Playing cover songs and creating new songs are different skills

If you are a beginner or have not created your own songs, it is important to know that cover songs and games limit your learning. I enjoy playing cover songs, and I enjoy playing games like Rocksmith and Guitarbot just like anyone else. But don’t forget to ask yourself if your method of practice is going to get you to your goals.

Learning to play cover songs does not develop all the skills needed to write songs!

Place a piece of paper and a guitar in front of a Rocksmith master and ask them to write a song, or maybe just a couple riffs. That piece of paper will stay blank.

Benefits of different types of practice

Learning cover songs does have its advantages though. Let’s go through the major practice types and sources of information for learning guitar.

Cover songs

Of course, don’t stop learning your favorite songs. Just add different types of practice to your guitar playing. Learning cover songs and playing guitar games can give you great skills like:

  • memorization
  • rhythm
  • fretting
  • strumming
  • common chords
  • new techniques

The best way to learn cover songs is to listen to a song and work it out yourself. Before the internet and tabs, this is what musicians did. It does not require instructors or book. It is more difficult, but it improves your ability to hear what is going on in music, and translate that directly to your playing. It helps you connect the choices the musician made to create that song, and can help you when creating your own songs.

Jimi Hendrix played cover songs and had great success with them. He did more than look up the tabs (he didn’t even have the internet then). He learned by listening and applying basic theory to figure out the songs, and then used his experience and understanding to extend them into his own creation.

Guitar Lessons

One-on-one lessons will give you different skills than learning covers. The skill of your teacher is extremely important. Don’t skimp on this! Find the best instructor you can afford to learn how to correctly:

  • strum
  • fret
  • hold your guitar
  • pick
  • keep your posture
  • explain things you don’t understand

The best instructors can help teach you to write songs, work with bandmates, and improvise. Too often though, they will not be able to do more than find photocopied material to give to you and see if you practiced it.

This is the time where you want to learn music theory and practice writing your own songs.

Music theory self-study

Learning music theory will develop the skills to:

  • write your own riffs
  • write your own songs
  • improvise
  • create moods on purpose
  • know what combinations of rhythm and notes might sound good
  • work with other musicians to create music
  • play with a band
  • learn what other musicians and instruments are doing
  • understand the choices that create the music you love
  • funny enough, help you remember, understand, and enjoy cover songs

That is a hefty list. It’s what I really wanted to do when I picked up a guitar, and I found out that there are not many resources for a person in this situation.

Are you ready for music theory?

If you have skills from the first two lists like strumming, picking, and common chords, but are struggling with writing your own songs, then take a dive into music theory as soon as you can. If you have been playing 2-6 months, then you probably have a good grasp on the basics and can move on to more challenging terrain. Next week, ask your guitar instructor to talk about how different scales sound. Spend some time reading around on the internet for information. Or you can download Honest Guitar: Practical Theory written for someone in your situation.

Download the eBook instantly for $24, spend an hour with it, and then go to your instructor for more practice. It’s like paying for one lesson and getting 20 for free. Contact me for any questions, or just use the 100% money-back guarantee and try it for yourself.