Category Archives: Guitar Lessons
One thing that I always say to a new student is “whatever new thing I show you when we get together… you’re not suppose to get it the first day.” I think learning any instrument (or anything at all) requires time. There are probably only a few people in the world who can pick up an instrument and just play it. If you’re one of them, then pin a rose on your nose. 😛
If you’re new to an instrument, whether it’s the guitar or something else, don’t beat yourself up because it doesn’t seem like you’re getting it quick enough. We all learn in our own way and at our own rate. Don’t get discouraged because it’s not sounding the way you expect it to the first day.. or the second day.. or even after a week. And don’t give up. Sometimes, you might know in your mind how it should sound or what you’d like it to sound like but it takes your fingers/hands/body some time to catch up.
When it comes to technique, I don’t believe there’s “right” or wrong” or “good” or “bad”. Although, there is “clean” and “sloppy”. (But then again, maybe sloppy is what you’re going for.) In any case, the point is that everyone’s fingers work differently. What’s important is if the technique is serving you. Does it produce the sound you want? Does it allow you to play at the speed you want? Does it create the feel you want? And, probably most important, does it hurt?
On the other hand, analyzing the details and figuring out what exactly is keeping you from being able to play a certain part or lick is a great practice to have. I think every great musician has to do this one time or another. And once you find that little piece that’s giving you a hard time, just practice that short passage until you get it and then add it to the rest. Or maybe there are a few parts that are difficult. Practice them individually then string them together.
But if you don’t have that kind of time or just don’t want to spend the time, maybe the situation you’re in doesn’t really require you to play something exactly the way you’re thinking. For guitarists, maybe it doesn’t have to be that particular position or that particular lick. Sometimes it might be (more) appropriate to ask the question “this person played it this way to make this particular expression, how would I play this to express the same thing or something similar?”
But whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s not worth it.
E Phrygian : E F G A B C D E
F Lydian : F G A B C D E F
G Mixolydian : G A B C D E F G
A Aeolian (minor): A B C D E F G A
B Locrian : B C D E F G A B
Dorian : W H W W W H W
Phrygian : H W W W H W W
Lydian : W W W H W W H
Mixolydian : W W H W W H W
Aeolian (minor): W H W W H W W
Locrian : H W W H W W W
Now if we apply these patterns to the same root we can see the differences between the modes (which is really the important thing to remember):
C Ionian (major) : C D E F G A B C
C Dorian : C D Eb F G A Bb C
C Phrygian : C Db Eb F G Ab Bb C
C Lydian : C D E F# G A B C
C Mixolydian : C D E F G A Bb C
C Aeolian (minor): C D Eb F G Ab Bb C
C Locrian : C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C
In some upcoming posts, we’ll start looking at what scale patterns might look like on the fretboard of the guitar.
In Part 5, we looked at building triads from the major scale. This resulted in: (just looking at 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
Now, let’s turn them up-side-down and see what their major/minor counterparts might sound like.
Let’s try using the key of G. So the “normal” chords would have been:
Here’s a progression that tries to use all of them. First, we’ll use all the “normal” chords. Then we’ll play another sequence that will use some of the “abnormal” ones. Here, some 7th chords will be used. But the major and minor 3rds will still be “flipped”.
|C |Cm |G
Unfortunate, this example doesn’t use the 5-minor. But we’ll get to that in the next example…
Another set of chords that are “out of key” are the diminished-6 and diminished-7 chords (aka “6-flat” and “7-flat”). This is not the same as 6 dim or 7 dim. But rather, take the 6-note and 7-note of the scale and make them flat. For instance:
E major scale: E F# G# A B C# D# E
So instead of C# and D#, use C and D. Particularly, use their major chords. Try this progression:
As you play with these chords more, you’ll start to hear their distinctive sound and you’ll be able to identify them more quickly when you hear them in songs. You may notice that certain genres tend to use a certain chord a lot. For instance, the 4-minor (as a “turnaround”) in 50s and 60s pop/rock, the 6-flat in (early) grunch, or the 2-major in (what I call “old school”) country.
This is part 6.7.2 which is a continuation on the discussion on “7”. The reason why this is in a separate post is because, quite frankly, I forgot. And this is also a continuation on triads where we talked about how the diminished chord is what you’d get if you built the triad starting with the 7-note on the scale.
In this case, we’re looking at the 2 diminished chords: Half-Diminished and Diminished.
This might be confusing at first. But once you “do the math”, you’ll see quickly that there isn’t much to remember. Also, (in my experience) these chords are not very common (and for that reason, I’m not too familiar with them :-). But I love using them because they add such wonderful, (usually) unexpected texture. Hopefully the progressions below will give you a flavor.
In my search for other material on these chords on the web, it seems like “diminished” is often also referred to as “diminished 7” (“dim7”). But I was not able to find a slick way of pointing to the half-diminished chord except for “min7 b5”.
For the purpose of this post, I’ll be using “dim7” and “min7 b5”.
First, let’s look at the shapes. Here are 2 ways of holding each. For each of these, make a note of where the root note is (hint: either the A or D-string).
Eb dim7 = Eb(1) Gb(b3) A (b5) C (bb7)
What if we started with Gb?
Notice that Gb dim7 has the same notes as Eb dim7! How about for A?
A (major) = A (1) C#(3) E (5)
A dim7 = A (1) C (b3) Eb(b5) Gb(bb7)
Since there are only 12 notes (C C# D D# E F G G# A A# B) and this chord uses 4, there can only be 3 different diminished 7th chords!
Now, let’s try using these in progressions along with other chords that we’ve already looked at in past posts.
The changes between these chords are small but their uses and sound are very different. Below, I’ll try to give a few examples of how you might them being used…
When we look at the notes that make up these chord it becomes more apparent why this “works”:
In essence, we’ve give the F (IV) some characteristic of the C (I) by using the E (the 3-note) in both chords. You can take this a step further by adding the 6-chord (vi). In this case, this would be Am:
|C |Fmaj7 |Am |Fmaj7 | (repeat)
Another way to look at this is that the E note (the 3-note) is used as a pedal note.
Recall that the minor 7 is a whole step from the root note. When this is used with the 2-chord (ii7), then the “7” is the same as the root note of the 1-chord (I). For example:
So what if we substituted the 6-chord with its 7 (vi7)?
Em7 (vi7) – E G B D
<— standard shape
Now, let’s add this to another example we looked at before: (http://ckyoungmusic.blogspot.com/2009/08/guitar-lesson-basics-part-2-g-c.html)
But instead of using the standard shape shown above. Try this one instead:
I’m not a big fan of 6. I don’t know why… maybe under different circumstances we could have been friends… but sometimes a number just rubs you the wrong way… know what I mean??
I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of advice on how to use chords with 6 in them.
I’ve been told that the 6 chord is use in a lot of Christmas music.
But one of my favorite chords with the 6 note in it is by adding it to the sus4 chord.
Sometimes I like to use this instead of the normal sus4 chord. I like holding this using the 1st finger across to hold all 3 strings (in this case, on 2nd fret) then apply the 2nd and 3rd fingers in front.
Try going back and forth between this chord and the normal root chord (in this case, A major).
Another way to think of this chord might be D/A (that’s “D over A” or “D slash A”) or 2nd inversion D. We’ll get into those type of chords in future posts.
1, 2, 3, 4 … come on baby say you love me (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChrzEJ27M2U)
Alright, so we’re going to talk about the 4 note. The most popular use of this note on guitar is probably the sus4. Here are the common shapes for this chord:
Very similar to the 2 chord, the 3rd is not played so these chords are ambiguous. They’re not major or minor.
The G is the “preparation”. The Dsus4 is the “suspension”. And the D is the “resolve”.
Here, the G is made up of: G-B-D. Dsus4 is: D-G-A. So the G is suspended. (If you use the open-string shape for G and the Dsus4 shown here, the G on the high-E string is suspended. If you use fingers 2, 3, and 4 to hold the G, then you’ll probably find that you don’t need to lift your pinky going from G to Dsus4). And D is: D-F#-A. So the 4th is resolved by the (major) 3rd.
In these diagrams, the 3rd is shown by the white dot which is “covered up” by the 4th.
Another common use of these chords in modern music is going between the sus chord and normal triad. This happens a lot with both sus2 (see part 6.2) and sus4.
To hear some examples, check out:
Black or White (Michael Jackson) — the riff basically goes from sus4 to major then sus2 to major http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLWt7kzaex0
Another way to use the 4 note, of course, is to leave the 3rd in. In that case, we’d be adding the 4.
I find that this chord by itself could be a little strange sounding. But it makes a lot of sense when you play it along with other chords. For instance, try holding the open-string C chord the same way (ie include the G on the high-E, shift this shape up 2 frets). Play the C then Dadd4. C, of course, have the G in it also (and it’s been suspended on the G-string).
Another example of how this chord might be used is in the song Hysteria by Def Leppard (wow… I’m really showing my age with these examples!):
Watch Phil Collen’s hand position (that’s the guitarist on the left for you youngsters) . In this case, I would consider that the riff is made out of the 1, 3, and 4 notes (D, F#, G) and it repeated as a “theme” over D, G and Em (actual progression is: ||D |G |Em G |D :|| )
Okay, yes, there was a lot of use of sus4 in the 80s! Probably too much in fact! (Although, I think these songs “technically” came out in the early 90s)
Let’s try this more recent example of sus2. Here’s Bad Day by Fuel (well, relatively more recent): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LKUVkRAmPs
Again, the play is with the 3rd.
Sometimes, the sus4 chord might be used as a “substitution” for the V chord and the sus2 chord in place of the IV chord. (see M&m post)
There are a few ways guitarists like the play these. Here is one example:
|G |Cadd9 |Dsus4 |G |
For this progression, try holding the G using all 4 fingers. Your ring finger should be holding the B-string on the 3rd fret and your pinky on the high-E strin gon the 3rd fret. These are now holding notes D and G. (see G<–>Cadd9 Thing post)
Cadd9 also has these notes. Then Dsus4 as well.
In this case, the 4 note is not used as a way to “mask” the 3rd (in the D chord), necessarily. But the G is suspended throughout the progression. This is also sometimes called the “pedal point” or “pedal tone”.
For a sus2 example, try:
|E |Bsus4 |Asus2 |E |
2 & 9
Em C D Asus9 (a la “Drive” by Incabus)
The 6th chord is simply the normal triad with an added 6th. For C, this would mean the notes are: C E G A.
The 7th chord is simply the normal triad with an added 7th. Normally, if it just says “7” as in C7, the “7” refers to the minor 7th. So C7 has: C E G Bb. You can also add the 7th to the minor chord. Cm7 would be: C Eb G Bb. The major 7th can also be used but it’s normally written as “maj7“. Cmaj7 would be: C E G B.
The last number we’ll talk about for this lesson is the 9. As you may recall, the 1 and 8 notes are the same note except the 8th is an octave above the 1. The 9th is therefore the same note as the 2nd also an octave above.
For 9, there are 4 chords worth mentioning…
“9” — This is not the same as “add9”. In this case, the minor 7th is implied. So the notes for C9 are: C E G Bb D.
“maj9” — In this case, the major 7th is implied and so Cmaj9 would be: C E G B D.
“min9” — Very similar to the “maj9”, here the minor 7th is implied and so Cmin9 would be: C Eb G Bb D.
There are also 11th and 13th chords but we’ll look at them another time.
In one of the next posts, we’ll look at how these chords might be used.
This also helps when improving (a solo that’s not predefined). Usually in these situations, you already know what the progression will be. By remember what notes are in the chords coming up, you can quickly figure out what notes might sound good over them (vs other notes that won’t sound so good… unless that’s what you’re going for). This becomes even more powerful when you think of this in terms of numbers. For instance, think of the V chord as having notes 2, 5, 7 from the scale. For guitar, this means you just need to know the “starting point” (ie key, root, scale). So you know that if you play one of those notes from the scale, it’ll harmonize with the chord.