Beginner Music Theory For Guitar pt4

Putting Scales and Chords Together.

In Beginner Music Theory For Guitar pt3 we learned how to make Chords. Now we will learn how to put scales with chords to write songs.

Scenario 1

You find yourself in a position where someone wants you to write a solo/melody over a specific set of chords.

In this example we’ll use the following chord progression: Amin – Dmin – Amin – Emin – Amin – Dmin – Emin – Amin

What do we do now?

We need to find out what key the song is in. Which major scale do all of these chords fit in?

Amin = A,C,E
Dmin = D,F,A
Emin = E,G,B


All of the chords can be played in the key of C MAJOR, so we can use that scale to get our notes to play our melody.


You can play any of the red notes in the image above over the music. I prefer to look at the whole fretboard as it in the image above but it can be very hard to memorize. Many guitar players like to use what is called the Box Method, sometimes referred to as Position Playing. Check out the image below.


In this image we see a blue box starting at the 8th fret(8th position). A guitar player can now create melodies and solos using only notes inside this box. It is much easier to remember these notes than the entire fretboard and it has the added advantage of being easily transposed into other keys. On a tab the example would look like this:


Lets look at another box within the C MAJOR Scale. This time I will make the box at the 5th fret instead of the 8th. The notes that I have circled make up what is called the Pentatonic scale. It is a very easy to remember pattern, and it is easily the most used scale by guitarists in rock and roll. Try playing it over the audio example above.


Scenario 2

You find yourself in a position where you want to write a song yourself.

The first thing to do is to choose a key. This is could be chosen for many reasons such as a singers range or the difficulty of playing some chords on the guitar etc. On the piano C MAJOR uses all of the white keys and none of the black keys, making it very easy to remember. The key you use is your choice.

Now, you number the notes of the scale just like you did for the chords.

C MAJOR = C=1,D=2,E=3,F=4,G=5,A=6,B=7,C=8

Then you use what is called a Chord Progression. There are many “pre-made” chord progressions that you can find in books, or online, and you can experiment and try to make your own. A chord progression is a songwriting tool.

You might see “play a I VI IV V Progression”. This is a 1-6-4-5 progression written in Roman Numerals(I have no idea why). What that means is that in the key of C you play a C chord(1) followed by a A chord(6) followed by a F chord(4) followed by a G chord(5), 1,6,4,5. The nice thing about this is that you can use this system and apply it to any key effectively transposing the song.

You can also use a different note within C Major as the starting point but using all the same notes, this is called a MODE. ABCDEFG is the Minor Mode of C MAJOR and you can apply the same progression. 1645 becomes A F D E and you would use the same notes to write a melody over it.

The song in Scenario 1 uses the Minor Mode of C major and is a I IV I V progression followed by a I IV V I progression.

There is a lot more to learn about music theory, but the information here should allow you to get started writing your own melodies, guitar solos, and songs. I hope you do!

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