Guitar - Music Theory

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Basics of Chord Function and the Dominant Chord on the Guitar

The dominant chord (or the chord built on the 5th degree of a scale) is a fairly important chord on the guitar because its structure and tendency toward the tonic chord really help define the tonal center [more…]

How Secondary Dominants Act as Key Changes on the Guitar

A secondary dominant is really just an altered version of an existing chord. This change to the chord is to create a dominant 7th. What gives it its secondary dominant function is that it leads to another [more…]

How to Substitute Diminished 7ths for Dominant 7ths on the Guitar

Guitarists often use diminished 7th chords as substitutes for dominant 7th chords on the guitar. For example, you can play the typical jazz progression Cmaj7-A7-Dm7-G7 as Cmaj7-Csdim7-Dm7-G7. In this case [more…]

How to Play Augmented Chords on the Guitar

Augmented chordsare another type of chord that you can use as passing chords on the guitar, though they can also function as dominant chords. Basically, [more…]

How to Play Pentatonic Pattern 2 on the Guitar

Here are all the notes of E minor pentatonic that fit between frets 2 and 5 on the guitar. Notice that half of the notes in this new pattern 2 position you use in pattern 1. Visualizing how shapes and [more…]

How to Play Pentatonic Patterns 3 and 4 on the Guitar

Pentatonic patterns 3 and 4 constitute two more examples of how to finger a five-tone scale on the guitar. When guitar players learn scales, they work on covering one small area of the neck at a time and [more…]

How to Play Pentatonic Pattern 5 on the Guitar

Pentatonic pattern 5 on the guitar is unique in that it’s completely symmetrical. You can try beginning this pattern with your 2nd finger and using the one-finger-per-fret approach, though there’s nothing [more…]

How to Connect the Pentatonic Patterns on the Guitar

When you feel comfortable playing through all five pentatonic scale patterns on the guitar, the next step is to connect them to cover the rest of the fretboard. To do so, simply connect pattern 5 to another [more…]

Basics of the Major Scale on the Guitar

The major scale is a seven-step scale that’s built using a formula of whole and half steps. You can play a major scale on the guitar by starting on any pitch and moving up in the following specified steps [more…]

How to Apply the Major Scale on the Guitar

When applying the major scale to music on the guitar, you have to pick music that’s drawn from the same scale. To determine what scale a song is drawn from, follow these simple steps: [more…]

How to Play Three-Notes-Per-String Patterns on the Guitar

There’s more than one way to break the major scale notes on the guitar into pattern pieces. The patterns you see here take on different forms than the five major scale patterns, but they still use the [more…]

How to Understand Modes on the Guitar

On the guitar, the major scale has seven degrees, and technically any one of them can function as the
tonic — the tonal center, or primary pitch, of the scale. The sound and feel of the scale changes depending [more…]

How to Recognize Blues Elements on the Guitar

Blues music on the guitar doesn’t always follow the rules of traditional music theory and harmony. Specifically, you find minor 3rds applied to major chords, and progressions that switch keys on each chord [more…]

How to Use Modal Interchange and Borrowed Chords on the Guitar

Modal interchange, sometimes called modal mixture, is a guitar technique through which you combine chords from parallel scales. A parallel scale is any scale that starts on the same pitch. For example, [more…]

Basics of Ionian, Aeolian, and Locrian Modes on the Guitar

Three of the basic modes of the major scale on the guitar are Ionian, Aeolian, and Locrian. In fact, any degree in the major scale can function as the tonic [more…]

How to Name Notes, Scale Degrees, and Chords on the Guitar

The notes of a scale are usually numbered 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on. You use Arabic numbers when you’re talking about the notes themselves and Roman numerals when you’re talking about the chords built on [more…]

How to Track Notes and Play Songs with Octaves on the Guitar

On the guitar you can use the notes along strings 6 and 5 to track any note on the fretboard with the help of octave shapes. An octave is the distance between one pitch and another with half or double [more…]

How to Play intervals 1 through 7 on the Guitar

On the guitar, the distance from the 1st to the 2nd scale degrees in the major scale is called a second interval, from the 1st to the 3rd is called a third, [more…]

Basics of Triads and Chords on the Guitar

A triad is a set of three notes stacked in 3rds. Playing in 3rds on the guitar means that you start on a scale degree, count it as “1,” and then move to the scale degree that is three away, “3.” [more…]

Basics of the Chord Sequence of the Major Scale on the Guitar

On the guitar, if you take each triad from the major scale and play its notes as a common chord shape, you get seven chords. Here are the chords shown first in the open position and then as barre chords [more…]

How to Use the C form as a Moveable Barre Chord on the Guitar

To use the C form as a moveable barre chord on the guitar, your 1st finger acts like a capo and lays across (barres) the guitar neck while your remaining fingers form the rest of the chord shape. [more…]

How to Connect the Five CAGED Forms on the Guitar

On the guitar, you connect the five CAGED forms all with the same chord to cover the whole fretboard. For example, play a C chord with every CAGED form. Start with each form in its open position, and then [more…]

How to Add 7ths to the Major Scale Chords on the Guitar

You begin playing new chords on the guitar by adding 7ths to major scale chords. Adding 7ths is a good place to start because it’s in keeping with the consecutive 3rds formula that triads follow [more…]

Basics of 6th Chords and Blues Shuffles on the Guitar

On the guitar, a 6th chord is some combination of 1-3-5-6. If a 6th extends beyond the 7th, it’s still called a 6th unless a 7th is also present in the chord, in which case it’s called a major 13th. [more…]

How to Play Pedal Tones with Two Guitars

Although a single guitar can play a pedal and a chord at the same time, in many cases, one instrument plays the pedal tone while other instruments play the standard chords. For example, one guitar may [more…]

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