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  • Writer's pictureRon Dickson

Transcribing Songs for Lessons

It's a long journey from the first few fumbling attempts at chords to fluently and confidently reading a chord chart and playing a song after a few minutes of reviewing the chord changes. So developing the lesson content to ensure students meet this goal has to be flexible.


Learning how to transcribe songs is an art form that every aspiring guitarist should learn. It helps immensely with training your ear and provides excellent learning to how others approach music creation. However, before being at a level where we can do this, we have to rely on others to write out the music to play rather than just learning exercises. As a teacher, I have to present materials that progress towards the end goal, not just the immediate gratification, hence the format that I use for transcribing songs. The transcribed song is presented to the student as a series of sections, not the complete article from start to finish. All the necessary information to play the whole song is there. The student then learns each section and puts it all together based on listening and playing with the music. I am not alone in this approach, as I see many articles and videos posted that teach songs in this manner. There are three main advantages of this process.

  • The transcribed song is a short document that is not overwhelming with duplicate information.

  • The song is in manageable amounts. Not trying to learn the entire song in one go

  • Students have to listen to the song's structure and assign each part they know to play the whole song.

Presenting a transcription of the song in this manner trains the habits and techniques for learning to transcribe a song without being immediately apparent. Presenting transcribed songs in this manner does mean extra work. I cannot just go on the web and find a transcription and give it to the student. I have to listen to the song, learn each section, write it out in the above format. However, the benefit to my students is massive, and as any guitar teacher out there will tell you, if you don't have that passion for helping others learn, there is no point in becoming a guitar teacher. There are times when I do get stuck trying to work out a song. I then look at other transcriptions… That is a topic for another day

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