I was just curious how good am I supposed to be after playing 3yrs on the electric guitar. I am self taught and I almost did not play at all on my 2nd year. Most of the time I just do different exercises because I want to improve faster and do not have much free time.

I can play guitar parts (with solos) of the next songs:

  • Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix, Spanish Castle Magic - Jimi Hendrix, Voodoo Child - Jimi Hendrix, Thunderstruck (lead guitar part) - AC/DC, Back In Black (lead guitar part) - AC/DC, Unforgiven (lead guitar part) - Metallica.


  • first solo from One, solo from Nothing else Matters, both solos from Fade To Black, solo from Seek & Destroy, all by Metallica; both solos from Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd; solo from Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen; solo from Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin;

Furthermore, I would like to ask for any specific exercises you find useful and some songs/solos I should be able to play, judging by songs I posted above Sorry for any mistyped or misused words as I am not native English speaker. Thanks in advance to everyone who reads and answers!

  • Do you mean you are playing the complete guitar part of those songs, or just selected parts of the songs, in other words are you doing an incomplete performance? – Michael Curtis Jan 21 '20 at 20:52
  • What are your goals with guitar? Do you want to be writing songs, or playing as part of a band in your spare time, or on a pathway to being a professional musician, or..? – topo Reinstate Monica Jan 21 at 12:18
  • A couple days ago I stumbled onto a Youtube video titled "Are you an intermediate guitar player? Here’s how to know.” Of course this is one guy’s yardstick for measuring such a thing, and to be honest it’s not really my way of thinking, but for someone looking to make that sort of comparison, maybe it’s helpful. And I would bet it’s not the only such assessment out there, should you care to search them out. – wabisabied Jan 21 at 21:19

There just isn't a simple graph that could be made - time played against ability to play. Every single person's would be very different!

And then there's actual playing ability. Playing any of those songs, do you nail it every time? Could you sit in with other musos and play a song perfectly every time? Would it take you an hour or a month to learn, say, Room 335? Is your rhythm playing as good as your lead? Can you improvise over a chord sequence at sight? Can you hear a song, and write down the chords as it plays? Do you know scales, modes, arpeggios? Can you read music? Can you read a chord chart?

Certainly not knocking what you can do, because it seems like you've achieved a fair bit so far. All I'm doing is pointing out some of the factors involved in being a great guitarist. There are many out there who, for instance, can reel off several great solos - like you - because they've learned them note for note. Personally, I don't think that makes them, particularly, great guitarists.

To become more rounded, have a look at some of the guitar syllabi from exam boards. I'm not saying take the exams, but reading through will give you some ideas which may answer your questions. It may not even be possible to take them wherever you are! And the usual - find a teacher - if only for some occasional pointers.

Playing with others is of paramount importance. I've played with some guitarists who could play famous solos, but once they had others playing with them, they went to pieces, often timing wise. And ask them to change key - disaster!

Great English, also - well done!


This is really a supplement to @Tim's excellent answer.

First, you played for a year, took a year off, then spent part of the next year recovering what you'd lost / forgotten during the year off. So you're probably where you would be if you'd been practicing somewhat consistently for 18 months. That might make you feel better about your progress. If you can play Hendrix songs all the way through reasonably correctly you're doing great.

At this point I would, under normal circumstances, strongly suggest you find other musicians to play with and (not too long afterwards) finding yourself a "gig". The music you're interested in is band music. It's not intended to be played alone, and working up a set of covers you can play at a gig will move you forward an enormous amount. It can be a party for friends, it doesn't have to be a big deal or involve money changing hands. There just has to be a place, a time and an audience.

I'm not a fan of "where you should be" (everyone has different goals and levels of commitment) but after 18 months practicing an instrument, you should probably be playing it for other people in some way.

Sadly, during the pandemic many of us are unable to do that. Of the other things you can try in the meantime, one of the most valuable is to record yourself playing and listen back critically. Ideally, don't listen until the next day. Don't beat yourself up -- this is a learning process, not an audition -- just write down the things you want to improve as you listen. Then work on that for a few days and repeat the process.

The main thing relative beginners tend to be weak on is rhythm. If your recordings reveal this problem, put some time in every day with a metronome.

If you can make a recording that works on its own, post it on YouTube. If you can sing, this is easy; if not perhaps you can play along with a backing track. It doesn't matter if nobody ever watches it; you just need something that encourages you to really improve rather than just noodling around.

  • 2
    A metronome's not a bad idea, but soulless. Drum tracks will prepare better for when a real drummer turns up. +1. – Tim Jan 21 at 14:05
  • I really like the idea of recording yourself regularly. You don't need backing tracks. Just play - ad lib or whatever you might be working on - for a minute or two. Give it an honest critique and work on weaknesses. Doing it solo (not necessarily lead guitar solo) is probably better. If you can't sound good alone, then you're hiding behind a band or backing tracks. – Michael Curtis Jan 21 at 14:36

It's not at all a fair question to pose, how good should I be after this much time. For one, self taught is not an ideal way to go. There is a tendency for the self taught to have sporadic piecemeal development with gaps in skill sets. A good teacher will be able to judge if you are making good progress or getting stale, and feed you new exercise to keep your development on an upward trajectory. There's nothing wrong with being self taught, but comparing yourself to a standard grade level will be impossible. On the other side of the spectrum there are self taught virtuosos who can shred after a year, but can't play a simple A chord without trouble.

I have students that burn through a graded curriculum quickly, maybe one grade in 4-6 months, and others who might spend over a year on one grade. If you really want to be able to judge your progress you might want to work through a graded method series like Mel Bay or Bill Levitt and see how long it takes. Maybe commit to a lesson a week. Again, the problem is that there is no one to assess your technique and development and fix problems that could become serious impediments to development.

Exercises are good for development but you want to work though songs as well. The fact that you didn't practice much in year 2 means you basically started over in year three as far as I'm concerned. It takes time and repetition to develop real skill. You cannot fake this out. The recipe for developing long term reliable skill on a musical instrument involves practice at regular intervals. 1 hour a day is much better than 8 hours on a Sunday afternoon. In fact the second approach may never lead to real skill development. It's like going to the gym. You cannot work out for 12 hours the first time or after a year break and be in shape. It requires a long period of time during which regular practice occurs before the correct movement patterns become muscle memory. If you are practicing with a bad hand posture you could develop bad habits that are hard to break.

As far as what to practice? Variety helps. Working on the same exercise for weeks is appropriate but after some time you need a new exercise or you begin to suffer the law of diminishing returns. Having songs to work on is important as that is the primary motive for getting better. Exercises should support the development needed to perform a piece of music. In fact, you can create exercises by taking licks or phrases from a favorite song you are working on and drilling those. That is sometimes the best thing to do.

In addition to guitar skills you will want to work on ear training which you get by figuring out songs by ear, and some music theory and learning to read music. You would get all of this in a well rounded curriculum from many teachers.

We don't normally provide product recommendations but here are a few books that I hold in high regard. There are alternatives.

  1. Mel Bay Modern Guitar Series Grades 1, 2, 3 (there are 7 grades but 1 - 3 are essential).

  2. Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar by Try Stetina (This delves into the minute details of picking and left hand finger mechanics, tons of exercises and advise for optimal practicing)

  3. Ear Master Pro (commercial software for ear training, there are probably free versions of this)

  4. Any song book or TAB from a Guitar Player mag for a song you really want to learn.

  5. Your iPod, MP3 player, CD, etc. Sit down and try to grab a note or chord here and there and keep trying.

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