Archive for the ‘Scales’ Category

Power Chords You Need to Play

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

In the entertainment industry they sometimes say, “power is money.”

In the alternative, modern rock, and metal genres of music – power chords are money. If you have money, you can rule the world. Power chords provide that raw, aggressive edge to your music. They’re brash, bold, and daring. But did you know, that power chords (PC) are technically not ”true chords”? What I mean by this, is that a chord is defined as a musical presence that utilizes three or more notes.

Technically speaking, power chords are not true chords. A chord is made up of three or more notes. ”PC’s” are only made up of two different notes. So, with that being said, it’s now time to look at these “non-technical guitar chords.”

A major chord is made up of the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of its corresponding major scale. For example, take a look at the C Major Scale. The C Major Scale is made up of the following notes:


In order to play a C Major Chord, the guitarist would strum the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the C Scale, or the notes: C, E, & G.

C Major Chord

All Major Scales follow the same progression, which means that regardless of whether it’s the C Major, A Major, or E Major – they all incorporate the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of its corresponding major scale.

So, for example, you need to play a C Power Chord. Which notes do you need to play. All power chords use the 1st and 5th notes on the scale. As you’ll note from above, the 1st note in the C Major is C while the 5th note of the scale G. Thus, to play the C P. Chord, the guitarist would simply strum the guitar with the C and G notes:

C Major Power Chord

Despite popular opinion, power chords are not difficult to play. They may ring off this thunderous, complex sound in your earlobe, but these chords are accessible for both the advanced and beginner guitarist. If you are looking for some of the most popular PC’s, try your hand at a few of these notoriously simple and common chords:

A Major Chord A Power Chord
B Major Chord B Power Chord
C Major Chord C Power Chord
D Major Chord D Power Chord
E Major Chord E Power Chord
F Major Chord F Power Chord
G Major Chord G Power Chord

It’s important to keep in mind that while power chords are easy and fun to play, the beginner guitarist too often gets caught up with the sound. Sure, they really pack a nice punch. But as previously stated, they are not “guitar chords.” Learning to play complex three to four note chords will really expand your musical spectrum.

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As always, the web provides numerous opportunities to expand your knowledge and learn about guitar chords. If you are an absolute beginner, check out this great “Power Chords for Dummies” explanation. Also, Guitar Allegiance provides a nice lesson for free and as always, Guitar Lessons Critic features a detailed review of some of the best guitar courses available.

Another useful reference is to begin with basic music theory and guitar chords. It is here where you will understand the many, many different chords available at your disposal.

Scales for the Acoustic Guitar

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Despite what some may say, the acoustic guitar is still alive and well. Sure, it may seem like 75% of the guitar content online is related to the electric guitar, however the acoustic guitar still have a special niche audience. Several of the beginner guitar lessons and information posted online can cross-over regardless of whether you play on electric or acoustic guitar. However, there are a few minor differences (JamPlay and Jamorama both do a very nice job of explaining the differences).

A question that is commonly asked about acoustic guitars is what guitar scales are suited for the beginner player?

The best way to understand musical scales is to learn them in the context of keys. Learning the keys will allow you to see how everything works and fits together in this special little universe we call music. The most popular musical scale for beginners to learn is called the pentatonic scale.  The pentatonic scale is a musical scale with five pitches per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale. The scale is very popular and widely used in pop music, rock music and especially in blues.

Major Pentatonic Scale

The shape of the scale is symmetric, and therefore very easy to visualize. Anhemitonic pentatonic scales, do not contain semitones and can be constructed in many ways. One example of the scale takes five consecutive pitches from the circle of fifths; starting on C, these are C, G, D, A, and E. Transposing the pitches to fit into one octave rearranges the pitches into the major pentatonic scale: C, D, E, G, A, C. This common scale is found in the opening bars of “My Girl” by The Temptations.

C major pentatonic scale

Another construction works backward: It omits two pitches from a diatonic scale. If we were to begin with a C major scale, for example, we might omit the fourth and the seventh scale degrees, F and B. The remaining notes, C, D, E, G, and A, are transpositionally equivalent to the black keys on a piano keyboard: G-flat, A-flat, B-flat, D-flat, and E-flat.

G-flat major pentatonic scale

Omitting the third and seventh degrees of the C major scale obtains the notes for another transpositionally equivalent anhemitonic pentatonic scale: {F,G,A,C,D}. Omitting the first and fourth degrees of the C major scale gives a third anhemitonic pentatonic scale: {G,A,B,D,E}.

Minor Pentatonic Scale

Although various hemitonic pentatonic scales might be called minor, the term is most commonly applied to the relative minor pentatonic derived from the major pentatonic, using scale tones 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7 of the natural minor scale. The C minor pentatonic would be C, E-flat, F, G, B-flat. The A minor pentatonic, the relative minor of C, would be the same tones as C major pentatonic, starting on A, giving A, C, D, E, G. This minor pentatonic contains all three tones of an A minor triad.

A minor pentatonic scale

Songs on the minor pentatonic scale include the popular Canadian folk song “Land of the Silver Birch”. Because of their simplicity, pentatonic scales are often used to introduce children to music.

As with all scales, you must first practise slowly and then gradually progress after you have memorised the scale. If you find that acoustic guitar scales are difficult and quite challenging at first, please understand that learning acoustic guitar scales are challenging and difficult in the early stages, but become entirely normal over time. You are trying to unlock the ability to express yourself musically through a scale and this process is always a challenge at first.

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Other Acoustic Guitar Scales recommended for beginners: The Major Scale, Harmonic Minor, and Melodic Minor

Blues Guitar Beginner Lesson

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

For those of you who have seen the mildly comical movie Adventures in Babysitting, you’ll probably recognize the quote, “nobody gets outta here without singin’ the blues” from the film. At the climax of a chase sequence, the babysitter and the group of kids she is watching, appear to reach safety inside a busy underground club. However, there is one drastic difference. Everyone in the club is black, except for the babysitter and kids. The group attempts to dart out the back of the building, but an attendant of the club stops the group in their tracks and utters the infamous line – “Nobody gets outta here without singin’ the blues.” Long story short, the crew gets on stage and steals the show.

You too, can steal the show with an amazing beginner blues set. The Blues are one of the musical backbones of this great nation. It’s also a very difficult style to learn on the guitar. However, difficult never means it’s impossible. In fact, the web offers a number of great videos for beginners on the very basics of rhythm blues.

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Blues Lessons might possibly contain the greatest collection of Blues lessons on the web. The site also features some fantastic information in regards to the blues scales, pentatonic licks, fingerpicking lessons, as well as Blues equipment, styles, and artists.

One of the first aspects of the Blues you’ll need to learn is the special scale system the genre utilizes. The Pentatonic Scale is the key to any Blues solo playing. Below is a couple of quick exercises (along with photos), needed to learn the 1/5 Pattern on the Pentatonic Scale.

1. Notes on the fingerboard.

Notes on the E string


You’re now ready to learn the five patterns of the Minor-Pentatonic Scale. Each pattern is movable over the complete fingerboard (e.g. in the keytone G the first pattern starts on the 3rd fret, in the keytone A it starts on the 5th fret, in keytone C on the 8th fret, etc).

1st Pattern

Minor Pentatonic Pattern 1
In the keytone G (from the 3rd fret, because the keytone G is on the 3rd fret) the first pattern looks like this.


Practice: Play from the the high E-string to the low E-string and back. Use one finger for each fret. That means Index finger for the 3rd fret in the key of G, the Middle Finger for the 4th fret, the Ringfinger for the 5th fret etc.

Pattern Exercise

If you want to move the pattern into another key, just use the graphic above where you can see the keytones on the fingerboard.

Excercise: A simple Pentatonic-Lick (use bendings, hammer-ons as much as you like)


For more sensational information and lessons on the Pentatonic Scale, check out Blues Lessons catalog of Blues Scales exercises.

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JamPlay is a very versatile product which touches up on some of the beginner techniques. As always, you can also reference the wide number of blues lessons on You Tube.

Understanding Guitar Scales – The First Step to Playing Lead Guitar

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Note: This is a guest post by Ian, from

For a lot of beginner guitar players the thought of having to learn scales can seem a bit daunting. Chords, sure they weren’t too difficult to handle, but moving into the realm of scales is something completely new. Thankfully there are easier scales to learn then others.

The pentatonic guitar scales are probably the easiest to master and that’s what this article will cover. If you haven’t yet learned some basic musical theory, names of each string and some of the notes on the neck you might want to consider getting a quality guitar lessons dvd to grow your foundation. I know when you want to learn something new you want to do it right now but trust me on this, knowing the basics about theory and the neck will make this a lot easier.

So back to the lesson

There are 5 notes in each pentatonic scale. This is what makes it so attractive to beginners since most other scales have 7 or more notes. To go along with this the scale has 5 distinct shapes it follows depending on which note of the scale your starting at.

Once you memorize the shapes it’s just a matter of knowing where the notes are in the scale and then pick up the scale using the proper position (1st through 5th position) based on that note.

Here’s an Example:

A simple A Minor Pentatonic scale on the 6th string (low E) starts at the 5th Fret. It then slides up three frets, then two frets, then two frets then finally sliding three frets to finish the scale. Those are the 5 main notes in the A minor pentatonic scale.

So let’s take it a step further and play it on more then just the 6th string. In first position your going to start at the first note of the A minor pentatonic scale, that’s the 5th fret of the 6th string. From there you’re going to follow the 1st position shape for a pentatonic scale. I won’t describe the exact shapes since it would take quite a bit of time to explain, but they are readily available online.

For the second position you would start at the 8th fret of the 6th string. This is the second note of that scale if you remember from just a few moments ago. I bet you can see the pattern now, the 3rd position starts on the 3rd note of the scale and so on and so on.

The key to pentatonic scales is

  • memorizing the 5 different shapes
  • Knowing where the scales are on each string

Since the shapes stay the same through out you can see how it’s easier to learn pentatonic guitar scales then any other type of scale on the guitar neck. Of course it takes some serious practice but it’s well worth it once you start to integrate these scales into your practicing and jam sessions.