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Music Theory for Guitar

This section explains the thinking behind the way I play the guitar. I am hoping this will help in getting you new ideas in expanding your own playing. Note: This is not a complete explanation of music theory.

Scales

The Major Scale

The W below means "whole step". A whole step means moving up two notes (or two frets), and H means "half step" which means moving up one note (or one fret).

The Major scale consists of 7 notes. To play a C Major scale, let's first look at the notes in the C Major scale, excluding the Octave.
The notes are: C - D - E - F - G - A - B.

Below, we show the 8th note (the Octave) as well. The Octave is the same note as the 1st note, only one octave higher. As we go from C to D, you are playing one whole step - there is one fret between these that we skip. Same goes from D to E, it's one whole step. Next, we go from E to F, and this is only a half step.

After that, we Going from F to G, we play another whole step. Same goes from G to A and A to B, those are also whole steps. Lastly, the B to the Octave C is a half step. So, looking at the following, we see that there are 5 whole steps and 2 half steps in the Major scale:

  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8
      W - W - H - W - W - W - H
  C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C
  

As you learn this scale, I recommend you use a backing track or something that will play a C chord continously. Play the scale slowly, note for note. As you play through the scale, pay attention of the sound of each note in relation to the C chord. Now we are in fact talking about Intervals.

Intervals

What are Intervals? Simply put, Intervals are labelled according to their function in a scale. Looking at our chart again, we see that the D note can be viewed as 2nd, the E note is the 3rd, etc.

  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8
      W - W - H - W - W - W - H
  C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C
  

I find that it is much more important to know what Interval the note is, than what actual alphabetic name it has. By this, I mean, is it the Major 3rd you are playing? This is also a way of training your ears to be able to identify what a Major 3rd and so on sounds like.

Why is it called a Major 3rd? Well, there scales that have lowered or raised notes. We can also see that there is a note between the C and the D note, and the same goes for the notes between whole steps above. Here are the names of all the Intervals there are:

Interval Name Number of Half Steps
Perfect Unison 0
Minor 2nd 1
Major 2nd 2
Minor 3rd 3
Major 3rd 4
Perfect 4th 5
Augmented 4th /
Diminished 5th
6
Perfect 5th 7
Minor 6th 8
Major 6th 9
Minor 7th 10
Major 7th 11
Perfect Octave 12

This table covers all 12 notes, or all the notes on one string up to the 12 fret.

Still confused?

If you are new to music theory and need help in understanding how chord progressions and the chord number system works, I encourage you to get the lesson below. It is an excellent primer on how scales, chords and chord progressions work, and how this can be used to understand the majority of western music. This will also help you tremendously in writing your own songs.

Guitar Theory Made Simple

Understanding I-IV-V is an intensive 65 minute video that will give you a crash course on guitar theory. It is not a complete lesson on music theory. Instead, this is the perfect introductory tool to get you started on the guitar, or to reveal the secrets of the fretboard that you are not aware of yet. You will learn why chord numbers are far more important than chord letters, how to write your own songs and chord progressions effortlessly and endlessly, and much more.

Click this link now to get started.

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All contents © Copyright Robert Renman.
Free Guitar Lessons
New Course - Comping with Triads -

Learn 6 common chord progressions.

NEW - T-Bone Walker Lesson

"You are simply the best teacher on the internet. Always cool, explain things well, and relevant stuff for beginners to advanced players. Even my kids are into your lessons now!"

I was chosen as the 2013 Next Top Guitar Instructor at Truefire!