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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University Course: Introduction to Music Theory

Larry CoryellIf you are a musician without the time or money to study a music theory course, then here is the goods, delivered right to your computer. I’m missing units 1 and 8, but the rest is intact. Also included are homework assignments to further enhance the learning process. Music theory is a long, but fascinating and very worthwhile road to take. It is in a lot of ways like learning a new language, and is a necessary knowledge to be able to communicate effectively with other musicians.

Make sure that when you click the link, you click the DOWNLOAD bar in blue at the bottom of the page, and not the download at the top of the page – which is just an ad. Enjoy!

Bach Music Notation

Hand drawn music theory by Bach

Introduction to Music Theory Course

Unit 1
Unit 2 – The Elements of Time in Music
Unit 3 – The Elements of Pitch
Unit 4 – Notating Rhythm and Meter
Unit 5 – Introduction to Notating Pitch
Unit 6A –  Movable Tonic
Unit 6B – Key Signatures
Unit 7 – Intervals
Unit 8
Unit 9 – Compound Meter: Triplets
Unit 10 – Minor Keys
Unit 11 – Hyper Meter
Unit 12 – The Modes
Unit 13 – Chords
Unit 14 – Melody
Unit 15 – Texture
Unit 16 – Timbre
Unit 17 – Form

Homework Assignments:

Homework 1
Homework 2
Homework 3
Homework 4
Homework 5
Homework 6
Homework 7

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

Chord Theory

Scale Theory

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Frank Gambale: Modes No More Mystery

The above clip is taken from Frank Gambale’s excellent instructional DVD on guitar modes. You can download it here. The download includes all the booklets and mode diagrams. The video taught me pretty much everything I know about modes and it is absolute essential viewing for any guitarist aspriring to further their knowledge of music theory. Frank Gambale is an Australian Jazz Fusion guitarist and the inventor of the ‘sweep picking’ technique. His understanding of the entire fretboard is second to none and he is undoubtedly one of the most talented guitarists on the map. The video covers modal chord progressions, what they are and how to construct them, and also of course the guitar modes them self. Frank Gambale also gives great examples of how each of the modes sound in the key of C so you can hear the differences between them all.

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

Chord Theory

Scale Theory

General Music Theory

Introduction to Music Theory University Course

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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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