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How to "perfect" a song??

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Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 75
Topic starter  

I've been playing guitar for almost 3 years now, and I still find it really hard to totally perfect a song. I find I can get to a point where I can play each section of a song at full speed pretty well, but when it comes to playing the entire song from start to finish, I have a hard time playing it perfectly. I'll inevitably mess up on a small part here and there. I think it's usually caused by nerves and/or lack of concentration, since I can play each section perfectly on their own.

Any suggestions on how to get better at this? My thoughts are to either 1) Just play the entire song from start to finish over and over, or 2) Keep practicing each section until I can play them in my sleep. The problem I have with both these solutions is that I find that I get completely sick of the song before I get to the point of perfection.

I've also thought about just putting the song on the back burner, and returning to it later, but I find if I do that, I wind up having to spend quite a while getting back up to speed again on it.

Trusted Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 39

I think you have to be 'sick' of a song to play in perfectly. It just takes so much replaying to get it.

A lot of playing is messing up. I have messed up the songs that I perform regularly in every conceivable way; now I know how to deal with the errors, from making them so frequently.

Also, you're not a robot (i presume), and as such you will always have little idiosyncratic aspects of your playing. That is what makes you the player you are, and a person who others will want to hear.

Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2241

The drummer for Kylie Minogue records every gig he plays with her. The first thing he does when the gig is over is listen to the tape. He doesn't think he's ever played a perfect gig, he always makes some mistakes. He also happens to be one of the top drummers in the world.

I think this holds as a universal.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 3454


Two points:

1. If you can't play a song adequately in a reasonable time frame then it's usually a sign that your skill levels aren't good enough and that there's something wrong with either your approach, or a specific ability. Remedy - more work on a particular aspect, or songs that are more closely matched to your level.

2. If you're looking for perfection you'll be looking a long time - as Scrybe says. If perfect musicians were a reality then most of the recording industry would be redundant overnight. No need for retakes, sophisticated software, mixers etc - you'd just get the band to play it all right the first time... :wink: Just relax, get the feel right, keep improving and don't beat yourself up over a few mistakes.

Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 1468

I think you need some people to play with....

Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 1162

Back in high school I played songs in the school band, and I remember we didn't use sheet music in this perticular band. What we had were just direction notes, so it'd be something like this:


Verse: C / G / C / G (X4)
Chorus: Em / Am / Em / Am (x2)
Verse 2: C / G / C / G (X4)
Repeat Chorus (x2)
Bridge: Em / Em / B7 / C (x2)
Ending: C / G / C / G / C

Just so you know, I just made this up using random chords, so it's not a song and probably doesn't sound wonderful (or maybe it does, who knows), but the point is that we used to learn each individual part, they were usually pretty simple chord progressions, but they usually involved some sort of rhythm that we needed to memorize. After we were comfortable with that we would play the song. The idea is that we would follow the chart: start playing the verse, each chord would last one bar and we would repeat it four times, we'd repeat the chords in the chorus two times, etc., etc.

You said you had no problem memorizing individual parts, so if you wanted you could write up a chart showing you all individual parts together, if you work at the song long enough then you'll probably memorize the structure and you won't even need the chart anymore.

It's best to try this first with a really easy song, just simple chords and no real tough parts.


Trusted Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 39

If what you're trying to play is more like a lick than a chord progression, the most important thing is to keep the time. Missing a note or playing a few notes wrong in a whole song won't make a ton of a difference when you have other instruments playing along.

Of course timing also doesn't have to be perfect, in the sense that you're going to hit every note at the precisely right time, but keeping within a reasonable drift will have a better impact than getting every note right but most at the wrong time.