When you're a solo performer and you're learning a song off a recording and tab, etc., you have to realize that the song is recorded in a recording studio and they have almost an endless supply of resources available. Over dubbing a lead or simply having more studio musicians there are almost a certainty.

Almost every song I learn, mostly by ear, I have to figure out the catchy melody in the background that makes the song recognizable to listeners. Sometimes this is on the original recording as a guitar, sometimes even a keyboard!

Try to find places in the existing chords where the note you want to play is, and either try to play that string harder or maybe muffle a string or strings next to it to bring it out.
I recently had to give up on a song I learned because I couldn't effectively do this. It's very disappointing when this happens but when it works, it's like magic.

Sometimes the tablature you get off the internet isn't always perfect. It's usually just someone else's learning of the song done by ear, so the tab you have may not be exactly right but it will help you get in the ball park. You may have to find the missing notes by ear and add them.

Sheet music you buy in a store is notorious for being wrong for the guitar. I think someone writes it for piano in a different key and then adds the guitar chords as an afterthought. Very rarely has sheet music helped me.

Learning songs effectively comes with practice and experience. My personal thought on the subject has always been, I either want to sound exactly like the original recording or I'll completely re-write it and come up with a completely different arrangement of the song. If you're performing the song for an audience, they usually want it to sound the same as the original recording or possibly a completely different sound all together. Getting the song 80% of the way there usually doesn't make it.
sure you didn't mean to post this in "contributions"?
Quote by soXlittleXtimeX
shanchett, you get an E for Effort

Quote by CodChick

I agree with shachett99. this is a very well thought out post, I dont think it should be lost within the depths of the filth we post everyday