You never know when you might be in the company of some folks who want to hear you play guitar. If they know you play and have a guitar, you will basically be expected to perform! So regardless of your skill level it is important to have a decent repertoire of songs memorized and ready to go.
Why do you need a repertoire?
A lot of guitar articles focus on exercises for scales and techniques. That is all very important, but most people want to be able to play the guitar in front of others. So it is essential to have at least 10-15 songs memorized.
The songs you choose will all depend on the level you are at and how much practice you have been doing. However, if you are a more advanced player it doesn't mean you have to play complicated songs. Some of the most popular songs are the easiest and that is great for any level of guitarist.
Out of those 10-15 songs you want to have a bit of a variety. A recent pop tune, a few golden oldies are a must, and always a children's song or two. Being able to play "Wheels on the Bus" for a group of kids will always make you feel better.
Think of the audience you may have and start finding songs to memorize based on the genres they may like.
This group of songs are to be kept separate and focused on the most when you are not practicing techniques or other theory.
If it is a song that you sing too, make sure that part of practice will also have to be addressed. Be realistic on what you can sing!
Building your repertoire
The next step to building a repertoire is focusing on playing songs. Just sit back and search as many chords as you can of all the songs you like. Be warned that songs are copyrighted so the chords and tabs given aren't always correct. Use your ears to weed out the bad chords and tabs.
Any song you can think of, look it up, and anytime you find one that is easy right away, put it to the side. Remember it helps to stick to your skill level. If all you can play is 3 chord songs, that's ok, many famous players get by on that.
But regardless of the song, if you can play it, put it in a special folder or notebook. Take your time going through songs, listen to the radio or streaming in the day and look up the ones you can sing along too.
Over time that folder will get a little bigger and you want to whittle it down to the 10-15 songs that you can play the best. Particularly the ones that already come easy and don't need much practice.
These will be your repertoire and the songs you work on. When you are done with basic scale practices and similar guitar drills, pull these songs out and only work on them.
Don't worry about mastering them all at once. Start with the easiest one and once you have it down, move onto the next. Eventually you will reach a stage where you can start hiding the music and playing without looking, even at that point, keep practicing.
And even if some songs may come easy at first, still practice and play them all the time. Just like you would in a band class.
Get the chords in your muscle memory and the lyrics memorized, otherwise you will make a mistake. It is a lot different once you have an audience listening.
Even the best player gets nervous and can have their mind go blank at times, but if you have rehearsed your repertoire you should have no worries.
How to have a vast repertoire reservoir!
The secret to having a repertoire of more than 10-15 is to focus practice on your chord progressions. If you really spent a lot of time looking up songs, you may have noticed patterns. That is because all popular songs follow mostly the same chord progressions. Focusing on this aspect of music is great if you like performing in front of an audience.
For example, with just the four chord I-vi-IV-V progression you can play hundreds of songs. It is just a matter of being in the right key and singing the correct melody. If all you know on your guitar is G, C, and D, then look up I-IV-V progressions and you will find plenty to choose from, just stick to the ones in the key of G.
This is why trained musicians can play so many songs, they don't always memorize them all. They know the basic chord sequences and just go with what key it is in. If you know your progressions well it is very easy to sit in with almost any band and play along some.
I wrote a full ebook that explains these concept, 52 Chord Progressions | Learn How To Connect Chords and Create Great Songs , be sure to check it out because it will help you a lot.
But still even those musicians that know a ton of songs and progressions, there is one thing that they keep up with. And that is practice. No matter how versed you are in the theory of the song or how well you may think you have it memorized.
If you don't keep up the playing of your growing repertoire, you will not succeed at impressing anyone on the guitar!
Having a small repertoire of songs to play on the guitar will develop memorization skills and increase your confidence when you play in front of others.
If you have chosen the right songs that suit your playing and voice, you should have no problem doing a great job.
Just remember that rehearsal and practice are the keys to successful performances!
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