Monthly Archives: July 2013

Do you really know your major scales?

I mean, can you play your major scales in all keys all across the fretboard? If not, you might consider checking out these fingerings. And, you might also consider coming to my class on the 17th of August at 2:00. I will be teaching the major scale fingerings and showing students how to change keys without having to jump all over the fretboard as well as how to play all over the fretboard in any key.

Major scales are the building blocks for most of your other scales, chords, modes, and arpeggios. Knowing them in all keys as well as knowing how to spell them and how they are built is just critical.

If you are interested in this class please contact me for details. Otherwise, get practicing! Those major scales are important and they don’t learn themselves!


Song Structure – I Can Explain

I’m enjoying having a place to post observations about patterns I see with students. Today I am thinking about song structure. This is not something that is as simple to practice as scales or chords, but if you don’t understand song structure it is hard to play songs.

I should note that mistakes in song structure are not just common with students but also with performing musicians. People go to the chorus too soon, or too late, or they skip the bridge, sometimes on their own songs!

My method for understanding song structure is pretty simple – I listen to the tune repeatedly and write the structure down. In detail. Example – “I Can’t Explain“, by The Who. And you really must watch this video.

Intro – I bVII IV I riff is played three times – first time with just guitar, then bass and drums come in

A section – This is not a verse. Maybe it’s a pre-verse, I don’t know, but the first 8 bars after the intro never happen again. The I bVII IV I riff is played three times, then the fourth time the IV chord is replaced with a V chord. Missing that V chord is easy. Hitting it is easy too, if you know it’s coming.

B section – this is just the main riff played twice with some background singing. It happens after the chorus as well.

The rest of the song follows a Verse, Chorus, Solo, Verse, Chorus, Solo, outro form

The verse is 8 bars long – three times through the main riff and then the syncopated “I know what it means but…” lyric (chords are I, bVII, V)

The Chorus is really short – 4 bars (I vi IV V) followed by 4 bars of the main verse riff – the B section.

The first solo is only 4 bars long. The second solo is twice as long.

The outro is basically a doubled B section with a syncopated ending.

The overall structure of the tune is

Intro, A, B, | Vs, Ch, B, Solo, | Vs, Ch, B, Longer Solo, | Outro

Spending some time thinking about song structure is good for you. It will help keep you from going to the wrong part of the song, and it might also help your songwriting. Especially if you know lots of tunes with different types of structures.

Chords – Know Your Basics

I have noticed that a number of my students have learned their basic open chords, but have then moved on to play lots of songs with power chords or seventh chords and have forgotten them. I’ll probably do a number of posts on basics because, obviously, everything flows from your basic scales, chords and arpeggios. So, here is a sheet with the nine basic chords.

A few notes:

Start with Emin. It’s the easiest If you are not sure how to read a chord diagram, go here.

After Emin, try E, then Amin. D, A, and C are relatively easy. G should be learned with the fingering that I have put on the diagram. I know that some people teach it without the pinky, but it’s easier in the long run to learn it with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers because you can get to this fingering more quickly from C, D, F, and Emin, all of which are chords that commonly hang out with G. Dmin is not so tough. F can be a bit tricky so don’t feel bad if it kicks your butt. In fact, get used to it. Guitar kicks your butt every single day.

You need to know these basic chords no matter what you want to play. Who is your favorite guitar player? I guarantee you that person knows how to play a simple G chord.

Also, it’s really good to know how to spell these chords. Major triads have a root, a third, and a fifth (examples – C is spelled C E G and A is spelled A C# E). Minor triads have a root, a flat third, and a fifth (examples – Amin is spelled A C E and Emin is spelled E G B). Memorize these nine chords and you will be on your way to understanding the other chords you’ll be encountering later.