Guitar - Music Theory

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How to Use Roman Numerals to Represent Chords on the Guitar

In traditional music theory, Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, and so on) represent both the degrees of the major scale and the chord quality of each chord. Uppercase Roman numerals represent major chords [more…]

How to Number the Relative Minor on the Guitar

To number the relative minor on the guitar, remember the major scale has seven degrees with a triad built on each one. In music, uppercase Roman numerals represent major chords, and lowercase Roman numerals [more…]

Basics of Dorian (ii) mode on the Guitar

Dorian is the second mode of the major scale on the guitar — when the 2nd scale degree functions as the tonic. Because it centers on a minor chord (ii), it’s considered a minor key. Although this type [more…]

How to Transpose a Chord Progression on the Guitar

On the guitar, sometimes a song’s chord progression is moved, or transposed, up or down by a particular interval for a section; the song’s tonic changes by the same interval. Here is an example of a transposed [more…]

How to Play Modal Interchanges on the Guitar

Here is a look at some common modal interchanges on the guitar. These include mixing up major modes, mixing minor modes, and even going back and fourth between major and minor. [more…]

How to Play Minor Modal Interchanges on the Guitar

On the guitar modal interchanges also take place in songs that have a minor tonic chord. Here are some of the most common minor chord modulations. [more…]

Basics of the Circle of Fifths on the Guitar

No discussion on how to play the guitar would be complete without mentioning the circle of fifths, sometimes called the cycle of fifths. In music theory, the circle of fifths represents relationships between [more…]

How to Play Songs with Dominant Function on the Guitar

Some songs on the guitar are based on simple progressions that contain only the I and V chords (also known as the tonic and dominant chords). Songs like “You Never Can Tell” by Chuck Berry, “Jambalaya” [more…]

Basics of Secondary Dominants on the Guitar

Non-tonic-but-still-dominant chords on the guitar are called secondary dominants. The relationship between the tonic and dominant chords is so strong that composers sometimes use a dominant function on [more…]

Basics of Voice Leading on the Guitar

On the guitar, voice leading is the technique of writing smooth transitions from one chord to another, using common tones between chords and stepwise motion between their different pitches. Voice leading [more…]

Basics of Chromatic Passing Chords on the Guitar

When you move a chord shape up or down by one half step as you move to another chord on the guitar, you’re using a chromatic passing chord. For example, when a progression moves from V to IV, which are [more…]

Basics of Passing Chords in Blues and Funk Guitar

Blues and funk guitar players often use chromatic half step motion to move into the main chords of a 12-bar chord progression on the guitar. For example, many blues players approach a I chord or IV chord [more…]

Basics of Diminished Chords on the Guitar

Diminished chords are chords that you never use as anything other than a passing chord. On the guitar they sound very dissonant and unstable by themselves, almost unusable. But when placed between the [more…]

How to Use Diminished 7ths as Passing Chords on the Guitar

Guitarists always use diminished 7th chords as passing chords on the guitar. One common usage is to connect chords I and ii in the major scale. Here is an example in A major, where you add a diminished [more…]

How to Use Augmented Chords in Voice Leading on the Guitar

Voice leading on the guitar is a technique where a set of chord changes includes notes that lead from one chord to the next. Augmented chords are also used to connect major triads to 6th chords, as in [more…]

Basics of the Pentatonic Scale on the Guitar

When you hear a guitar riff or solo, you’re hearing a scale. A musical scale is a series of pitches (or notes) played one pitch at a time in an ascending or descending order. Together, notes from scales [more…]

How to Play the Pentatonic Scale on the Guitar: Pattern 1

The easiest way to get to know the pentatonic scale on the guitar is to begin working in the key of E minor, because it uses all the open strings on the guitar and is very common in popular music. The [more…]

How to Use the Pentatonic Scale as Major and Minor on the Guitar

The pentatonic scale can function as both major and minor on the guitar. You can start with E minor pentatonic, but the same notes and patterns can also produce G major pentatonic. [more…]

How to Play the Pentatonic Scale in Other Keys on the Guitar

There are many keys in which you can play pentatonic scales on the guitar. Transposing the pentatonic scale is easy; with scale patterns on guitar, the patterns remain the same regardless of which key [more…]

How to Transpose the Major Scale on the Guitar

If you’re ready to move past the G major scale on the guitar, playing major scales in other keys is as simple as starting the patterns in a new position. Here are all the patterns you use in G moved up [more…]

How to Play Ionian Mode on the Guitar

On the guitar,Ionian mode is the first mode of the major scale. It’s the sound that’s created when the 1st scale degree is functioning as the tonic. It’s better known as the [more…]

How to Play Dorian Mode on the Guitar

On the guitar,Dorian mode is the second mode of the major scale. It’s the sound that’s created when the 2nd scale degree is functioning as the tonic. Because it features a f3rd and centers on a minor chord [more…]

How to Play Dorian Mode with the Pentatonic Scale on the Guitar

On the guitar, because Dorian mode centers on a minor chord, most lead guitar players prefer to approach it with minor pentatonic scale patterns. You can see how to put together A minor pentatonic and [more…]

How to Play Phrygian Mode on the Guitar

On the guitar, Phrygian is the third mode of the major scale. It’s the sound that’s created when the 3rd scale degree is functioning as the tonic. Because it features a f3rd and centers on a minor chord [more…]

How to Play Lydian Mode on the Guitar

On the guitar, Lydian is the fourth mode of the major scale, and the sound that’s created when the 4th scale degree functions as the tonic. Because it features a major 3rd and centers on a major chord, [more…]

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