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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:
—————–
—————–
————4–
—–2–5—–
–3————-
——————
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!

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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!

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

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

Intervals March 23, 2007

Posted by rgordon83 in Beginner, Ear Training, Guitar Lessons, Intervals, Music Theory, Notes.
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An interval is the distance between two notes and it is calculated from the lower note. Different intervals have different sound qualities. Learning intervals will help you develop your ear and it is a great ear training exercise. For instance, if you can recognize the sound of a Minor 3rd interval then you will be able to hear when a melody you like uses it, thus you will be able to play it back.

There are two types of Intervals: harmonic intervals and melodic intervals. A harmonic interval is the distance between two notes played in unison. A melodic interval is the distance between two notes played in succession.

Here are some tabbed examples:

Harmonic Interval Melodic Interval
——————– ———————-
——————– ———————–
——————– ———————-
———–2——– —————-2——
———–3——— ——-3—————-
———————- ———————–

There are two characters for every interval: size and quality. Size refers to the distance between the two notes and quality describes the type of sound that interval has.

There are 13 common interval distances (numbers), intervals higher than 13 are rarely used. The first 8 intervals are called “simple intervals” because they are within an octave. Intervals 9-13 are called “compound intervals”. Interval distance is always counted from the 1st note of the scale:

interval distances on guitar (since that is hard to read, here are the numbers for each interval. the first number is the lower number, the 2nd is the one above it: Unison: 8, 3. 2nd: 3, 0. 3rd: 3, 2. 4th: 3, 3. 5th: 3, 5. 6th: 3, 2. 7th: 3, 4. 8th: 3, 5. 9th: 3, 3. 10th: 3, 5. 11th: 3, 1. 12th: 3, 3. 13th: 3, 5.)
There are 5 terms that describe the quality of intervals: perfect, major, minor, diminished, and augmented. These are the same types of sounds that are used to describe chords.

To figure out the quality of intervals we need to look at the interval numbers and qualities in the major scale.

The major scale has two qualities of intervals: perfect and major. The perfect intervals occur on the unison (1st), 4th, 5th, and octave. The major intervals are the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th. The compound intervals are the same as the simple intervals.
Interval qualities on guitar (since that is hard to read, here are the numbers for each interval. the first number is the lower number, the 2nd is the one above it: Unison: 8, 3. 2nd: 3, 0. 3rd: 3, 2. 4th: 3, 3. 5th: 3, 5. 6th: 3, 2. 7th: 3, 4. 8th: 3, 5. 9th: 3, 3. 10th: 3, 5. 11th: 3, 1. 12th: 3, 3. 13th: 3, 5.)

Minor, Diminished, and Augmented intervals are made by altering a perfect or major interval either by moving the second note a half step sharp or a half step flat (if you do not know what this means see my post on notes). By altering an interval you do not change the number, just the quality.

Whenever a perfect interval is raised a half-step it becomes augmented. So if we raise a P1st (perfect first) one half-step it becomes an A1st (augmented 1st).

Whenever a perfect interval is lowered by one half-step it becomes diminished. So a P5th lowered by a half-step becomes a d5th (diminished 5th).

When a major interval is raised a half-step it becomes augmented (just like a perfect interval). So a M2nd (major 2nd) raised by a half step becomes a P2nd.

When a Major interval is lowered by a half-step it becomes minor. So a M3rd lowered by a half-step becomes a m3rd (minor 3rd. Major gets a capital M miner gets a lower case m).

When a minor interval is lowered a half-step it becomes diminished. So a m3rd lowered a half-step it becomes a d3rd.

I know this is a lot to digest. I would say start with the intervals of the major scale and play those. Get your ear familiar with them. Once you are comfortable, have a friend play and interval from the major scale and try to guess what it is (no peeking). This is a good ear training exercise.

If you have questions please post them to the comments.

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.

The Major Scale- using notes to make a scale March 15, 2007

Posted by rgordon83 in Beginner, Guitar Lessons, Introduction, Music Theory, Notes.
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Today we will take a look at how to build a scale using certain notes on your guitar (or any other melodic instrument you play). Just like notes are the building blocks for scales, scales are the building block for composition. All chords are derived from scales. And in western music there is one scale that is more important than all the others: the Ionian scale, (most commonly called by the “Major” scale.)

The Major scale and its modes (a “mode” is a musical scale that is derived from another musical scale by starting from an alternate note within the parent scale. We will get deeper in to modes in another lesson) are used by almost every composer in music today. You will need to understand them if you wish to compose your own songs, improvise, or do almost anything else on guitar.

The first thing you must know is that the Major scale and its modes are all “diatonic” scales. This means they are 7 note scales where all the notes are derived from the tonic (the first note).

If you recall from the lesson on notes, there are 12 notes in all. How do we know which 7 notes we need to make a scale? Easy. There is a formula.

Remember, each note is a half-step away from the next. By using a formula of whole and half steps we can make a scale.
The formula for the Major scale is W-W-H-W-W-W-H (W=whole step, H = Half step).

So you can start with any note and then follow the formula to get that note’s major scale.

See the following diagram showing the C major scale and the G major scale as examples:

Note that the C major scale has no #’s (sharps) or b’s (flats) in it. This is the only major scale with no #’s or b’s in it. For that reason many people will use the key of C major for examples, because it is much easier to follow. I will be using the key of C major to explain things quite often.

As a final point. It is said the tone and character of the major scale is happy and joyful sounding. Other scales and modes will have their own tonal qualities as well.

I hope this was some help. If you are still not getting it perhaps try referring back to the lesson on “Notes”. If you have any questions please post them to the comments section of this post.

Learning your guitar’s fretboard March 13, 2007

Posted by rgordon83 in Beginner, Guitar Lessons, Music Theory, Notes.
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Now that you know what notes are and how they work (Click here to see the last lesson if you don’t), we can apply it to you guitar’s fretboard.

Now that we know the order of the notes, we can figure out what all the notes are on your guitar. Let’s start with the open strings (an open string is a string played open, without your hand fretting it at all. If you pick any one of your guitar strings without touching it, that an open string)

The thickest string on your guitar, the one closest to you, is called the Low E string. Playing that string makes an E note. This string is also referred to as the 6th string. The next string down, the 5th string, is called the A string. Playing this string alone will give you an A note. The 4th string is called the D string. The 3rd string is called the G string. The 2nd string is the B string. And the 1ast string is called the High E string. The low E and the High E make the same note, but the high E string makes and E note one Octave higher than the low E string. So they have the same sound quality, but the high E is at a higher frequency.

Play the low E and high E strings at the same time. If your guitar is in tune, you should notice they sound the same, but one is a higher pitch.

Now that we know the names of all of your guitar strings, lets look at the fretboard and see what all the notes are. Since we know the order of the notes, and we know what not each string is, we can name all the notes on your guitar. Take a look at this diagram. Also, refer to the last lesson on notes if you are confused (click here for the lesson on notes):

guitar fretboard notes chart

Remember that there are only 12 notes, so once the notes reach the 12th fret, they start over as if you are starting from the beginning of that string. I.E. the 13th fret on the 6th strong (or low E string) is an F note, just like the first fret.

Also, remember, the distance between each note is called a half-step. So the distance between each fret also is a half-step (because each fret goes up or down by one note).

It may take a few minutes to get this all down. But once you get it will help you understand more advanced music theory. Please ask me any questions you have. You can post them to the “comments” section of this post.

Understanding the Basics: Notes March 13, 2007

Posted by rgordon83 in Beginner, Guitar Lessons, Music Theory, Notes.
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Before you really start understanding guitar you need to know a little bit about how music works (commonly called Music Theory). I am going to explain what notes are and how they work. This will help you understand later lessons that go deep in into music theory.

Here is the definition of a note from dictionary.com: Note- a sign or character used to represent a tone, its position and form indicating the pitch and duration of the tone.

Notes are the building block of music. They can be played one at a time to form a melody, or they can be played in unison to form a harmony. Melody and harmony are the backbone of any good musical piece. [Melody is a group of notes played one after the other. Harmony is a group of notes played at the same time].

All scales and chords are made out of notes. There are twelve notes in western music (some Asian and African cultures have extra notes in their music, but it is not relevant for our purposes). Those notes are:

The “#” is pronounced “Sharp” and “b” is pronounced flat:
all 12 notes in music with enharmonic notes in red lines

The distance between one not is called a Half-Step. So from A to A# is a half step. The # sign means one half-step up. So A# is one half-step up from A. Thus D# is one half step up from D. But E is WHOLE-STEP up from D. (because two half-steps = a whole-step. So D to D# is a half-step and D# to E is another half-step. That equals one whole step from D to E).

The “b” sign means you go DOWN one half-step. So Gb is one half-step below A. Db is one half-step below D.

The reason I put a red box around some notes is because those notes are the same note, just with a different name. So A# is the same is Bb because A# is one half-step up from A and Bb is one half-step down from B. Thus the notes sound the same. We will get into the reasons later as to why it would be called A# vs. Bb and visa versa. Notes that sound the same but have different names are called enharmonic notes. So Ab and G# are enharmonic.
Don’t worry about it for now.

Also notice that the notes B and C as well as E and F have no sharps or flats between them. This there is no such notes as B# (same note as C), Cb (same note as B), E# (same not as F), and Fb (same not as E)

I know this may seem a little confusing at first. Just make sure you follow along with the graphic of the notes. Also you can ask me any questions you have in the “comments” section”

Next lesson we will take a look at the guitar and see how the notes work on the fretboard.
Good Luck!