Having played over 2 1/2 years, I have pretty much spent all my practice time learning chord progressions for song, learning to play different chord variations (open/barre/extensions), doing some (but not all that much) scales, and reading a hell of a lot on music theory. I have mostly practiced on classical guitar using fingers, not electric, so my pick skills are pretty mediocre (I do alternate picking fine, so I'm not totally lame). Anyway, my theory way surpasses my technique, particularly on anything but chords.

I get embarrassed going into a guitar store to try a new guitar because I feel like the people there see me plug in and wait to see what kind of riff I'll whip out. And then I just do some chord stuff, or simple scales.

I am often seeing videos online about guitar or gear reviews, and the guitarists showing the stuff off are doing all these riffs and stuff, and it is feeling like every guitarist in the world can riff but me.

I have tried on a number of occasions to learn riffs. Like the obligatory Stairway to Heaven solo or Sweet Child of Mine intro. I mean that intro is pretty simple, but I just get bored with it, and I do not practice it to the point of getting it down perfect, at speed, though I can pick it out slower if I think about it. I lost my drive to learn Stairway to Heaven partway into it, too, it just was not really sounding too much like the real solo to my ear.

I am thinking it is not so much wanting to learn "classic" riffs/solos from the all-time great songs that is calling to me. More, I want to sort of just have generic riffs in my bag, so if I improvise a solo over some backing chords, I can chain them together. I understand this is sort of how great riffers / lead guitarists build their repertoire, its about knowing short phrases/licks that they have in their "bag" and can whip out.

I don't know if anyone can help me, because I don't know if I just need motivation, how to overcome the fact that when I practice guitar I just prefer to do other stuff, play chords, write songs, etc. I can do solos that are rather slow, building on minor pentatonic, blues or major scales, and move about the fretboard, add in a few slides, hammers, etc....but I find that they are generally all sounding alike. And are slow. Hence me thinking more and more I need to really nail a large collection of riffs so I know them like the back of my hand, can pull them up, put them in different order, etc.

Apart from the motivation, I guess the other issue is what is most efficient / effective here...learning solos from great songs that will require me to learn the riffs / licks in those solos, or perhaps getting a generic riff/lick book and memorizing all those (I think I have one of rock licks I never opened, and I also recall seeing youtube videos, in passing, that promised to show, like 50 licks or whatever.)

Bernie Sanders for President!
Dude stop complaining and just practice that's all it really takes you're not going to be able to just nail any solo especially if you just started in playing lead. It takes time plus there's nothing bad about playing chords I think you're feeling this way because you feel as if your limited with your skills well here's some advice for you learn how to be versatile.

Dwell into different styles if you are tired of playing rhythm then learn some finger style maybe learn some different strumming pattern 16th note strumming ETC. You can't quit learning the guitar and progressing with the instrument doesn't happen over night you can't just expect to be a god playing lead guitar in one practice session it's all about repetition just keep playing the solo over and over again till you nail it.

All it takes is practice dude there's no magical secret formula to getting good at the guitar. By the way i'm pretty sure those people that play those riffs at guitar stores practiced that same riff 1000's of times till they perfected it.
Last edited by Black_devils at Apr 2, 2014,
You either learn classical, acoustic, or electric. They are three different styles of guitar playing. If your playing gnr and zepplin, you should really be using an electric. It can be done on acoustic but with a lot more effort needed. Stop learning theory and spend more time practicing and playing with the guitar in your hand. Play along with the original song.

18 years after playing electric guitars on a daily basis, recording with bands, playing live etc, I am just starting to learn classical guitar, it is a completely different way of playing and it makes me sound like ive been playing for 6 months. Sure you can play acoustic songs on the classical guitar, but thats not what its for.
Thanks for responses. I realize, looking back, this is just sort of a statement like "ARGH!!!!" because I know what I should be doing to practice more efficiently and learn the guitar techniques I have not been focusing on, I just .... don't. Like a writer with writer's block. What is it that makes me gravitate to practicing stuff I already know instead of tackling stuff that I know will be challenging & sound crappy at first? Laziness & bad work ethic? Probably.

I mean, I can actually make really beautiful music on guitar, playing interesting chord progressions, interesting strum patterns, maybe some finger picking or arpeggios, or even drop into a solo that sounds moving even if it's rather slow, methodic (not fast shredding or whatever). And given the choice between spending my limited time on guitar making pretty sounds versus making terrible noises like a noob, I just take the path of least resistance.

Part of me things, "Hey, maybe this approach, sort of mastering a narrow range of guitar skills, may be a good thing, like I'll develop a niche specialty with a unique sound, unique songs, because I'm not treading the usual path of learning fast riffs or shredding, and I'm learning other ways to find creative sounds with chord variations and strum patterns." Sometimes I think I need to find a band, or other players, where I can shine as a rhythm guitarist because that sort of seems like what I'm carving out as my niche.

But I think more that's just an excuse, a way to justify staying in my "safe" zone that feeds my ego because I'm playing good-sounding music rather than slowly and painfully picking through some new stuff, new skills. Because, really, I don't have a lead guitarist to play with, so if I want to create and record music that has both rhythm and lead guitar elements, I'm going to have to get off my butt and learn to play lead (well, learn to play it better).

I guess I had a hope -- very unrealistic, I know -- that some one who may have faced a similar block on practicing with discipline would know a "trick" to sort of create an attitude adjustment and get me enjoying the process of meticulously learning this other skills I've been ignoring.

I did have a past experience with that sort of "trick" in the past, though not with music. I smoked cigs for about 10 years, up to pack a day, and then some one gave me a book "quit smoking the easy way" and told me to read it. It was a small book, and well-written, kind of held my interest. I chain smoked as I read it. All the way through, only took a few hours. I was smoking as I finished the last page, looked at my cigarette, put it out, and never smoked again. The cravings were gone. I did not WANT to smoke. I did not miss it. The next day, I thought about having a cigarette maybe a handful of times, like after eating a meal or having a beer or doing some recreational drugs (the times I REALLY liked to smoke), but it was not a real strong urge, just a thought, like "hey, I'd normally have a cigarette now...oh, well, no biggee." The next day -- two days after reading the book -- I went through the entire day from waking to bedtime, woke up the next morning and realized I had not even THOUGHT of having a cigarette the day before. Not once. I was FLOORED. Could it really be that easy? Well, it was. Effortless way to stop smoking. From reading a short book. No patches. No cravings. No feeling like I was missing out or depriving myself. F-cking A, I thought, why don't doctors know about this? Why isn't this book being pushed by every doctor in the country instead of those stupid patches and nicoderm and stuff? Oh, yeah, because pharmaceuticals and tobacco companies make tons of $$$ on those quit-smoking products. Damn, we live in such a corrupt system, it makes me sick to my stomach. Well, it's been about 10 years without a cigarette, and I have not felt deprived in any way.

Sorry, I did not mean to get off topic. The point is, if you can get that kind of attitude adjustment from a book on something that is SUPPOSEDLY as hard as quitting cigarettes, I figure it is probably possible to get a similar attitude adjustment for just about EVERY counterproductive drive we have within us, you just need to know what the magic words are, to get into someone's psyche and transform how they look at things, get them to release counterproductive assumptions they are holding onto, and replace them with more useful, healthier beliefs.

Just shouting at some one, "Pick up the damn guitar and learn some riffs, stupid! Don't be lazy!" is a nice sentiment, and probably true, but also probably not any more effective than shouting at a smoker, "Just quit man, you're killing yourself, don't be an idiot! Don't you have any willpower?!" But, I know from personal experience there is another way to communicate, more subtle and transformative, that can actually lead to a change in attitude, behavior, etc. So there OUGHT to be a way to transform my personal laziness or artists block or whatever you want to call it, related to learning riffs and licks and lead guitar techniques in a disciplined fashion, that is subtle yet effective, and sort of uses a back door through my consciousness (because I think the real changes need to happen on the subconscious level). But I guess the odds anyone will have that method developed or, if they do, that they will see my post in this thread and respond, is, like, a zillion to one. I just figured it did not hurt to ask.

Maybe I'll have to think harder about why that stop-smoking book worked, see if I can see a way to adapt it to other stuff, like counterproductive practice habits, and then maybe I'll write a book, "Motivate yourself to become a Guitar Guru the Easy Way" or whatever...Hmmm, something to think about...

Bernie Sanders for President!
It takes time and effort.
And then who gives a damn what anyone thinks?

If you're at a gig, then I understand your concern. But when I walk in any store, I don't care a rat's ass what anyone thinks of my playing.
I am not auditioning for them.

Muscle memory takes time. 2 years is nothing.