I'm a beginner but I can play some basic chords well and I have even tried things like the Slash - Godfather solo and the Metallica - Nothing else Matters solo. However, while practicing I feel like every new song is like an entirely different exercise for me. I mean if I can play a solo well, I would think that that might help me in another more or less related solo. After all it is just a different arrangement of the notes on a guitar.

My question is: how do I reach the point where I'm not practicing the guitar in a 'dumb' way where I'm spending 100s of hours learning just one solo and then another 100 practicing the next? The more I play, the easier it should be to learn a new solo or arpeggio fast. For that, do I need to learn scales and notes? Because right now, I'm just figuring out stuff using tabs and that's it. Also, instead of practice exercises, I'm learning actual songs that I think are easy enough for me. Because those exercises can get boring and I'm afraid I'll just give up playing.

I know my question seems subjective but I want to practice 'smartly' -- if learning scales and names of notes and stuff is that way, so be it. The ultimate goal is exponential learning rather than linear learning so that I can pick up on new solos or arpeggios faster.

P.S. I can't afford guitar classes, so I'm on my own and you are all I've got.

  • While Music.SE is very useful for answering specifics, remember there are a million YouTube videos covering every aspect of guitar tuition from beginner to expert!
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Jul 18, 2016 at 8:40
  • I do watch a lot of YouTube videos concerning guitar practice. I especially like justinguitar.com because he has a pretty structured course for all levels of learners. If you have any other suggestions for YouTube teachers with structured lessons / playlists, please let me know.
    – learnerX
    Jul 18, 2016 at 10:43

1 Answer 1


I empathise with you. For years, I played like that. Each solo was learned individually. Then it was realised that some players tended to use the same set of notes in a lot of their solos. For instance, pentatonic minor. Once it was realised that the sound of that scale was distinctive, I could recognise the sound of the same set of notes in other solos.So, instead of searching up and down, a fret at a time, for the next note, it became obvious that some of those notes I played in trying to find the matching ones just wouldn't be in the solo. So, lots of time and effort saved.

That's a simplified explanation, but true, nevertheless. So, each scale has its own 'flavour', and is generally recognisable, and knowing it will help the next song tremendously.

Learning scales is pretty helpful, but tedious! Try playing them up, down, inside out, missing alternate notes, etc., 'cos that's more like they get used in tunes. There aren't many tunes that just go up or down a scale.

As far as learning the names of notes, and there are those who disagree, knowing the names of the roots for keys, on each string is more useful than knowing that when you're on the fifth note of C# minor scale, it's a G#. Because guitars are so pattern orientated, that's more of an academic consideration. Know the root notes, knowing patterns for maj.and min. pents, maj. and min. blues, full major, natural and harmonic minors,will get you an awesome way down the playing path.

Simple idea - learn major pentatonic, in any key, preferrably not using open strings, and try to play Amazing Grace, just using those notes. Clue - it starts on the fifth of the scale, not the root. The fifth is one string lower than the root, on that same fret. Then try it in the other 11 keys. And if that's too easy, try the solo in Stevie Wonder's Sir Duke. Same notes, with just a couple of extras thrown in.

  • 1
    I will just add that practicing scales all over the neck also builds your muscle memory and should help you speed up learning some passages
    – ApplePie
    Jul 29, 2016 at 10:18

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