Guitar Lessons Archives

Modal Theory for Guitar Players – Part 2

By Simon Duff

Playing the Modes

When I used to use this pack with students, I provided them with a CD which contained a backing track for each of the modes. This enabled them to practive getting the sounds and shapes under their fingers. In this version you will be provided with the harmonised scale for each mode, and from this you can construct your own grooves and backing tracks to do the same thing. I am assuming that you know, or can easily work out the names of the notes on the neck so the scale maps you will be presented are not anchored in any one place on the neck. Once you know where the root note is for each scale you can then move that note to suit whatever scale you want to play. Please note that some of the modes are for different scales, but this is only so that you don’t learn everything in C, but do try to get used to using other root notes.

The Ionian Mode
As we have already discussed, the Ionian mode is the major scale, so anything that you know about the major scale, you know about the Ionian mode. We have looked at the structure of the scale, which hopefully was familiar, and the next thing we’ll consider is what chords you can build on the major scale. I am going to assume that this is something you know and that it won’t come as a surprise that if we take the C Ionian scale, and build 7th chords on each scale degree, we will get the following chords

C Major 7
D Minor 7
E Minor 7
F Major 7
G Dominant 7
A Minor 7
B Minor 7 flat 5

These chords are constructed from the notes contained within the C Ionian scale, so the C Ionian will fit over any of these chords. Now, this is technically true, but as you will know from your playing, some notes work better than others, and for some people’s ears. You can also play the arpeggios of these chords.

The Dorian Mode
As you will know from the previous discussion of theory, C Dorian differs from C Ionian by having the third and seventh of the scale flattened, thus, C Dorian consists of:

C D Eb F G A Bb

The seventh chords built upon these notes are as follows;

C Minor 7
D Mionr 7
Eb Major 7
F Dominant 7
G Minor 7
A Minor 7 flat 5
Bb Minor 7

To play something a little more familiar you can also use the C Minor pentatonic as this is using notes which are in the C Dorian scale, namely,

C, Eb, F, G, A, and Bb.

The Phrygian Mode
You can use the previous theoretical discussion to work out how the G Phrygian differs from G Ionian. Just to recap, G Ionian consists of the notes G, A, B, C, D, E, and F#. The Phrygian mode differs from the Ionian by the second, third, sixth, and seventh degrees of the Ionian scale being flattened. So, G Phrygian consists of:

G Ab Bb C D Eb F

The seventh chords built upon these notes are as follows:

G Minor 7
Ab Major 7
Bb Dominant 7
C Minor 7
D Minor 7 flat 5
Eb Major 7
F Minor 7

Along with these you can interweave the arpeggios and the G Minor pentatonic is made up of notes from the G Phrygian scale, so you can use that too.

The Lydian Mode
You should be able to work out how G Lydian will differ from G Ionian. Remember that the Lydian has a 4th degree which is sharpened, and the 4th degree of G Ionian is C, thus, G Lydian consists of the following notes.

G A B C# D E F#

The seventh chords built upon this scale are:

G Major 7
A Dominant 7
B Minor 7
C# Minor 7 flat 5
D Major 7
E Minor 7
F# Minor 7

You can also use the various arpeggios and the G Major pentatonic in this situation.

The Mixolydian Mode
You should be able to work out how G Mixolydian will differ from G Ionian. Remember that the Mixolydian has a 7th degree which is flattened, and the 7th degree of G Ionian is F#, thus, G Mixolydian consists of the following notes.


The seventh chords built upon this scale are:

G Dominant 7
A Minor 7
B Minor 7 flat 5
C Major 7
D Minor 7
E Minor 7
F Major 7

You can also use the various arpeggios and the G Major pentatonic in this situation.

The Aeolian Mode
You should be able to work out how B Aeolian will differ from B Ionian. Remember that the Aeolian has third, sixth and 7th degrees which are flattened, and the third, sixth and 7th degrees of B Ionian are D#, G#, and A# thus, B Aeolian consists of the following notes.

B C# D E F# G A

The seventh chords built upon this scale are:

B Minor 7
C# Minor 7 flat 5
D Major 7
E Minor 7
F# Minor 7
G Major 7
A Dominant 7

You can also use the various arpeggios and the B Minor pentatonic in this situation.

The Locrian Mode
You should be able to work out how B Locrian will differ from B Ionian. Remember that the Locrian has third, sixth and 7th degrees which are flattened, and the second, third, fifth, sixth and 7th degrees of B Ionian are C#, D#, F#, G#, and A# thus, B Locrian consists of the following notes.


The Locrian is interesting because it is actually a half-diminished scale.

The seventh chords built upon this scale are:

B Minor 7 flat 5
C Major 7
D Minor 7
E Minor 7
F Major 7
G Dominant 7
A Minor 7

You can also use the various arpeggios and the G Major pentatonic in this situation.

The study of the guitar is a lifetime’s work, and even then you won’t know everything, won’t be able to play everything, and still have skills that you could develop further. There’s nothing wrong with that as you don’t need to have a perfect understanding of anything to be able to be creative and skilled. Part of the enjoyment is the journey, the process of learning. Hopefully this handbook has provided you with the tools to start your exploration of the modes, and with the knowledge contained herein you can go off and build further tools which let you express yourself as you want to. Good luck.

Simon duff

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Modal Theory for Guitar Players – Part 1

By Simon Duff


The fact that you are holding this in your hands suggests that you have got to the point in your explorations of, and curiosity about the guitar that the next step is the modes. Maybe it’s because you have read somewhere that Steve Vai loves the Lydian mode, or you have listened to music by Frank Gambale and wondered what he was up to. Whatever the reason, the material you have here should set you on the road to opening up new ways to express yourself, to get different sounds into your melodies and harmonies.

First off you need to know that this material alone will not have you ripping exotic solos up and down the fret board, smoke and fire on your fingertips. It will take the same process and work that has brought you your level of chops with the pentatonic, major and minor scales, arpeggios and your own licks. What it will do is give you the information you need, and the backing tracks so that you can practice and familiarise yourself with the patterns of the modes, and get used to the sounds.

Ultimately it’s down to the time you put in and your motivation to go beyond what you find within these pages. But if you’re serious about learning the modes, you knew that already. Anyone promising you a quick fix, whether conscious or subconscious, is at the very least pulling your leg.

The second thing you need to know is that a certain facility and knowledge is assumed. If you find yourself flailing in a sea of non-comprehension it is hopefully only because you’re not ready to move on to this stage of learning, and you need to tuck this back under the bed and give yourself a little more time with the basics. You could ignore the theory section altogether. It’s up to you what you want to do with this now it’s yours, but hopefully, if you do ignore it now, perhaps you will come back to it and then it should make some sense and help you with other aspects of using the modes.

Let’s start with the good news. There are 7 modes built on the major scale and you already know two of them. The major scale is a mode itself, called the Ionian, and the minor scale is another mode, called the Aeolian. So, more than a quarter of the work is done. If you thought that getting to grips with those two scales wasn’t too complicated, then you should get on fine with the other material here. If you are in a state of experience where playing the major and minor scales in 5 positions on the guitar neck, in any key, is not something that you are familiar or comfortable with, back this goes under the bed. Although both of these modes will be covered you really should be worrying about the basics at this point. Any half way decent book about playing the guitar, or song writing, should provide you with the information to get these two modes under your fingers. For the rest of you, let’s go.

The Modes

Before we get to anything even remotely like playing a scale, we need to have a think about the theory to understand where these modes come from. It is not essential to understand this to learn the modes, you could just learn the patterns, but, knowing some of the theory should help you to know when the modes could be employed, why they sound different etc. There are seven modes, named Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. The reason why there are seven modes is because each mode is built on a different tone of the major scale and there are 7 different tones in the major scale. If we take the scale of C Major as an example, so we don’t have to worry about sharps and flats, this should be clearer.

As you are probably aware, the C Major scale consists of the following tones:


If we think of the major scale as a mode, then what we are saying is that if we start on the tone C, and then play all seven tones of the C Major scale, we are playing C Ionian. The same is true for any other major scale. If you start on the tone B and play all 7 tones which make up the B Major scale, you have played B Ionian.

Another way to think of this is to consider the way in which this scale is constructed. All major scales are constructed with the same distance between pairs of tones. Again, considering the C Major scale, the distances between the pairs of notes is:

Note Pair…….Tone distance…………Fret distance

C to D……….a whole tone (T)………..i.e., 2 frets)

D to E……….a whole tone (T)……….(i.e., 2 frets)

E to F……….a semi-tone (S)………..(i.e., 1 fret)

F to G……….a whole tone (T)……….(i.e., 2 frets)

G to A……….a whole tone (T)……….(i.e., 2 frets)

A to B……….a whole tone (T)……….(i.e., 2 frets)

B to C……….a semi-tone (S)………..(i.e., 1 fret)

So, we could say that the structure of any major scale, or Ionian mode, is


We can check this. You should check this on your guitar neck to convince yourself that it is true, but here we’ll do it on paper. Let’s say we want to construct the G Major scale.

Knowing that all major scales are constructed using the formula T T S T T T S, and starting on G we would get the following:

G up a whole tone to A

A up a whole tone to B

B up a semi-tone to C

C up a whole tone to D

D up a whole tone to E

E up a whole tone to F#

F# up a semi-tone to G

Producing the scale

G A B C D E F#

Do this with other major scales just to check that there’s no trickery here. If you didn’t know that the G Major scale has an F# in it, back under the bed this goes and find a theory book!

Ok, so we can think of the Ionian (from now on the Major scale will always be referred to as the Ionian, as we are thinking in modes here) as having a particular structure. The next theoretical step we’ll take is to build the other modes on the notes of the Ionian, and then look at their structures in exactly the same way. Taking C Ionian again, and only using the tones of this mode, consider the following.

If we take all the notes from C Ionian, and only those notes, and we start on C


We are playing C Ionian.

Now we’ll look at the other modes, remembering that as we are building them on the tones from C Ionian, these are the only tones we can use, i.e., C, D, E, F, G, A, and B.

If we take all the notes from C Ionian, and only those notes, and we start on D,


We are playing D Dorian.

If we take all the notes from C Ionian, and only those notes, and we start on E,


We are playing E Phrygian.

If we take all the notes from C Ionian, and only those notes, and we start on F,


We are playing F Lydian.

If we take all the notes from C Ionian, and only those notes, and we start on G,


We are playing G Mixolydian.

If we take all the notes from C Ionian, and only those notes, and we start on A,


We are playing A Aeolian, also known as the
minor scale, which you know.

If we take all the notes from C Ionian, and only those notes, and we start on B,


We are playing B Locrian.

If you know your Ionian modes, then you will have instantly seen that the scales we are producing in this way are not the same as the Ionian modes you know. For example, the G Mixolydian we have built does not have an F#, which the G Ionian does and the F Lydian we have built does not have a Bb in it, which the F Ionian does.

Noticing these differences means you have noticed one of the key aspects of the modes. The reason why, for example G Mixolydian does not sound like G Ionian is because the relationship between the notes has changed, the pattern of tones and semi-tones between the notes has changed and as such the tones in the scale are different. These changes in the relationships are what give the modes their characteristic sounds and determine why they can be used in some instances, and not in others. But more of that later.

You could now start comparing some of your modes. For example, you could play a D Ionian, and then play D Dorian and compare the sounds. You’ll probably hear that your Dorian sounds slightly more ‘minor’. Part of the work you need to find time to do is to start to hear these differences, but when we get to the playing part of this package you’ll be doing that anyway, so just hold on one moment. The next thing we will do is look at the structures of each of the modes, again using as our base example C Ionian. Below you will find each of the 7 modes built on C, starting with C Ionian, the others built on the tones which make up the C Ionian mode (C, D, E, F, G, A, B).

Starting Tone…..Mode Name…..Mode Notes…Mode Structure

C,…………………C Ionian……..CDEFGABC……T T S T T T S

D,…………………D Dorian……..DEFGABCD……T S T T T S T

E,…………………E Phrygian……EFGABCDE……S T T T S T T

F,…………………F Lydian……..FGABCDEF……T T T S T T S

G,…………………G Mixolydian….GABCDEFG……T T S T T S T

A,…………………A Aeolian…….ABCDEFGA……T S T T S T T

B,…………………B Locrian…….BCDEFGAB……S T T S T T T

As you can probably see, each of the modes has its own, unique structure of tone and semi-tones between notes in the scale. What this means is that if you learn, for example, that the Locrian mode is constructed by spacing notes according to the formula of S T T S T T T, you can play the the Locrian mode in any key by choosing your start note, and then building the scale according to this formula.

One final way we can think of the modes shows very clearly how each mode differs from its own Ionian mode. Again, taking as our basis the C Ionian, we will number each of the notes in the C Ionian scale, as below.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Now, we will look at the modes based on C Ionian, and show how each mode differs.

D Dorian



This merely means that D Dorian differs from D Ionian by the third degree of the scale and the seventh degree of the scale being flattened. So, whereas in D Ionian the scale has an F# and a C#, D Dorian has an F and a C. We’ll look at the other modes in the same manner.

E Phrygian



F Lydian



G Mixolydian



A Aeolian



B Locrian



What the previous list demonstrated is how each of these modes differs from the Ionian mode starting on the same root node. So, for example, A Aeolian differs from A Ionian by the third, sixth, and seventh degree of the Ionian mode being flattened. Once again, you could learn how the individual modes differ from their Ionian modes and alter the way you play the Ionian to take account of this.

By now you have probably got a bit of an ache in your head from all this theory. It’s not crucial at this stage that you have got all of this committed to memory and have it all worked out. Give it a little time, and when you have had a chance to get a bit of modal playing done, you can pick the ones that you like, or that fit your style, and then just get your head around those ones.

This is end of the main theoretical section. Bits will creep in, or will seem to creep in when we look at chords for each of the modes, but really, as long as you have a basic understanding of music it shouldn’t be any more troublesome than what you’ve been through already. I hope.

Feedback welcome.

Guitarist and therapist:,, though not necessarily in that order, and not exclusively either.

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Guitar Lessons –Minor Pentatonic Scales

By Bill McRea

Minor pentatonic scales are used extensively in modern and classic rock. A strong understanding of how pentatonic scales work, and can be used for soloing and creating riffs, is extremely important. They are also the easiest and generally the first scales most people learn.

Minor Pentatonic Basics:

I assume you know how to read basic TAB format for this lesson. If you have not been exposed to TAB then you should review our lesson on reading guitar TAB before moving on.

The Minor Pentatonic scale consists of the following intervals: 1 b3 4 5 b7 1. In the key of A the intervals would be the notes of A C D E G A. There are 5 scale shapes in “box” patterns for the pentatonic scales. For the A minor pentatonic the box shape follows:


The 5 is the fifth fret and is the root note, thus the name of the key and scale is A, the intervals determines the type Minor or Major. This scale shape above is the most scale and is used in rock, blues and most styles of music. If you move this entire shape up to positions on the guitar and play the same shape you will have a B minor pentatonic. Likewise if you slide the entire shape down two potions you have a G minor pentatonic. See Below:


Practice this scale shape several times a day, moving it into different positions or keys, for variety. Many of rocks most famous licks are derived form this shape. If you are going to play guitar learning this one basic shape is mandatory.

Next up – The Major Pentatonic Scale.

Bill McRea is the publisher of The
Guitar Warehouse
and Guitar
Playing Techniques
. Both sites offer free lesson and product sales.

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The Importance of Metronomes

Musicians are often criticized for two things, playing out of tune and playing out of time. Both of these can have catastrophic results for your audience and the rest of your band! The good news is that help is at hand, your timing can be improved through using a simple piece of technology which coupled with some regular practice can solve any tempo issues that you have.

Musicians often claim to have a natural sense of rhythm and timing. While, on rare occasions this may be the case generally we can all improve, being able to keep time with you’re your fellow musicians is one of the most important things for any musician. Imagine any piece of music where the bass player and drummer and guitarists are all out of sync – what a din!

To learn to play in time you should really have a metronome. If you do not have one already I would advise that you should obtain one or a similar device (a drum machine for example) as soon as possible and incorporate it into your practice regime.

Metronomes are a device (either mechanical or digital) used for sounding beats per measure at a user definable tempo. Metronomes are great when practicing to ensure that you keep a standard tempo throughout the piece of music.

Often metronomes have two tones – one to indicate each beat and a further sound to indicate the start of the measure. Metronomes come with a setting to either increase or decrease the speed of the beat -this is often very useful when practicing complex pieces and allows you to start out with a slow beat and as you become more proficient increase the tempo.

Perhaps the best use of a metronome is when it’s combined with regular practicing. Metronomes are ideal used when practicing scales, arpeggios, or complex pieces of music. Try a slow tempo and aim to play a note exactly on each beat, mix it up and play notes on alternate beats – speed up the tempo and practice playing 8th notes.

Regular practice of this kind will bring on your timing and you will find that your musical technique comes on leaps and bounds.

Metronome and timing excercises for guitar

In the first part of our article on improving your sense of timing we described how you should use a metronome to improve your technique. In the second part of our article we’ll give you some exercises to try and incorporate into your practice routine.

1/ Hit that note!

Select a tempo for your metronome and try to play a note (any note will do), aim to hit that note once per beat. You’ll need to pick the string exactly the same time as the click of the metronome. When your comfortable with this exercise try it at different tempo’s. A slower tempo is more difficult and will greatly improve your sense of tempo.

2/ Scales!

Get your fingers stretching, choose a scale to practice and play it in sync with your metronome. Firstly play up the scale then down the scale each time making sure it happens exactly on the beat. Practice this at different tempos and at different positions along the neck.

3/ Mix it up!

This exercise will help you stop a note in time. Set the metronome a bit faster – go on faster still. This time use any note or chord, but this time we’re going to pick on the first beat and then release the note (make the note stop) on the next beat. Now try this exercise when playing scales.

4/ 8th, 16th and triplets!

Now let’s try something a little more tricky. For this exercise we’ll divide the basic beat. Set your metronome to a medium temp and before you play any notes count in the 8th notes half way between each beat (for example one And two And three And four And where the And represents the 8th note), now play your note or scale using these 8th notes. Now try 16th notes (count one e and a two e and a three e and a four e and a) your picking should be down up-down-up when playing these. Once this is mastered try triplets, which are 3 notes per beat (try counting one two three with the one on each beat).

5/ Arpeggios

Now try playing arpeggios – Arpeggios is a term to describe notes of a certain chord when played quickly one after the other. In this exercise try alternating your pick strokes or the chord shape – try playing the same chord arpeggio at different places on the neck to a quick tempo.

6/ Chords

Finally select a chord sequence – say a 12 bar blues – using different strumming patterns and different tempos try to maintain an even rhythm ensuring that you keep in time to with the metronomes click.

That’s all basic timing practice; you can practise any exercise, scale or song to the metronome. Make sure that you incorporate some of these exercises into your next practice session.

By Peter Bussey

One of the first challenges faced by the advancing guitar player is learning a core group of basic guitar chords. Why is it so important to learn these basic chords? Chords form the backbone of most rock and pop songs, and provide the harmonic accompaniment to the melody and instrumental solos.

Rhythm guitar based on basic chords provides many of the most memorable rock riffs… think AC/DC’s “Back in Black” or The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. What’s really amazing is that by learning no more than 10 to 15 basic guitar chords, you will be equipped to play thousands of rock and pop songs!

First let’s establish the definition of a chord. A chord is three or more different musical notes played together. In the case of the guitar, this means that at least three strings are strummed or plucked simultaneously to sound three or more notes. Since the guitar has six strings, the maximum numbers of notes in a guitar chord is six. All chords can be placed in one of three groups based on the musical structure of the chord: Major, Minor, or Seventh. Each of these chord groups has its own “sound” or “feel”. Major chords sound stable and complete. Minor chords can evoke a more somber or pensive mood, and Seventh chords are jazzy and somewhat incomplete sounding.

There is no standard list of “basic guitar chords” that every one agrees to. However, there is general agreement that there is a list of somewhere between 8 and 18 basic guitar chords (open string) that every guitarist must know cold. These chords are used in all musical styles from rock and pop to country, jazz, and classical. No matter where you are on your guitar-playing path, you should take the time to learn and master the basic chords. Getting these right will ensure you have the basic tools and skills to learn many songs and increase your playing enjoyment.

So what are the basic guitar chords? Our basic stable includes the major and minor chords from four common musical keys, A,G,C, and D. They are played as “open chords”, that is at least one string in the chord is not fretted (pressed down with a finger). Open chords are easier to learn and play than more advanced chords such as Barre chords, or complex chords further up the guitar neck. Our list of basic major and minor chords is:

A Major (or A), A Minor (or Am), C, D, Dm, E, Em, F, G

These chords can be best learned as chord “families” (by key) that can be combined into great-sounding chord sequences that make up lots of popular songs. Using this chord family approach is much more interesting and useful than just memorizing a bunch of chords in random order!

These chords grouped by chord family (key) are as follows:

A Family (Key of A): A, D, E

D Family (Key of D): D, Em, G, A

G Family (Key of G): G, Am, C, D, Em

C Family (Key of C): C, Dm, Em, F, G

Tips for Learning the Basic Chords:

1. Pick a Chord Family and master it. This will give you quick success and let you play great sounding progressions right away.

2. Use a Guitar Chord Chart as a reference tool. A chord chart shows each chord as an easy to read “chord diagram” with exact finger positions. See this example of a chart of basic guitar chords.

3. Find the chords and lyrics for an easy song that is based on the chord family so you can apply your skills. Many great songs are based on only three chords!

4. Ensure each string sounds right. Take care to make sure that each string is sounding clearly, and that only the strings that should be played are played.

5. Practice, practice, practice! Every day, practice continually change from one chord to another until you can do it rapidly. Learn the chord families one at a time.

6. Master all the basic chords first. Only then move on to Barre chords and other more complex chords. First things first!

7. Expand with 7th chords. As a next step you can easily expand on your basic chord knowledge by adding 7th and minor 7th chords based on the nine basic major and minor chords.

8. Have fun using your new skills! Enjoy your musical ability by applying it to learning a small set of 5-10 songs you know really well and can confidently play at any time.

Copyright 2005 Peter Bussey of

This article can be reprinted freely online, as long as the entire article and the resource box are included.

Peter Bussey has been an avid guitar player for over 10 years. In 2004 he became Editor of The Guitar Players Toolbox, a website dedicated to helping advancing guitar players improve with practical tools, tips, and information. Visit for a variety of free, practical resources such as guitar chords, guitar chord charts, song chords, and more.

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Guitar Lessons –Major Pentatonic Scale

By Bill McRea

The major pentatonic is similar to the minor pentatonic: The intervals for a major pentatonic are 1 2 3 5 6 1. The C major scale includes C D E G A C. The difference between the major and minor scale is the minor scale has a flatten 3rd interval. The following is the most common generic box shape for the pentatonic major scale:


The major pentatonic sounds happier and are not used as extensively in rock and blues as the minor version of the scale. They sound good over major chords, and power chords. Sometimes the minor and major scales are used in the same song, with the major scale used for the chorus, and the minor for the verse.

There are no hard and fast rules when in comes to scales and soloing. It’s a matter of style and personal choice, as long as it sounds good, go for it. But you will find that if you use these simple scale forms in conjunction with an appropriate chord progression this will sound good more often.

A chord progression based on the A minor chord will sound good with A minor pentatonic and a C major chord will sound good with C major scale. For information on chord progressions please go to the section at our web site on chord progressions.

Bill McRea is the publisher of The
Guitar Warehouse
and Guitar Playing Techniques. Both sites offer free lesson and product sales.

Article Source:

By Peter Bussey

How do you use guitar chord diagrams? A complete understanding of how to read and use diagrams of guitar chords is essential knowledge for any guitar player, from the “greenhorn” beginner to more advanced players. The best and easiest path to becoming a competent guitar player is by learning some chords and then applying them to learning the rhythm parts of songs. Guitar chord diagrams help you do just that!

What is a Guitar Chord Diagram?

A guitar chord diagram is a graphical representation of a single guitar chord, often referred to as a “chord box”. It is basically a box in the shape of a rectangle that shows you how to play a particular chord. It represents the guitar fretboard, and shows you exactly where to place your fingers to form the chord, and which strings to strike to play it. It is truly amazing how much useful information is packed into such a small package.

How to Read a Chord Diagram

There are several different styles and formats, but all chord diagrams have these common elements:

• There are six lines that represent the strings of the guitar. Depending on the format of the chord box, the strings run vertically up and down the page (most common), or else across the page horizontally.

• For vertical diagrams, the string on the left represents the low E string (thickest one), and the string on the right is the high E (thinnest string.)

• There are a series of lines running across the string lines (at a right angle) that represent the frets.

• The string lines and the fret lines come together to form a grid representing the guitar fretboard.

• Circles or dots are placed on the grid to show exactly which strings to press on which fret to play the chord.

With just this basic information on a chord diagram, you can form and play any guitar chord. The best part is that you don’t need to know how to read standard musical notation, or even guitar tabulature, to read a chord diagram. Well enough words! View examples of guitar chord diagrams here.

Here are some additional features of chord diagrams that pack in even more useful information:

• At the top of the box is a thicker line representing the guitar nut, or end of the neck

• An “x” symbol above the nut line means “Do Not Play This String”.

• An “o” symbol above the nut line means that the string is played open (not fingered.)

• Numbers (1 to 4) on the dots (or under the box) indicate which finger to use on that string, with 1= the index finger, and 4= the little finger.

• A line or bar running across two or more strings indicates a “Barre Chord”, in which one finger presses more than one string.

Tips for Using Guitar Chord Diagrams

1. Chord Diagrams are the single most powerful tool for learning and improving your guitar playing. Make good use of them!

2. Individual chord diagrams can be combined to form chord charts. These are a practical means to learn basic chords, chord families and sequences, and songs.

3. Make use of the wealth of free online resources to help you learn about guitar chord diagrams and chord charts. One such resource is The Guitar Players Toolbox.

Play well!

Copyright 2005 Peter Bussey of

This article can be reprinted freely online, as long as the entire article and the resource box are included.

Peter Bussey has been an avid guitar player for over 10 years. In 2004 he became Editor of The Guitar Players Toolbox, a website dedicated to helping advancing guitar players improve with practical tools, tips, and information. Visit for a variety of free, practical resources such as guitar chords, guitar chord charts, song chords, and much more.

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By Kathy Unruh

Learning the guitar fretboard can seem like a daunting task to many beginning guitar students. However, if you adapt a systematic approach, it can be a fairly easy thing to do. But some of you may be wondering if it’s really necessary in the first place. Afterall, a person can get along fine these days by learning a few chords and knowing how to read tab, right? Well, maybe. But you might inadvertantly manage to limit your potential as a guitar player too. So please take just a few moments to consider what I have to say.

Having a good grasp on how your guitar fretboard works can open up new ideas and provide a greater means for creative expression. It will also help to expand your knowledge and understanding of chord structure, reading notation and using guitar scales to improvise with. If you have visited my website at ABC Learn Guitar, then you know that I like to use the musical alphabet as an introduction to teaching the guitar fretboard to my students. I do this because it makes it easier for the beginner to work with something they are already familiar with, namely, the letters of the alphabet A through G. At the same time, my students learn the important scale of A Minor without even realizing it! By the time they have learned the musical alphabet, they come to discover that they have also learned the A Minor scale in two octaves and know where all the natural tones in first position are on the fretboard! That gives them
a real sense of accomplishment and a greater feeling of confidence on the guitar because now they are more familiar with the instrument in general. This is the approach I always use with my students in order to help them establish a solid foundation on which they can build new skills.

After the student has learned all the natural tones in first position on the guitar fretboard, I begin to introduce them to the sharps and flats. The easiest way that I have found to do this is to use the Chromatic Scale. Even though my students are introduced to playing the Chromatic Scale from day one, they don’t have to memorize it, just play it. But, when they’re ready to learn where the sharps and flats are, I begin to have them say it and play it. They begin by starting on the sixth string and move forward chromatically (in half-steps) up to the first string. Then they repeat the process in reverse by moving backward chromatically from the first string down to the sixth string. The next step is to have them memorize the tones on each string one fret at a time. In other words, moving across the strings. For example the student would start on the sixth string/first fret- play and say the note F, then move to the fifth string/first fret- play and say the note A#, then move to the fourth string/first fret- play and say the note D#, etc. I would have them continue this process on up to the fifth fret. After these tones are memorized in this fashion, I do random recognition drills by having them play all the E tones in first position, then all the F tones and so forth. I also like to introduce my students to reading standard notation in first
position (without tab) during this time in order to reinforce their familiarity with this area, but it is not a necessary part of learning the guitar fretboard. In fact, I prefer that my students know where the tones are on the neck before they begin to read music. Finally, we move on to learn where the tones are on the fifth, seventh, nineth and twelveth frets across the strings in the same manner because these frets relate to other important positions on the guitar. Then all the additional frets in between these are added so that all the tones on the neck are eventually memorized.

Scales are another handy tool for learning the guitar fretboard. My students first learn how to play and say every major scale in first position in all twelve keys. Once this is accomplished, they proceed to learn the various closed fingering patterns for the major scales. Then they practice moving these scales up and down the neck, playing and saying the tones as they go. This can then be expanded to incorporate the minor scales and modes too, of course.

So, if you want to establish a systematic method for learning the guitar fretboard, why not begin by trying some of the things I’ve mentioned here. Take each suggestion one step at a time and be sure to include it as part of your regular warm up or practice routine. When you have the first five frets of the guitar fretboard memorized, move on to another step. Create some of your own ideas, mix things up a little in order to challenge yourself, but be consistent and don’t rely on short-cuts. With a little effort, you are bound to gain new insights and skills on the guitar, which will make all your hard work very worthwhile in the end.

FREE Reprint Rights – You may publish this article in your e-zine or on your web site as long as you include the following information:

Kathy Unruh is a singer/songwriter and webmaster of ABC Learn Guitar. She has been writing songs and providing guitar lessons to students of all ages for over 20 years. For free guitar lessons, plus tips and resources on songwriting, recording and creating a music career, please visit:

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Jazz guitar – Jazz chord progressions for Guitar

Jazz, rooted in music technique and theory, is often thought of as difficult and hard to understand, with complex rhythms and strange chords. Understanding all of this often seems out of reach.

However, like anything Jazz can be learned – in this series of articles we’ll be looking at an introduction to jazz for the guitar.

In this first article we’ll look at some simple jazz chord progressions to get you started. We’ll try and keep the music theory down to a minimum so as not to scare you off!

Usually most chords we play in rock or blues music are based on triads. Triads are based on three notes taken from the scale that the chord originates from. Three notes that make up a triad are the root note (for C Major that would be the C note) the third (the note E in our example) and the 5th (G in our example).

Usually chords used in Jazz are more advanced than a triad (as a minimum jazz chords usually have 4 notes). Jazz chords are often said to have extensions – so for example if we were playing in the key of C we can add different notes of that scale to the chord to enhance the chord. For example a 7th note to a C Major chord (the B note) the chord would become C Major 7th.

Looking for Jazz Chords?? – check out the great book below!!


101 Uptown Jazz Chord Progressions with Guitar Chord Frames

Jazz progressions differ from the normal progressions used in blues and rock (which tend to be based around the root note (say C) the 4th note (F) and the 5th (G)) and often form around the tonal movement between chords. The best way to learn this is to listen to a piece of Jazz music and listen to the way the chords are voiced to allow the top and inside parts of the chord to move smoothly, from one chord to the next. When your practicing your progression see how this works for instance in example 1 of our chord progressions below note in the movement from C Major 7th to A minor 7th how the C scales 3rd note (the E) is retained in the second chord A minor 7th.

Often when your looking at Jazz chord sequences they may be written using Roman Numerals. Using Roman Numerals is a common way of memorizing short chord progressions. Instead of quoting the actual chord symbols people use the roman numerals along with the type and extension of the chord. The numbers represent each step in the scale so for example I represents the root note of the scale (eg C in the C Scale). Don’t worry too much about this now – it’s just another way of writing out a piece of music.

So now we’ve covered some of the basics – let’s jump into some chord progressions. As always practice these with a metronome and try these both in 4/4 time and 3/4 time

Jazz Chord Progression 1.

Cmaj7 – Am7 – Dm7 – G7

Jazz Chord Progression 2

Cmaj7 – Amaj7- Dm7 – G7

Jazz Chord Progression 3

Em7 – A7 – Dm7 – G7

Jazz Chord Progression 4

Gmaj7 – C7 – D7 – Eb7 – D7 GMaj7 – C Maj 7th

Jazz Chord Progression 5

F – Cmaj7 – Dm7 – A – F#m7 – Bm7 – E7 – A – C7

Jazz Guitar Strumming patterns

Jazz often incorporates ‘swing’ and the rhythms can get quite complicated. For the examples above stick to the beat and hit each beat as a downstrokes. Try the above examples at some medium to fast tempos and at various neck positions.

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