I'm another one of those guys that just sort of picked up a guitar a little over a year ago and started to see what I could do with it. Around 14 months ago I got an amp and a guitar for my birthday. I had always wanted to play and somebody finally decided it was time for me to start, I guess. I've been extremely happy with it so far but I feel like I've hit a bit of a plateau.

Here's my problem. I've never taken lessons or anything like that, never played any other instruments or done anything musical, never really been able to follow any of the "theory" lesson I've read, etc. All I've ever done is look at tabs and try to play them or just listen to notes and try to make up cool riffs based on the patterns I hear.

I know four chords. E, A, D, G. I suck at chord changes. I've never really put much time into practicing them, I guess because I've always just wanted to play songs. That and I have big fingers and any time I try to play things like an A chord I have a really tough time. I know two scales: Minor Pentatonic and the major scale. These I can pretty much run through in my sleep because 99% of what I do when there's a guitar in my hands is improvise off of one or the other to make up my own little tidbits.

I really suck at timing. I've tried to record "covers" of songs I like by playing each part separately (rhythm and lead, etc.) and then putting them together on my computer but it always sounds kind of crappy because the timing is off. I know the thing people always suggest is "practice with a metronome" but I'm not entirely sure what precisely to do with one. I actually own two that I've never touched (they're built into other devices I have like tuners and stuff.)

I can play some parts of a bunch of songs but not too too many songs all the way through. The ones I can actually play through beginning to end are painfully simple songs for the most part like Manson's"The Beautiful People" or "Sweet Dreams" and Seether's "Out of my Way."

I guess what I'm getting at is I feel like I should be a lot better than I am after 14+ months. I can play the things that I make up myself with precision and it sounds pro but when I try to do anything I didn't come up with myself I feel like I fall short. I've got some books but they really aren't helping me progress. Everybody said "Fretboard Logic" was a great place to begin but as of now I feel like it's way over my head. I'm not an idiot by any means (I'm a medical student, I'm very in tune with logic and such) but I just don't know enough about music to understand these concepts on the level this book is throwing them at me.

What should I be doing exactly? I mean maybe "back to basics" but I just feel like doing a bunch of E -> A -> D chord changes isn't going to get me anywhere.

I want to be great at this but I feel like I haven't really gotten any better in a long time. Music is probably the thing I'm most passionate about in my life. If I'm not in a class or at work I have music playing, either itunes playing through the house or the ipod in the car or wherever I am. Badass guitar solos get my head nodding and my heart pounding like few things in this world. I just want to be able to do that haha. I know I have to put in the work to get there but I just don't know what to do.
Andy Fox
Hard rock guitarist
I play a Jackson DK-2 and an Ibanez RG through a Peavey 6505+ stack
Hey dude, I was in your same place a year or two ago.

I don't know about your busy schedule or anything, but I swear by it,
the best remedy for your position is to get a guitar teacher.

I thought I could teach myself (and actually teach myself, as in theory and stuff) by just using the internet, youtube videos, and books. I have a huge stack of books that I bought thinking they'd make me better, but most ended up on my shelf.

If it's at all possible, contact a guitar teacher by way of recommendation from a friend, or call a guitar store, and start taking weekly lessons.

I attribute my relative success and getting over that "first year rut" from getting a teacher.
Yeah, I've been strongly considering it. I'm starting to build up that same collection of books that aren't really getting me anywhere.
Andy Fox
Hard rock guitarist
I play a Jackson DK-2 and an Ibanez RG through a Peavey 6505+ stack
haha yeah dude, we share the same experience. I bought at least 30 books (god knows how much money I spent on them); I have a nice collection actually haha.

But now, a year or two later, I don't use any of them because I've progressed past most of them through alternate means of study such as guitar teachers and "camps".

I still do like youtube videos for lessons though; there's some fun stuff out there.

But I don't believe guys who are amazing and self-taught... I just don't see how that's possible.

Best advice is to call local guitar store, tell them about your position/experience, and get a few guitar teacher's numbers and try a few out.
I hear you! I think as guitarists we all get to that point and it doesn't just happen when your newish, I still find myself hitting barriers now but once you work around them its just another one off the list. For your A chord problem, instead of trying to cram those beasts of yours into the second fret all together, just use one finger to bar that fret and strum as close to the A chord as you can and you will find this a lot easier. I would advise you learn all the "easy chords" first including c , f , eminor, G ect ect then move onto easy bar chords....its all about practise bro!
Any other input on this?
Andy Fox
Hard rock guitarist
I play a Jackson DK-2 and an Ibanez RG through a Peavey 6505+ stack
E to A to D chord changes form the basis of a hell of a lot of music
If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all
Learn CAGED.

Learn the major chords C A G E and D

Practice playing them in that order. helps loads. It also helps if you use to a metronome to get your timing better. Start at something slow and change the chord everytime you hear the beep, and slowly increase the speed as you get faster.