Saturday, May 5, 2012

How To Play Guitar: The Major Scale

What's up future rock-stars!!!
In this lesson we are going to take a look at the single most important scale you will ever learn,
the Major Scale.

What makes the Major scale so important is that pretty much every other scale is based on it, or has a close relation to it. This should already be clear to you if you've read the Minor Pentatonic lesson. And it will become even clearer when we start discussing Modes.

The Major Scale is a diatonic scale, meaning it contains 7 notes. Those seven notes are divided by a strict interval structure. An interval is the distance between the frequencies of two notes. For example, there is a half-step interval between A and A#, but a full-step interval between A and B.

The interval formula for the major scale is very simple, it goes: W-W-H-W-W-W-H
W = a whole step, or full-step, H = a half-step.

This formula will help you identify the notes of each of the 12 major scales. As an example I will show you the C Major Scale. First off, here are all the notes on the guitar:
A – A#/Bb – B – C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab
To find the notes of the C Major Scale, we will first re-order the notes so that C is the root.
C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B
Now all that is left is to apply the interval formula: W-W-H-W-W-W-H
And we get the notes: C D E F G A B
You can do the same for the other ones if you are interested in seeing the small differences between the different keys, which key contains which sharps and flats, etcetera.
G Major for instance differs from the C Major scale with only one note: G A B C D E F#

Alright, enough theory, let's get to the real interesting bit, applying the scale to guitar.
We are going to do this in the exact same way as the Minor Pentatonic. The fretboard will be divided into 5 scale patterns or positions. You have to learn the first pattern up and down, then improvise a bit with it, learn the next pattern, include that in your improvisation and so on until you have learned it entirely. Then you start practicing it in different keys as well.

Again here is an example of all the positions laid out on the fretboard in the key of G Major this time.

Have fun with it and practice hard. Once you have learned a decent amount of chords and the Pentatonic scales as well as the Major scale, you will have a considerable amount of tools to create some amazing songs.
If you have any questions, e-mail them to:
Don’t forget to listen and have fun!!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How To Play Guitar: The Minor Pentatonic Scale

What's up future rock-stars!!!
Are you ready to learn your first scale?

The first scale we are going to take a look at is called the Minor Pentatonic scale.
In normal music courses you would learn the Major Scale first, because pretty much all other scales in western music are derived from it. However I prefer learning the Pentatonics first because they only contain 5 notes, so they are easier to learn, but, more importantly, they are used in an ENORMOUS amount of songs and music genres. I daresay 90% of rock and blues songs use the pentatonics.

We are going to start with a tiny amount of theory. As I’ve said before, pretty much every scale used in western music is derived from the Major Scale. The Minor Pentatonic scale is no exception. We are going to discuss this scale, and the reason it is called Minor Pentatonic, by using a simple formula and comparing it to the Major Scale.

(For this I am going to use the A Minor Pentatonic as an example.)

The Major Scale formula is very simple: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1
These are the degrees of the scale, for the A Major Scale that would translate too:
1   2   3   4   5    6   7   1
A   B  C#  D   E   F# G# A

Now let's have a look at the Minor Pentatonic’s formula: 1 b3 4 5 b7 1
You probably notice two things; one, the scale only contains 5 different notes, the 2nd and 6th degree are missing, and two, the 3rd and 7th degree are flattened. If you look at just the 1st, 3rd and 5th degree, you get the all too familiar formula of a Minor Chord: 1 b3 5…Hence the name, minor pentatonic. As you may have guessed, this scale goes very well together with chord progressions that start with a Minor Chord.

If we translate the formula to our A Minor Pentatonic scale, we get:
1   b3   4    5   b7    1
A   C    D     E   G     A

Alright, that was it for theory, now it’s time to actually learn the scale on the guitar.
We are going to do so by dividing the entire neck of the guitar into 5 positions.
I want you to learn each position, one position at the time. Practice by first playing each note of one position up and down, and then improvise a bit in that position. When you feel comfortable with it, start practicing the next position up and then, and then improvise using both position. Do this until you have learned all 5 positions. And then you can start practicing it in different keys as well.

Here is a picture of all 5 positions spread out over the entire fretboard in the key of A minor. If you want to play it in different keys, all you have to do is move the positions over so the Root notes correspond to the key you want to play in.

It Could look a little something like this:

The Major Pentatonic
We are going to finish this lesson with a quick word about the Major Pentatonic.
Now its formula looks a bit different then the Minor Pentatonic, it goes: 1 2 3 5 6 1
However, there is a very strong correlation with the Minor Pentatonic scale. In fact, the A Minor Pentatonic scale, is EXACTLY the same as the C Major Pentatonic scale, the only difference is the A Minor Pentatonic scale has the note A minor as root, while the C Major Pentatonic scale has the note C as root. Get it?
A Minor Pentatonic: A C D E G A
C Major Pentatonic: C D E G A C

 Crazy right? By learning 5 simple positions, you not only know every Minor Pentatonic scale, but you also know every Major Pentatonic scale as well. That's a huge amount of writing and improvisation possibilities!

When we will get deeper into this stuff, you will see that a scale gets its name and character by the chords it interacts with. All chords and scales have a relation with each other and a musician used these relations to convey certain emotions through music. For example, our all too familiar C major scale (Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do) has, just like every major scale, a happy feel. But if you play that scale over a Dm Chord, the scale's “feel” completely changes, it becomes a Minor Scale known as the Dorian Modes, and it feels pretty grim and sad, kind of scary…That's the magic of chord-scale relations.

I know a lot of people get scared off by theory, but as you can see, it is actually pretty simple and some knowledge of what is happening and why will help your creativity. I'll be honest, I started looking into this stuff three years ago and, with absolutely NO previous experience of music theory, I was confused because I couldn't really find a decent source of information that explained it for what it is. But, with persistence and an eager mind I started to get the big picture, and now I am sharing it with you in, I hope, the most comprehensible way possible.

This lesson was a bit of a long one, but way to stick it out, patience and persistence are the key here, good luck.
If you have any questions, e-mail them to:
Don’t forget to listen and have fun!!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

How To Play Guitar: Introduction To Scales

What's up future rock-stars!!!
It's time to take a little break from chords and start discussing something a bit different, scales. In my opinion every musician in the world should have at least a basic understanding of both chords and scales, as well as how they work together. In this series of articles I will share with you the basic knowledge that I have acquired these past few years. Do note that I am by far an expert, I’m just a guitar enthusiast sharing his thoughts on these matters. However this should be very useful to the beginners out there.

In this introduction I am going to start by answering the most fundamental question. Namely, what is a musical scale? Well, to put it in the simplest way possible, a scale is nothing more than a sequence of notes, usually belonging to a key. The most basic scale, one that we have already mentioned in one of the first lessons, is the C major scale: Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do or C D E F G A B C.

The beautiful thing about scales is the diversity. There are a bunch of different scales, each with its own characteristics and each with its own use and place in music, just like chords. In fact chords and scales have a very tight relation to each other, but we will discuss that later.

Scales come in many different types. For instance they can be divided by the number of notes they contain. The chromatic scale contains all 12 notes, whereas most of the scales used in western music contain 7 notes, those are diatonic scales. The most commonly used scales in Rock and Blues music contain only 5 notes, they are called pentatonic scales. Sometimes a sixth note, called the blue note, is added and then you get what is known as the Blues scale. We will discuss a bunch of these scales in the upcoming articles, starting with the easiest and probably the most used scale in modern music, the Minor Pentatonic scale.

I hope this article warmed you up to the magic of scales.
 If you have any questions, e-mail them to:
And as always, don't forget to listen and have fun!!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How To Play Guitar: Practicing Chords Effectively

What's up future rock stars!!!
This article is going to be a bit different from the previous ones.
This one isn't a lesson, but more of a general tip to help you improve.

If you have been following the curriculum, you know we have been learning a bunch of chords. Today, however, we are going to discuss how to practice those chords.

In my opinion this is the most efficient way to practice chords. Don't try to learn all of them at once! Instead start by focusing on two chords that you like. I recommend starting with any of these (Am, G, C, D), because those 4 chords are used in an enormous amount of songs. Start off with two chords, and practice changing from one chord to the other as fluently as possible. The key to great rhythm guitar is fluent chord changes.

Got two chords down? Alright, add a third and keep practicing. Do this for a few hours (or minutes, depending on how fast a learner you are) and then you can have some fun and start messing around with these chords. Try to come up with some cool strum patterns. You can create a huge amount of different sounding progressions with just three chords, it's amazing.

Next up, add a fourth chord, and a fifth and so on and so forth.

One reason I really love barre chords, is that you can learn just one shape, and by moving it around you can play all kinds of chords. Learn the Am7 shape, move it around the A-string and you got every single minor 7
th chord you would ever need. Learn the Dm7 shape and move that one around and you also get every single minor 7th chord. Now here is where the magic happens. The same chord can be played on different parts of the fretboard, using a different chord shape, and although the chords have the same notes, they will sound a little bit different. This opens up a sea of endless possibilities, scratch that, an ocean of endless possibilities. 

Keep practicing your chords and let your creativity run loose!

For the next few lessons I am planning on discussing my favorite topic, scales. Scales are an awesome tool for improvisation, endless jam sessions and great lead guitar riffs and solos. Combine that with some awesome chord progressions and you get one amazing musical experience. But that's for later, for now, have fun practicing your chords.

I hope this article helped you out.
If you have any questions, e-mail them to:
Don't forget to listen and have fun!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How To Play Guitar: 7th chords (NG12)

What's up future rock stars!!!
In today's lesson we are going to take a look at a bit more advanced chords, don't worry they are just as easy to play as the average major and minor chord. We are going to take a look at the 7
th chords, more precisely the major 7th, minor 7th and dominant 7th chords.

This is the first type of tetrad chords that we are going to discuss, this means that they differ from the normal triad because they contain a fourth note.

Major 7th chords

Let's take a look at the major 7
th chords first. You start off with a simple major triad, but you add a fourth note called a major 7th (which is the 7th note of that chords major scale, hence it's name).
The formula is: 1 3 5 7

Here are a few common shapes of this chord:

Emaj7: E G# B D#

Amaj7: A C# E G#

Dmaj7: D F# A C#

Gmaj7: G B D F#

Cmaj7: C E G B

Minor 7th chords

The minor 7th chord consists of the basic minor triad, but with an added
flat 7th note.
The formula is: 1 b3 5 b7

Here are a few common shapes:

Em7: E G B D 

Am7: A C E G

Dm7: D F A C

Dominant 7
th chords

The third type that we are going to discuss today is the dominant 7th chord, just like the major 7th it starts with a major triad, but this one also contains
a flat 7th note, whereas the major 7th contains a major 7th note.

Here are a few common shapes:

E7: E G# B D

A7: A C# E G
D7: D F# A C

G7: G B D F

C7: C E G Bb

note: most of these shapes can be moved around on the fretboard by turning them into barre chords, especially the E7, A7, Em7, Am7 and Cmaj7 are very easy to move around.

I hope this lesson helped you out.
If you have any questions, e-mail them to:
Don't forget to listen and have fun!!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How To Play Guitar: Tabs, The Easy Way (NG11)

What's up future rock stars!!!
Today we are going to discuss the good and the bad of tablatures.

First of all, what are tablatures, or tabs, and how do I read them.
Tabs are a simplified way to write down music, instead of musical pitches you get the fingerings. You don't need any musical theory to use this method, all you need is the ability to read numbers.

Here is an example of a tablature for guitar:

e |-----------------------------|
b |-----------------------------|
g |-----------------------------|
d |-----------------------------|
a |-----------------------------|
e |--------0--1--2--3--4------|

 It's very simple, the six horizontal bars symbolize the six strings of the guitar, the highest bar being the highest sounding string. I wrote the strings name next to it, most of the reliable tablatures out there will also give some indication of the tuning. Reading tabs is very easy, just go from left to right, the 0 indicates an open string, 1 indicates fingering the first fret, 2 the second fret and so on. The more reliable tabs will also give some sort of indication for which technique to use, like / and \ for slides, or maybe just an “s” between the start and end of the slide, bends will usually have a “b” followed by the note you have to reach or the note will just be between brackets and so on...
It's usually very straightforward, tabs are ridiculously easy to use, which makes them very appealing to beginner guitarists. There are thousands of tabs out there for any song.

I have used tabs a lot in my first two years of playing, now I try to limit that as much as possible. I do use tabs to write down my own music because I don't know how to write or read sheet-music. But to learn songs I truly do believe it's way better to use your ears. It'll take a while longer to learn a song, but your playing will benefit from it.

Another reason I don't like using tabs too much is their reliability. As I have said, tabs are easy, they are easy to read and easy to write, anyone can post them online. This makes for an abundance of sources, but it also means there are a lot of tabs written by inexperienced players, a lot of them have mistakes.

Tabs can be very helpful, but use them wisely. I would recommend trying to figure out a song by ear, or by using a cover or instructional video, and only using tabs for the parts you can't figure out. And even then, be very critical of them, read other peoples comments, look at the tabs rating, if they seem fishy in any way, they are probably not worth using. That being said, it is a great way to write down music for those who don't know how to read sheet-music.

Hope this helped you out, if it did, don't hesitate to subscribe to the blog.
Don't forget to listen and have fun!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How To Play Guitar: Hammer-ons and Pull-offs (NG10)

What's up future rock stars!!!
Hope your guitar learning journey is going well.
It's time to learn some hammer-ons and pull-offs. These are two easy legato techniques that guitarist's use all the time.

What are hammer-ons and pull-offs and what do they do? Let's start with the hammer-on. Basically, you play a note and then you suddenly push down with a different finger on a different fret of the same string, the power of your finger will cause the note to ring out.
A pull-off is the opposite, you hold two fingers on two different frets of the same string, pick the string, release the finger closest to the guitar's body, and the note your other finger is holding will ring out. (it's best to kind of flick your finger off sideways to get some extra vibration on the string).

That is really all there is to these techniques. But what makes these techniques so great is their versatility. You can create some really cool licks by alternating hammer-ons and pull-offs, or you can do a rapid succession of pull-offs by fretting three or four frets on the same string. Add in a bit of that sliding we discussed last article and you've got some really cool legato-licks.

The video at the bottom includes various examples of how to use these techniques.

Hope this helped you out, if it did, don't hesitate to subscribe to the blog.
Don't forget to listen and have fun!!