July 31, 2011

The Major Scale - The Base of it All

It would help greatly if you memorized the finger positions for the major scale. Know that a sharp(#) makes a note higher while a flat(b) makes a note lower. 

Don't forget: 
semitone/half note - one fret
whole tone - two frets

If you memorized the major scale shape, you would know it has seven - excluding the octave -  finger positions (or degrees, if you're fancy). From now on, we will refer to these positions as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Easy enough?

Since most scales are variations of the major scale, we must make amends. For example, the finger positions for the Natural Minor scale are 1, 2, 3b, 4, 5, 6b, 7b. Try to remember that in this format, a flat(b) means you go a fret lower and a sharp(#) means you go a fret higher.

C Major Scale                   C Natural Minor Scale
  C  D   E   F  G   A   B  C     C  D   D#  F  G   G#  A#  C
  1  2   3   4  5   6   7  8     1  2   3b  4  5   6b  7b  8

The Natural Minor Scale is a base for many other minor scales such as:

Harmonic Minor Scale
1 2 3b 4 5 6b 7 8
1  2   3b 4  5   6b 7  8
Melodic Minor 
1 2 3b 4 5 6 7   
1  2   3b 4  5   6  7  8
Familiarize these shapes and you will go far.

July 29, 2011

Whole Tones and Introduction to Scales

A whole tone is made up of two semitones. If you remember from the last lesson, a semitone is the interval between two adjacent notes, which is one fret on guitar. A whole tone, however, is the interval between two semitones, which is two frets. A whole tone can be achieved if one plays a note followed by another note that is two frets higher or lower than the first. Let's use the C note as an example.

A   A#   B   C   C#   D   D#   E   F   F#   G   G#  
    W    H   *   H    W                     

* - Starting note
W - whole tone
H - Half tone/semitone

Semitones of the C note would be C to C# (ascending) or C to B/Cb (descending) while whole tones of C would be C to D (ascending) or C to Bb/A# (descending). If we tried to find the whole tones of G#, they would be Gb/F# and A#/Bb. Different patterns of whole and semi tones create scales. 

Find the C note and play this pattern: W W H W W W H 
You start by playing the C note. For each W, move up two frets. For each H, move up one fret. It could look something like this:

e|---------------------|           e|-----------------|
B|---------------------|           B|-----------------|
G|---------------------| or maybe  G|-------------4-5-|
D|---------------------|           D|-------3-5-7-----|
A|-3-5-7-8-10-12-14-15-|           A|-3-5-7-----------|
E|---------------------|           E|-----------------|

If it sounded like the very familiar DoReMiFaSoLaTiDo scale, you just played the C Major Scale. Each scale is based off of the major scale. Memorize these scale shapes:

   *W W H W W W H*   *W W H W W W H*

   *W W H W W W H*   *W W H W W W H*

If you memorize these fingering shapes, you can play this anywhere on the neck and it will be a major scale. Just apply the same pattern to a different starting fret.

July 27, 2011

Semitones and the Chromatic Scale

Let's say someone asked you to play an F# (F-sharp) note on the guitar. Where would you begin? You know that the guitar strings are tuned to EADGBe, which is standard tuning, but do you know the chromatic scale?

The Chromatic Scale is, what I call, the alphabet of music. It is a scale that consists of 12 notes, each a semitone apart. A semitone, also known as a half step, is the distance of one note to the next adjacent note. Semitones are always one note and one fret apart. An example of a semitone would be:
e|-----|       e|-----|              e|-------|
B|-----|       B|-----|              B|-----9-|
G|-----| and   G|-----|  as well as  G|-12----|
D|-----|       D|-----|              D|-------|
A|-----|       A|-2-1-|              A|-------|
E|-0-1-|       E|-----|              E|-------|

When it comes to tabs - to achieve a semitone, you literally add or subtract 1 to whatever note you are fretting. BUT NOT ALWAYS. As you can see in the third example, G|12 and B|9 are semitones but they are on different strings. However, if you tried adding one to the G|12 (12+1=13) you would notice that G|13 is the same note as B|9. 

          e|-------|                         e|--------|
          B|-----9-|                         B|--------|
playing   G|-12----| is the same as playing  G|-12--13-|
          D|-------|                         D|--------|
          A|-------|                         A|--------|
          E|-------|                         E|--------|

Confused? This is where the chromatic scale comes in.

In western music, there are 12 musical pitches. They are:
A   A#   B   C   C#   D   D#   E   F   F#   G   G# 


A   Ab   G   Gb   F   E   Eb   D   Db   C   B   Bb 

# means sharp

b means flat 

Whenever one is ascending, sharps are mentioned and whenever one is descending, flats are mentioned.

A   A#   B   C   C#   D   D#   E   F   F#   G   G#             
    Bb   Cb      Db       Eb   Fb      Gb       Ab
Note: If they are in the same column, they are the same note on guitar.                                                          ================================================================
Basically, this scale cycles between every note. Now lets try to find that F# we where looking for earlier.
If you have memorized standard tuning by now, you'd know that the guitar has two E-strings. What comes after E...? F does. Now what's after F on the chromatic scale...? F#. It should be on the second fret of any E-string.

Now find F# on the A-string. If you did it right, it should have been the 9th fret. You can literally memorize the order of the notes in the chromatic scale to find any note you need.

Here's a great chromatic scale exercise to build finger strength, speed, and dexterity. Also a great way to warm up.


It's important to use all of your fingers (thumbs don't count). Start each string with the index finger and end each string with the little finger. Ascend, descend, repeat. If you are new, take this very slowly and be careful not to push yourself too hard. Focus on sounding the note clearly before going for speed. If you are more experienced, focus on speed and clearly articulate each note.

Try to practice at least 15 minutes everyday.

July 25, 2011

How to read Tablature

I think tablature, also known as tabs, are simple and easy to read. It is a method of writing music that I prefer over sheet music. It consists of letters and numbers, kind of like the board game Battleship: you see a letter, go to the fret and sink that note! Each letter represents a string and each number represents a fret (you know, those little perpendicular lines on the guitar neck). The order of strings from the lowest to highest in standard tuning would be EADGBe. Note that by "lowest" I mean the lowest in pitch and by "highest" I mean the highest in pitch. If you put your guitar on your lap with the strings facing the ceiling, it should look something like this:

You read tabs from left to right. Each column you see is like a 
word - it may have many notes or few notes but no matter what you 
say, it's still just one word. If you see more than one number in 
a column, you play them all at the same time. 
Look at your A-string and put your middle finger on the second 
fret. A|2
Now keep your middle finger there and put your ring finger on the 
second fret of the D-string. D|2 
Now strum your guitar. All of the strings. 
^^ If you did it right, you have just played this Em chord. I'll 
explain chords another day.
Try playing this. 
If it sounded anything like DoReMiFaSoLaTiDo, you have just played
a major scale. This scale in particular is the G Major Scale. 
We'll go in-depth with scales another day. Try to practice this 
scale forward and backward, if you're up for the challenge. When 
you become adept at reading tabs, you'll be able to write your own
music! If you are new and become easily frustrated, take a deep 
breath, relax, and try again another time. Remember that the human
body was not designed to play guitar. Take it slow and after much
patience and practice, you will improve.

Don't forget to have fun!


Let this be a warning to you: I DO NOT and WILL NOT go into anything involving sheet music. That includes: staffs, clefs, and ledger lines; note duration; rest duration; measures and time signatures; dots and ties; nor key signatures. I have a strong animosity toward sheet music. However, I will go into scales, scale shapes and chords, as well as alternate tunings and guitar exercises. Remember, I am not a teacher. I have been playing guitar for about five or six years but I will be relearning at the same pace you are learning. I encourage you to not do exactly as I do. I'm simply acting as a guide.

I don't think art should be bounded by theories; I do believe that knowledge of these theories are important in becoming a more open minded musician. Just remember to have fun.

I plan on posting lessons at least three days a week, maybe every other day so don't forget to stop by every now and then. I will try to keep the lessons as short and concise as possible and I will include tabs, exercises, and riffs to help you further explore the lessons on your own.

Now that everything has been said, let's get started!