Manual Lead Guitar Decoded: How To Apply Arpeggios and Scales Over Chords – An Easy Visual Guide To Soloing

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This is a shorthand method for indicating that all Fs and Cs are sharped. The one you use depends on the context, including which is easier to get to. But there is one other way:. That means you have a common finger. The first sequence is D—G—D—A. Remember your common and guide fingers. Next, try D—Em—A—D. The song is in time, so your p—i—a—m—i—m pattern is comprised of eighth notes. For an added challenge, try improvising over the accompaniment, using the D major scale.

T he guitar plays many roles, including as accompaniment for a vocalist and as part of various instrumental ensembles. But for some, the real magic is that the guitar can be played just by itself—as a solo instrument that carries the melody, the harmony and the rhythm, all at the same time. After the initial attack, the note steadily decreases in volume and dies away. Wind-instrument players and singers can support a sustained note with their breath.

Pianists have a sustain pedal. Your thumb, ring finger, middle and index all strike one string like the blades of a fan. And the reason he wanted a 20th fret added to his guitar was to finger the high C on the first string that concludes the piece. In this system of pitch identification, numbers are assigned to a note based on the octave of the pitch, with C4 describing middle C on a piano.

The low E on a guitar corresponds to the E 2 octaves below middle C and is labeled E2. The remainder of this lesson will use scientific pitch notation to distinguish between the Es on a guitar. Play the string with your thumb p , then a, m, i. But even more important than speed is consistency of tone and volume.

Learning how to Improvise without Pentatonics

The pattern becomes i—p— a—m, or m—i—p—a, or a—m—i—p. Practice daily, use a metronome, and listen to ensure that all the notes are even. The rhythms that you should know so far include the whole note, half note, quarter note, dotted half note, and eighth note. A sixteenth note is half of an eighth-note. And there are four sixteenth notes in a quarter note. Eighth notes are notated together with 1 beam.

The rhythm in each measure is the same: quarter, quarter, 2 eighths, then 4 sixteenths. Or, better yet, try both options. Use your metronome and start with a slow tempo. The B—which is the 5th note of the E major scale—occurs on 2nd string. To find the E major chord, follow these steps:.

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The best way to master these shapes is to memorize them as soon as possible. Take a look at the following chords and see if you can form each one from memory:. If you consider the notes in a scale as something like a musical vocabulary, you can see how to begin constructing musical phrases, sentences, and even paragraphs. In a major scale, 2 notes are more difficult than the others to use when played against the major chord.

The hard sounds are scale degrees 4 and 7. They need to resolve: The 4th note resolves down to the 3rd and the 7th resolves up to the root. If you play the root, the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th notes of a major scale, this creates another 5-note scale called the major pentatonic scale. And it very conveniently avoids scale degrees 4 and 7. It might be helpful to practice just the thumb alone before adding the tremolo notes. It has to do with the power chord. This lesson covers a lot of additional ground, including some licks from the minor pentatonic scale and legato, using hammer-ons and pull- offs.

Think of a singer singing a phrase or a flutist playing a melodic line without taking a breath. Similarly, a violinist or cellist can play a passage without changing the direction of the bow. The result of either a hammer-on or a pull-off is known as a slur. Notice how your finger moves: The finger snaps down on the string, with a quick, accurate motion. Straightening your finger causes you to lose power instantly. Then, go back down. Then, try a 3rd finger to 4th finger slur. Try playing each of these through all 6 strings for a great left-hand workout.

Once again, it uses the key signature for D major, which tells you that every F and C on the staff should be sharped, or raised one fret. Follow the left-hand fingerings. Often, the root is doubled an octave above. It is the tonal center from which the other notes are derived.

If you need to brush up, take a look at the chord module in that lesson. Power chords are usually played on a distorted electric guitar. Power chords can be played with the root on either the 6th or 5th strings. The shape of the fingers on the fretboard is the same for both:. For example, if you wanted to play a C5, you could play the tonic either on the 8th fret on the 6th string or the 3rd fret on the 5th string. Meanwhile, you could play the tonic of a G5 either on the 3rd fret on the 6th string or the 10th fret on the 5th string.

These will use the A minor pentatonic, with the root at the 5th fret. But you can try them in different keys, by starting on a different tonic note. The third example uses hammer-ons. That means it uses the 5th, 3rd, and 1st frets. This style consisted of a driving alternate bass—pushed along with a thumbpick—and melody on the treble strings played with just the index finger. Today, we know this as Travis picking, which takes its name from Merle Travis. This lesson covers that technique as well as pull-offs. As its name implies, the descending slur is the opposite of the ascending slur, or hammer-on.

Pluck the string with your right hand, and then pull directly downward along the fret with your 2nd finger, while the 1st finger holds the string in place at the 5th fret. Your fingertip should snap off the string, and the lower tone on the 5th fret will sound. There is some pull to the motion, but very little. If you simply lift the 2nd finger off of the string, the sound is not very strong. And that requires a downward snapping motion. Additionally, you want to avoid bending the string out of tune, so hold the string in place with the lower 1st finger as you pull-off with the 2nd finger.

Starting in 5th position, place your 2nd finger on the 6th fret and third finger on the 7th fret. Pluck the string with the right hand, and snap downward with the 3rd finger while the 2nd finger remains pressed against the fretboard. Slurs are some of the best exercises for building strength, flexibility, and finger independence.

Daily practice is recommended. The note of the 3rd fret is G notated 3 spaces below the staff. That makes it easier to memorize the names of the notes. The fingers pick out the melody, typically in eighth notes. But this module will concentrate on an unmuted bass and melody combination. Start by checking the posture and placement of your right hand, above the strings. Place p the thumb on the 5th string, and a the ring finger on the first string, with i on the 3rd string and m on the 2nd string. Use a pattern; the rhythm is a quarter note, followed by four eighths and ending with a quarter.

You play the p and a fingers, at the same time, then i—m—p—a—i—m in eighth notes. His wife heard it and encouraged him to write lyrics, and the song has become an acoustic guitar classic. For instance, on the C chord, alternate the C with 6th string G at the 3rd fret. On the D, you can alternate with open 5th string A. And on the E, you can alternate with 5th string, 2nd fret B.

This lesson will show you some variations. The slur is notated with a curved line, the same as with the ascending slur. A pulloff means the left pinky pulls off the string from the fourth fretted position at the 8th fret to sound the note of the 1st finger at the 5th fret. In the second measure, a pulloff is performed on the 3rd string. This accompanies the higher melodic notes and sounds great as a solo blues piece.

In the key of A, that chord is an E7. Therefore, if you want to repeat back to the beginning, play E7 instead of A7 in the final measure. T he guitar is appropriate to many musical roles. That makes it unusual for an instrument, unrivaled by any other than maybe the piano. Sometimes, guitarists need to be the harmonic and rhythmic backbone of a duo, trio, quartet or larger ensemble. They can provide the rhythmic comping behind a big band, like Freddie Greene did for Count Basie. Or, guitarists can gently accompany a singer like in the folk songs of Peter, Paul and Mary.

But first, the lesson provides exercise that incorporate on hammer-ons and pull-offs. Both played in succession are called combined slurs. Pluck the string and hammer-on with the 2nd finger at the 6th fret. Now—without plucking again—pull-off from 2 to 1 that is, from the 6th fret to the 5th. Again: pluck and hammer-on with the 2, and pull-off back to the 1. Stay close to the front of the fret. And when you pull-off with the 2nd finger, keep it alongside the fret and move the tip of the finger directly downward with a snapping motion.

Aim to achieve the same volume for all 3 notes: the original plucked note, the hammer-on, and the pull-off. Start with fingers 1 and 2 on the string at the 5th and 6th frets. Pluck and pull-off from 2 to 1. Then, hammer-on, from 1 to 2. After that, try once more: pluck, pull- off, hammer-on. Do the opposite on the 5th string: Pull-off, then hammer-on.

You can continue to work up the strings in the same way:. These finger groupings include , , , , and The exercise is written in the key of E major. The natural sign cancels out a sharp or flat and returns the note to its natural, unaltered pitch. This holds effect through the entire measure. These are B7, C7, and G7. Dominant chords contain 4 notes and sound less stable compared to the major and minor chords.

These chords are not resting places. They push the music forward to reach a resolution. This is what makes it a seventh chord. The stretch can be a bit challenging. Keep your fingers on their tips, and at the front of the frets, so that you can hear all 6 strings ring.

The key signature for E major indicates that it has 4 sharps. That completes 1 octave of the scale. Then, continue with the ring, middle, and index fingers on the top 3 strings. Then, continue with the ring, middle and index fingers on the top 3 strings. That gives this accompaniment its lilting sound. The melody also uses lots of ties, as well as open strings. Use your ear, and remember that leaving out the 4th and 7th tones of the scale creates the major pentatonic.

But why do people like that? What chords and tones work well together? Place the 1st finger at the 5th fret, the 2nd finger at the 6th fret, the 3rd finger at the 7th fret, and the pinky on the 8th fret. The thumb is positioned behind the neck, opposite the 1st and 2nd fingers. Keep your wrist straight and the forearm at a roughly degree angle to the neck. Now, imagine your fingers being secured to the neck with strong glue.

Without moving any of those other glued-on fingers, alternate the 1st finger between strings 5 the A and 1 the high E on the 5th fret. This might be more difficult: Guitarists often struggle to keep the 2nd and 3rd fingers from following each other. Continue with 3rd finger. Make it light and alternate.

This is a finger-independence exercise, so minimize the movement of the hand and wrist as well. You can even try to reach from the 6th to the 1st string. This is a very effective exercise, especially as part of a daily warm-up routine. Then continue:. Get as close to the front of the fret as you can. Practice the scale slowly at first so you can get used to this. For example, in a measure, you could have two dotted quarters followed by a quarter.

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How can people talk about the construction of music with others? The answers provide insight that helps musicians develop their ideas and craft. For example, with any major scale, musicians can construct triads—that is, chords or combinations of 3 notes —on every note of the scale.

These are called scale degrees. A chord built on the 3rd note or degree of the scale would consist of scale degrees 3, 5, and 7. And so on. I, IV and V are major triads or chords. Lowercase Roman numerals signify minor chords: ii, iii, and vi. You might already have noticed this in songs that you know. Train your mind to recognize these patterns, and your ear to listen for them.

This module looks at some patterns that are useful in improvisation—and for further improving your listening ear—by putting to work the triads from the G major scale that you just learned. These are the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the G major scale. The rhythm contains some dotted quarter notes. The accompaniment is fingerstyle. It is p—i—m—a—p—i—m—a whenever a chord is held for 2 counts.

In particular, try incorporating some of the diatonic arpeggio patterns you learned above. In other words, on the G chord, play the arpeggio for G major the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the scale. Then over the A minor chord, try the 2nd, 4th and 6th notes of the scale. O ne of the most challenging aspects of playing with a pick is accuracy and control while moving across the strings.

But as soon as they move across to another string, some players are inclined to hit the wrong note, or find themselves flailing. This lesson aims to boost your control when playing with a pick. Play with just the tip of the pick on the string. That will slow you down, and might even cause you to drop the pick on the ground.

Next, try moving across all six strings. Start by playing down-up on each string, moving from the high E string down to the low 6th string, and then back up:. Listen to make sure that your rhythm is steady and that the volume of each note is consistent. It should stay the same. Avoid overpowering on the downstrokes. Then go back up:.

Set your metronome at a relatively slow, comfortable pace, and play what you just learned, using eighth notes. Once you can play cleanly at that slow tempo, gradually increase the speed on your metronome. For example, instead on starting on the 1st string and working your way successively down to the 6th string, you might start with the 1st string, then skip to the 3rd, then the 5th, followed by the 6th, 4th, and 2nd.

Try that first with down-up picking on each string:. Consistently alternate pick through the entire exercise, playing down-up-down-up in each measure. Barring refers to playing multiple strings on 1 fret with the same finger. It involves using the flat part of the finger rather than just the tip. The trick is to keep the 1st finger flattened for the barre, but the 2nd and 3rd fingers curled—and on their tips.

Leave the 2nd finger in place as the common finger as you switch. For a 1-octave C major, this module will begin with the C on the 5th string at the 3rd fret. This reinforces the idea of the scales as a pool of notes, rather than being fixed by the tonic at the bottom and again at the top. They figured out very quickly that they needed to find a way to distinguish their sound. Perkins—who could pick out single notes only very slowly—deadened the strings with the palm of his hand, which made mistakes less obvious.

Cash was left to play rhythm, because he did most of the singing. But he fed paper through the strings to sound like the brushes on a snare drum. Tone and ease of playing are much improved. This lesson opens with some tips on fingernail care, and then moves into some exercises that show how fingernails can come in handy. The main reasons are greater control, more volume, and—most importantly—better tone. But with the nail, you can be assured that the string will come off exactly the same way every time.

The tone is more focused. And by changing where on the string you play— between the bridge and the 12th fret—you can achieve your choice of a metallic or rounder, more mellow sound. To get an idea of the proper length, try holding a nail file against the end of the finger so that it touches both the fingernail and fleshy tip. If the angle is less than 90 degrees, grow the nail out a little longer. The first is across the tip of the nail. You want a ramp-shaped nail that rises from low on one side to high on the other.

But some players feel more comfortable with the ramp inclined the opposite direction. Either way, the string stays on the nail longer: It rides up the ramp and releases at the end, giving a rich sound without an annoying click. Place your metal file against the tip of the nail. If the angle is too shallow, you might feel the nail hook—or catch—against the string.

To avoid this, aim for about a degree angle for the profile of the nail. Rough nails also set you up for painful splinters, bends, tears, and breaks. You can fold a little piece and work all over the surface, edge, and underside of the nail. When done, you can use a very fine buffing board to get a final shine. An advantage to playing fingerstyle guitar is that you can imitate the piano in regard to playing melody and accompaniment simultaneously: right-hand thumb on the bass line, and fingers picking out the melody fingered by the left hand.

But first, this module helps you practice your note reading and technique. Guitarists in training often produce a slight delay between bass and treble note. Make sure to follow the right-hand finger indications carefully:. Understanding how they are constructed provides musicians with insights into the relationship between chords and melodies.

The C major scale has no flats or sharps. Applying our formula—or pattern—the matching chords are:. Making use of chord formula, or pattern, the chords are:. And this will make it easier for you to learn and memorize songs, and perhaps even start composing music of your own. To help you play a 2-octave A major scale on the guitar, this module will introduce new note: the high A, which is notated one line above the staff, and played on the 1st string at the 5th fret.

When you come back down the scale, shift back down to first position when you play the open E. Some of these use hammer-ons and pull-offs, so follow the notation carefully:. The piece was inspired by the works of the Elizabethan-era composer and lutenist John Dowland, who lived at the same time as William Shakespeare.

A few slurs are in the song for variety. To account for this, 1 beat is subtracted from the final measure of time. T his lesson starts with a new exercise called chromatic octaves, designed to practice both your hand and finger technique as well as your note recollection. As a reminder, an octave is the intervallic distance between 2 notes of the same name: from A to the next A, or D up to the next D.

The chromatic scale contains all 12 semitones between. It may also help you learn your notes more thoroughly. On the right hand, your thumb should alternate with the index and middle fingers to grab those octave notes. A dotted eighth note is three-quarters of a beat an eighth plus a sixteenth note. For example, a G major chord contains the notes G, B, and D. Those are the 1st, 3rd and 5th degrees of the G major scale. Playing these 3 pitches in any permutation is always G major.

So, in other words, you can find many different ways to play this chord. One notable one is a particular pattern of G, C, and D. It allows you to keep a common finger through all 3 chords, giving a really consistent sound. This should be easy compared with the normal movement between C and G. You just need to change your fingering a little. For Em:. But you can use the same fingering pattern for a variety of scales.

These are called movable scales. The trick is to not use any open strings. Start with your 2nd finger on the 6th string at the 5th fret. This is an A. Next, play the entire A scale with no open strings. Next, try it while shifting back and forth between Cadd9 and G. Then, try the entire sequence. Make sure you play the dotted eighth note and sixteenth note rhythms accurately.

Finally, try improvising using the movable G major scale. As always, you can refer to the video for reference. T his lesson returns to the principle of shifting, that is, moving up and down the neck of the guitar. This lesson also introduces the use of a new tool, the capo. To review the basics of shifting before beginning the first module: The shifting motion comes mainly from the shoulder.

As much as you can, keep your arm fixed in a straight line from the elbow to the hand. Your left-hand thumb should move along a straight line.

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When you shift up the neck to a new position, check that your thumb remains opposite your 1st and 2nd fingers. As you shift back down the neck, move the elbow out away from your torso, and slightly rotate your forearm outward to maintain proper hand position. Start with your 1st finger on the 1st fret F, and then the 3rd finger on G. Now, shift up again so that your 1st finger is on the 10th fret.

Finish with the 4th finger on the 13th fret F. Finally, for a big shift, try skipping from the lowest to the highest note, before descending one more time. Set your metronome to a slow tempo that feels comfortable. On each note of the scale, try playing two eighth notes with the right hand slowly.

Then, without changing the pulse, switch to single eighth notes. In music notation, the silences are indicated by symbols that designate rests. Usually, this is easiest to do with the right hand. It looks like an upside-down hat, and tells a performer to remain silent for 4 beats. By itself, it looks like a hat right-side up. It tells a performer to remain silent for 2 beats. It tells a performer to remain silent for 1 beat. Work on the open E string so that you can really focus on the rhythm:.

There are different types of capos, but typically they all have a protective rubber surface that interacts with the neck, and compresses the strings.

The same tune played in open position will sound much different than at the 2nd or 5th fret. If you want to sing along, but the melody is too low for your voice, attaching a capo to the 2nd fret would make everything a whole step higher. Line the capo up close to the fret wire, but not directly on top of it. Play the following chords and listen to their sound:. Each requires a shift. Here they are, by fret:. You can play the scale in 1st position, using open strings. Or, you can start at the 6th string on the 3rd fret.

Or, you can start on the 5th string at the 10th fret. Practicing and mastering these new positions and scales are important steps toward knowing the notes all over the neck. Place your i, m, and a fingers on the top 3 strings. Then, use your thumb to change between the bass notes, depending on the root of the chord: 6th string for G and E, 5th string for A minor and C, and 4th string for D, D minor, and F. T his lesson introduces the barre chord, one of the most challenging—and most misunderstood—guitar techniques. Barres can tire the left hand when performed incorrectly, so this lesson will look at some elements for success.

Start by making sure that the neck of the guitar is angled upward. Begin by straightening your 1st finger and placing it against the fret. Use the weight of your hand and arm to lean into the fret. Therefore, you should pay attention to the contact between the finger and those middle 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings. It should be opposite the 1st finger for balance. A barre does not entail pushing the thumb into the back of the neck. You want to use the hard bone of the finger as much as possible. It helps to drop the elbow toward your body. A barre that spans across all 6 strings is called a full barre.

Other instruments—like the saxophone and trumpet—sound better, and are easier to play, in keys that contain flats. The exercise will ask you to grab a low C with the 3rd finger on the 5th string, and the next note an F with the 4th finger. But a principle of guitar playing is to avoid jumping across strings to play 2 or more consecutive notes with the same finger. By using 2 different fingers, you can maintain legato phrasing and avoid an unwanted break in the sound.

Those notes are the 3rd fret at the 3rd string and the 3rd fret at the 2nd string, respectively. To accomplish that, follow these steps:. Going up another fret produces G major, and so on. You can cover all the major chords with this shape. Your thumb should be positioned at the back of the neck, in the center.

And keep your fingers close to the fretwire. Then, shift up 1 fret and add the barre. You now have F minor. Now, shift up and barre. The tonic B is on the 7th fret of the bottom string, so the barre goes there. Then, you add the chord shape of an E major. Find G on the 3rd fret. Barre there and then add the shape of the minor chord.

Soloing Over a Key

As long as you know where on the 6th string to start the pattern, you can find and play any major, minor, or dominant seventh arpeggio. Play the bass note of the chord on beats 1 and 3. That means it has an A section that repeats, followed by a B section usually called the bridge , and a final A. Use the E-type barre chord during the A section.

But keep the same feel. You can make use of those arpeggios from module 4 to improvise. Flamenco music combines guitar, singing, and dance. It is little more than years old in its modern form, though its origins go back hundreds of years. Guitarists from other genres have adopted this rasgueado technique. This module will show you a basic pattern. The motion of the hand while performing a rasgueado is like turning a doorknob. Guitar Notes Master is an interactive teaching tool dedicated to enabling guitarists to gain a thorough understanding of guitar fretboard theory - notes, scales, arpeggios and chords - as quickly and effortlessly as possible.

It achieves this through three modules. Guitar Notes Master can correct your answers for each note you enter, or for more of a challenge set it only to tell you when you've got the whole pattern correct. It will help you to finally understand the guitar fretboard. Now is the time to take advantage of the unique learning experience offered by Guitar Notes Master to develop your fretboard understanding and become a much better guitarists.

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The most interesting soloists change their soloing strategy based on the chord rather than the key. I will explain a few methods that work well for chord soloing. They limit themselves to 5 notes that work well over many different chords. The rule is to use Major pentatonic scales over major chords and minor pentatonic scales over minor chords. This works well for most chords. All you need to do is switch scales with the chord changes.

For example, if the progression was Dm7 — G7 — Cmaj7, you could play D minor pentatonic, G major pentatonic, C major pentatonic. You just need to shift the scale and play any note in the scale. Because pentatonic scales only have five notes, they can start to sound boring and repetitive. Similar to soloing over a key, you can use the major and minor scales to solo over chords. The major scale can be used over major chords, and the minor scale can be used over minor chords. Both scales, however are considered modes using the names, Ionian and Aeolian respectively. Modes are made for soloing over chords.

Each mode is able to play over a specific set of chords. If it is a minor chord, you can play the dorian, phrygian, or aeolian mode.

As the chords get more complex, the mode choices go down. Use the chart below to select the best mode for each chord. Some guitarists solo using chord tones. As the chord changes, you change the notes that you play. Arpeggio patterns are a great way to learn the chord tones. Once you have a scale, mode, or chord arpeggio to use, there are a lot of techniques that you could use. Soloing is mostly about knowing what notes to play. We simplify the process by using scales, modes, and arpeggios. I recommend recording some chord progressions and practicing your improvisation.

You can get some chord progression ideas from my chord progressions lesson. Thank YOU for trusting me with your email and signing up to become a better guitarist. I am honored and excited to help you accomplish your guitar goals! This part is important! I intend to bring you value every time I send you something. To do that, I need you to let me know how I can improve. You may not know right now, but let me know when you do! I hope you enjoy my free lessons and materials. It's my thanks to you for being part of the Guitar Lesson World community.

Hey Patrick — I play flute and yours has been the most helpful article in clearly directing me on the road to jazz soloing over chord changes. I could use an easy way to keep the different types of scales in my head — or do I just need to memorize the feeling of each scale type through their interval and sound?

How do I keep straight the Minor scales without having to calculate from the 6th of the major scale? And so on. Thanks again. Mike, Thank you for your kind words. You ask a good question about learning by feel, interval, etc. A guitarist would most likely memorize a pattern because it is so easy to do.

The natural minor scale Aeolian mode lowers the 3rd, 6th and 7th by a half step. Of course, you could build it off the 6th degree of the major scale like you mentioned. I hope this helps. This would seem to be learning these through experimenting. There certainly are some rules that many guitarists use to find the best notes. My goal with that statement was to try to hear them first, but I need to add to this article which has been on my list. To give you a few rules, chord tones always work well.

When playing major scales over major chords, the 4th often clashes because it is a half step from the major third. With minor scales over minor chords, the 4th sounds fine, but the 2nd clashes because it is now a half step from the minor 3rd. Half-step intervals from chord tones will create tension that clashes not the best notes.

Despite the clashing, tension and release can be used nicely. Some guitarists use it to setup a note that resolves such as a chord tone.