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A beginner guitar lesson on the basic theory

December 6th, 2011 · No Comments · Guitar Lessons

There are 5 basic things that you must know as part of the guitar theory. If you know these five things then almost 50 percent of your job is done. But I am not saying that you have to restrict your knowledge only to these five things. To excel as a musician or as a guitarist you must constantly keep learning new things and go deeper into it, coupled with hours of practice and who lot of patience and determination. If you abide by these rules, you will surely become a guitar pro, I can guarantee you that. This article is written in the form of? a short guitar lesson targeted towards a beginner guitar player.

Lets look at the 5 key things that you must know as a guitar player,

  1. Names of the strings
  2. Learn all notes from E to e
  3. Musical Intervals
  4. Understanding and Learning scales
  5. Understanding and Building chords

Names of strings ? The first and foremost thing that you should know about guitar are the names of the strings. A guitar has 6 strings( and a fret board with 21 to 22 frets) and is denoted by the notes E-B-G-D-A-e in standard tuning. The first and last strings(E and e) are the same, except they are in different pitches (or octaves). The strings are counted from bottom-up i.e. e-A-D-G-B-E, starting from the higher ?e’. The entire six strings are spanned over 2 octaves. You will come to know how, in the next section.

A standard 6 stringed guitar can be tuned in different ways. A popular tuning method used by rock musicians is Drop-D method, where the sixth string or the bass string (E) is lowered to the note ?D’. That will be a whole step lower.

Learn all notes from E to e ? In the previous section we learned the names of the 6 strings. Those were the open string names or without pressing any fret. Now we will learn the connecting notes from E to e. So if I list out all the notes from E to e, they will be

E(open)-F(1)-G(3) – on the 6th string where the notes F and G are produced by pressing the 1st and 3rd frets. So similarly the other notes on the rest of the strings would be as follows,

5th String – A(open)-B(2)-C(3)

4th String – D(open)-E(2)-F(3)

3rd String – G(open)-A(2)

2nd String – B(open)-C(1)-D(3)

1st String – e(open)-F(1)-G(3)

Now we have all the notes from strings E to e and they are E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-e, spanning over 2 octaves. An octave is nothing but a group 8 notes where the starting note(or Tonic note) and last note will be the same, except in a different pitch. So If we start from the sixth string E, then an octave would cover E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E that will stop at the 2nd fret on the 4th string(D).

Musical Intervals ? Two of the basic intervals that you need to know are a Whole tone(or Whole step or Full tone) and Half tone( or Semi tone or Half step).

  • Full Tone or Whole Step – Examples of full tone or whole step would be F to G on the 6th string, C to D on 2nd string and again F to G on 1st string, G(open) to A on 2nd string. That is there will be an interval of a fret or a tone in-between the two notes. ?In case of a piano, the musical intervals between all white keys are a whole step.(see the previous sections)
  • Half Tone or Half Step ? Example of half step is E to F on the 4th string and B to C on 5th string. In a half step interval you just play the note semi-tone higher or lower or you play the next fret or a fret below instead of playing the alternate frets or notes.(see the previous sections)

Understanding and Learning Major Scales ? Scales are nothing but a group of notes that will be used through out an entire composition and it can define the genre of the music. Here I will show you the most basic diatonic scale, C Major.

The notes of a C Major scale are quite simple C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. These are exactly the same notes starting from C on the 5th string to the C on the 2nd string. This is the first scale that every musician starts with. And the intervals between each note in this scale are

Whole-Whole-Half-Whole-Whole-Whole-Half, this is exactly the formula for building a Major scale.

Understanding and Building Major Chords ? If you know how to build a scale, you can easily build chords from it. For building a Major chord you need to start from the root note(first note) of the major scale and build a major third, which is two whole tones above the root(in this case C) and then add a perfect fifth note(fifth note in the scale) to it.

So if we have to build a C Major chord, then the notes of the chords would be C-E-G. Where C(root note) to E is a Major third and G is a perfect fifth. A perfect fifth is nothing but the fifth note on C Major scale or the fifth degree.

The related chords of a scale are Tonic i.e. the first note or degree, sub-dominant, the fourth note and dominant the fifth note. So in case of C Major scale we will derive the chords C,F and G7th.


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