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5 Tips to Learn To Play Cover Songs

1. Listen: 

Listening to the song a lot is the first step. It seems like an obvious step~ but I am always surprised when the actual song is different than what is in my memory of the song. Have your instrument handy and you can try to pick out one or two of the notes then piece together how the melody line is structured. Learning a song by ear is one of the best ways to train to become a better musician. Do you ever use Spotify, Iheartradio, Pandora, as some free listening options?

2. Sheet Music:

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This is always a good option if you use these with caution. Often, the sheet music is not an exact replication of the song. This could mean it is in a different key than the actual song or there are even variations of pitch or rhythms and phrasings. I often get sheet music from Sheet Music Plus* and also from* but it is always good to search around for options.

3. Practice the scale:

Once you can figure out what key a song is written in, it is also great to practice the scale the song is associated with. Now, we all know scales are not the most exciting things in the world to practice, but I alway say that if you can play all your scales, you can play just about anything on your instrument. You can keep things interesting with variations such as different rhythms, or bowings.

4. Repetition:

Again, an obvious step, but one that should be said. You can’t expect to play the song once or twice and feel like you “know” the song. Repeat it a lot until you are no longer stressing over “getting it right”. This will also hone your own technical skills and make you a better musician. Record yourself, even if it never gets played out in public. Hearing yourself from a recording is a real honest take on what is going on. Plus that added bit of “pressure” can help build your confidence when you finally get that awesome take. It doesn’t need fancy equipment. Smartphones these days have amazing recording capabilities.

5. Play with the song:

After having learned notes and approximate rhythms I encourage you to play along with the music track. Support the artists! Buy the tracks, or their albums, and play along with them. It is way more fun learning a song while hearing all the other instruments playing along with you and you get a better sense of how the phrasing is for the lyrical lines. You might even find your own timings where you can add a little of “you” into the lines and not only strictly following what the song has.


Above all~ have fun! Don’t stress over being perfect, and instead enjoy making music!

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