This lesson is divided into four parts
Although it might seem strange, (given the fact that the notes are named A through G) music theory centers around the key of C.
Below is the CHROMATIC SCALE starting with C:
C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab - A - A#/Bb - B - C
A SCALE is nothing more than a clever way to travel from octave to octave. The word CHROMATIC comes from chroma or color. Think of the chromatic scale (because it contains every note) as one that includes all the colors.
Every other scale (there are hundreds of them) is constructed by selecting only certain notes from the chromatic scale.
The chromatic scale is the model used for the concept of WHOLE-STEPS and HALF-STEPS (sometimes refered to as WHOLE TONE and SEMITONE).
A HALF-STEP is the distance between any two notes along the chromatic scale. If you play any note of the chromatic scale and then play the next higher note OR the next lower note, that is considered a HALF-STEP.
A WHOLE-STEP is equal to the distance of two HALF-STEPS. Therefore, if you play any note of the chromatic scale and then play, not the next note, but, the note after that, you are executing a WHOLE-STEP. (C to C# is a half-step, C to D is a whole-step etc...)
When applied to the guitar, half-step translates to the distance of one fret and whole-step to the distance of two frets. It makes no difference what the names of the notes are. The only thing that matters, is how far apart those notes are. (Understand that B and C are one fret apart as are E and F. these two pair of notes are therefore a half-step and not a whole-step. This is a common misunderstanding that beginning students have when first learning this concept. They assume that because there is no sharp or flat between those notes that they are a whole-step apart.)
Now, before we continue, another definition:
A note that is neither sharp nor flat is considered NATURAL. The symbol used to denote NATURAL looks like this:
NATURAL is understood rather than written most of the time. In other words, unless you see a # or b attatched to a note, that note is assumed to be NATURAL and therefore, does not require the use of it's symbol. (When dealing with standard music notation however, you will encounter the NATURAL SIGN quite frequently.)
If you start on C and play only the NATURAL notes until you reach the octave, you will arrive at the notes of the C MAJOR SCALE:
C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C
(This is a good time to draw your attention to the word MAJOR. For reference sake music is divided into different catagories based on sound quality. Those things that are labeled MAJOR have a certain sound quality to them. This will be covered in great detail as we go along. For now, when you encounter such names as MAJOR, MINOR, DOMINANT, DIMINISHED or AUGMENTED don't worry about what they mean. This knowlege will come in time. All you need to understand at this point, is that these names refer to what I call FAMILIES OF SOUND.)
Now, if we look at the whole-steps and half-steps between each note of the C MAJOR SCALE, we find this pattern:
W - W - H - W - W - W - H
This pattern of whole-steps and half-steps is the single most important part of understanding music theory. Know it well.
Your theory assignment for this lesson is to map out the notes of the C major scale up and down each of the individual strings.
Here is what the high E-string looks like:
Notice the use of a Square on the eighth fret. This is a common visual aid for indicating the ROOT NOTE of a scale. ROOT NOTE means the note that the scale is based upon. Remember that we built our scale starting on C. Therefore, the ROOT NOTE of the scale is C and the sound of the scale is MAJOR.
When first learning a scale, It's important to start AND stop on the ROOT NOTE. This is so you learn to hear how all of the notes in the scale RESOLVE to the root.
Try this experiment.
Click on the MIDI file below and, while it's playing, do the following:
Play the root note several times. Notice that it sounds right at home.
Slowly, play the note above the root (D) twice, the note below the root (B) twice and then play the root and let the note ring. Notice that the D and B sound TENSE or unsettled and the C RESOLVES that TENSION.
Play the scale, slowly, from the C at the 8th fret up to the C at the 20th fret. (Be sure not to hit any wrong notes or you won't hear what I'm getting at) Notice how all the notes you play seem to naturally lead to the C at the 20th fret.
Slowly, play the scale back down to the C at the 8th fret. Again the notes seem to lead to the C.
Play the scale up to the 20th fret, again but, this time, pause on the B at the 19th fret for a moment. Then play the C at the 20th fret. Notice how "unfinished" the scale sounds when you pause on the B and how "complete" the scale sounds when you finally play the C.
Play the scale back down to the B at the 7th fret and pause for a moment. Then play the C. Again notice how "unfinished" it sounds when you pause on the B. This is called TENSION. Notice how "complete" it sounds when you finally play the C. This is called RESOLUTION.
Pedal tone MIDI
From this experiment, you should realize how important TENSION and RESOLUTION are to creating music.
Now, go ahead and figure out the C major scale on the remaining strings. Don't worry about going across the strings (like you're doing with your finger exercises). Just play up and down the strings one at a time.
Once you have a fair idea of where the notes are on one string, play the MIDI file and practice going up and down the entire length of the fingerboard while listening to the sound that you are creating (If you ever sang do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do in grade school, you're now playing the same thing on your guitar).
Then, go on to the next string.
Playing up and down the scale is good practice but, it's not really making music. Let's make some music!
Below is a MIDI of a CHORD PROGRESSION in the key of C major.
Pick a string and, play along with the file using the C major scale. Don't just play up and down the scale. Instead, try jumping around to different spots in the scale and see if you can come up with anything that sounds interesting.
Now, it's inevitable that you are going to hit some wrong notes. Don't worry about it. If you lose your place too badly just stop for a second and start over.
Also, If you can hear that you are hitting wrong notes, it's a good indication that you are developing an ear for what the scale is "supposed" to sound like.
You're not going to sound like Eddie Van Halen right away but, as a teacher I once had used to say, "All of the masters were born shitting in a diaper, just like you. The only thing that separates you from them is practice." Have fun, be adventurous and play like you mean it!
This lesson is divided into four parts
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