I played guitar for a while 10 years ago, but I never learned music. I was only playing the songs that I wanted to play by following YouTube videos.

I know I have to learn music to be able to improvise on blues and jazz tracks. That's why I need learn a lot of things. But I don't wanna get lost so I need an advice to build my own learning path.

What I've done so far: I understand logic behind the CAGED, Circle of Fifths and intervals. I can play C Major scale, C Maj and C Maj7 arpeggios and C chords all over the keyboard.

So what is next? Should I do these for other notes? (A G E D F B)

Also I can play a few minor pentatonic scales. But I don't know how to use them.

When I play I IV V (let's say A7 D7 E7), I can play these minor pentatonics but when I try to improvise solo over these chord changes, it doesn't sounds like blues. Because I don't know how to connect them. Or maybe I shouldn't try improvisations for a while and just focus the scales.

I don't wanna give up this time. So any advice would be helpful and keeps my motivation up.

Thanks in advance.

3 Answers 3


There have been, and will be, many many great Blues players who haven't 'learned music' - whatever that is. It could mean learning to read music, in which case, it's true! It could mean understanding what music does and how it works, in which case it may very well not be true!

Jazz can be a very different beast, with many more chords coming out to play, so having a fair bit of musical knowledge helps a lot here.

You've made a good start, knowing shapes of both chords, arpeggios and scales over the neck. Contnue with this, in other keys - A, D, E and G are good keys that are common in Blues. Add the flat 5 to your minor pents, and there's the minor Blues - maybe that missing note is the one that stops your solos sounding Blues-like?

Listen to those who can influence your playing. Try copying what they do. For now, in your Blues playing, try to play phrases which start on the root note of the chord at the time: in Blues in key A, play an A note in the A bars, D in the D bars, E in the E bars, as a start point. That sort of 'sets the scene' for mapping out what you play - at least you're with the backing all the time, rather than random widdling!

  • Thank you Tim, I'll keep working on other keys and definitely add the blue note to scale. As I learn new keys I will try to put them together.
    – pin pinata
    Mar 7, 2021 at 14:14
  • I have one more question: Which one is the most efficient way: Learning all Majors then all minors? Or learning key by key(for example: C major and C minor, then A major and A minor)
    – pin pinata
    Mar 7, 2021 at 14:30
  • Since there are only several 'patterns' for major, minor, and pent. scales, I don't see a problem. If you've learned, say, C major scale, two octaves across the strings, you're hardly going to have to learn C♯, D, E♭, E, as all you do is play one fret higher, same pattern, for each. Unless you only know with open strings, in which case, re-learn one - C, the move up a fret at a time, same pattern, for the others.
    – Tim
    Mar 7, 2021 at 15:27

"I know I have to learn music to be able to improvise on blues and jazz tracks."

This is simply not true. What you need to do is really like these musical forms, listen to a lot of "Blues" and "Jazz" and play what you like, just as you have been.

If you want to know how scales, and modes, and "connected" to chords and progressions then listen, listen, listen. Trying to learn music theory may produce more of a misunderstanding than an understanding. Theory does not produce creativity and music theory is descriptive, not predictive. It can help explain why certain things work, but there are lots of other things that work that do not fit into theory.

Step one is listen and try to learn a song or two from TAB, or a video. Then, once you have some idea of what you like start trying to learn the theory behind it.

As for doing the same things in different keys, this has marginal value for a guitarist since the patterns are all the same, just shifted. It is worth your effort to learn to play in all 12 keys in the same position since the patterns will be different.

Learning the "modes" can be cool, it is valuable info but again, it kind of puts the cart before the horse from a creative point of view. At the end of the day the 7 diatonic modes are all related to the Major scale so when one improvises it is not likely that they are thinking "I should be in Mixolydian right now for 2 beats then move to the relative Phrygian for one beat..." this will cripple the mind. Rather, learn some riffs that you think are cool and try putting them into a tune, over chords with a backing track etc. In this manner you are learning the language and being creative. This is an approach described by Jerry Cocker and Kenny Werner.

If you don't love the music you are playing it will show.

  • Nice answer, apart from 'learn from tab' - I think you know my thoughts on that...
    – Tim
    Mar 7, 2021 at 15:29
  • I know but to be honest it doesn't matter how the data gets in the system. By ear is the preferred method. Im just trying to help the person get data.
    – user50691
    Mar 7, 2021 at 17:32
  • 1
    Definitely by ear. That way, one gets to listen properrly. Tab merely lets people play 'what they're told. So many students have learned using tab, and learned it wrong. Because so much tab is %*&".
    – Tim
    Mar 7, 2021 at 17:45

I presume you are looking for different ideas and perspectives about learning music and will state the old saying that "there is more than one way to skin a cat". You will have success at learning about music no matter which direction you approach it from, but you won't learn anything if you don't make the approach. Some folks learn from books, others learn from friends, others learn in school, others learn by joining in jam sessions or bands and moving forward from there. Association and participation with other musicians has always been a very useful learning tool in my own experience. I've learned things from others without either one of us realizing the learning was taking place, it felt more like social interaction, and it felt good enough to keep me going forward. Each of us has our own best way to learn music and everything we learn helps to determine our personal style. Our interests and taste help determine the questions we seek answers for, so awareness of what trips our trigger is important. But the most important thing to know is that you have the interest and desire to learn and start looking for answers to each individual question as it appears in the learning process. It's a lot of work and a lot of play, some frustration and plenty of satisfaction. Do your best to enjoy the whole process.

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