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

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”).

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.

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.

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.

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