I’ve been self-learning electric guitar for the past 12 months and today while chatting to a colleague about my experience so far, I came to tell him about my setup for practising and learning songs and I thought I could share this with others interested in this topic.


Last year when I finally decided that I will learn to play guitar, I decided that I need a setup that allows me to play in our apartment during the evenings and late nights when I get back home from work. This meant that whatever I chose I had to have option of practising through headphones.

Also I wanted entry level gears that let me to practice and gain experience before buying more expensive (and probably better) options. For my guitar I chose an Ibanez GRG170DX-L based on some reviews here and there.

Now for audio, after looking around I thought of three options: 1) buy a practice amp, 2) buy a multi-fx pedal, or, 3) get an audio interface + laptop + digital amp / effects. After a bit of research and considering the space available in the flat, I decided that I wouldn’t have a good spot for any amp. I really liked the 3rd option, but that meant that every time I want to practice I would need to turn on the laptop, connect everything up, open the applications, …; which seemed a lot of hassle.

So I decided to buy a multi-fx pedal and I got a Boss GT-1 which has many amp and effects models and you can create your own patches. It also acts as an audio interface so you can record with it if you want to.

Practising techniques and learning songs

Now after a period of exploration and experimentation, I’ve optimised how I go about practising and learning.

Technique and music theory

I primarily follow the courses by Justin Sandercoe; from his famous youtube channel. I found his teaching style very good and suited for self-learners and they get progressively more advanced as well as more diverse (depending on which style you would like to learn).

I also like the music theory and how it relates to guitar, so I’ve been studying this from a book called Music Theory for Computer Musician plus finding guitar equivalent videos on youtube around those topics.

Learning songs

Now for this I’ve this particular set of steps:

  1. I choose songs from bands that I like, aiming to have some overlap with the technique(s) I’m trying to learn. I often select songs that are harder than what I can play right then.
  2. I find a few good youtube tutorials for those songs and add them to my playlist for learning songs for future reference. I try to watch a few tutors to see what each emphasise.
  3. I find and download the guitar pro file, often from ultimate guitar.
  4. On my laptop, I use MuseScore and export the relevant tracks from the guitar pro file while making sure I’ve both the staff notation and tablature notation.
  5. On my Android phone, I use TEFView for practising songs. This app allows you to select parts you want to practice, play it at slower speeds, and loop over a part, …. In my setup, I connect the audio output of my phone to the aux-in on Boss GT-1 which allows me to listen to other instruments or metronome while practising.
  6. Once I’m happy with my performance, I often record my playing (short sections on the Boss GT-1 looper and longer parts on laptop) and listen to it to find areas that I still make mistakes or diverge from the original song.
  7. Repeat :)

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