Friday, 18 February 2011

Simple Chord and Scale Relationships

Today I thought I’d start look at something aimed at (sort of) beginners. One of the things I wish I’d had when I’d started learning was a clear cut way of understanding chord and scale relationships. It always seems to be something you learn “down the track”, but I firmly believe it is something you should be looking at early ion your learning, so here goes.

I’m going to be using the C Major scale for this, firstly because the Major scale is the main point of reference for all other scales and modes, and secondly because there are no sharps or flats to worry about in the key of C.

Have a look at this basic C Major scale shape:

Now you can probably already see the shape of an open position C Major chord in that pattern, but to give us all the notes we'll need to form the other open position chords in the key of C Major, we're going to need to expand it to cover all six strings. 

Something like this :

So that now we've covered every note in the key of C over six strings in the open position we can start to build the corresponding chords. Given that the formula for a Major chord is 1-3-5, we can see that a C Major chord should contain the notes C (1) E (3) and G (5), and we know this is a Major chord because the interval between the 1 and 3 is 2 whole tones. Now if we move on to the next note, D, and apply the same formula within that scale we should end up with D (the first note) F (the 3rd note from D) and A (the 5th note from D). Now, since the interval from D to F is 1 1/2 tones, this is a minor chord. That difference in the intervals between the first and third notes tells us straight away whether a chord is Major or minor.

Remember - Major = 2 whole tones 
                   minor = 1 1/2 tones

Now that you can see the general point I'm trying to make, go ahead and construct the chords for the rest of the scale. Naturally, you're going to end up with the same chord shapes you already know, but by actually reasoning them out you'll be developing a better understanding of why this fingering makes an A minor or that fingering makes G Major, and when you start moving further up the guitar neck that understanding will help you in many ways, such as finding a chord shape on another area of the neck or choosing an alternate voicing for a chord.

Major Scale Intervals (Thirds) on the Guitar

Another quick lesson for today. This one should help you work on your alternate picking as well as your ear. It uses a pattern of broken thirds through the A Major scale, so as well as bouncing between strings it should outline the tonal differences between the major and minor thirds.

As you can see, it’s using the first shape of the extended A Major scale I talked about last time. After you get the hang of this one, try applying it to all the other A Major scale shapes. For that matter, take the concept and apply it to any scale shape you know. It should help, again, to bring out the tonal characteristics of the scale or mode more clearly.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Extended Major Scales

Unlike a lot of instruments, guitar offers you a number of choices as to how and where you can play a given musical passage. This may seem a little daunting at first, but with a little practice you can comfortably navigate the guitar neck in any key or scale. Here's a simple set of patterns to help you stretch a major scale (in this case, A Major) from the 1st to 17th frets starting from the 6th string root note and covering all six strings.

Start off moving down the neck from the root:

Next use the "standard" Major scale shape :

Followed by the 3-note-per-string pattern :

And finally a pattern that shifts laterally rather than remaining static :


And there you have it. Starting on the 5th fret of the 6th string and branching out, you have access to the A Major scale literally all over the guitar neck.
Have fun!