Guitar Theroy (Lesson 1)

Guitar Theroy (Lesson 1)

Anyone care to start a thread on guitar theory?
Let me start with lesson one.

There are two great keys to work with on the guitar, C for theory based reasons and G because it starts in a very nice position on the guitar neck. For theroy why not start with the easiest key. That is the key of C because when the notes are spelled out there are no sharps or flats.

There are seven notes in a scale of which numbers can be assigned.

So we have these seven notes in the Key of C.

C(1) D(2) E(3) F(4) G(5) A(6) B(7)

Note that the numbers represent a counting system that will become more important later on. But for now just remember that we can count the notes as well.

Now lets talk about Intervals. An interval is the distance between two notes. In the key of C shown above we are showing the Major scale. So this is the C Major scale which has specific intervals between guitar notes.

The intervals are:
C to D = 1 step
D to E = 1 step
E to F = 1/2 step
F to G = 1 step
G to A = 1 step
A to B = 1 step
B to C = 1/2 step (one octave)

Intervals will become very important later on when we discuss how chords are made.

Ok now it's time for you to try to find these notes on your guitar. Start by finding the C which is on the A string (5th string) 3rd fret. Then realize that 1 step = two frets and use the formula to find all the notes. There are two directions you can go 1) Striaight up the neck and 2) Using three notes per string go across the neck from the 5th string to the 1st string.

Practice this scale for 1 week and commit the interval patterns to memory, once you've done that go one to Lesson 2

Here's some links for major scales on the guitar: c major guitar scale - Google Search
Some guitarists prefer this technique (3 notes per string)
Technique Guitar Lesson - Playing The Major Scale With Three Notes Per String

New Song Cafe (God of Wonders) How to play it.... (Easy song)
Guitar Theroy (Lesson 2)

In our last lession we started off a very simple path by introducing you to the easiest key in all of music, the key of C major. Why is it the easiest? Because it has no sharps or flats. If you don't know what a sharp of flat is, then we'll define it as an interval that is either 1/2 step above or below a specific note. By convention the key of C major has no sharps or flats, but the intervals do contain 1/2 and whole steps (as we just showed).

Now that you've had a chance to familiarize yourself with the scale of C major on the guitar neck, I would like to tell you a few things about the guitar that makes it unique. On the guitar you only have to learn all of your music theroy in one key. Why? Because on the guitar, all you have to do to play a new key is to shift your starting position, the patterns remain the same. :) This fact allows you to avoid these massive chord books and scale books you see in the stores because it's all repeated material that just starts on some other fret. For example any book that has pictures of the C major scale and then the D major scale is wasting print because the only difference is the D major scale starts just two frets up from the C major and has the exact same form or pattern of notes as the C major scale. So, to learn theroy we always use C major. The only other scale on the guitar that comes close is the G scale which has one small advantage is starts on the 6th string 3 fret which allows you to see more scale progression to the first string. You get to see the intervals from the 6th string to the 1st string. Understand? If you don't don't worry about it, it's just commentary.

Chordal Intervals.

In music theroy one might ask how are chords constructed? Well the good news is that there are formulas for this. It's the mathmatetics of music. It's a lot of fun once you understand because as a composer of songs you don't have to guess what chords to use in any given key, they're all related. Let start by discussing the intervals...

We show our key of C major notes first

C(1) D(2) E(3) F(4) G(5) A(6) B(7) C(8)

The forumla for a major chord starting on the 1 of any key is
1-3-5 = C-E-G

Now go ahead on your guitar and try to find the notes C-E-G
The most common form of the C chord is seen here:
c major guitar chord - Google Image Search

We'll talk about the 1-3-5 intervals later but for now let's discover a few other really cool things about the interval 1-3-5

Let's take each note of the scale shown above and find out what the first, third and fifth note away from each note are.

C(1) D(2) E(3) F(4) G(5) A(6) B(7) C(8)
Starting at C = C-E-G = C major = Interval is 1-3-5
Starting at D = D-F-A = D minor = Interval is 1-b3-5
Starting at E = E-G-B = E minor = Interval is 1-b3-5
Starting at F = F-A-C = F major = Interval is 1-3-5
Starting at G = G-B-D = G major = Interval is 1-3-5
Starting at A = A-C-E = A minor = Interval is 1-b3-5
Starting at B = B-D-F = B diminshed = Interval 1-b3-b5

So what is a b3 or b5... Remember earlier how we described an interval that is a sharp # or flat b as being 1/2 step above or below the given note? Let's look at D minor.. It is spelled D-F-A, now lets count the intervals. D starts on the 1 and E would be the 2 and F is the 3 but note that the interval between E and F is 1/2 step... What? Ok look at this:

Each letter is followed by a 1 for one step that brings you to the next letter for the scale. Notice there are two natural half steps in the key of C. These half steps are from E to F and from B to C... But in the key of C these are not considered to be flat or sharp (the 1/2 steps) they are the definition of the scale.

Now if you start at D and travel to F you will see that D is the one and E is the two and F# is the three. What? E to F# is a whole step, so E to F is a 1/2 step, thus the 1-b3-5 desination for the second degree of the harmonized scale in the Key of C results in the chord D minor.

Here's a site to show you guitar chords:
Guitar Chords

This is a search for what scale harmonization which is what we're doing here, we're taking the scale and harmonizing three notes to make up a chord. We walk up the scale one note at a time and find the two other notes that harmonize to give us all of the chords of a specific key. Jazz aside, we now know what chords to put into our song writers toolbox.


Your homework for this week is to learn all of the chords in the key of C using the links above to be able to play each. Start with C major go to D minor, Eminor, FMajor, GMajor, Aminor, BDim and finally to C...

Congratulations you have harmonized the key of C and by doing this you now know all of the chords for any song you want to create in the key of C. You also know why and how those chords sound so well together (they're all of the same key) and you can start with other song forumlas that allow you to communicate with piano players in a way you have never thought about. That method is called the Nashville Numbering method and we'll talk about that in our next lesson.
Guitar Theroy (Lesson 3)

Ok up to now we've discussed the C major scale, the intervals between the notes, the way that all the chords for any given key are constructed and now we want to talk about how to create and or communicate a song to other musicians without written music...

Many many songs today use very common patterns. So common in fact that someone somewhere found an easy way to discuss/communicate a song pattern to anyone on any instrument that understands this system without having to see it written down. This is very handy for a guitar player that cannot read piano sheet music and for piano players that don't know guitar shorthand. Guitar shorthand is the notes all guitar players see over the words of a song that tells them what chord to play... Something like C Am F G (Believe it or not, most piano players don't understand that)...

The method is call the Nashville Numbering System...

nashville numbering system - Google Search

In short every chord is represented by a number so we have a formula which we know from our previous lessons that goes like this...

C is the first chord of harmonized notes in the key of C and is a Major chord based on the intervals it is often referred to as the 1 or the I
D is the second chord on harmonized notes in the key of C and is a Minor chord based on the intervals it is often referred to as the 2 or the ii
E is the third chord on harmonized notes in the key of C and is a Minor chord based on the intervals it is often referred to as the 3 or the iii
F is the fourth chord on harmonized notes in the key of C and is a Major chord based on the intervals it is often referred to as the 4 or the IV
G is the fifth chord on harmonized notes in the key of C and is a Major chord based on the intervals it is often referred to as the 5 or the V
A is the sixth chord on harmonized notes in the key of C and is a Minor chord based on the intervals it is often referred to as the 6 or the iv
B is the seventh chord on harmonized notes in the key of C and is a diminished chord based on the intervals it is often referred to as the 7 or the vii.

So with that, once you begin to formulate chord patterns for your songs you can communicate them like this...

Ok guys: Lets play a 1 4 5 in the key of C...
Or Lets play a 1 6 4 5 in the key of G
etc. etc.

This becomes a very effective way for musicians to communicate with each other while creating music or just jamming in the garage...

Here's your homework for this week...
What name is the song form of 1 4 5 known as?
Where have you heard 1 6 4 5 song forms (what musical genre)?
Bonus question: What musical genre lives on the ii V I (2 5 1)?

See you next week.
Outstanding. I just recently bought my first guitar and am trying to learn.
I know absolutely nothing about music.
This could be just what I need.

Thanks and God bless

I have moved this thread from Clubs to Music

If you look at the Club section you will note that a new club can only be formed with staff permission.

Guitar Theroy (Lesson 4)

Ok, we have started down the road of music theroy. It is the best possible way for you to become a good/very good/excellent guitar player. We showed how each note in a scale has an associated number and how we can use those numbers to make up chords. We discussed intervals and built chords based on them. Believe it or not the material given up to this point could easily take a person six months to a year to really understand. So don't feel like you've been left in the dust so far.

Let's expound on chord formulas after we discuss the intervals once again.

We have a major key named C major, we like it because it has no sharps or flats and makes it the easiest key to discuss music theory. Ok let's proceed into this idea of the C major scale by looking at it from different perspectives. Note you should be able by now to visualize the C major scale in you mind by now. You definitely should be able to play it back and forth through at least one octave by now, but are better off if you can play mulitple octaves. Do you know what an octave is? guitar octaves - Google Search

Ok here we go: Let's list the notes of the C major scale again.

Now lets remember what the major chord formula is from an interval perspective it is 1-3-5, so starting on the C above add the third and fifth notes to make a C major chord that would be C-E-G. Simple now isn't it?

Ok now lets take all of the same notes again and starting with C, lets make a list of all other possible scales in the key of C. That effort looks like this.


See how we made new scales (keys) all from every note in the key of C?
Now picture what we are doing on the guitar fretboard. We are simply starting each successive scale with the next note of the C major scale.

So what's good about this? Well it serves us two purposes, it allows us to see chord construction easier, and it introduces us to a new concept known as modes. We won't cover modes in this lesson rather we will cover chord construction. Now using the chord formula for a major chord lets use this same table and contrstuct the chords for each of these scales using the first, third and fifth notes.

C D E F G A B C = C E G = C major
D E F G A B C D = D F A = D minor
E F G A B C D E = E G B = E minor
F G A B C D E F = F A C = F major
G A B C D E F G = G B D = G major
A B C D E F G A = A C E = A minor
B C D E F G A B = B D F = B dim

Guess what? That's the same thing we learned in the last lesson, but it's a better visual tool than what was explained before. Lets leave this and discuss other chord construction formulas. One of the best guitar players of all time, Joe Pass, said that he doesn't worry much about different chords too much other than to know if they are based on Major, Minor, or Dominant structures. Let's just look at the major chord family and the formulas. Note that all have a 1-3-5 root structure with other notes added. It's those other notes that give the chord name a different name seen in the column Symbol. The Symbol column is the Guitar Player's typical chord shorthand to describe the intervals of the chord. Many piano players won't have a clue what these Symbols mean. Piano players typically read sheet music and don't use shorthand. Most guitar players, on the otherhand use chord shorthand.

Formula Chord Type Symbol
1-3-5 Major M, Maj
1-3-5-4 Added Fourth add4
1-3-5-6 Sixth 6
1-3-5-6-9 Six Nine 6/9
1-3-5-7 Major 7th Maj7
1-3-5-7-9 Major Ninth Maj9
1-3-5-7- (9)-11 Major Eleventh Maj11
1-3-5-7-(9)-(11)-13 Major Thirteenth Maj13
1-3-5-7- #11 Major seven sharp eleventh Maj7#11
1-3-b5 Major Flat Five Majb5

For this week, take some time learning these chord forms on your guitar neck, next week we'll talk about minor chord forumlas and provide some links to help you see these and others.

Have a good week.
Guitar Theroy (Lesson 5)

Last week we discussed a different way of looking at how chords within one key are created by showing a matrix of notes, with each row starting with the next degree (note) of the scale. We then applied a chord interval formula of (1-3-5) to each degree and found out that not all resulting chords were Major chords, we found Minor chords and a Diminished chord in the mix. Additionally we showed some chord formulas which showed Major chord forms. Today we are going to speak about adding additional notes to the harmonization of the scalar notes to come up with new sounds.

Now that you are familar with the 1-3-5 intervals let's now add the 7th to these chord shapes. This opens up a whole new study I call the study of 7ths. The study of 7ths is really summed up in one word 'Jazz'. Some of you might be saying 'yuck' others may be saying 'all right'. Jazz takes on so many different forms that it truely does have the gammut of sounding pleasant to sounding very dischordant. So the opinions on Jazz are warranted. Without discussing the all important concepts of tension and release (which we'll cover later) let's just show how to build chords with 7ths in them.

C D E F G A B C - 1-3-5-7 = C E G B = CM7 = C MAJOR 7TH
D E F G A B C D - 1-3-5-7 = D F A C = Dm7 = D minor 7TH
E F G A B C D E - 1-3-5-7 = E G B D = Em7 = E minor 7TH
F G A B C D E F - 1-3 5-7 = F A C E = FM7 = F Major 7TH
G A B C D E F G - 1-3-5-7 = G B D F = G7 = G 7TH (Dominant)
A B C D E F G A - 1-3-5-7 = A C E G = Am7 = A minor 7TH
B C D E F G A B - 1-3-5-7 = B-D-F-A = B Dim7 or Bm7-b5 or B half Dim.

Here's a list of links showing chord patterns for these notes
C MAJOR 7TH - Google Image Search
GUITAR CHORDS D MINOR 7 - Google Image Search
GUITAR CHORDS E MINOR 7 - Google Image Search
GUITAR CHORDS F MAJOR 7 - Google Image Search
GUITAR CHORDS G MAJOR 7 - Google Image Search
GUITAR CHORDS A MINOR 7 - Google Image Search
GUITAR CHORDS B DIM - Google Image Search

Now that we've created the chord notes for each chord above let's discuss the 5th degree in our matrix above. The chord is called G7 which is different than G Major 7 or GM7. What are the intervals?

G to B = 2 steps = the 1,3 interval
G to D = 3 1/2 steps = the 1,5
G to F = b7th what?
In the key of G (not C) the notes are
G A B C D E F# G
The 7th note is F#, in the key of G so the flatted 7th is F#
The chord spelling is now.
1-3-5-b7 with respect to the key of G.

Flat 7th notes are a new concept, unlike a 7th chord in a Major key which is one of the most pleasant sounding chords known. The flat 7th chord creates a harsher sound. Therefore it is known as the Dominant seventh because it dominates the sound. This is your first exposure to the Dominant seventh chord family. It will be discussed in more detail later.

In our next lesson, we'll discuss 'color tones' and give some new ideas for 'spicing up' your songs.

Here's some other links:
Seventh chord - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Guitar Jam Machine
This site is really cool, it allows you to write a song using a guitar keyboard by creating chords. Using the theroy we've covered here, why not try to create your own song, using a mixture of Major, Minor, Seventh, Major Seventh, Minor Seventh and the 7b5 chords. Not that you can't go wrong as long as the chords are all constructed off of the base key, which up to now has only been the key of C major. You now have 7 different chords for every song you write based off of the first, third and fifth note of each degree, then you have 7 more based off of the first, third, fifth and seventh degrees. This gives you 14 chords for one key each chord belonging to that key. 14 chords for a song gives you a wide variety of chords in your tool box so that you can create unique and interesting music. Have Fun!
Guitar Theroy (Application)

Amazing Grace
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Phil Keaggy Shades of Green (Jamman)
Phil Keaggy on an Ebow with a jamman (all major key)
Third Day (listen and see if you can't figure out the key and chords)
Third Day (A very good song) See again if you can figure this one out.
god of wonders lyrics chords - Google Image Search
Another great Third Day song
Yes, another Third Day song
Big Tent Revivial (Easy but really nice song)
Here I am to Worship
Lord I lift your name on high (really simple 1-4-5)
Swing Low
Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Classic Spanish style piece very complex)
Great is thy Faithfulness
Jody Fisher
What a friend we have in Jesus
Blessed Assurance
Turn your Eyes Upon Jesus
Doyle Dykes (Amazing Grace)
Doyle Dykes (Sacred Melody)
Doyle Dykes (FBI chord)
Doyle Dykes and Tommy Emmanuel
Tommy Emmanuel
If you follow these series of instructions, it is the single best way to really know your guitar. The lessons are not the easiest for a beginner, but all that really means is you may need to spend more time with it. The material given so far could easily take 6 months or a year to really understand and have totally comitted to memory.

Keep on playin' for the Lord!

Little 'bout me, I've been playing since 1970 and was saved in 1964.

Stay Tuned as we have coming up...
Creating minor chords
Creating minor 7ths
Scales (modes) This is one of the most exicting part in guitar theroy, the study of modes. It will open up a whole new arena of understanding and skill for you as a professional, semi-professional guitarist.