Stuck learning scales ... I am ahead in theory, should I go back to the beginner course until I catch up

Hopefully this is the right place to post this. I have been playing guitar for several years, just picking around with a few songs. So I decided to start Justin’s beginner guitar course to get a solid foundation and build on it. I made it through Grade one and it was during a lesson “Understanding Music Notes” that it dawned on me the importance of understanding music theory. Ultimately, I would love to improvise a solo over a chord progression. So I paused on the Beginner Guitar Course and dove into theory. I have progressed up to Module 4.2 “How to recognize keys by chord sequences.” During this lesson he talks about how to figure out the key of a chord progression and then to “try that scale over it to see if it works”.
My problem is, at this point, I still don’t know how to really play a scale. I know the pattern of the Major scale, but not really how to “play” it. The last theory lesson where he teaches you the major scale (Module 3: Major Scale Pattern 1) he asks that you just try to play over a backing track, which I’ve done (when I do this some notes match perfectly and some not as good, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten).
So my question is, should I still continue down the theory path, even not knowing how to properly use a major scale? Or should I go back to the Beginner Course? Does he teach you more about scales in those courses? I’m not sure where to go to get a better grasp of it at this point?
Thanks in advance!

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Hi Dave

My advice would be go back to the Beginners course which will cover scales and improvisation, especially in Grades 2 and 3. Sometime its better to let the theory lag behind the practice. Learn how to do it first, then worry about why and how it works. It will make more sense that way. Might also be worth looking at this lesson.




I agree with Toby. You’re playing skills are lagging behind your theory. Go back to where you where in the beginner course and learn the skills you fingers need to know and don’t worry about the why until you actually can.


Thank you both! That makes perfect sense. I’ll head on back to the Beginner courses.

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A common answer for manny questions is to go back and work through earlier stuff again.

I think it is worth periodically reviewing. I feel like I find all sorts of things I missed every time I take a look back.

Two steps forward, one back!


I’ve just recently restarted the intermediate course, years after I finished it, just to check for things I’ve forgotten or need to polish up.


@Avidity , you might want to jump directly to this lesson after you get at least the major scale under your fingers.

The other thing I’ve found gets me improvising is to just play part of the scale on 2 or 3 strings, and sing them back, or along with my playing. As I warm up my voice and my fingers, I find I spontaneously start to come up with little riffs and short melodies.

I know some theory, but have actually not found it very helpful. For me, the key is to get the scale under my fingers, and then follow my ear.

I am going through this learning curve now (soloing over chord progressions). You mention only major scales and that is one of the important scales to learn but learning the relative minor pentatonic scale of each major scale is a great shortcut to soloing over each chord. It is a bit of a grind to learn the five positions and how to transition from one position to another but, hey, its all about the journey!

Thanks for the reply! I’ll definitely check out that lesson. Appreciate the tips!

I noticed online a lot of people use the minor pentatonic. So far I’ve only got through Beginner Grade 1, then dove into Justin’s music theory courses, where I learned the Major Scale. Sounds like I need to pause on theory and develop my skills in the Beginner Courses. I looked ahead and noticed in Beginner Grade 2, Justin goes over the E minor pentatonic :wink:

@Avidity stay with the beginner course. The minor pentatonic is coming up as is the C major scale in open position. Justin’s course has a proven track records.