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Music

How to Learn a Lick in 6 Steps

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Learning requires a lot of commitment and, sometimes, you may not apply yourself as much as you should. Learning also requires a method, otherwise you won't learn and you'll get frustrated. In this tutorial, I’ll show you a method that I've found to be flawless.

1. Learning

The concept of learning is often underestimated. You might think it's either I can play this stuff or This is too advanced for my skills. Wrong. 

Actually what really messes us up is how you apply yourself. Of course starting out with knowledge plays a big role, but it’s the way you study a song or a lick really changes the final result. 

Here is how I think you should subdivide your learning process: 

  • Program what you're going to learn: Try to understand what the goal is, instead of grabbing the guitar (or an instrument) and starting to play the first two notes.
  • Repeat the same thing over and over: I know it's boring, but your muscles need to get used to that motion.
  • Contextualize the information: You have to be able to use the same information you've learned in a different context. Otherwise you'll have to start from scratch every time. 

2. The Six Steps 

Here’s the break down, in detail, of exactly what you should do any time you're sitting at home, with your instrument in your hand and a song, or lick, in front of you. 

  1. Start from zero: You don't know the lick. One thing I've seen many times is that someone starts with the first note, maybe gets the second, swears at the third and then gives up by the end of the first beat. Keep calm and remember: you don't know the lick.
  2. Break it down: If you're learning a song, start with the first bar; if you're learning a lick, start with a couple of beats. Look at them and consider just that part, not the entire song, not the entire measure. 
  3. Limit the time: Time is a wonderful limitation, so give yourself a fixed time to learn. 30 seconds, a minute perhaps, it doesn't matter. The more you use this method, the faster you'll get at it. 
  4. Use your brain: Consider just your fretting hand and let your brain tell the fingers where to move. You need to be accurate, because this is the most crucial part. Suppose you have four notes to play: you want your brain to tell your finger exactly which string and which fret you'll use to play that note. It's absolutely fundamental that you don't play a single note at this stage. First, imagine with your brain where your fretted hand will be placed. 
  5. Keep it slow and steady: Using the metronome, play the small fragment perfectly in time and slowly. 
  6. Add and repeat: Go on to the next beats or bars. This time, when you play them back, add another play-through with the first fragment and the new one. This way you're going to glue every fragment together, and the final execution will be smooth. 

3. Review

It works. Of course it does. I'd been learning without this method for years, and since I've started using this concept my learning process has become way more accurate, less time-consuming, and quite effortless. Don't underestimate my last word: effort. Effort is what keeps us away from learning, so you have to trick yourself.

This method isn't just a trick, but a real way to improve the time and the quality of what you learn. Here are a couple of licks you can learn to test it by yourself.

Lick 1

Lick 2

Those licks are just random, and depending on your starting level you may want to choose something more advanced, or something really simple. 

Don't underestimate the power of this method, or how important is to use the correct method to learn a new piece of information.

Conclusion

In this tutorial I have given you a six-step guide to the effective learning of new licks. By following my suggestions, you’ll learn more quickly, more accurately and more successfully than perhaps you imagined possible.

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