it up a digit and your confidence in playing it will be greatly benefited. Next time you can work on the same song or work on a different one. I always keep a pictures folder in my phone that’s containing snapshots of the screen of songs lyrics that I am trying to learn so I always have it ready for easy access.
Step 4 – Sort Your List By Your Biggest Favorites:
Now, next time you pull that list out in showtime or just when you sit and chill with yourself, you might have a pretty big number of songs on it. But you want your most favorites ones, that you play the best, and enjoy the most to spring into your eyes first probably. Great. Put them on top of the list!
On the right is how MY list looks like:
The list goes on and on for about 50 songs, but I always make sure that the ones spaced up on top are only the ones that I absolutely love, know best and can play and sing them all the way in with all the nuances. I never find myself without ideas on what to play. Also as you can see, for some of the songs I also write down the progressions in case I think I’ll need it for quick reference.
That’s it. I hope you find my method useful and let us know in the comments what you think and which results you get from starting to work like that. This takes months and even years to just keep on getting better with each song and keep adding new songs. But very quickly you will find yourself with a wide selection of songs you are always ready to pull out of your hat.
Thanks for reading! Peace and keep having fun on your musical journeys!
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