I've been reading articles on a lot of the greats like Van Halen, Wylde, Hendrix and the like and it seems like they learned by just learning their favorite bands' tunes. Van Halen with Clapton, Zakk with Sabbath, Zeppelin, and Rhoads.

Isn't it more musical to learn that way?

Am I missing something here? It seems like the convention today is to have in depth knowledge of your scales and modes and if you don't you can't be a great player.

What say you?
Both man. Just do both. I don't understand why it has to be one way or the other with people. Just learn songs AND your theory. Also train your ear (If you're transcribing songs this will do it, but i think you should do it outside of that as well).
scales are a stepping stone for day-one beginners. once you know your intervals, understand keys, and have a decent ear and some common sense, you can absolutely absorb knowledge from simply learning music and understanding the make-up of it.

anybody who tells you to learn modes before learning music is a fucking idiot who probably works at guitar center
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Am I missing something here? It seems like the convention today is to have in depth knowledge of your scales and modes and if you don't you can't be a great player.

Who says you should be learning modes? Fire that person.

Look, there are a few useful scales. Four, to be precise. They're pretty easy to learn. They end up being something you use to drill, which gets the sound of them into your head. And a certain amount of repetitive drilling is an important part of building technique.

But that's only one part of your playing. Most people learn by focusing on songs, because that's the way you stay motivated and engaged.
It is good to learn songs, but you need the technique to be able to play some of those songs. I'm planning to learn In The End - Black Veil Brides on the electric guitar, but I don't have the correct technique yet. That doesn't mean you should drop it and pick an easier song. You work on your technique. Get it right. Still learn the song, but work on your technique. Your technique can actually improve by constantly practicing that song over and over again. I learnt the Star Spangled Banner in a few weeks. That was through practice. It took me a few weeks to be able to play fingerstyle. Now I can play Fast Car.

The technique you need depends on the song you want to play. If you was playing rock or metal for example, you would need to be able to play a few scales. You would also need to be able to play with speed. That is something I need to work on if I want to play Black Veil Brides. If you was playing something soft like a ballad, you need to get your technique right with your chords. To be able to play them with a clear sound.

One thing though (this something I have experienced), if you have to play a different instrument for something, your technique on that instrument will improve, but your technique on the guitar will suffer. I mainly play guitar, but I play bass for college. Ever since then, my chords have been weaker. This is why I want to play guitar more so my technique doesn't suffer. Then I can play songs like Black Veil Brides.

Try not to play two instruments at once, it will cost you your technique. It's good to play more than one instrument, but practice on them all so you still have your technique.

Good luck
Last edited by TomB-Guitarist at Dec 7, 2012,
I just recently started doing something else than just playing songs because I started taking lessons. But before that I only played the songs I wanted. Though I didn't have to learn any theory because guitar was my second instrument. I have been playing trumpet for a long time so I know the theory that way.

Really do both. I don't get people who only practice technique. Guitar is about playing music, not playing technical exercises. And you can learn the techniques by playing your favorite songs. If you can't play a part in a song, just start playing it slower and you will learn to play it faster over time.

But you should know all the basic chords and barre chords and that kind of stuff because that's something you need all the time. If you just read tabs and don't know any of the basic chords, it's a lot harder to play them. Because when you can play the basic chords, you play them automatically, you don't even need to think about it. You just see a D major chord and instantly know how to play it.
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