How Many Songs Should a Beginner Guitarist Know?

As an aspiring guitarist starting out, you likely want to begin learning and playing full songs right away. After all, performing popular hits is one of the most enjoyable payoffs of mastering the instrument. But take care not to put the cart before the horse in your eagerness as a beginner.

Learning guitar requires slowly constructing a foundation before attempting to build a repertoire skyscraper. Patience is essential when it comes to accumulating song knowledge as a beginner.

In this guide, we’ll dive into recommended timelines and benchmarks for learning new songs across all skill levels. Follow these tips to ensure you extract maximum value from each new musical work. Let’s take a thoughtful approach to building your personal hit parade.

Young person playing acoustic guitar

Define Your Goals and Interests First

Before creating any learning plan, introspect on your style interests, and motivations. Depending on the music genres you enjoy, certain songs will be more appealing and thus easier to retain. Make sure early selections excite you.

If interested in rock, classic tunes like “Smoke on the Water” or “Seven Nation Army” are perfect starting points. For pop and acoustic fans, hits by Ed Sheeran, Train, or John Mayer offer beginner-friendly chord progressions.

Are you learning mainly to accompany vocals? Then choose songs with minimal solos and simple rhythms. Trying to play weekly worship services eventually? Worship songs will help you gain the needed skills.

Cater your initial playlist directly to long-term musical goals. This provides an incentive to practice songs diligently. Style diversity can wait – establish fundamentals in your favorite genre first.

Start Slowly With a Few Songs

When just starting guitar, it’s tempting to cram as many different songs into practice sessions as possible. We anxiously want to build an impressive repertoire quickly. However, this approach can easily backfire by spreading the focus too thin.

Aim to deeply learn just 2-4 songs when beginning. Truly digesting a smaller set builds critical abilities. You ingrain proper techniques like chord changes more efficiently than skimming through dozens of tunes shallowly.

For example, dedicate a full week or two exclusively to mastering basic versions of “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” by Green Day and “Wonderwall” by Oasis. The focused repetition develops muscle memory and rhythmic skills exponentially faster.

Be patient – you’ll expand your song library continuously over months and years. But first, cultivate rock-solid fundamentals with limited selections.

Select Songs That Teach Core Techniques

Which first songs provide the best education for novices? Consider these factors:

  • Chord Progression – Songs utilizing open major and minor chords like G, C, D, Em, Am.
  • Tempo – Slower songs around 100 BPM give more time to switch chords cleanly.
  • Simpler Strumming – Downstrokes on beat, minimal muted strumming.
  • Lyrics – Songs with memorable, fun vocal lines keep practice exciting.
  • Melody Focused – Songs staying in one key without complex solos.
  • Personal Taste – Again, songs you actually enjoy practicing.

The initial batch should emphasize skills like basic open chord proficiency, steady rhythm, and smooth chord changes. Explore more advanced techniques later through progressive song selection.

Balance Difficulty Levels

When adding new songs over time, be sure to alternate between easier and more challenging selections. This keeps advancement gradual and morale high.

The first few songs learned should be elementary with 2-4 basic chords at most. But after mastering a simple tune, introduce some slightly tougher songs utilizing more complex rhythmic strumming or stretches like barre chords. Then revert back to a more straightforward song.

Consistently overlaying easier and harder songs in this way prevents plateaus. You expand skills while building confidence with achievable tunes between tougher ones.

Think of difficulty levels like rungs on a ladder. Don’t attempt to leap too many rungs ahead before ingraining fundamentals. But also refrain from staying too comfortable at the bottom rungs. Balanced progression lets you ascend smoothly.

Use Songs to Practice Fundamentals

Beyond just memorizing songs to perform, use them as opportunities to hone foundational skills:

  • Run chord changes to build transitions.
  • Use different strumming patterns.
  • Practice sections slowly with a metronome.
  • Break songs into shorter segments.
  • Perfect tricky transitions between verses and choruses.
  • Pay attention to fretting and picking hand technique.

Don’t fall into mindlessly running through a song repeatedly without intention. Most practice time should isolate particular skills within songs.

Approach learning tunes analytically, as vehicles for cultivating core competencies like rhythm, changes, and technique. The performance aspect comes later.

Expand Your Song Repertoire Slowly

We’ve emphasized starting small, so when is it time to add more tunes? Assuming you’ve nailed 2-3 beginner songs thoroughly, add new selections incrementally.

  • Week 1-3: Master initial 2-3 songs.
  • Week 4: Add 1 new song.
  • Week 5-6: Practice all 3 songs.
  • Week 7: Add 1 brand new song.
  • Week 8-9: Practice all 4 songs.

And so on. This keeps the workload manageable while regularly introducing fresh motivation. Consume each new song fully before moving to the next.

Avoid cramming in multiple unfamiliar songs simultaneously. Isolate the learning to perfect one tune completely before introducing another. This engrains skills cumulatively over time.

Acoustic guitar player

Strive for Quality Over Quantity

When determining how many songs you “should” know, avoid fixating on raw totals. 100 songs practiced half-heartedly create far less competence than 20 songs truly mastered.

Yet many novice guitarists passively flip between dozens of tabs without properly retaining them. This gives the illusion of expanding repertoire when really the songs never get cemented.

Nail chord changes perfectly. Ingrain strumming rhythms reflexively. Memorize progressions completely. These requisites take focused repetition. Each new song should stretch specific abilities through meticulous practice.

Learning tons of songs superficially may inflate your tally, but the numbers ring hollow without proper assimilation. In guitar, quality penetration beats sheer quantity.

Revisit and Review Songs Regularly

Once comfortable with a song, it still requires periodic repetition to remain sharp especially for beginners. After the initial learning burst, circle back regularly:

  • Practice songs again the next day.
  • Revisit them multiple times that same week.
  • Rotate all learned songs daily/weekly.

This spaced reinforcement strengthens neural pathways for recall and technique execution. Songs quickly go rusty without review.

Don’t let earlier tunes fade into oblivion when moving onto new material. Playing songs you know well also remains an enjoyable confidence builder between conquering more advanced selections.

Make review and maintenance practice part of your routine. This keeps hard-earned skills fluid and ready for performance while allowing you to tackle additional songs over time.

Sample Beginner Song Learning Timeline

To summarize the core concepts, here is an example 6-month beginner timeline for expanding song repertoire:

Month 1

Learn 2 songs thoroughly:

  • “Good Riddance” by Green Day
  • “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s

Review both songs consistently, focusing on chord changes and rhythmic strumming.

Month 2

Add 1 new song:

  • “Wonderwall” by Oasis

Cycle all 3 songs daily. Practice changing between all combinations.

Month 3

Add 1 more song:

  • “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King (more challenging changes)

Increase the tempo on the first 3 songs. Perfect “Stand By Me” changes slowly.

Month 4

Add 1 song:

  • “Horse With No Name” by America (easy chords again)

Work on smooth transitions between all 5 songs.

Month 5

Add 1 song:

  • “Time of Your Life” by Green Day (faster strumming)

Play all 6 songs in a “set” together (circa 15 mins total).

Month 6

Add 1 song:

  • “3 AM” by Matchbox Twenty (new techniques)

Review the full 7 song set daily. Work on embellishments for favorites.

Continue expanding repertoire by 1 new quality song per month going forward. Stay focused on refining abilities through mindful song practice. Avoid fixating solely on quantities.

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FAQ: Common Song Learning Questions

How many songs should a total beginner know when starting out?

Aim to deeply learn just 2-4 songs initially as a novice. Focus on completely ingraining proper technique and fundamentals before expanding.

How often should brand new songs be added to practice?

Only introduce 1 fresh song per week at most as a beginner once the first few are comfortable. Avoid tackling multiple unfamiliar songs simultaneously.

What is a reasonable song repertoire target after 6 months of consistent practice?

Expect to have around 10-15 songs well practiced after 6 months of diligent daily work. The amount matters far less than learning each song thoroughly. But this provides a reasonable benchmark.

Expand Your Musical Horizons at the Right Pace

Learning tons of songs quickly may seem like evidence of rapid guitar prowess. But resist the temptation to skip vital steps as a beginner. Establish a modest but solid foundation first before widening your musical horizons.

Start with a few beloved songs and learn them deeply. Add new selections periodically in a balanced manner. Revisit earlier songs often. Stay focused on quality practice more than arbitrary quantity goals.

By following this consistent regimen, your abilities will snowball rapidly. With patience and persistence, you’ll build an expansive song repertoire and become the complete guitarist you aspire to be.

Now grab your guitar and learn your next favorite tune! Remember to focus on flawless technique and fundamental execution – the songs you can perform will naturally accumulate over time.

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