So, heres the deal.

I've been playing guitar now nearly 5 years, and in that time i've come a long way (and still have a very long way to go). I can do most of the commonly used techniques and my playing is clear and flowing with the right technique.


I am at a point where i can play pretty well, but its a jumbled mess that musically makes no sense; its just random notes quickly picked with no theory applied. I think the problem lies with the fact that I dont know how to play in keys/scales. I could learn them, but i find it boring and end up losing motivation. But its now at a point where its holding me back. I know the actual fundamental theory behind it, all the keys, key signatures, the notes and chords to each key but i struggle to apply that properly to the guitar, and struggle more still with scales, particularly being creative and staying in key when im playing a scale.

Can anyone reccomend a good way to learn the keys on guitar, and learn and memorize scales effectively? I'm really stuck. I've been turning down invites to come to open mics/jam nights etc because if someone said for instance, "play this in G" i'd feel so, so stupid saying i dont know how.
Actually if you find that your improvisation is stale or directionless or whatever else the most important thing to do is stop playing, listen and think for a while.

Think about the sound you want to make, think about how you want your solo to flow and then (before you play a single note) think about how to get that sound on the guitar. If that step means you need to learn theory then so be it but at least that way it becomes a very definite means to an end rather than seeming like an end unto itself as it sometimes can.

Also, however, if you think you know theory but can't play in a key someone gives you... you don't know theory. That's one of the most basic things you should know. Learn the notes of the fretboard as a first thing, then learn the major, minor, major pentatonic and minor pentatonic scales from there. That will give you 99% of the tools you will ever need at some jam night.
R.I.P. My Signature. Lost to us in the great Signature Massacre of 2014.

Quote by Master Foo
“A man who mistakes secrets for knowledge is like a man who, seeking light, hugs a candle so closely that he smothers it and burns his hand.”

Zaphod is 100% on the money.

Really what you need to do is get your technical proficiency up to the point where you don't think of it. Know how the theory relates to the sound on your fretboard. Then LISTEN and try to work out sounds on your guitar by ear and see what is going on. It's freaking hard, but it's a progressive thing that can be learned.

It's like learning a language, like Spanish or Russian or Japanese. You can learn so much from a book, but ultimately you have to intuit what you learn through just speaking it with others to get that hang and feel.

For instance, without even theory, you can hear blues music and subconsciously recognize the patterns and feel.. Well your next step is to try to consciously hear those patterns and make sense of them and incorporate it into your playing.
Thanks guys, i think thats pretty sound advice. I'm going to give that a go and slowly start to try to work some of that into my practice. I do know the general theory behind it, and like you said its about applying that theory to whats happening on your fretboard.

Gonna try it next time i play. Thanks