Category Archives: Music Theory
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.
- Notes next to each other = 1/2 step (H), two 1/2 = whole
- On the guitar, 1 fret = 1/2 step
- To play a major scale, start at a note then play W-W-H-W-W-W-H to get back to the same note on octave away
- If you start a scale on a different note, you’ll get different number of sharps and flats
- Following number of sharps and flats is also called the circle of fifths
- Using the same pattern but starting at a different position will give you another scale. By starting at the 6th note, you’ll get the minor scale pattern.
- Major scales and minor scales that have the same notes are “relative” to each other.
1 -> 5 = W + W + H + W = 3 1/2 steps
How about the minor scale?
1 -> 5 = W + H + W + W = 3 1/2 steps
For now, let’s just look at the notes 1, 3 and 5. The 1 note is, of course, the root. As mentioned in the previous lesson, the 5th is the same between the two scales. But the 3rd is different. The “major 3rd” is 2 steps away from 1 while the “minor 3rd” is 1 1/2 step away from the 1.
This little 1/2 step makes a big difference in sound.
Let’s take a look some chords and see how this works out.
All the basic chords from the earlier lessons are “triad” meaning that they are made of 3 notes. To form a triad, simply start at a note (1), skip a note, take the next note (3), skip another note, then take the next one after that (5).
When you do this with the C on the C Major Scale (C D E F G A B C), you get: C-E-G. This picture shows where these notes are played when you play a C (open string).
How about when we do this for A minor? The notes to Am are: A-C-E. But the A major scale is: A B C# D E F# G# A.
But what if we looked at the notes from the A minor scale? Then we have: A B C D E F G A.
So… when you take the 1, 3, and 5 notes from the major scale, you get the major chord. When you take the 1, 3, 5 notes from the minor scale, you get the minor chord.
And that’s actually what is meant by “major” chord and “minor” chord. The “major” and “minor” refers to which 3rd you’re taking from. The major scale or minor scale.
In other words, in C major (chord), the “major” refers to the “major 3rd”. And in A minor (chord), the “minor” refers to the the “minor 3rd”.
Sometimes people will use numbers purely relative to the major scale. In this method, a minus sign (-) is used to mean “flat” or “diminished” and a plus sign (+) might be used to mean “sharp” or “augment”.
So a major chord might be written as: 1 3 5. While a minor chord might be written as: 1 -3 5.
Yet another way to look at this is:
major 3rd is 2 steps from root
minor 3rd is 1 1/2 steps from root
Specifically for guitarists, once you’ve learned how to hold the chords, you may want to review the notes chart (see Part 1) and try to remember what notes are being held on each string.
TIP :- For each shape, start by memorizing where the root note is. For instance: (all examples refer to the open string chords from Guitar Basics lessons)
E E G# B low-E, D, high-E
A A C# E A, G
D D F# A D, B
G G B D low-E, G, high-E
C C E G A, B
Am A C E A, G
Em E G B low-E, D, high-E
Dm D F A D, B
So far, we’ve talked about the major scale which has a W-W-H-W-W-W-H pattern.
You can imagine that you can take this pattern and start in a different position.
So let’s try that with the C (Major) Scale:
W W H W W W H
What if we started this on A instead?
In other words, the C Major Scale is “related” to the “A Minor Scale”.
This chart is sometimes called the “Circle of Fifths“. Because as you go clockwise, the next note is the 5th of the previous one.
But what if we looked at the C Major Scale vs C Minor Scale?
major: C D E F G A B C
Not only can you build another scale using the same pattern starting at a different position. But when you look at the patterns side-by-side starting with the same note, you’ll notice that some notes from the two scales are the same while others are different.
In this case, the major and minor scales differ on the 3rd, 6th, and the 7th notes.
This will make more sense when we go back and look at chords.
Let’s look at what this might look like for the G Major Scale:
Let’s do it again for the F Major Scale:
When we follow this pattern starting with F, we get Bb. So This scale has 1 flat (b).
If we do this for all the notes, you’ll notice that each note will result in a different number of sharps and flats.
Here, we’ve put C in the middle. As you move down from C, the number of sharps increase. And as you move up from C, the number of flats increase.
This is also known as “circle of fifths“.
The way that I memorize it is this…
As I always tell my students, if you don’t remember anything else, remember this: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole half (WWHWWWWH)!
Tal and I got a new camcorder. We were trying it out and I started to do a video for music theory.
Tal kept stopping me in the middle of my intro. He said I was babbling and just going on and on. 😛
Well… yes, I kind of was. But…
Music theory really is important to understand if you want to take your playing to the next level. I think this is true of any instrument. But particularly for guitar because so much of what you’d do on the fretboard is based on theory.
Why Music Theory Is Boring
I think people get turned of by music theory because, first, it has the word “theory” in it which conjures up images of nerdy scientists in white suits, thick glasses, pocket protectors, and an embarrassingly obvious lack of social skills. And why would theory be important?! I don’t want to learn how to play “in theory”… I want to play actually!
It seems so “brainly” and boring. All the numbers and math don’t feel like art. (How do you do math on letters anyway?!)
Most (guitar) players learn and memorize shapes and patterns which derives from theory but don’t require it. Sometimes we call this the “box” method. And then later, they’ll learn other techniques to think outside “the box”.
And they might not see how it can help them. Especially for players who have done pretty well without it. You can certainly play songs and riffs without ever learning any theory. And playing skill has nothing to do with theory.
Why Music Theory Is Good To Know
But theory can be your loyal and faithful friend. The friend that you can always count on… who will never leave you… who will be there long after your band-mates have left you for a “better” gig and your drummer steals your girlfriend because while you were busy practicing, they were going behind your back and hooking up at some sleazy joint downtown that you wouldn’t want to be caught dead in and the whole reason why you spent all those nights practicing instead of being with her was because your no-talent, drama-queen of a lead singer can’t sing the damn song in the key you learned it in and now you got to transpose the whole thing and learn it all over again.
If this applies to you, here are some reasons why you might want to learn a little bit of theory. This list will make more sense to guitarists.
- Why do chord shapes look the way they do? Can I play chords using other shapes? Why are there different ways (positions) to hold the same chord?
- Why do scale shapes look the way they do? Are there other ways to play scales?
- If I want to improvise on a song, how do I know what notes to play or what scale to use?
- Why do some chords seem to always go together?
- If I want to write a song, how do I know what chords would sound good together?
- What is transposing? How can I play a song in a different key (quickly)?
- What do the numbers in chords mean?
If you get a good handle on these, you’ll be able to spend more time with your girlfriend (or boyfriend or whatever).
So stay tuned! We’ll be posting lessons on music theory soon! (As soon as we figure out how to use the camcorder)