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When we start to learn guitar we hear that we need to learn scales and that is certainly true. But why do we actually need to learn them, what will we use them for and how many scales do we actually need to learn?
What is a scale?
A scale can be defined as a group of notes that progress one after the other and have a certain structure. You are probably aware that each fret on the guitar equals a half-step (or semi-tone) and that two frets equal the distance of a whole step (or whole tone). A half-step is the smallest distance we can travel on the guitar fretboard. Now, this distance of half and whole tone distances is what I mean we I say that the group of notes follow a certain structure. It means that sometimes there is a half step from one note to the next in the group and sometimes there is a whole step. These relationships of when a whole step and when a half step occurs are really important, because they are the blueprint of the scale. Just like an architect has uses a blueprint for building a certain type of house, musicians have a blueprints to construct different types of scales.
So, the different arrangements of half and whole steps between the scale notes, create the different sounds that scales have.
To construct a Major scale, for example, we have to use the following blueprint. Let´s construct a major scale in the key of C Major. To do this, we start on the root note of C. Root note means that this note is our home base from which we start.
Let us do this from the A string, third fret, which is C:
C - we move up a whole step (or two frets) and reach the next note D
D - again, we move up a whole step (two frets) and reach the next note E
E - we move up a half step (one fret) and reach F
F - we move up a whole step (two frets) and we reach G
G - another whole step (two frets) and we arrive at A
A - once again, we take a whole step (two frets) and come to B
B - here, we take a half step and reach the note, which is again C
C - and here we are at the starting note again, just one octave higher
By traveling this specific arrangement of whole and half steps, we have constructed a major scale on the A string. If you follow the exact order of half and whole steps we took, but start on a different root as your starting point, you can construct any major scale.
Now, one might say:
Why do I have to move in that specific sequence?
Can I not choose a different arrangement of half steps and whole steps? Yes you can, but you will get a different sounding scale by doing that. The major scale is generally classified as happy sounding and when you start to change the order of half and whole steps between the notes, you will create a scale that might sound sad or mysterious or just simply bat shit crazy and this is the magic of learning scales.
Imagine scales like different colours on a painter´s palette. Each scale you learn gives you more colours you can choose from and this will give you more possibilities to paint beautiful and interesting pictures. Imagine you are a painter and you only have one or two colours on your palette. Your two colours might be great, but you will be more limited in what feelings and emotions you can express with these two colours in comparison to a painter that has ten or more colours at his disposal.
What are scales used for?
Scales are used to create guitar solos, melodies, bass lines and also chords are derived from scales thus you can say that scales are a foundation of creating music.
How many scales do we need to learn then? That depends on what you want to play and on the amount of variety you wish to have at your disposal when you play. If you want to play straight up blues, you can get away with very little in terms of learning scales. You will need to learn a few scales, learn to mix them and get the most out of them to express your emotions.
If you want more colours on your palette and create melodies that sound Japanese, middle eastern or have a mixture of different emotions other than the blues/rock sound, you will need to learn more scales to accomplish getting that sound.
How To Stop Playing The Same Things On Guitar All The Time
If you have been playing guitar for any amount of time past a month or 2 you will start to get tired of playing the same things all the time.
Everybody goes through this and we will look at how to overcome this dreaded feeling and break on through to the other side.
Why does this happen?
First let us examine why we get stuck playing the same old things over and over. We start off playing something because we like it and enjoy how it sounds. Or maybe you liked the challenge of learning something you knew you couldn't yet do.
Then once you conquer climbing the mountain of play these tunes you keep playing them to relive the victory you rightfully earned. This is all excellent and I would admonish you to continue to keep these songs in your repertoire.
Wanting something different after your victory?
The problem is that as humans we crave variety and without variety we start to get bored. So the victory we earned and should take pride in has become something we despise. Not because we don't like it any more but because we now associate it with the feels of being stuck and a lack of variety.
Before we look at the solutions, make sure you aren't just avoiding getting the song mastered. Sometimes when we learn something and realize it's "too hard", we accept the false belief that we won't be able to do it.
Then we give up and mask this unpleasant reality with the idea that it is just boring. But the reality is it is anything but boring, it is that we might want something boring so we don't have to work at it. If this is the hard truth for you, it's OK. We all do this from time to time.
I would recommend stopping away form it for the time being and returning to it once you have some momentum going by learning some more songs just outside your comfort zone and not something that is way outside your abilities.
Well what should you do instead?
Now that we got the hard stuff out of the way let's get into the solutions.
The first step requires commitment. If you are committed to moving forward and getting past being stuck it will happen. If you aren't committed then it won't. It's that simple. Just commit. The good news is that you don't have to do it by yourself. Find a teacher who have a proven track record of helping students reach their guitar playing goals. Then stay the course laid out for you by the teacher.
Next make sure you have time set aside every day to work on this. Even 10 minutes is better than nothing.
After a week of staying consistent with practice you will feel better about the process and yourself. Even if you don't see any progress yet, it will feel better than just playing the same old thing over and over. You will have already broken yourself out of the rut without even realizing it.
Being in a rut
Now that you are out of the rut, don't get stuck in another.
Make sure to give the time and diligence to the things you are working on to do them well and get that feeling of pride in conquering them, but don't stop there. Continue moving towards new goals immediately after you've reached the one you are aiming at. This is the way to keep your guitar playing fresh and exciting all the time. To continue getting victories and create a lot of momentum.
About The Author: Ryan Duke is a professional musician, and guitar teacher at Guitar Lessons Seattle.
3 Major Advantages Of Learning To Play The Guitar On An Electric
Learning how to play the guitar can be difficult, especially at the beginning.
Many people believe that the best way to learn to play is to start on an acoustic guitar. Their reasoning is that once you learn how to play you can play anything.
That's true, however you must first be successful at learning how to play. Many people find it difficult to learn on an acoustic guitar and many times quit because of it.
Here are 3 major advantages of learning how to play the guitar on an electric so that you can have a much better chance to be successful.
1. An Electric Guitar Has A Thinner Body and Neck
This could be controversial because yes, there are a few types of acoustic guitars that have very thin bodies.
However, in general, acoustic guitars have very wide and thick bodies as well as thicker necks.
Especially if you look at the bottom end of the price scale and that's where most people look to buy their first guitar to learn on.
Low end electric guitars have all the same physical advantages of the higher end ones which is opposite to what happens with acoustic guitars.
A thinner body allows you to hold and manipulate the guitar much easier so you can spend more time focusing on the more important aspects of learning to play the guitar.
A thinner neck means it is easier to reach around and play notes and form chords too.
In general, an electric guitar makes learning easier by reducing the physical challenges an acoustic guitar will impose.
2. An Electric Guitar Has Strings Closer The Fretboard
This is a huge advantage. The name given to this and you will hear people discuss is called "action". The "action" on an electric guitar is much better than acoustic guitars.
What that means to you is that there is less distance between where a string normally sits without contact and where it has to go on the fretboard to make a sound.
The shorter the distance to the frets the faster you can get there. The less movement needed to do it as well as less tension that you have to overcome to push the strings down.
This advantage makes it easier and quicker to play notes, chords and change between them and trains you to have a lighter touch right off the bat.
One of the biggest bad habits acoustic players develop is using too much pressure. This slows down their progress, can cause pain and injury and makes it difficult to change between chords quickly.
You can still push too hard on an electric but most people learn not to. It is much easier to add pressure if you want to move to an acoustic than it is to train someone to stop pushing too hard.
3. You Can Make It Sound Good Sooner
One of the biggest advantages of learning to play the guitar on an electric that I have found is the sound.
The sound of their playing is the one thing everyone seems to be concerned about the most when they first start to learn to play. It should not be but it is totally natural to want to sound as good as possible as soon as you can.
With acoustic players focusing on the sound can lead to bad habits and injuries because most beginners have to press very hard to make the guitar sound good. This is actually a major reason people get frustrated with their progress and quit.
However, because it is physically easier to use an electric guitar and because the action is lower, you can press down on the strings and make much better contact with the frets a lot sooner in your development. That means you can get a better sound a lot faster than you would on an acoustic.
This will help you to feel better about your playing much sooner because you will hear the progress in your sound and that can help motivate you to keep going and is a lot more fun!!
But What If You Really Want To Learn To Play Acoustic Guitar
Most people actually do want to learn to play acoustic guitar. Playing around the campfire or at a kitchen party are high on most people's lists. An electric guitar will not work well there.
The great thing about learning how to play the electric guitar first is that all of those skills are easy to transfer to the acoustic guitar when you are ready.
And besides the fact it is easier and faster to learn those skills on the electric guitar, going that route will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes and bad habits most acoustic guitar players run into.
The cool thing is you do not even have to buy an electric guitar to learn to play it. You can rent them in most cities by going to your local guitar store.
So, you can own an acoustic and still learn on an electric.
About The Author:
Maurice Richard is a professional guitar teacher that operates out of the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He has been a member of an elite guitar teaching mentorship program since 2007 and has taught many people how to learn to play the guitar. Learn how to pick the best guitar for you to learn how to play by visiting his website today.
It's almost impossible to overstate the importance of learning to harmonise a scale.
There are just so many advantages.
By learning this aspect of music theory, you can then:
1. harmonise an existing melody
2. compose music starting with chords (which can be way easier than starting with the melody especially for guitarists)
3. get to know the fretboard better
4. get to know barre chords better
5. increase your chord vocabulary (by playing chords like Am7b5)
6. understand how progressions work and how to improvise over them
There are many more benefits, but for now we are simply going to learn how harmony works and how to harmonise a major scale. This article assumes you know how to construct a major scale in terms of "whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half." (If you don't, read my article "Constructing Major Scales" first.)
In general, our Western system of harmony is tertian meaning that it's built in 3rds. That means from any note in the scale, skip every other note to harmonize it. This can be done all the way out to 7 notes, but for our purposes we are going to limit the total number of notes to 3 which is a triad. In the key of C, for example, the scale is:
So if we take every other note to a total of 3 notes, that leaves us with:
Before we analyze this information, let's get a few definitions straight.
A whole step = 2 half-steps, and a half step is simply the distance between 2 adjacent notes. The following illustration of a piano keyboard can be helpful to see that the distance between C and C# is a half-step, and the distance between C# and D# is a whole-step.
Whether a chord is major or minor is determined by its 3rd. If the 3rd is two whole steps above the root, it's a major third. If the 3rd is a half-step lower, i.e. a whole plus a half step above the root, it's a minor third.
And in a major and minor triad, the 5th has to be "perfect." A perfect fifth is 7 half-steps above a root. If the fifth is flat, i.e. 6 half-steps above the root, it's called a diminished 5th.
If the fifth is sharp, i.e. 8 half-steps above the root, it's called an augmented 5th.
II. Analyzing Chords in the Major Scale
Let's go back to analyzing the harmonizing of the first note of the C major scale.
The distance between c and e is two whole steps so the 3rd is major. The distance between c and g is 7 half-steps so the 5th is perfect. The name of the chord is C major, or simply, C.
Now let's take the next scale degree in the key of C, i.e. the note d. Every other note would be
The distance between d and f is a step and a half (3 half-steps total) so the 3rd is minor. The distance between d and a is 7 half-steps so the 5th is perfect. The name of the chord is Dm.
Do yourself a huge favor and write out the rest of the scale on your own before reading on. You'll get so much more out of this if you do it yourself first, I guarantee it.
Your results should look like this:
The distance from b to d is 3 half-steps so the 3rd is minor. The distance from b to f is only 6 half-steps so, that makes the 5th diminished. A minor third and a diminished 5th is called a diminished triad.
Playing these chords on the guitar
Now try playing these chords on the guitar. If you have trouble playing any of them (especially the B diminished), consult your teacher.
Also harmonize the remaining keys of Db, D, Eb, E, F, F# or Gb, G, Ab, A, Bb, B. When it comes tomusic theory, there is no substitute for actually doing it.
Have fun with this!
About the author:
Dennis Winge is a professional guitarist living in New York with a passion for vegan food and bhakti yoga.
When It comes to learning a blues guitar song a lot of students get overwhelmed by all of the notes and numbers that make up the different riffs.
It’s easy to see a big chunk of music and give up because you assume it’s too complex. Fortunately we can use to patterns to navigate our way through blues progressions and get some awesome sounds without any difficulty at all.
Blues Guitar Lesson
In this lesson I want to show you how you can break down complex blues progression into really simple ideas that are repeated in different places all over the neck. You’ll actually be very surprised at how many times you only actually have to learn how to play one riff and then move it to different places. When it comes down to it blues is actually one of the simplest genres of music ever because it only uses one chord progression known as the 12 bar blues. This 12 bar progression is made up of 3 chords ( the I - IV & V in Major keys and the i - iv - v in minor keys) and these chords are simply arranged in a specific pattern to get a particular sound.
A Blues Riff
Below is a blues riff in the key of A minor. It begins on an A note and ascends the arpeggio playing C on the 8th fret of the e string, E on the 7ths fret of the A string and sliding quickly from 5 to 7 of the D string to finish on an A note an octave higher. Even though this seems complex you want to visualise it as a pattern that fits in your minor pentatonic scale.
That way you can move the same lick to match a D minor chord by starting the same idea on the 10th fret of the D string. If you move it up two more frets and play it on the 12th fret it will work over an e minor chord.
You can play an entire 12 bar blues progression just by moving these riffs around. If you’re in the key of A minor your notes will be A, D & E and you just need to switch to match the chord changes. If you’re in a different key you just need to move the riff to match the 1, 4 & 5 chord of the new key. Below is a an example of this riff applied to an entire chord progression. Note that I have moved the riff to the 5th string for the D & E chords to avoid you having to slide a big distance.
So next time you’re learning a 12 bar blues pattern and it seems overwhelming, try and break it down into a single riff and look for ways to move it to new locations. Doing this will allow you cut down the learning time allowing you to re-invest it into actual practice. You should also use this idea when creating your own riffs by first getting them down over one chord and then simply moving them around to match the other chords in the blues riff.
About The Author
Michael is a blues and rock guitarists, teacher and music educator from Melbourne, Australia. He has a passion for music and wants to ignite the same fire in everyone he meets. If you’re tired of not getting results take blues guitar lessons in Melbourne and unlock your full musical potential.
For those who play guitar, many know bass is very similar to guitar, but aren’t quite sure how to transition into starting to play bass as well. It’s rather easy to start. Let’s look a how to begin playing bass for guitar players.
First let’s look at the most obvious difference. The bass traditionally has 4 strings.
These are from thickest to thinnest E A D G. The same as the 4 thicker strings on the guitar. So, imagine a guitar without the 2 thinnest strings. Pretty cool! Since the running is the same, but one octave lower we can begin to play basic things we know on guitar on the bass.
Next you will notice the strings are quite a bit thicker. This is to keep stable tension when tuned so low. This is also why the neck of the bass is much longer and therefore the frets much more spread out across the neck. This will take some getting used to, but understanding how it works is very simple if you are already a guitar player.
Playing The Bass Guitar
Playing the bass guitar does definitely have a lot of differences, but it’s not anywhere near as different as a piano is to a guitar.
The bass isn’t used for chords 99% of the time. So I would avoid playing chords on it for a while. Starting out with simple single note riffs or melodies you already know well on guitar is the easiest place to start. Things like Smoke On The Water is simple enough. On the D string play frets 0 - 3 - 5, then 0 - 3 - 6 - 5, then 0 - 3 - 5, then 0 - 3. You’re done, great job!
You can pick the notes with your fingers or with a pick. If you use a pick, make sure it is thick enough to move the massive bass strings. I would recommend a 1mm or thicker pick. If you use your fingers, then use the index and middle fingers. Just start out with 1 finger, then work up to alternating between them so you can play faster more musically dense patterns. Playing this way is pretty different than how you would play on guitar, so I would start with a pick unless you aren’t used to using a pick on guitar yet.
If you want to play along with a guitar player or maybe you recorded your guitar playing and want to add some bass, then this will really fill out the sound. If the part is just chords, then find the root note of the chord and play that note only. For example the root of C major is C and the root of A minor is A. Pretty simple.
Most likely if you are playing a bass, it is an electric bass and will require you plug it into an amplifier to really get the most out of the experience.
Bass guitars require bass amps, but if you don’t have a bass amp, then you can use a guitar amp, just make sure it is turned down a lot. Guitar amplifiers are not designed to handle the frequencies of a bass, so do this is caution and you should be ok for now. Eventually you will want to use a bass amp. It is a much better combination.
There is much more to playing bass than what is covered here. This is only a very basic introduction to picking up the bass guitar for someone who knows some guitar.
About The Author: Ryan Duke is a professional musician, guitar teacher, and owner of Seattle Guitar Mentor providing guitar lessons in Seattle, WA.
We all want to get better at guitar, but some people seem to improve faster than others.
In my experience as a teacher I found that if a student improves faster this is NOT due to natural talent, rather it's because he/she is following a few simple guidelines.
If you want to improve faster too, here they are:
Practicing guitar: that thing that will make us better at playing guitar, but it's not as fun as playing.
Here are a few suggestions to get the most out of the time and energy you put into practicing. They will help you getting frustrated, and they will make you improve at a steady rate:
Things you want to do:
Play slow before playing fast. This is the secret to speed and relaxation: do not speed up too soon. Make sure you can play your exercises at a moderate tempo before shredding with them.
Have a practice schedule. As your teacher help in building one, then follow it. Even if you do not follow it 100%, it's much easier to stay on track with a schedule... and your playing will massively improve in a short time.
Focus on one thing at a time. It stands to logic that it's quite hard, if not impossible to focus on TWO things a a time. The idea here is that if you try to fix EVERYTHING wrong with your playing every time you practice, then you are spreading your attention too thin. Pick ONE thing, and work on that.
Check with your teacher. Make sure your teacher approves what you are going to practice. Just asking him/her: "hey should I practice this thing right now?" will save you TONS of time, as your teacher may give you a better, more efficient alternative.
Things that will make your practice harder:
Practicing useless things. For you right now, everything you find on the internet/Youtube is useless UNLESS your teacher explicitly told you to go and watch it.
All those 'shiny' licks that you can learn on YouTube are a waste of time if you are not ready for them. I know it is hard to resist, but if you focus on what your teacher gives you, you will see the differences in just a few weeks.
Distractions. You can't learn if you do not focus, so eliminate all phones, computers, TV, etc from your practice space. Just practice!
Following multiple teachers. This is something you should NEVER do. Different teachers have different methods, and those differences will interfere and slow down your progress.
Pick ONE teacher that you like (not the best player, but the best teacher!) and listen only to him. If you pick two teachers it will confuse your fingers and your mind.
About the Author
Tommaso Zillio is a professional rock and metal guitar player with the passion for music theory that teaches electric guitar lessons in Edmonton to many local up and coming guitar players. He's also a respected writer of guitar columns.
Are you tired of learning and practising dull and lifeless exercises that don't really work?
Frustrated with scale patterns that get you to run up and down the strings but don't sound close to a musical idea?
Do you jump around from one idea to the other hoping to see improvements in your playing but at the end of the hour you feel like you haven't got anywhere?
You're not alone. For nearly two decades my guitar practice consisted of basically what I felt like doing in the moment or learning songs that my band wanted to play. So I know how you feel – you want to play more and progress faster and feel a sense of accomplishment and inspiration of being a better guitar player.
In this short article I want to share with you some things that really helped to turn my practice sessions around.
I'm sure if you follow this advice you will get inspired to practice more and advance faster.
Practice Inspiration 1: Set Up Your Room Properly
Make you practice area unique and inspiring to you. You are going to be spending a lot of time here so make it a dedicated part of your house.
Have it set up with a good armless chair, a footstool and music stand. Have you amplifier nearby (if you play electric guitar) ready to go. On your walls, put up posters or photos of your favourite guitar players or bands.
Use album covers for added inspiration if you want. You can also include inspirational/motivational quotes on you walls to fire you up and to keep you focused.
Having your practice area, designed and set up the way you like it, will greatly aid to your inspiration to practice more.
Practice Inspiration 2: Have Practice Materials Ready
Before you sit down to practice for the day or particular session make sure you have all the materials you are going to be learning/practising/reviewing on hand ready to go.
Have the music sheets, guitar lesson handouts or books beside you at all times and ready to go so you don't have to waste your precious practice time, shuffling and rummaging through books or folders to find what you are practising.
This alone will save you time and make your practice sessions way more productive and rewarding. It will also eliminate the urge to just wander and start noodling.
Practice Inspiration 3: Ensure There Is Going To Be No Distractions
Before you practice, tell everybody you live with that you're not going to be available for the next thirty to sixty minutes.
Tell them that you are not to be interrupted during this time unless in case of an emergency. You also want to switch off your phone.
Turn off your television and/or stereo. Any device that can alert you with notifications with beeps or buzzes. You want zero distractions in this time so you can focus on what you are working on – free from any outside influences or any of your own creation. You will get more done and accomplished, by following this simple rule. Plus having this no access zone set up for your practice time and seeing the new improvements in your guitar playing will go far to inspire you to practice more
Practice Inspiration 4: Set A Goal To Work Towards
Jumping from one thing to another in any random order, or spur of the moment is not practising. It's noodling. And noodling doesn't get you results. It leads to just playing around on your guitar. And playing around on your guitar doing things you can already do is not practising.
To overcome and prevent this from happening, set up what you want to practice and achieve for the week, before you ever sit down to a single practice session.
This can be as simple as “I want to learn these two new chords and to change between them smoothly by Saturday”.
When it is written down it gives you direction, something to aim for. Your goals for the week should include most areas of your guitar playing. Write down one goal for chords, notes/scales, rhythm and songs.
Get a sheet of paper – better still, a dedicated practice journal and note book and put a heading across the top of the page, I Will Achieve This In My Guitar Practice This Week. Then list your items:
· Memorise complete verse section of song
· Play an eighth note strumming pattern at 100bpm
· Read page 10 of music theory book
· Learn the second pentatonic scale pattern
Seeing this written on paper will keep you focused and organised to practice with more determination and discipline.
Practice Inspiration 5: Make Your Commitment
What does this mean make your commitment? We all live busy lives.
We have other responsibilities to consider besides learning guitar. With these other things wanting and needing our time it’s easy to let guitar practice slide and dismiss it off with a 'well, this came up' attitude.
However, things do come up from time to time that prevents us from doing our practice. That's life.
However we need to dedicate time to our practice. To see improvements in your playing week in and week out you have to schedule your practice time in.
Write it down as not negotiable. Commit to this time daily. Even if it can only be 10minutes a session down several times throughout the day. If you don't schedule it you'll find your guitar practice at the mercy of 'other things'.
The five things above call for no real sacrifice. They're not hard to do. However once you start doing them you will see continued results in your guitar playing.
Each week the thing that was once hard to do gets easier to play and allows you to tackle more challenging songs and material. Now that's inspiring.
About the author:
Allen Hopgood grew up on a steady diet of Australian rock music. Having played in bands since he was 15, he has shared the stage with some of the elite Australian musical talent. Living on the Gold Coast, he runs a successful guitar teaching business while pursuing his passion of song writing.