Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Circle of Fifths Guitar Theory Lesson

The circle of fifths is a geometrical representation of key signatures used in writing traditional musical notation. For modern guitar players interested in developing a working knowledge of music theory that can be applied specifically to the fretboard the circle of fifths is less useful. But if you insist on exploring the idea you can easily map out the fifth cycle on the guitar neck with patterns.

Guitar players can play the circle of fifths by using the patterns taught in Fretboard Theory Chapter 6 Chord Progressions and Playing By Numbers (and also in the DVD program entitled Chord Progressions and Playing By Numbers). You can start in any key but I'll begin with the key of F using chord pattern 1 beginning at the 1st fret of string 6.

The 5 chord in the key of F is C.
Now switch keys to C and use chord pattern 2 beginning with C at the 3rd fret of string 5.
The 5 chord in the key of C is G.
Now switch to the key of G.

The 5 chord in the key of G is D. Switch to D.

The 5 chord in the key of D is A. Switch to A.

The 5 chord in the key of A is E. Switch to E.

Continue this process until you've cycled through all keys. Reverse it to produce the circle of fourths.

You can hear a chord progression based on this type of movement in the song "Hey Joe" by Jimi Hendrix. The verse progression is all fifths starting on C.


I should point out here that rather than try to follow each key change with a new parent major scale, Hendrix simply played the E minor pentatonic scale over the whole progression for the lead guitar solo. This works because the E minor pentatonic notes are all found in the same keys that also have the chords. The exception is the E major chord. In its case the minor pentatonic gives the major chord a blues flavor.

So the circle of 5ths and the circle of 4ths have limited use in music theory for guitar which is why I left them out of my guitar theory book and DVDs. And if you map out scale patterns and chord progressions properly on the fret board then you already have the concept down.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Natural Talent and Guitar Playing

Many people who are learning to play guitar are intimidated by the learning process, frustrated with their progress and believe that they lack the natural talent necessary to make music. Is it possible that some people just can't learn how to play guitar? Or do some aspiring players set unrealistic expectations? How can a person know if they're wasting their time or not?

How to Learn Guitar
Getting good at playing guitar requires study, practice and a little creativity. You have to know how something is properly done so that you don't waste your time doing things incorrectly or developing bad habits. You must spend a lot of time with your guitar in hand practicing and playing. You need to find what it is that you can do well and learn how to compensate for your weaknesses. Finally, you need to accept your limitations and embrace what abilities you have been given.

Natural Talent
If you're unable to make progress with certain guitar styles or techniques, then move onto something else that comes more naturally to you. Take advantage of your strengths and accept your limitations. Have you ever seen B.B. King play chords? Not one of his strengths! And Dave Matthews couldn't take a lead guitar solo if his life depended on it. Yet they are both accomplished guitar players in their own right because they have something they can do uniquely well. Don't expect to be able to play everything you want to play. And don't get hung up on things that seem impossible. Instead, make the process a journey to discover what you CAN play.

Armless Guitar Player
There is perhaps no better example of how to succeed at making music when faced with limitations than armless guitarists Tony Melendez. Born without arms, Tony never let his handicap get in his way. Instead he developed proficiency in using his feet. "I was pretty secure in what I could do," he says. What a great attitude. The video below shows just what he can do.

You Can Do It
When there's a will there's a way. Maybe you won't be able to copy licks and phrases by famous guitar players like some other guys can, but that's no reason to give up on the special ability you may have. If you're struggling, perhaps you need to reconsider your expectations and change your approach. A good guitar instructor can make a big difference. And there are plenty of books, DVDs and online guitar lessons that can help too.

Music Theory for Guitar

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How to Transcribe Songs

"Will your Fretboard Theory book help me transcribe songs?"

My guitar theory book and DVDs may not focus on the skill of transcribing specifically, but do teach guitar players how to understand keys, scales, chord progressions and other important musical elements that transcribers use to figure out songs by ear. So if your goal is to better understand the music you play and better anticipate what's happening in the songs you're listening to, then yes Fretboard Theory will help.

Friday, September 4, 2009

How Guitar Players Can Develop Rhythm and Timing

Guitar players who jump right into reading tab and playing songs often struggle with rhythm and timing. Learning how to read music is great for improving your rhythm and timing skills. This is because you must assign a value (or length) to the notes you play, count everything out and tap your foot. Consider getting a Mel Bay or Hal Leonard beginner series and working your way up to and through whole notes, quarter notes, eighth notes and syncopation (which is about book 2 or 3 in the Mel Bay series). Just learning the beginning levels of standard music notation will often times help guitarists develop enough skill to feel their way through more complicated rhythms. Try it!

Play Until Yer Fingers Bleed!
Mr. Desi Serna (Google me!)