Chicken and egg. Do a little of one and then a little of the other and then repeat.
You need technique in order to play songs but just learning technique alone is meaningless in my opinion.
I picked up a guitar about aweek ago and am attempting to teach myself to play Do I repeatedly practice chords or learn songs to learnchords?
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- Do yourself a favor and get lessons with a professional guitar teacher. Statistics show that 90% of people who go the autodidact route fail in the attempt. Don't be another sorry statistic - get lessons.20
- Lord Bacon makes very good points, most of which can be addressed by lessons with a good teacher. I strongly recommend at least a few months of lessons, which should also include basic music reading, plus scales and chord structures.
megalomaniac is right, of course — practice chords individually (to learn the chord) and in pairs (to learn rapid switching); and practice them in the context of real songs.20
- Not going to do you much good to learn a load of chords, then go looking for song you can use them for. You can access a bunch of websites that have both lyrics and chord names for a huge number of songs. Then you can use other websites to show you how to hold whatever chord you need. You can make an exception when you're ready: barre chords, hard at first, but so useful. (I still have the same beat-up chord book I got about 1965, called something like "3,234 Chords".)
Around 3-4 months into this, you should be noticing patterns of chords, and should then go after chord "progressions". Since I haven't lectured you on getting lessons, at least stay away from "tabs" and tons of Youtube...20
- If that is the way you are going (as opposed to taking lessons and learning theory), then I recommend learning songs. You know the song and you are forced to learn how to change chords quickly and at the right time. As you learn more songs, you will learn more chords. It is a much more rewarding way to learn than just learning chords, one after another. There is nothing to stop you learning chords independently if the mood takes you. You also need to practice changing from one chord to another. Eventually, you will need to learn and fully understand how chords relate to each other in 'families' (e.g. C, F, G7, Am, Dm, E7 ... and which of those often vary, such as G instead of G7 or Em instead of E7). Then you probably need to understand what makes a chord a '7th' or a '6th' or a 'suspended 4th'. Of course you can learn the chords without knowing why they have that name but it empowers you when you know how to work out the common variants for every chord. For now, playing accompaniment to songs you know is a good way to start.40
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