Situation: I can play chords, barre chords, major and minor pentatonic and diatonic scales. Have been playing for a couple of years but most of that was spent improvising on scales I already know so I haven't progressed much and have reached a plateau
Problem: I dont really like learning songs as i only want to learn the bits that sound cool, not the whole thing. Also, I would really like to learn songs if I knew how the songs were made (what scales and why they fit the chords etc)
Goal: I want to be able to quickly find a key and then just improvise to my hearts content with solos, chords arpeggios the lot?
Question: what is the learning path to get there? I dont really have the money for regular lessons so what alternatives are there? Do books work well? Any advice appreciated
Start learning songs and analyse them theoretically. Learn how to name progressions using the roman numeral system.

More specifically:

1) learn the C major scale and learn how chords are named in relation to its intervals ( i.e. major third, minor third etc.) - think of the scale numerically = 1, 2, major 3rd, 4, 5, 6, 7.

2) Learn the harmonized major scale - each note of the scale has an associated chord - 1(maj) ,2 (minor) 3 minor etc. learn what II, V, I means.

3) use what you just learnt to analyse a basic song chord progression in C major - 99% of popular music can be analysed with diatonic chords using the roman numeral system.

4) learn the A minor scale - study how the intervals differ from the C major scale in relation to the root of A ( i.e. minor third etc.) - even though you're playing the exact same notes - study a song that is in A minor and use the major scale roman numeral system you already learnt to map out it's progression.

5) Learn the D Dorian Mode and learn a song that uses it - really listen to how the one of the intervals differs from the minor scale - i.e the natural sixth and focus on how that affects the sound of the mode. The most common dorian progression is to vamp on D minor and then G major ( think Oye Como Va Santana - basically).

6) explore the other modes like Phrygian, Mixolydian and Lydian - really focus on the sounds specific to each - google common progressions for each and try to focus on how each sounds.

This will get you started with being able to improvise over different types of progressions and using different sounds.
Last edited by reverb66 at Nov 13, 2015,
There's no getting around having to learn actual music. Even the boring parts. There's no such thing as a lead-only guitarist (unless you're a really good singer).

Being able to play rhythm parts consistently is your most valuable skill as a guitarist. If you're in a band, you certainly won't be spending all your time taking solos. Being able to play all the chords will also help you understand the song better when you do take solos.

Using your ear and guitar to figure out new songs is what will get you the most improvement as a musician.
I would suggest you make sure you know the intervals, visually, and ideally aurally ... these are the foundation of virtually all music ... they each have a particular sound quality, and when combined, give the chords their sound qualities ... intervals are formed as you solo over a progression. They are really easy to get down (literally a few days to remember, though a lot longer to get in your ears). This may help you ... https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/music_theory/drastically_cut_learning_time_with_intervals.html, followed by https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/the_basics/drastically_reduce_learning_time_with_intervals_part_2.html.

The lessons above explain why they're important to an extent (other lessons discuss their emotional effect)

As for recognising key ... here's a slightly off-beat way of doing this. Imagine that the different chord triad types of the major scale had different colours when played on the guitar ... say "red" for major, "green" for minor, and "blue" for dim triad. Because of the way these chords appear in the major scale, if you root all of these along the same string, you'd get a pattern of

(choose some fret )red (up 2 frets) green (up 2 frets) green (up one fret) red (up 2 frets) red (up 2 frets) green (up 2 frets) blue .... up one more fret and start all over.

So, looking at these colours, if you see two red chords 2 frets apart, where are they in the above sequence? Then count back from there the required number of frets to get to the start.

Or, what about 2 green chords?

Or what about green immediately followed by red?

Get the idea?

But instead of colours, use the chord types to help distinguish where you are.

Depending on the number of chords in the song, this is easy or ambiguous. For example, if you just see one red chord for a small piece of a song, which is it? We don't know without more context (seeing some more chords).

THere's more to it than this, but this is essentially the idea. Hope this helps.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Nov 13, 2015,