Wednesday, December 5, 2007

How to Learn Guitar Major Scale Patterns

Guitarists of all levels play melodies, riffs, lead guitar solos and bass lines using major scales. The notes of the major scale cover the whole fretboard. To learn this scale template, players break it up into smaller pieces. In this article I'm going to explain to you how this process works and address common issues concerning patterns, fingerings, picking and transposing. With this information you'll understand the process that eventually leads to you successfully using and applying major scales, and developing a strong knowledge of guitar theory.

Major Scale Patterns
When learning the major scale, players break up the notes into positions or patterns. Usually this is done with five pieces but there are other ways to do it. It really doesn't matter how you break up the whole major scale template as long as you can put the pieces together and complete the whole guitar fretboard. Also, different major scale patterns are not different scales. They're the same notes in different positions.

To see the major scale patterns illustrated on a neck diagram just go to and search "major scale patterns." Several web sites will come up that post versions of the patterns for free. Or, see my book Fretboard Theory Chapter 5: The Major Scale.

Memorize Scale Patterns
As you learn major scale patterns be sure to focus on only one at a time. Visualize the pattern on the fret board and play up and down it until you have it completely memorized and your fingers know where to go without thinking. You don't need to start or end on the root, but rather touch on every possible note available in the position you're covering.

Major Scale Fingering
There are no correct or perfect ways to finger major scale patterns, but there are some bad habits to avoid. Don't do something silly like play through a whole pattern with only one or two fingers. This will make you look and sound like a hack. God gave you several fingers for a reason. Use them! Try to get three or four fingers involved. You should be able to cover a position by keeping your hand still and then reaching with your fingers. It's good to settle on something and then be consistent as you practice, but you'll no doubt use other fingerings when you start actually playing music especially when techniques such as slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs and bends are involved.

Alternate Picking
While you're at it, alternate your pick. You'll spend a lot of time rehearsing major scale patterns. Don't reinforce a negative habit by plunking through everything with downstrokes. Kill two birds with one stone by developing alternate picking technique while you learn scale patterns. Choke up on the pick, keep your hand planted on the guitar and alternate continuously without skipping or repeating any strokes. Be sure to rest your hand just above the string you're picking. As you move across the strings, your hand should slide over and rest upon the strings you're not playing to keep them quiet.

Reference Chord
Every time you learn something new on the fret board you should try to peg it to something familiar. This is the key to developing a good working knowledge of music theory especially when applying guitar theory to the fret board. You can apply this pegging idea by associating major scale patterns to reference chords. For example, pattern one (as it's usually taught) can be played right around an "E form" barre chord. Pattern two fits together with a "D form" barre chord. Pattern three with a "C form" and so on. If you know how to navigate the fretboard with chords, and you associate them to major scale patterns, then you'll be able to instantly jump into the major scale in any position. To learn more about chord forms look up the "CAGED Template Chord System."

Connecting Major Scale Patterns
After you complete a pattern, move to the next position and repeat the whole learning process with the new pattern. After you memorize a new position go back and review the others before it. Continue with this process until you've covered the whole fretboard. Then, practice connecting the patterns in both directions across the neck. In other words, connect pattern one to pattern two, two to three, three to four, four to five, then reverse yourself by connecting pattern five back into pattern four, four into three, three into two, and two into one. You may have room to move backward from the pattern one you started at. Try it.

As you move from one pattern to the next, notice how a portion of each is reused in the new position. Visualizing how these pieces connect is the key to navigating the fretboard, understanding how music elements are combined, and developing a knowledge of guitar music theory.

Transposing Major Scales
Once you've completed the whole major scale template in one key you can transpose by simply shifting it to a new starting position. Don't let the fret numbers throw you off. Instead, focus on the shape of the pattern and the feel of the fingering. Connect all the patterns in this new key until you run out of fretboard or can't play any higher. Don't forget to cover the area before pattern one begins. Complete this process through all twelve keys. When you're done, you'll surely have the patterns down pat!

More to Come
Look out for future guitar lessons where I'll explain great ways to practice and helpful ways to begin applying the major scale to music and songs. You'll need this information in order to complete the major scale learning process, and moreover to develop a good knowledge of guitar theory.

Guitar Major Scale Podcast
Listen to free audio lessons on major scales and guitar theory at the links below.

Guitar Major Scale Podcast at iTunes
Guitar Major Scale Podcast at

Play Until Yer Fingers Bleed!
Mr. Desi Serna (Google me!)
Scales, Chords, Progressions, and More

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Music Theory Behind the Guitar Chord CAGED System

There are literally thousands of different kinds of chords and chord shapes that can be played on the guitar, but did you know that most can be traced back to just 5 common open forms? The 5 forms are C, A, G, E, and D. What's that spell? Caged. With the right kind of guitar theory, each one of these chords can be turned into a barre chord and moved around the fretboard. Each barre chord can be played as an arpeggio pattern which inlcudes even more notes. These arpeggio patterns can then be broken up into all sorts of unique shapes and interesting voicings.

Guitar Chord Arpeggios
Major chords are made up of three notes. Notes can be repeated, stacked in any order, and played anywhere on the guitar fretboard. Just like with playing guitar scales, guitarists must learn how to map out the notes of chords on the guitar neck. These patterns are called "arpeggios."

Chord Inversions and Voicings
Arpeggios show you where all the chord tones are located for a given chord. When you can visualize all the notes of a chord in each position, you can grab the notes in a variety of ways and do so anywhere on the guitar neck. A chord inversion, in practical music theory terms, is simply a re-arrangement of the notes from one shape to another. For example, a C major chord includes the notes C-E-G. These notes are available in this order but only in some spots. In other areas you might find them stacked E-G-C or G-C-E. Each combination produces a slightly different sound or "chord voicing."

Guitar CAGED Template Chord System
Map out all the notes of a C chord across the entire fretboard you'll end up with a big, abstract scattering of notes. Break this giant pattern into 5 pieces and you'll have arpeggio patterns. Reduce each pattern to its fundamental shape and you'll recognize something very familiar. One position resembles an open C chord, the next an open A chord, followed by G, E and D. Hence, the CAGED Template Chord System.

Chord Shapes For Rhythm Guitar
Great rhythm guitar players don't necessarily use strange chords, they just know how to freshen up common guitar chord progressions with different shapes and voicings. Take the song "Jack and Diane" by John Mellencamp for example. Each section of this tune sounds unique but the whole song is actually just variations of the SAME THREE CHORDS! Do you want to know how to get all this sound from just three chords?

Listen to the Guitar CAGED Template Chord System MP3

For more information about using the guitar chord CAGED system, listen to the free Guitar Theory Podcast (also available at iTunes).

Play Until Yer Fingers Bleed!
Mr. Desi Serna (Google me!)
Scales, Chords, Progressions, and More

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Guitar Scale Theory

How to learn guitar scales:

* 99% of popular music is Pentatonic and Major scales.
* Scales aren't just for playing guitar solos.
* Rhythm guitar players can benefit from scales too.

Guitar players don't need to learn a ton of scales.
Have you ever tried working through a book about guitar scales? Did you feel a little overwhelmed by the pages and pages of patterns and scales? Pentatonic scale, major scale, minor scale, harmonic minor scale, melodic minor scale, whole-tone/half-tone scale, lydian dominant scale, gypsy minor scale, blah, blah, blah. And what about using these scales? Why don't these books tell you what to do with them? How about a song reference or demonstration? Is this really how guitar players learn how to play melodies, riffs, lead guitar solos and bass lines?

The answer to the last question is, NO! There are actually only two primary scales that comprise most of popular music. Guitar players need to learn the theory behind all the different ways of playing and applying the Pentatonic and Major scales. When you learn guitar scale theory correctly, you'll have 99% of the music you listen to covered. That's the truth! If you want to explore additional guitar theory and more exotic scales later, then you'll have the proper music theory foundation to do it.

Pentatonic Scale Patterns On the Guitar
The pentatonic scale creates the simplest patterns on the guitar neck and the theory behind it makes it very easy to apply. You can use the pentatonic boxes to play melodies, riffs, lead guitar solos and bass lines. All styles of popular music utilize this essential guitar scale including pop, rock, blues, and country. Some classic songs that utilize the pentatonic scale, and make great learning material for any guitar theory program, include:

“Lowrider” War (G minor pentatonic scale)
“Lady Marmalade” Patti LaBelle (G minor pentatonic scale)
“Susie Q” Creedence Clearwater Revival (E minor pentatonic scale)
“My Girl” The Temptations (C major pentatonic scale)
“Wish You Were Here” Pink Floyd (G major pentatonic scale)
“Tweezer” Phish (A minor pentatonic scale)
“Purple Haze” Jimi Hendrix (E minor pentatonic scale)
“Breakdown” Tom Petty (A minor pentatonic scale)
“Pawn Shop” Sublime (E minor pentatonic scale)
“Turn Off the Light” Nelly Furtado (E minor pentatonic scale)
“Honky Tonk Women” The Rolling Stones (G major pentatonic scale)
“Hey Joe” Jimi Hendrix (E minor pentatonic scale)
“Yellow Ledbetter” Pearl Jam (E major pentatonic scale)
“Sunshine of Your Love” Cream (D minor pentatonic "blues scale")
“Baby Please Don’t Go” Them/Van Morrison (F minor pentatonic "blues scale")
“Iron Man” Black Sabbath (B minor pentatonic "blues scale")
“Roadhouse Blues” The Doors (E minor pentatonic "blues scale")
“Heartbreaker” Led Zeppelin (A minor pentatonic "blues scale")
“Maggie May” Rod Stewart (D major pentatonic scale)
“Sir Duke” Stevie Wonder (B major pentatonic "blues scale")

Wanna hear the pentatonic scale in action right now? Click Guitar Pentatonic Scale Songs MP3 for a free audio track that includes a variety of well-known guitar melodies, riffs, lead guitar solos and bass lines.

Rhythm Guitar Players Use the Pentatonic Scale Too
The purpose of learning how to play the pentatonic scale, or any scale for that matter, isn't limited to guitar riffs and solos. If you're strictly a rhythm guitar player, you can still study guitar music theory and spice up your chords with catchy hooks derived from the pentatonic scale. Guitar theory further teaches that pentatonic scale notes can be added to basic chords to create rich new sounds.

Compose On the Guitar with Pentatonic Scale Theory
There's one more thing about learning the pentatonic scale that you should take into consideration. The pentatonic scale isn't a scale unique to only fretted instruments. All instruments utilize music theory and the pentatonic scale including singers. Many songs have pentatonic scale vocal melodies, keyboard parts, horn parts and more. These things can be worked out and arranged on guitar if you know your scales!

Play Until Yer Fingers Bleed!
Mr. Desi Serna (Google me!)
Scales, Chords, Progressions, and More

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

How to Learn Guitar Theory on the Fretboard

How to Learn Guitar Theory on the Fretboard
Each guitar player may have a different way of thinking about musical concepts initially, but all players end up applying things to the guitar fretboard in a similar manner. This is because the fretboard is a grid and learning it properly requires mapping out guitar chords and guitar scales in the forms of shapes and patterns. Today's guitarists need to spend more time focusing on their instrument's unique perspective and less time dwelling on the details of written notation or traditional music theory.

Music Theory
Guitar players make many attempts to learn more about how music works, music theory. They study notation, learn about the circle of fifths, memorize step formulas for certain scales, and the list goes on and on. What good does all this do in terms of affecting how guitarists play? Not much. There's more to it.

Guitar Theory
Traditional thought has corrupted the teaching of guitar for too long. Guitar players shouldn't base their studies on methods created for other instruments, like the piano. Good musicians prepare themselves to understand and play their instruments the best they can, not memorize useless terminology or take written tests. Modern guitar players need to focus on their instrument's unique perspective and should study music theory in a manner that is best suited for this application. This fretboard specific study is called guitar theory.

Fretboard Theory
Guitarists who want to learn guitar theory need to focus on properly visualizing shapes, patterns and how they connect on the fretboard. Good guitar players understand how musical components relate to each other by the way they connect and overlap. Taking a hands-on approach to learning guitar theory can save players from much frustration and literally add years to their musical development.

Play Until Your Fingers Bleed!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Guitar Theory Podcast

Guitar Theory Podcast

Listen and learn about guitar theory online or on the go with my guitar theory podcast entitled "What Is Guitar Theory?" This free online guitar lesson will explain what music theory is and the benefits of applying it to the guitar fretboard. Listen to examples of how pentatonic and major scales are used to play melodies, riffs, lead guitar solos and bass lines. Learn how guitar chords and progressions are derived from the major scale. Hear how the guitar CAGED chord system creates a variety of chord shapes, fingerings, voicings and inversions. Experience some of the tonal variations of guitar modes. Taught by me, Desi Serna author of Fretboard Theory. Absolutely FREE! Available at iTunes or at any other link below. Running time: Approximately 25 minutes.

Guitar Theory Podcast at iTunes

Guitar Theory Podcast at

Guitar Theory Podcast at

Guitar Theory Podcast at

Guitar Theory Podcast at

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Guitar Theory Includes Scales, Chords, Progressions and More.

Guitar Chords
Consider your favorite song. It probably has guitar chords in it. Where do the chords come from? How are they built? What is the chord progression, that is, what are all the chords used, how are the chords combined and in what order? Why can the chords be combined in this manner?

Guitar Scales
Does your favorite song include a melody, guitar riff, lead guitar solo or bass line? Parts like these are derived from guitar scales. How are scales made? How are scales played on the fretboard? Which guitar scale does your song use? Why does the scale work over the chords and chord progression?

Guitar Keys and Chord Progressions
Do you think these questions are relevant? If you had to learn a song would it help you to understand how it was put together? How would knowing a song's key, chord progression and scales used effect how quickly you learned it? Would having a complete grasp of a song's inter-workings help you remember it better? Have you ever tried composing your own guitar music? When you know exactly how scales, chords and progressions are combined to make music, what will you do with this newfound knowledge?

Guitar Theory
As you can see, there are many benefits to learning the details of music and how they specifically apply to the guitar fretboard. Aside from being interesting, guitar theory can really open up your playing and greatly impact your rate of development. You'll pick up on new songs faster, retain more of what you learn, jam, improvise and compose your own music.

Monday, June 11, 2007

What Is Guitar Theory?

What is Guitar Theory?
According to, music theory is the name for a branch of study that includes many different methods for analyzing, classifying, and composing music and the elements of music. Narrowly it may be defined as the description in words of elements of music, and the interrelationship between the notation of music and performance practice. Basically, theory is the study of music, how it's played and how everything fits together.

Guitar Theory is Necessary
Have you ever learned something new on the guitar but had no idea what to do with it? Many guitarists suffer from this ailment and most instructional materials do little to remedy the problem. You can buy a chord or scale book at your local music store and learn some new shapes and patterns, but rarely do these books explain what these components actually do or how they ought to be applied. Without knowledge of how something functions it's pretty much useless. This is why guitar theory is necessary.

Guitar Theory Offers Explanations
Guitar Theory will explain what something is and does. For example, a new chord shape might be seen as an extension of a common barre chord. Wherever you may play the barre chord the new shape can be substituted for a new sound. A scale pattern might fit together with a specific chord progression. Each time you play this progression the scale tones can be used to add melody and harmony. Certain combinations of chords will effect a songs overall emotional feel. Choose the right combination in order to successfully convey your song's meaning.

Scales, Chords, Progressions and More
Music can be approached and studied from many different angels. You can study notation, technique, rhythms, scales, chord construction and so on. While all musical topics are interesting and have their benefits, scales, chords and progressions top the list of must-knows. All guitarists, beginner through advanced, strum chords, follow progressions, and play melodies, riffs, solos and bass lines with scales.