Some people learn to play guitar… and some people learn to play music on the guitar. What is the difference? It’s all in the approach we take to learning the instrument.
People who are self-taught usually fall into the category of “learning to play guitar”. They get a tab for a song, learn some of it. They get some chord charts for a song they like, and learn some of it. Then find a bit of a solo and learn that. Don’t get me wrong, it is awesome learning your favourite songs! It’s part of the reason why we want to play an instrument in the first place. However, the risk with this approach is that you learn lots of bits and pieces of different things, but you don’t learn how it all translates.
Let me explain.
Let’s say that you learn to play an A major chord. You figure out where to hold down the strings. That’s great! But do you know how to translate that shape… so you can use that shape to play a B major chord… or an Eb major chord? Can you take that other solo you learnt, and change it so that it fits over the Eb major chord? Can you change that shape that to an Eb minor chord?
The key to this isn’t in the mechanics… we are still holding down strings. The difference is in the concepts. By understanding the concepts behind not only how music works, but how music is applied to the guitar, that we go from playing guitar, to being a musician on our guitar.