introduction to music/guitar theory

Start by memorizing the natural note on the guitar neck. Do this one string at a time, up and back while saying and playing the notes to a metronome. Start at 60 BPM and work your way up to 120 BPM.


Fret Notes  click for pdf

Note recognition practice click for .pdf


What is a scale? 

When you hear music, it’s going to have a series of chords and notes organized with specific rhythms to create a certain sound. Usually it stays within a specific KEY.  What do I mean by KEY?  Have you ever heard a singer warming up with the do,re,mi,fa,so,la,ti,do, syllables? Those syllables sung in that order with assigned pitches create a major scale.

A scale that that starts on the note “C” (as “do” in the scale) for instance would be in the key of “C”. That key would use those notes (the do,re,mi notes) to produce chords and melodies that could be made into a song. 

Let’s learn the “C” scale. C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. The notes of the “C” scale are the same notes as the white keys on a piano. AND the same notes that you are memorizing on the guitar! When you have a specific series of INTERVALS played one after another you can create a Major Scale, or the do,re,mi, etc... scale. 

An Interval is the distance between 2 notes. The series of intervals that make up a major scale are as follows: 

whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step. 

What is a whole step or a half step? They are intervals. A whole step is 2 frets away, and a half step is the very next fret. There are 2 naturally occurring half steps in the musical alphabet. They are E to F and B to C. All other intervals using natural (not sharp or flat) notes in the “C” scale will be whole steps.


Chord Construction 

Now let’s look at chords. To construct a chord, you’ll need 3 notes.
The root or name of the chord the 3rd and the 5th. What does this mean?
Look at your “C” scale C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C. Now number each scale note starting with C as 1, D as 2 etc...
Using this formula, you can create chords.
For example: A  “C” chord will use the notes C,E, and G. C being the root or 1 note, E being the 3rd above the root in the scale and G being the 5th above the root in the scale.

Let’s try another. The second note of the scale is “D”. Let’s use D as the root this time. Now we get D as the root note, F as the 3rd above the root and A the 5th above the root. You see the numbering shifts according to which chord you are creating, or what the root note of the chord will be.  

Try this with the remaining chords in the “C” scale. 

Chord Construction  click for pdf

Understand that the triad and the chord shape will not necessarily be the same. The triad is used in this context to show you what the 3 chord tones are, but when we play a chord, we can double some of the notes and play “guitar” shapes that are comfortable on the instrument. 

There are 2 basic kinds of chords; Major and Minor. If you create chords using the first, fourth or fifth scale notes as the root note, you’ll get Major chords. If you create chords using the second, third or sixth scale notes you’ll get Minor chords. 

What makes a chord Major or Minor? 

The intervals or, the distance between the root and third. 

Remember the formula for creating a Major scale? 

    whole + whole + half + whole + whole + whole + half 

    C            D          E           F             G         A               B             C 

A Major chord will have these intervals; whole step + whole step between the root and the third, and a whole step + a half step between the third and the fifth. 

A Minor chord will have these intervals; whole step + half step between the root and the third, and a whole step + a whole step between the third and the fifth. 


*NEW * Essential guitar chords and practice progressions
click for .pdf


Harmonized Scale

Now here are the chord qualities for the “C” major scale.  Also called the harmonized scale. 

Major    Minor    Minor    Major    Major    Minor   (*Minor7b5)  

C              D             E              F            G              A              B  

*You’ll notice that the chord built from the 7th scale note (B) has a fancy name. The chord that lands in this position has 4 notes. The root, 3rd above the root, 5th above the root and 7th above the root. The notes for this chord would be BDFA. More on this later.

 Harmonized Scale (chords) example click for pdf

 Harmonized scale (chords) in G example click for pdf


CAGED Chords

I teach the positions on the neck using the CAGED method. In the pdf file below you'll find the shape up the neck for Major, Minor, and 7th chords. I present them in the keys of C,A,G,E, and D. 


chord forms for the CAGED chords  click for pdf

Check out these videos that help to further demonstrate this concept.




CAGED Scales

Here are the major scales that correspond to the major chord CAGED positions on the guitar neck.

major CAGED scales click for pdf

major pentatonic scales click for pdf

Here are the minor scales that correspond the the minor CAGED positions on the guitar neck.

minor CAGED scales click for pdf

minor pentatonic scales click for pdf

Next we'll learn the mixolydian scales that correspond to the 7th chords CAGED chord forms. This is a major scale with a b7. This scale is used to play over a Dominant chord (7th). 

Here are the mixolydian scales that correspond to the (7th) or Dominant CAGED chord positions on the guitar neck.

mixolydian CAGED scales click for pdf

mixolydian pentatonic scales click for pdf