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Learning Arpeggios- What are arpeggios and how should I use them? April 29, 2007

Posted by rgordon83 in Arpeggios, Chords, Guitar Lessons, Guitar Tabs, Music Theory, Notes, Technique, Tips.
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Chances are 9 out of 10 (if not 10 out of 10) of your favorite guitar tunes have arpeggios in them. So what is an arpeggio? Simple. An arpeggio is chord notes played in succession instead of simultaneously. So if someone says to arpeggiate an Am chord what they mean is play it one note at a time, instead of strumming all the notes at once. Here is an example:

Am arpeggio

Using arpeggios in your solo is a great way to create interesting melodies and outline the chord changes you are playing over. A great way to do this is to use the arpeggio of the chords you are playing over to help indicate the chord changes and great nice melodies on guitar. Here is an example of using the arpeggios of the chord you are soloing over:

arpeggios over C and F chord

Having an arsenal of arpeggios at your fingertips will greatly improve your soloing technique and help you become a better player. Here are two great exercises to practice to help you learn arpeggios and improve your speed and technique. The trick to this exercise is to make sure you say the same of each arpeggio as you play it so you really learn their names. Also make you are alternate picking and using a metronome (Korg MA-30 Digital Metronome)! And lastly, make sure you are not going too fast for yourself. Always start slow.

The first exercise is to go through the C major scale and arpeggiate all the triad of the C major scale. First we will go up the strings in one position, then we will stay on the same strings and go up the neck:

(Quarter notes)
3 note arpeggio exercise in C diatonic scale

second part of exercise with arpeggios in c diatonic
Then play the same thing with 7 chord arpeggios

7th chord arpegio exercise in C diatonic
Then play triads on the A and D strings going up the neck and back down:
2 string arpeggio exercise in C diatonic

Now see if you can play the same thing but play 7th chord arpeggios. If you don’t remember how to make a 7th chord see the lesson on building 7th chords. If you go up the neck in a similar way as this you will need to use three strings to play the 7th note. I’ll get you started by showing you the Cmaj7 arpeggio:
See if you can figure out the rest ony your own going up the neck and starting each arpeggio from the A string. If you have questions post them to the comments!
After you master this in C you should play it in all other keys. That way you will know all the standard arpeggios in all keys and you will be able to apply them all to your guitar lines. Good luck!


Guitar Chord Finder April 26, 2007

Posted by rgordon83 in Chords, Music Theory, Notes.
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Here is a great resource for all guitar players. Not sure what chord you are playing? Well just place fingering on this virtual fretboard and it will tell you all the possible names for the chord you are playing. You can also hit the play button to hear the chord. This is a really great guitar chord tool. Check it out!

Creating tension and resolution—the V7 to I chord change April 17, 2007

Posted by rgordon83 in Chords, Guitar Lessons, Harmony, Intervals, Music Theory.
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(Before you read this lesson you should make sure you understand Diatonic Harmony and Buliding 7th chords)
Good composition is about creating music that has movement. Music that has peaks and valleys. If your chord progressions don’t go anywhere, they are just boring. The best way to create music with strong movement is to create tension and resolution in your compositions. How do you do that? Well the easiest and most common way is with V to I (“Five to One”) chord changes.

The V I change is great b/c the V chord create tension and the notes in the V chord push your ear to the I chord. So when you play the I chord your ear hears resolution. But you can even increase that tension and resolution if you play a V7 to I chord change. The V7 is also called the dominant 7 chord. Lets see why this change creates such great tension and resolution.

Lets start by taking a look at the notes of the I chord in the key of C major:
C major has the notes C, E, and G.
C major guitar chord

Now lets take a look at the V7 chord in the key of C, which is G7. G7 has the notes G, B, D, and F

G7 guitar chord
Lets compare the notes of those 2 chords to each other:
V7 to I guitar chord resolution

The blue lines indicate that the notes G to C and D to G are a perfect 4th or a perfect 5th apart (see the lesson on intervals if you don’t know what this means). And the strongest sense of movement occurs when two notes are a perfect 4th or perfect with apart. So G to C is a perfect forth as is D to G. C to G is a perfect 5th apart as is G to D.

The red line indicates that B and C are a half Step apart and E and F are a half step apart. Notes that are a half step apart lead your ear to the note a half step up or a half step down. The fact that the B note in the G chord is a half step away from the C note in the C chord, the F note in the G chord is a half-step away from the E note in the C chord, and the fact that there are two perfect fourth intervals (the G note of the G chord to the C of the C chord and the D of the G chord to the G of the C chord) all make for a wonderful sense of movement, contrast, and resolution.

Try playing G to C slowly and hear how nicely it resolves. Then they playing G7 to C and notice how there is a little more tension. You can apply this V7 to I chord change to any key. Add it to your compositions to give them come character!

As usual, if you have any questions please post them to the comments!

Chord Extensions-Building 7th Chords April 8, 2007

Posted by rgordon83 in Beginner, Chords, Guitar Lessons, Music Theory.
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Now that you know how to build a chord and use it in a diatonic progressions (if you don’t, see diatonic harmony) we can take a look at making more complex harmonies and interesting sounding chords by using 7th chords.

A 7th chord is called an “extension” b/c you are adding additional notes to the 1-3-5 notes that compose a common triad. As the name indicates, we are adding the 7th note of the scale, so the chord has 4 notes, not 3.

There are 4 types of 7 chords that you need to know. Here are those 4 types and their formulas:

Major 7th chords: 1,3,5,7

7 chords (sometimes called dominant 7th chords, but that will be discussed in a later lesson): 1,3,5,b7

Minor 7th chords: 1, b3, 5, b7

Half Diminished 7: 1, b3, b5, b7

These 7 chords are built the same way that triads are built—by stacking 3rds. Lets take a look at some of these chords by using notes from the C major scale

C – D – E – F – G – A – B

Now lets build a Cmaj7 chord. To do that we will start stacking 3rds from the C note. So we have C,E,G,B, or 1,3,5,7. So Cmaj7 chord is spelled C,E,G,B. At the end of this lesson will have chord charts for how to play this chord on guitar.

Now lets build some more chords. Here are the 7 chords for D through B. In the prentices I will put that chords major scale so you can compare the notes with the formula used to derive the 7 chord.

ii Dm7 – D, F, A, C (1,b3,5,b7 of D major: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D)

iii Em7 – E, G, B, D (1,b3,5,b7 of E major: E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E)

IV Fmaj7 – F, A, C, E (1,3,5,7 of F major: F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F)

V G7 – G, B, D, F (1, 3, 5, b7 of G major: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G)

vi Am7 – A, C, E, G (1,b3,5,b7 of A major: A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A)

viiº Bm7b5 (AKA B half diminished) – B, D, F, A (1,b3,b5,b7 of B major: B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, B)

Here is a look at the easiest way to play these 7th chords on guitar. Note that there are MANY other way to play these 7 chords on guitar:
Cmaj7 guitar chord Dm7 guitar chord Em7 guitar chord Fmaj7 guitar chord G7 guitar chord Am7 guitar chordBm7b5 guitar chord
See a video of me playing these chords below:

Diatonic harmony- the building block of composition March 25, 2007

Posted by rgordon83 in Chords, Guitar Lessons, Harmony, Music Theory, Notes.

Note: Before you read this post it would help you if you read my post on notes, the major scale, and building chords.

As discussed previously a diatonic scale is a scale consisting only of the 7 notes which fit within a givins scale’s formula. The most famous and useful (at least in western music) is the major scale (i.e. The major scale is diatonic b/c is consists of all 7 notes derived from the W-W-H-W-W-W-H formula). If you recall, major chords are built from the major scale by taking the 1,3, and 5 notes of the scale and the minor chord is made by taking the 1, 3b, and 5 notes of the major scale. These notes are chosen because chords are made by stacking either major or minor 3rd intervals (See my post on intervals if you don’t know what major and minor 3rds are)

Now lets get into the diatonic harmony. Basically diatonic harmony is using the 7 notes of a scale to make 7 different chords that are all in the key of the root note. So all the notes and chords in diatonic harmony will only use scale tones. No outside tones are used.

We will use the key if C major as an example.

As discussed before the C major scale is C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C. This is in the key of C because the 1st note of the scale is C. So if you start from the C note and “stack 3rds” (note, an easier way to look at stacking thirds is that we are using every other note) we get C, E, G—or the 1, 3, 5. Those are the notes of the C major chord. But how do we derive other chords from the C major scale? Simple. We just start stacking thirds from another note and then compare the results to that notes major scale. Here is what I mean:

C major scale notes to make Dm chord
If we start on the second note, D, and stack 3rds we get the notes D, F, and A. Lets compare those notes to the D major scale so we can see what chord that is.

Let’s apply our major scale formula of W-W-H-W-W-W-H to the D note. The result is D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D. So the notes D, F, and A would be the 1, 3b, 5 of that scale. (because the F# note is flatted to an F). So 1, 3b, 5 is the formula for a minor chord. So the notes D, F, A are a D minor chord. So the second chord in the C major diatonic harmony is D minor!

Lets look at the rest of the notes. (blue represents the 1st note)

C major scale notes to make chords Em, F, G, Am, Bdim
So we have
E, G, B or the 1, 3b, 5 compared to the E major scale of E-F#-G#-A-B-C#-D#-E. that gives us an E minor.

F, A, C or the 1, 3, 5 compared to the F major scale of F-G-A-Bb-C-D-E-F. That gives is F major.

G, B, D or the 1, 3, 5 compared to the G major scale of G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G That gives is G major.

A, C, E or the 1, 3b, 5 compared to the A major scale of A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G#-A. that gives us an A minor

B, D, F or the 1,3b, 5b compared to the B major scale of B-C#-D#-E-F#-G#-A#-B. That gives us B diminished.

So the diatonic chords of C major are:

diatonic chord progression of C major
Note the roman numerals below each chord. These refer to the degree of the scale each chord is build on. And the case of the numeral indicates if that chord is major or minor. The little “zero” by the vii indicates that chord is diminished. So if someone says they are playing a ii-V-I ( 2-5-1) in the key of C they want you to play the chords Dm, G, C.

It’s also important to note that each one of these scale degrees as a different name:
scale degree chart

Here are the chord charts for each of the chords in the key of C major:
C major chord on guitar D minor chord on guitar E minor chord on guitar F major chord on guitar G major chord on guitar

A minor chord on guitar B diminished chord on guitar (updated this image based on the 1st comment below)

In later lessons we will talk about how to use these chords to create tension and resolution—the backbone of good composition.

Building Chords- Using Scales to Make Major, Minor, and Diminished Chords March 18, 2007

Posted by rgordon83 in Beginner, Chords, Guitar Lessons, Introduction, Music Theory, Notes.
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This lesson will focus on how chords are made. Just like we had a formula of steps that we could use to make a scale (click here to see the lesson on building scales), we can also use a formula to make chords.

A basic chord is built on 3 notes. These 3 note chords are called “triads”. Other notes can be added to a tried to make “extensions”. This lesson will focus just on triads. Extensions will be covered in a later lesson.

There are 6 important types of chords that you need to know: Major chords, minor chords, diminished chords, augmented chords, sus chords, and 5 chords. Major and Minor chords are the most important chords in western music. Diminished chords are also very important. Major chords are said to have a “happy” tone while minor chords are said to have a “sad” tone. Diminished chords are great for building tension. This lesson will explain how to make major, minor, and diminished chords

So lets build some chords.

If you remember from the lesson on the major scale, there are 7 notes in the major scale. By taking certain notes out of this scale we can build a triad. So what notes do we take? Well that depends on what chord we want to build.

The Formula’s for major and minor chords are as follows:
Major: 1-3-5 . So that means you take the 1st, the 3rd note and the 5th note and play them together. That gives you a major triad.

Minor: 1-3b-5. Minor chords are made by taking the 1st note, the b3rd (this means you “flat” the 3rd note by moving it down one half-step), and the 5th note.

Diminished: 1-3b-5b. Diminished chords are made by playing the 1st note and flatting both the 3rd and the 5th notes of a scale.

So the difference between a major and minor triad is the 3rd note. A minor triad has a flat third note.

You will notice that to build a chord we are stacking either Major 3rd or minor 3rd intervals on top of each other. So chords are made by stacking 3rds. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about see my post on intervals).

Lets take a look at the C major scale and apply our chord formulas:

C major scale notes to build C major chord

So if we want to make a C minor chord all we have to do is flat the 3rd. So lets move the E note down one half step. So C minor would be C, Eb, G. Got it?

And what would a C diminished chord be?

You got it. C, Eb, Gb. (because we flat the 3rd and 5th notes!)

Now lets look at the guitar chord charts and see how to play these chords.
C major, C minor, and C diminished chordsI hope you enjoyed this lesson. If you have any questions please post them to the comments section of this post. Next lesson we will look at how to build Sus chords, 5 chords, and Augmented chords.