What To Do Next? Transcribe & Learn Songs!

Are you ever at a point in your guitar playing that you’re just not sure what the next step is? The best thing to do is start transcribing and learning songs!

When learning a new song/solo try to pinpoint what makes that song/solo stick out to you.

Rhythm example: So maybe it’s a chord progression. Ask yourself, what chord in this song is something I wouldn’t pick? Analyze the chord using our “Chords As Numbers” and try putting it into a different key. Play around with what other numbers you can pick before it, and after it. Here’s an example:

This ‘song’ I love has a chord progression in the verse that grabs me. This is the example:

Chord Progression: C – E7 – Am – F

What’s sticking out to me is the E7 chord. When comparing it with my “Chords As Numbers” or looking at my Theory sheet, the E7 isn’t typically in the key of C, so this is the “cool” chord that makes this progression stick out.

Lead example: Let’s say it’s a lick in the middle of the Blues solo in the Key of E. In the lick is the usage of the 14th fret on the 1st string. That note isn’t in my pentatonic scale I’m used to playing so that’s the “cool” note that makes this lick stick out. Here’s the pentatonic scale I’m basing this off on (with the red note on the 6th string is on the 12th fret).


How to start incorporating what you learn into your own playing.

Rhythm example: Okay, so I now know what the “cool” chord is, how can I learn from that. Let’s take a look at how it relates to our normal key of C. In the key of C, an E chord is naturally minor. Our E chord is the 3rd chord. So basically it’s turning our 3 chord (naturally minor) into a dominant 7th. So try moving that chord progression into other keys.

Key of G: G – B7 – Em – C
Key of D: D – F#7 – Bm – G
Key of E: E – G#7 – C#m – A
Key of A: A – C#7 – F#m – D

*Whoa, did all of that go over your head? I have a 8 video theory series called “Usable Guitar Theory” or UGT for short. This part of “Chords That Don’t Fit?!” is #6, so you can always start at #1 – “What’s a Scale?!“.

Lead example: So we know where that note is in relation to our minor pentatonic. Can we find that note (under the same shape) if we were in the key of Bm? Key of Am? Key of Gm? Key of Dm?

Key of Bm the cool note would be: 9th fret
Key of Am the cool note would be: 7th fret
Key of Gm the cool note would be: 5th fret
Key of Dm the cool note would be: 12th fret

We could also try working that note into different pentatonic shapes.

How to expand what you learn into new ideas and keep that rolling.

Rhythm example: What if we play around with the order of the chord progression? Put that dominant 3 chord in a different place? Incorporate it into different keys and really try play around with it. Here are some examples of using other chords in my key of C but putting an E7 chord in there.

C – F – E7 – Am
C – Dm – E7 – G
C – G – E7 – Am
C – E7 – F – G

Lead example: Start mixing up the order of the lick. Use the same notes in the lick you learned only in a different order. Almost treat it like a math problem if 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 = 15 then 2 + 4 + 3 + 1 + 5 = 15. If each note of the lick represents a small number (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and the answer (15) is the “cool” lick, then mix up the order of the numbers and you’ll still get a “cool” lick. Another idea is to put that “cool” note in different octaves, for example the 11th fret on the G string, 16th fret on the D string or the 14th fret on the Low E String.

How to internalize all of this.

Start taking note of the chord progressions that utilize the dominant 3 chord and how they use it. Try incorporating what you learn into the songs you write. If it’s a lick start taking note of other licks you like that utilize the same note that stuck out to you. I think the big thing is to utilize what you learn as much as you can. Whether it’s a chord, lick, progression, scale or chord shape, utilize it as much as you can in order to learn the most from everything we transcribe.