It seems pretty straightforward: you start at the first bar and finish at the last. I’ve learned a lot of songs that way and could keep on doing it if it was not for wanting something new. So here are two not so obvious ways of approaching new piece of music.
Start at… the end! If you always start at the beginning then the first bar is probably learnt the best and the last… you get the idea. Instead start at the last bar (last phrase or whatever) and just stick new segments on top of what you’ve learned. I used it for the first time with Tommy Emmanuel’s Bella Soave. Let me tell you: it feels very refreshing. It also gives you whole new inside into the song you’re learning. You can also mix it by starting with a bridge, or B part.
If you anticipate some difficulties in the song (for example a difficult lick, chords or whatever) start with it. If you’ve listened to the piece a lot (and you should) you can probably figure out which part will bring you the most frustrations. Instead of leaving this part for the end start with it and get it over with. That way if you simply aren’t able to learn it you won’t loose time for learning the rest of the song. Moreover it won’t be hanging over your head like an axe. Instead you’ll have comfort of knowing that the worst is over. For example when I was learning Tommy’s arrangement of I go to Rio (quite some time ago), I didn’t know if some of the licks are even within my reach. Having learnt them at he beginning, the rest of the song was pure pleasure.
Did you come up with any unusual ways of practising new songs? If so, share in comments section.