I had a lightbulb moment. I’ve been playing mainly rhythm guitar for years and despite knowing some scales, picking up bits and pieces of music theory over the years and having some technical ability I couldnt play a lead worth a shit because I had no idea how to use the scales.
All I did was memorize where all the E notes are on each string and where they sit in all the e minor pentatonic positions. I hit an E major chord slide up to a E note somewhere do a little lick in that pentatonic position, end on a E note somewhere. I started doing the same thing for A and after a week I can just about shred the 12 bar blues like a Bargain brand SRV lol. I just gotta hook up my looper and start going to town. I’m absolutely amazed it took me this long to figure this shit out. It also makes transitioning to major pentatonic so easy because your mainly just hunting around for and focusing on the root notes.
Basic music theory isn't any more complex than junior high math. Keep going!
Most Western music is based on one single pattern of notes. Whether you consider that pattern to be "major," or "minor," or Mixolydian mode or etc etc purely just depends on which step of the pattern you start iterating.
In whole / half steps the major scale is WWHWWWH, and the minor scale is WHWWHWW. Now that you've got all the E and A notes across the fretboard memorized, you can memorize those two strings of half steps and whole steps and be able to find any step of E major, E minor, A major, or A minor anywhere on the fretboard. Again, major and minor are technically the same pattern, but at first it might be easier to just memorize them separately.
The chords of any given scale end up following a pattern too. In the major scale, call the chords by Roman numerals I-VII, and the I, IV, and V are major, and the II, III, and VI are minor. The VII is diminished.
Learn to build triad chords based on that pattern and you can get even better at moving around the fretboard than just by memorizing the pattern of whole steps and half steps. Literally a shortcut so that you don't have to remember the whole pattern to jump small steps of it from string to string.
A lot of con artists online try to sell overly complicated versions of music theory to make potential customers feel like they can't figure it out on their own. But you know what? I literally just described all of the music theory the average guitar player needs to be able to improvise a solo and at least stay in key even if you're not always hitting the "right" notes for whatever chord is under you. Past that you can learn a lot of the rest by feel as you go, if you don't want to dig deeper into theory.