TOP 10 THINGS EVERY GUITAR PLAYER SHOULD KNOW (PART II)

Hey Everybody !   This is TOP 10 THINGS EVERY GUITAR PLAYER SHOULD KNOW (PART II), points 6 through 10.

If you didn’t read the previous post – TOP 10 THINGS EVERY GUITAR PLAYER SHOULD KNOW (PART I) – definitely go back there and begin with that. The goal of that blog entry and this one is to establish a base line of understanding the guitar well enough to do just about anything you want to be able to do on the instrument.  In fact, just in the first 5 of the top 10, you’ll know more than most people out there that have a guitar propped up in the corner of their bedroom.

With these last 5 items about guitar playing, you will definitely be well positioned to go into any direction (Metal, Rock, Top 40, Jazz, Blues) that you wish.

6.  Know your “Bar” Chords off the 6th String

TOP 10 THINGS EVERY GUITAR PLAYER SHOULD KNOW PART II
Root on 6th String Major Chord Form

This is the Major form ->

Bar (also known as “barre”) are chords that do not rely upon the open strings for any of their notes. Because these are movable forms, you need to know which note is your root note.

The root note names the chord.  G Major – the root note is G.  G minor – the root note is still G.  G 13 b5 +11??  Guess what….the root note is STILL G.

Since these are “6th string” based forms, your root is covered by the first finger on the 6th string.  As you move the guitar form up and down the neck, the root note changes and so does the name of your chord.  If this form shown here was on the 3rd fret, the 3rd fret on the 6th string is G.  So this is G Major (or we sometimes say just “G”).

TOP 10 THINGS EVERY GUITAR PLAYER SHOULD KNOW PART II
Root on the 6th String Minor Chord Form

This is the minor form ->

Note the only difference between Major and Minor is the 2nd finger being present or not.  To go from A Major (5th fret) to A Minor you just remove the 2nd finger.  Viola.  No other changes are needed.

 

 

7. Know your “Bar” Chords off of the 5th String

The 6th string forms are GREAT – until you need a D Major.  Then you’re going to find yourself squeeze up at the 10th fret.  While it can be done, there is an easier more practical way.

TOP 10 THINGS EVERY GUITAR PLAYER SHOULD KNOW PART II
R5 Major Form

You’ll see to the right a pretty standard way to play the Major chord with the Root being on the 5th string (Say for D Maj  you would have your first finger on the 5th fret).

Note fingers 2,3 and 4 crammed in here.  I never play it this way.

You should play this form with the 3rd finger barring along the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd string and touching the 1st only to make it stop ringing (mute).  Again, a lot of guitar playing is silencing what you don’t want and sounding what you do.  On this form you don’t play the 6th string either.

HINT: inch your 1st finger up (towards your 6th string) until it touches it.  6th string dead.  1st string dead.  You’re ready to hammer it out.

TOP 10 THINGS EVERY GUITAR PLAYER SHOULD KNOW PART II
R5 Minor Form

Now for the minor form.  There are two common variations of this.  One is to bar the first finger (as pictured) and let the first string sound.  That is perfectly reasonable but I rarely play it like that.  Instead I again mute the 1st string and inch my first finger towards the 6th string and mute them both.

I make exceptions from time to time but lets stick to the basics.  There are many more ways to play chords on the guitar, but these bar forms are most commonly associated with Rock/Metal/pop/Blues.

8. Know your Power Chords

Okay – this may be a bit of a “trick” item but it’s good to know these terms.

Power Chords are the same forms as the chord diagrams above with one big difference: only the bottom 2 strings are played – the rest are muted.  So if you know your G Major on 3rd fret, only play the 6th string 3rd fret and 5th string 5th fret.  1st and 3rd finger.  That’s a G POWER CHORD.

Same thing on 5th string.  D is on 5th fret with 3rd finger barring 7th.  Change to 5th string 5 fret only and 4th string 7th fret only.  That’s a D POWER CHORD.  They are easier than their full blown parents and necessary if you’re going to do metal or hard rock.

So with the rest of the chord “gone” – is it major or minor?  Assume major in most cases.  The truth is it can be anything you want because it’s not there.  Look for more detail on that in a future lesson.

9. Know your Major Pentatonic Scale

majorpentatonicSlideThis is a very easy scale.  Pent means 5 so it’s only a 5 note scale.  There are many ways to play it but this sliding version is one I use a lot.  This happens to be in the key of G (So this is G Pentatonic).  I use 1st finger on the 1st note, which is the root G, then my third finger on the 5th fret and slide it to 7th.  Next string is 5th fret and 7th.  4th String is 5th fret, 7th fret (with 3rd finger) and slide to 9th.  And so on.

You might think this is too country or you might think it’s not enough country.  Either way you’re both right.  But if you enjoy the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd then you’ve heard this scale.

There are other ways to play this scale but this is the best one to start with.

10.Know your Minor Pentatonic Scale

This is your ROCK scale.  Your Blues scale (Ok, minorpentatonictechnically it’s not the blues scale unless you add one note – that is again an aside for another lesson), and your Metal scale, although  metal guys often dip into their Phrygian modes when they feel like it.   Many guitarists have made their mark on the musical world with this scale.

The first note is the root.  So if you play this on the 5th fret you are playing the A (6th string 5th fret) minor pentatonic scale.

And another HINT: if you play this scale on the 12 fret (E minor pentatonic) you’re playing the SAME notes as the G sliding pentatonic above.  Lyndyr Skynard meets Jimmy Page.

Where to go from here

The skies the limit.  At this point you can find notes, chords (open string and bar), power chords and you know your pentatonic scales.  If you’re already at this point and want to to figure out what are the next steps, my next entry will discuss that.

Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player Should Know (PART I)

If You don’t know the Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player Should Know, you might get a bit frustrated.

Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player
Don’t lose you’re cool!

Whoa!  Before your guitar looks like this, GET HELP!!  The Top 10 things every guitar player should know is in this (and the next) blog entry!!  Knowing these 10 things will enable you to grow as a musician and a guitar player at a much faster rate.

It is impossible to just grab the guitar and play like [fill in the gap] but with a little bit of time and effort and the right direction, you can get very good very fast. Following the Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player Should Know will accelerate your path to get there.  Let’s get started.

  1. Know your open String notes and how to tune

I don’t touch on this for a long time with my students because tuning can be daunting for a student.  It was for me.  It took a long while before I could tune.  Then I could only tune to other guitars, not keyboards.  Yes, I was that bad.  But I learned.

You might think this is unnecessary given the ease of access of tuners today.  By all means use one, I do.  But knowing the strings E, A, D, G, B, E and self tuning are critical things to know.  You need to develop your EAR, which takes time and practice.  The chart below shows how to tune the guitar to it’s other strings.

Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player
Self Tuning

 

2. Know the “typical” open string chords

Not only are these the “beginner” chords, you simply cannot play many songs without them.  Open string chords are not just chords for people learning.  They have their own “ringing” quality.  They are different.  In fact, it’s why some people use capos to, in effect, move the end of the guitar up the neck so they keep playing these chords in the same way but higher pitched to suit their voice or the song.

Chords you should know are:

  • E Major
  • E Minor
  • G Major
  • C Major
  • D Major
  • D Minor
  • A Major
  • A Minor

There are more but that will get you very far.   I’m talking 8 chords to happiness here!

If you’ve played a bit, you’ll see some chords missing that you might think should be in that list, like F Major.  I cover that in Part II of this series.

NOTE:  chords that are Major chords are often referenced by their letter name alone.  D Major can be called just “D”.  Minors must always be noted as minor.

One last thing on this topic.  The student really needs to commit these chord forms to memory.  The first chord I teach is D major to any beginning student.  I once taught this young man (a very nice guy) who  just wouldn’t learn it.  And when we got to learning songs his refusal to memorize the chords slowed his progress because I would say “ok, this song starts on D major” and he’s always ask “What was D again?”

Don’t be *that* guy!

3. Know the Musical Alphabet

We’re not talking a lot here, only 7 notes.  But you need to know how those notes are spaced.

The distance of 2 frets on the guitar – say 6th string 3rd fret to 6th string 5th fret – is a whole step, sometimes called a full step or full tone.  It’s just 2 frets.  1 to 3, 2 to 4, 3 to 5, etc.

The distance of 1 fret on the guitar – like 6th string 3rd fret to 6th string 4th fret is a half step.  Or a semi step or semi tone.

So are musical alphabet is the following:

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   [then back to A]

7 notes!  Now here’s how you find them:

A -> B is a whole step.  6th string 5th fret to 6th String 7th fret

B -> C is a half step. 6th string 7th fret to 6th String 8th fret

C -> D is a whole step.  6th string 8th fret to 6th String 10th fret

D -> E is a whole step.  6th string 10th fret to 6th String 12th fret.  Your guitar may stop at the 12th fret.  So we’ll pick up E now at the 6th string open.

E -> F is a half step.  6th string open (no fingers on it – let it just ring) is E.  F will be on 6th string 1st fret.

Open strings confuse people, but think of it this way.  The nut is that white thing at the end of your fretboard:

Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player
Guitar Nut

You know where the first fret is.  Looking at the picture here it is to the left of the nut.  Think of hitting an open string as if your finger was to the right of the nut.  If you’re going to go up one fret for a half step, you’ll now be on fret number 1, which is where F is.

F -> G is a whole step.  6th string 1st fret to 6th String 3rd fret

G -> A is a whole step.  6th string 3rd fret to 6th String 5th fret

You will have then completed the circle A to A.

4. Know what Sharps and Flats are

If you asked in #3 above “what about the notes in between the frets we played – like 6th string frets 2 and 4 and 6?”  This is the answer to that.

Simple but not “easy”.  A sharp (#) raises a note a half step.  So in our mapping of the natural (not sharped or flatted) notes in #3 above, we have:

6th String FRET

1    F

3   G

5   A

7   B

8   C

10   D

12 (OR OPEN)  E

But now let’s include sharps:

6th String FRET

1    F

2   F#

3   G

4   G#

5   A

6    A#

7   B

8   C

9   C#

10   D

11   D#

12 (OR OPEN)  E

Now for the “weird” part.  if you understand that sharps (#) raise a note a half step or one fret, what about the notes that are already a half step apart?  B to C and E to F are only half steps.  So that must mean there is no such thing as a B# or an E#?

No, there ARE B# and E# notes.  How do you play them?  Right where C and F are (8th fret and 1st fret respectively).

So yes, B# IS C natural.  E# IS F natural.  One note with 2 names is called enharmonic.  Not extremely important to know that word but extremely important to know what it means.

A Flat (b) lowers a note one half step.  So Fret 2 on the guitar (which was F# above) is now Gb.  We lower G on the 3rd fret one half step to be Gb on Fret 2:

6th String FRET

1    F

2   Gb

3   G

4   Ab

5   A

6    Bb

7   B

8   C

9   Db

10   D

11   Eb

And there’s  your musical alphabet.

5. Know the notes on the 5th and 6th Strings

Now a purist is going to say you should know all the notes.  Why are the 5th and 6th string more important?  Easy – it’s chords.

The open string chords mentioned above all look different.  E Major looks nothing like A Major which looks nothing like C Major which looks nothing like D Major.

That all changes with bar (sometimes called “barre”) chords.  Remember the picture of the nut above?  Well your fingers become a new, movable nut.

All bar chords come in “6th String” and “5th String” versions.  You can play the full version of the chord, or just the “bottom” part of it for “Power chords” which metal is extremely fond of.

From knowing that the 6th string open is E and the 5th string open is A, you can figure out where the notes are.  I recommend learning the natural notes first.  If you know A, B, C, D, E, F and G on both strings quickly by sight you are well on  your way to learning a plethora (or TON) of songs!

Knowing these chord forms is the 6th thing that every guitar player should know, but that’s in Part II of this blog.

You are half way there to knowing the Top 10 Things Every Guitar Player should know!

Guitar Lessons in Bay Area CA

Hello, and welcome to Fast Fingers Guitar Lessons!  I offer online and in home guitar lessons to the local community.  I currently teach in Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and San Ramon on the weekends, and during the week in Santa Clara and San Jose.

Guitar Lessons
Let’s ROCK!!

Lessons can be 30 or 60 minutes, depending on the age of the student and their goals.

I’m a big believer in understanding music – not just playing songs.  My goal is not to make just a guitar player out of you, but a real musician.

 

Lessons include (but not limited to):

  • Songs – we can learn what you want along with signature solos
  • Alternate Picking
  • Hammer ons and pull offs
  • String Bending
  • Music reading – staff and tab
  • Scales
  • Music Theory
  • Soloing / Improvising
  • 6 String guitar, 7 String guitar, bass
  • Whammy Bar techniques
  • Double Hammer On
  • Legato
  • Arpeggios
  • Styles – Rock, Blues, Metal, Country, Jazz (I’ve played all those in various bands!)
  • Ear Training
  • Music Analysis – what key is this in?  How would you solo here?
  • Composition – sounds scary but it’s not.  We start simple and work our way up
  • Chord analysis
  • Alternative Tunings like Drop D
  • Relative Positioning on the Guitar
  • Fretboard visualization
  • Cycle of 4ths and 5ths
  • Analyzing the styles of great players like Randy Rhodes and Jimi Hendrix

So if you’re ready for a new adventure, email Spencer today!  I have openings on week nights and on Saturdays.

A bit about me:

I’m Spencer Clark and I’ve been in music nearly all my life.  I play guitar (6 and 7 string), bass, and some keyboard.  I have a degree in music from West Valley College in Saratoga, CA. and worked my way through college earning other degrees by playing in bands and teaching.  I taught for 12 years at Guitar Showcase in San Jose.  I was teaching guitar lessons since I was a teenager out of my parent’s house.