I'm 99 percent sure I'm over thinking this, but in case I'm wrong, I could really use some advice.

For years, I've tried very hard to teach myself how to play the guitar, without actually learning how to play any songs. Lots of scales, modes, theory, excreta. Kept telling myself I don't want to learn to play like a certain guitarist, I want to create a uniquely "me" sound. Well years have passed, and I apart from breaking down and learning a few tabs here and there, I consider myself to be the greatest guitarist in the world who can't actually play a song. (I'm kidding of course, I know I'm a newb and I know I suck, but I do have a better than average technique for a newb, just a very poor library of learned songs.)

Now i want to learn to play some songs, but the theorist (and slave to logic) in me keeps getting hung up on new songs. Here is my problem. I don't want to know that in song xyz I'm going to play the "A" string 5th fret followed by "A" string 7th fret. My first question is always: Why? I get the impression most people learn to play that way because it's just how it's done.

Does anyone (well any sane person) actually take apart a piece of music, analyze it, and say:
"The song writer plays such and such notes because they in the the key of x, and they are soloing using the notes found in the zxy scale, with key changes here and there?"
"This song is the key of "x" so the music starts on the tonic "I", then proceeds to move to a minor second "ii", which has a strong chord lead into the Dominant V."

Do I just get over the fact that to learn I need to just play and worry about the theory later, or is there benefit to knowing what's going on behind the curtain during the initial learning phases?

Any suggestions where to start? I've tried to take a few songs, I know how to play like Rush's Tom Sawyer (probably a really bad song to start with) and plot out the notes played and work backwards to see if I could identify the scales, being used, but I got nowhere fast.

Ideas, suggestions, or donations for mental help?

You don't need to do that, but with knowledge the ability to be able to see what notes are being played and why, and what mode or whatever is being used comes with ease.

What I've discovered is that lots of people who are completely self taught have a lot of technique issues. I also have a lot if areas where I of course need to work on, but I'm aware of them because I have a teacher. Those who don't go, even once in a while don't have that person with experience to assess them.

I'm short: Get a teacher and learn theory, from the beginning. You can learn loads of theory pretty quickly as it all builds on from the last thing you've learned. Technique and application is the hard part. I find it all quite fun.
Last edited by Mephaphil at Jan 6, 2014,
Taking the 5 seconds to identify what scale you're playing in will help tremendously in learning the song.

Quote by Limby
plot out the notes played and work backwards to see if I could identify the scales, being used, but I got nowhere fast.

How is that difficult? You should be able to do that in your head instantly. Even at the beginner level
Im not too sure the point you are askin but heres my response.
If im learning a guitar solo i might learn it note for note if it is like idk stairway to heaven. But if its not il analyze the solo. Oh hes playing eb locrian up in 3's stops and sweeps f#m down and plays the I-V then 9 of the Emajor chord, ect. Il figure out what the musician is doing so i can do that my own way. Learn the medlody and how to alter it myself.

Otherwise im just trying to remember patterns. Knowing what the nusician is doing is helpful and lets me remember it better but thats kinda how you gotta learn songs, fret by fret. Picture the tab in your head and play it.

If you wana learn songs but not pick up styles learn classical music.