We are surrounded by tablatures and learn to play videos. There are some really good ones. The guitar code is partly already cracked and, keep borrowing Tony Grady's metaphor, there's no longer any need to sit down with a casio SX-1 sampling, slowing down licks and transcribing them.
Still, none of us is a Yngwie or and Impellitteri.
You may have all the tabs you ever wanted, but still suck at playing guitar if you don't learn how to study a song. Below there are some tips and strategies. The general idea is that you're not studying someone else's piece, you are growing as a musician and you are making yours whatever it happens that you are playing.
More in detail, here we go:
1) I like to know what I'm doing, that's why I like the Ditones method and its combinatorial approach. When learning a song this means that I want to know what I'm playing. Which means:
2) I want to know how the song is organized. How many riffs does it have? What follows after chorus? Having a song structure is one of the most importat things to start learning a song in a systematic way.
3) I want to have some idea of how the music work. To discover this, just ask yourself the following questions: what is the key of the song? what are the main chords used? which scales are used for it?
4) Having a general idea of the whole matters. Now start matching the different parts with the techniques involved, writing down possible problems (e.g.: a fast picking riff, some difficult bendings).
5) Find a nice way to start, possibly the riff or rhythm so that you start getting the groove and feel of the piece. If it's something instrumental, consider the main melody as a starting point.
6) Start learning the notes first. Start slow and learn where your finger have to go. Then increase speed.
7) Whenever something is difficult, break it in smaller part and make it manageable.
8) Experiment on the song: play the theme from the second bar, invert the pedal tones, try similar rhythm ideas.
9) Basically every song you learn is a lesson you teach yourself.
Such a lesson feature some theory to understand its structure and how it works plus some exercises that will prepare you for the riffs and licks. The fun part is that you are going to be your teacher, so it's up to you not to bore yourself. Good luck!
I am now struggling with Iron Maiden's Losfer Word. I hope to share something from this experience...
Let me know how it's going!
How to Practice guitar: overview
Guitar practice tips: Overcoming speed limits and breaking speed barriers
Ditones how to: what are ditones and how to use them part I