Song Lesson: The Girl From Ipanema

The Girl From Ipanema is a classic bossa nova (samba/jazz) recording from 1962, it was originally written by Antônio Carlos Jobim, while the lyrics were written by two other dudes. In 1964 the Brazillian guitarist João Gilberto – one of the pioneers of the bossa nova style – collaborated with his wife Astrid Gilberto, and jazz saxophonist Stan Getz on an album called Getz/Gilberto, which won a grammy in 1965, and is now considered to be one of the best selling jazz albums of all time. The Girl From Ipanema is enormously popular and has long been considered by many musicians to be a jazz standard – it should be in everyone’s repertoire, and now you can add it to your own bag of tricks. If you desire, you may download a print friendly word document version of this lesson.

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Jazz Guitar – Bebop Scales

jazz guitar scales

Bebop scales are certainly very valuable scales to add to your repertoire, especially if jazz is your bag. If you already know how to play the major scale and all of it’s modes, then you will find playing bebop scales a breeze. The reason being, these scales are essentially the same as the major scale’s modes, with the addition of an extra passing note in each of them. There are also bebop scales derived from the modes of the melodic minor, and the modes of the harmonic minor scale (guide on those coming soon!), but for the purpose of this guide I will only be dealing with the three most used bebop scales, and all three originate from the major scale.

Above is a terrific example of the dominant bebop scale (key of Bb) being played. Wes Montgomery is on fire as always, listen and take note! The bebop scales are frequently used in jazz, and deservedly got their name from their extensive use in the Bebop era (1940s-60s) by such jazz musicians as Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie, to name a few. Each scale presented is based on a mode of the major scale, with the addition of an extra passing note which gives it it’s characteristic chromatic run – you always hear the jazz giants flowing through their scales like this.

The bebop scale’s intention was to open up the major scale and give it more of a jazz flavour, and also to introduce a new ‘technique’ for playing over chord changes. Thanks to the added passing tone, if you begin the scale on the root chord tone (1) of the chord playing, and on the downbeat, all other chord tones (3, 5, 7) will also fall on downbeats, while the remaining tones in the scale will occur on the upbeat. This, of course, is assuming the scale is played either ascending or descending, without skipping an interval. These sort of scale runs, peppered occasionally with sequencing, are very common techniques in the world of jazz, as they colour the chords which are being played. Another advantage of the bebop scales is the additional note allows more soloing opportunities, which make it playable over more chords, thus eliminating the need to change scales as frequently as you would with the original major scale modes.

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Mother of All Music Theory – The Major Scale

john scofieldI’m not sure why I took so long to write a guide on the major scale, considering it’s easily the most important bit of music theory that you can learn, and knowing it is essential in order to learn other scales and chord theory. I even wrote my guide on modes of the major scale first! But don’t fret, it’s finally here – a guide to the major scale, the mother of all scales. It’s the scale which all other scales are compared to, and from where chords and their progressions derive from; it literally gives birth to music theory. The major scale is the first of the diatonic scales, which is just a fancy word for a seven-note octave repeating scale, which consists of five whole steps and two half steps between each octave. Don’t understand any of that? Don’t worry, you will very soon.
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Natural, Harmonic and Melodic Minor Scales

wes montgomeryThis post we’re going to be discussing three minor scales: the Natural Minor scale (Aeolian mode), the Harmonic Minor Scale, and the Melodic Minor Scale.

As you probably know already from my guide on the Modes of the Major Scale, the 6th mode of the major scale is always the natural minor scale, or the Aeolian mode. In the Key of C major, the Aeolian mode is A minor; therefore A minor is the relative minor of C major: every major chord has a relative minor. When you play an A Aeolian as part of the C major scale then they both share the same notes; for example, the pattern for the major scale is: (W = whole step – 2 frets), H = half step – 1 fret)

W – W – H – W – W – W – H
1    2    3    4     5    6    7

Which in C would = C D E F G A B (then back to C again, but at a higher octave.)

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Guide to Barre Chords

Barre ChordsBarre chords are the most valuable weapon to have in any guitarists arsenal. This is because they are moveable, which means you only have to learn a few positions and you can move them around the entire fretboard. Of course, it is absolutely essential that you know the notes on all the strings, and at the very least, the notes on the E, A and D strings. This is an excellent guide on learning your notes. Be sure to read it first before you tackle barre chords. First of all know the notes of the open strings: from the 6th string (thickest string to the 1st string (thinnest string) they are: E A D G B E, also know that the notes repeat themselves at the 12th fret, so the notes on the 12 fret are also E A D G B E. Next know that the order of string notes from the open E (on both the 1st and 6 string) is E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E etc. There are sharps between every note except E and F and B and C. Also know the notes on the A string: A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# A etc. Also note the fret markings on the guitar fretboard, these are here to help you visualise the note positions. There’s usually a marking on the 3rd fret, 5th fret, 7th fret, 9th fret and two markings on the 12th fret. Remember that for the E strings, the 3rd fret is always G, the 5th fret is always A, the 7th fret is always B, the 9th fret is always C# and the 12th fret is always E. Sometimes there is a fret marking on the first fret, this would be F on the E strings.

There are three main barre chord positions, the E position, the A position and the D position, these are all related to their respective open chords:

Chord Chart

The O’s represent open notes while the X’s are notes you don’t play. Think of the nut as being a permanent barre. This is why if you were to move these ‘open’ chords up a fret you would need to make an artificial nut by barring strings with your finger. If you play the E open chord up one fret, then you would need to barre all the strings on the 1st fret, seeing as how this is an E barre chord position, the root rests on the E string, making the chord an F barre chord.

Here are all the barre chords for the most common and useful chords, each is shown in their E form, A form and D form. Learn them all, and use them well. Along with each chord type I will also display the formula used in creating them. Every major and minor chord are created out of taking three notes (called a triad) from the major scale, and isolating those notes to create a chord. The two main triads are the major triad (1-3-5) and the minor triad (1-b3-5). 7th chords simply add a 7th note to these triads, so a major 7 becomes 1-3-5-7, while a minor 7 becomes 1-b3-5-7.

If you like, you can download a print friendly word document version of this post.

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Guide to Open Chords

george harrisonMany musicians consider open chords to be nothing more than an initial learning hurdle for beginning guitarists. Often when a new guitarist has learnt how to finger and strum the basic open chords, they will quickly dump them for the more mobile barre chords. While barre chords sure are cool, they also lack the certain chimey quality that open chords produce, open chords also feel a lot more free compared to barre chords, which are quite dense sounding. Perhaps the main reason why open chords are quickly discarded, is that most guitarists only know at most 10 of them. Usually these are E, Em, maybe F, G, A, Am, C, D and Dm. That doesn’t really open a lot of musical doors, where is the Fm, Gm, Cm, and all of the Bs!? What about the dominant 7ths, minor 7ths and major 7ths? Well, don’t fret! Here is the definitive open chord guide, which accepts and welcomes all of the neglected open chords! If you like, you can download a print friendly word document version of this post.

Practicing these chords will not only give you a massive edge over the average guitarist who only knows 5-10 open chords, it will also give you a much larger tonal range to tap into, and it will increase your finger dexterity and strumming ability! If you use these open chords to tackle my guide on chord progressions, then you will have the advantage of remembering the progressions faster than if you played barre chords. This is because all the open chords are closely clustered together, the changes are faster and easier, therefore your muscle memory for the progressions develops at a faster rate.

Before I show you the chords, I will show you a chart which details the skeleton of each of the chords. With this simple little chart, you will have the power to construct your own chords, a lot of these open chords I actually constructed myself by using QwikChord as I couldn’t find some of these open chords anywhere on the net, at least not accurate ones. It’s a good exercise to try and construct your own chords from scratch, give it a shot!

OPEN CHORDS

Chort Type Chord Formula
Major Triad 1-3-5
Minor Triad 1-b3-5
Major 7 1-3-5-7
Minor 7 1-b3-5-b7
Dominant 7 1-3-5-b7

Chord Chart

Chord Chart

Be sure to check out the other guitar guides scattered throughout the site!

Chord Theory

Scale Theory

General Music Theory

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