When I first started, decades ago, it would have been:
- Twist and Shout and Saw Her Standing There
- Satisfaction and Jumpin’ Jack Flash
- Heartbreaker and Black Dog
- Stairway to Heaven and Rain Song
- Highway Star and Paranoid
Now days? I have no clue, as there are so many songs that are milestone levels of playing.
I recommend finding a copy of the Richard Pick duet book and learn any 5 as solo pieces. It was the book I used to teach myself how play. At one point I could play all of them as solo pieces. Some are quite difficult. Learned finger picking, how to negotiate finger positions, counterpoint voicing, and reading sheet music with that book. That book also has a lot of finger exercises too.
Learning songs is not how one becomes a really good player. That’s a perfect approach for beginners, but if you can already play and want to get better, there are no songs, no solos, no licks or riffs that will get you there.
I’ve been playing forever. We all have different goals and milestones along the way. For example, one person might be happy learning an AC/DC song note for note while others want to learn flat picking, flamenco, classical, jazz, fusion, math metal, etc.
A couple of years ago, I finally got a copy of the live Shaver album from the mid-90s. I’m not even a country music fan but that is some hot-assed hot rod guitar playing! If I could learn to play every note of that album, particularly Georgia On A Fast Train, I’d feel accomplished. I know, I know ... “good luck with that” ... LOL ...
Ramones - anything, get that right hand working and get your timing down. Great rhythm workouts. It's not easy.
James Brown - anything - get that funk in your soul.
Yes - Roundabout or the Clap - Get your fingerstyle going
Ozzy - Crazy Train - Went I got the solo down I felt like I accomplished something.
Jimi - Machine Gun - You know why!
Stray Cat Strut -Stray Cats. Classic rockabilly with some deceptively clever choices.
Wind Cries Mary - Hendrix. Both notes and delivery force you to concentrate
Curse of Castle Dragon - Paul Gilbert. Mix of shred, patterns, and right/left hand cohesion.
Crazy Train - Ozzy. The fills and solo are must learns.
Train Kept a Rollin' - Aerosmith. Just for the tempo, the mix of swing with the feeling of almost being out of control. Communication Breakdown is very similar.
“Mood For A Day”-Steve Howe
“Holy Wars/The Punishment Due”-Megadeth
“The Spirit Of Radio”-Rush
“Mediterranean Sundance”-Paco de Lucia and Al DiMeola(Friday Night In San Francisco version)
I'm going to look at it in terms of what skills make one an accomplished guitarist.
"All My Loving" - The Beatles
Insanely quick triplets with an insane number of chord changes all over the neck. Tough rhythm track...but can be done.
"Dear Prudence" - The Beatles
A hybrid Travis picking style that after three weeks can be mastered. And when you do get it right, oh, the ladies love it. Just grab an acoustic guitar, finger-pick "Dear Prudence" or "Julia" and, oh, the ladies love it.
"Subdivisions" - Rush
I can't stand lead playing. Useless. But Lifeson's brief lead in this song is really great and offers various skills. Starts with octave playing, then harmonics, then a rip on a chord shape. Nice and short and what a lead should be.
Chic - "Good Times"
Yes, you must master funk. Why? 1) Chicks love it and, 2) whatever style music you play, your music will become infused with groove...in other words, it will roll as well as rock. Just play along to Chic's "Good Times" for days and you will become the grooviest rhythm player in your neighborhood
5. Inversions & Arpeggios (different ways to play chords)
The Smiths - "William It Was Really Nothing"
No way will you be able to play this song, Johnny Marr plays it and even he can't play it! (Thanks Noel for that.) The darn song is so difficult. But if you look at it and give it a try, it will open your eyes to different ways to play chords. Various shapes (inversion) or arpeggio them. Top guitar playing is not just strumming simple barre chords.
Here are a few that work for me. Mind you, I’m just a casual, play-at-home guy, but I still like to challenge myself. The fun is in reworking the song for solo guitar, getting the right inflections, and trying to do the vocals.
“Monk” Theme Song, season 1
“Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First) - Mellencamp
“Careful” - Guster
Father and Daughter” - Paul Simon
“Alison” - Elvis Costello (for fills and phrasing)
Great thread. In my formative stages I found myself making big strides after learning the following:
Modern Day Cowboy
Wanted Dead or Alive
Running with the Devil ->Eruption -> You Really Got Me -> Ain't Talking 'bout Love (I was in a band that did this as our big finish!)
Later, I spent time trying to REALLY learn songs and solos such as:
Back in Black, You Shook me All Night Long
Eruption (always working on this)
Cliffs of Dover (always working on this)
More recently I've focused on things like:
Stray Cat Strut
Sweet Child of Mine
Texas Flood, Pride & Joy, Rivera Paradise
Axis Bold As Love
There are so many songs that allow one to gain technique and confidence to play other songs - at least it was that way for me. I cycle back to songs on a regular basis and find that sometimes things just click and I can play something this year that I could not play well last year.
I love this instrument and the feeling of accomplishment that it gives me.