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.
Continue reading

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.)

Continue reading

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

If you liked this post, be sure to subscribe!


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

If you liked this post, be sure to subscribe!

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.

Continue reading

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

If you liked this post, be sure to subscribe!

The Chord Guide: Pt III – Chord Progressions

bobdylan1-e1451272201254.jpgChord progressions are the canvas on which musicians paint their masterpieces, and it’s a canvas which is a piece of art in itself. A chord progression can be simple and catchy, or it can be technical and complex, it can stay in one key or it can change like the seasons. Either way, a chord progression is what drives the song, as it literally shapes the music that accompanies it. All of the songwriting giants, such as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan, to name a few, have/had a tremendous knowledge of the art of the chord progression. We’re not going to promise you tremendous knowledge, but will offer you a good head start in the way of making your own music – in an easily digestible chunk to boot.

This guide is meant to inject an interest in songwriting in new and old guitarists alike, it is our hope that at some point after reading this you will pick up your old guitar, blow off the dust, and join us in playing music. Music is the universal language of the human soul, after all; it speaks more volumes about us than a library full of books ever could, so learning to communicate in this language is a wonderful ability to have. Read on, assimilate everything and start making your own music! Play for yourself, and others will listen, not the other way around – music is a journey, a personal voyage.

Continue reading

Guitar Modes: Melodic Minor Scale

Music Theory

This is a continuation from my previous guide: Modes of the Major Scale Explained!

The main difference between the major scale and the melodic minor is its flat 3rd as opposed to the major scales regular third. Therefore the seven modes of the melodic minor scale share only one note difference to the modes of the major scale. This scale is used extensively in jazz!

The seven modes of the melodic minor scale are as follows:

  1. The Melodic Minor (similar to ionian mode, but with a flattened 3rd)
    1 2 b3 4 5 6 7
  2. Dorian b2 (similar to dorian mode, but with a flattened 2nd)
    1 b2 b3 4 5 6 b7
  3. Lydian Augmented (similar to lydian mode, but with a raised 5th)
    1 2 3 #4 #5 6 7
  4. Lydian Dominant: (Lydian b7) (similar to lydian mode, but with a flattened 7th)
    1 2 3 #4 5 6 b7
  5. Mixolydian b6 (similar to mixolydian mode, but with a flattened 6th)
    1 2 3 4 5 b6 b7
  6. Locrian #2 (Aeolian b5) (similar to the locrian mode, but with a raised 2nd)
    1 2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
  7. Altered (Super Locrian) (similar to the locrian mode, but with a flattened 4th)
    1 b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 b7

You construct these modes in the exact same way as you construct the modes of the major scale, you simply change the root note and you have different sounding mode. i made a diagram to illustrate this (again, in C – click image to make it bigger!):

Music Theory

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

Chord Theory

Scale Theory

General Music Theory

If you liked this post, be sure to subscribe!

Modes of the Major Scale Explained!

Music Theory

A lot of guitarists have trouble coming to understand the modes of the major scale, I know it took me many moons to come to grips with it, but once I finally unravelled its mysteries, I realised how simple it really is. The word mode sounds so ambiguous and lame, I prefer to use the word mood, as this word accurately describes what modes really are. Now, describing modes is easy, but using them musically is a bit trickier, however, knowing what they are is the first step. First of all, before you even read this, make sure you know how to play the major scale. It isn’t called the mother of all music theory for nothing. At the very end of this article is a quick little primer on the major scale that might be of some help. Also, for convenience sake, I will be referring to the C major scale, as it is the only major scale that contains no sharps or flats. Also, remember that the chromatic scale is the scale which contains every single note, the word chromatic coming from the word chroma (meaning colour), so the chromatic scale contains every single colour. Scales are simply notes, or colours taken from the chromatic scale, and added to a musical palette. There are literally hundreds of scales, and musicians like Allan Holdsworth have even made up their own. But I am getting off track here. Now before you begin, make sure you know the major scale! I have written a guide on the major scale which you can use as a resource.

This guide is in no way trying to be thorough or extensive, instead I am explaining the concept of modes in its simplest and rawest form. Because, after all, it is very simple, and the last thing I want to do is scare you off with encyclopedic jargon and walls of text. Alright, here we go..!

There are 7 modes (moods) to the major scale, in order they are:

  1. Ionian (the major scale)
  2. Dorian (minor bluesy sounding mode, characteristic note is the maj 6th)
  3. Phrygian (minor spanish sounding mode, characteristic note is the flat 2nd)
  4. Lydian (major sounding mode, characteristic note is the augmented 4th)
  5. Mixylodian (major bluesy sounding mode, characteristic note is the flat 7th)
  6. Aeolian (the (natural) minor scale – flat 3rd, flat 6th, flat 7th)
  7. Locrian (very unstable sounding mode, it’s characteristic notes are the flat 2nd and flat 5th)

A cheesy mnemonic to help you remember the order is:

I Don’t Particularly Like Modes A Lot

Let’s take a look at the C major scale (Ionian), the notes in this scale are CDEFGABC, if we play the C major scale and instead of focusing the tonality on C (the root note) we focus on the second note of the scale (D) then we have a completely different sounding scale – the D Dorian scale – which looks like this: DEFGABCD, we are still playing the same notes of the C major scale but we are getting a completely different sound by concentrating on the D as the root note instead of the C. This is how modes are constructed; if we concentrate on the 3rd note of the C major scale (E) then we have an E Phrygian scale – EFGABCDE – and so on… in this sense it’s best to think of the modes as an anagram of the major scale (change the letters around and the word has a completely different meaning, in this case, change the root note around and the sound/mood changes radically) A good analogy to describe how modes work can be found in conversation, by emphasizing certain words in a sentence the meaning behind the sentence is changed. The best example of this i can think of is found in an episode of Seinfeld ‘The Mom And Pop Store’:

  • ELAINE: Well, I talked to Tim Whatley…
  • JERRY: Yeah…
  • ELAINE: And I asked him, “Should Jerry bring anything?”
  • JERRY: So…?
  • ELAINE: Mmmm…and he said, “Why would Jerry bring anything?”
  • JERRY: Alright, but let me ask you this question.
  • ELAINE: What?
  • JERRY: Which word did he emphasize? Did he say, “Why would Jerry bring anything?” or, “Why would Jerry bring anything?” Did he emphasize “Jerry” or “bring?”
  • ELAINE: I think he emphasized “would.”

I know this sounds confusing, so i made some diagrams to make the learning process a whole lot easier (VISUALISATION IS KEY!)

Modes of the C Major Scale

modesofcmajorscale

‘Colours’ of the C Major ‘Palette’

cmajorscaleallmodes

Now putting modes into practice is a different beast altogether, it is a tool used by jazz guitarists mainly to colour their solos based on the chord progression. For example, in a typical jazz chord progression of II V I in the key of C major the chord progression would be Dm7 G7 Cmaj7.

Seeing as how the key of the progression is C major a guitarist could choose to simply play the C major scale (C Ionian Mode) over the entire progression, but if you decide to emphasis the D note instead of the C note whilst the Dm7 chord is playing and the G note while the G7 chord is playing and finally the C note while the Cmaj7 chord is playing, you would be playing the exact same C major scale throughout but you will be using three different modes of the same scale (D Dorian, G Mixolydian and C Ionian) over their respective chords in the progression.

This would mean that you have endless soloing moods to tap into, both major and minor by using the same scale. Here’s a good video to showcase an excellent (Australian!) guitarist using modes of the C major scale to create different moods.

Notice how Frank Gambale is playing the C major throughout the song, but by emphasizing different notes of the scale he creates different moods? The intro sounds triumphant (Lydian), the chorus is very major sounding (Ionian), and the solo is very minor and bluesy (Dorian)!

Continue reading