#1
Hi all,

I'm trying to learn music theory and have been for the last 2 years or so, but the one thing I never realised was how important the tuning of a guitar was and where the root notes sit over the fretboard.

I've tried helping myself understand the amount of the same note in an octave across the fretboard.

I've drawn it out for myself to remember: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9eIki_a4JPxMU5rYWNlV2Jocjg

By aligning each open string to the same note on the string below, would it be correct that each string is tuned a a fourth up from the previous? (Except for the 2nd and 3rd strings)

This might sound like a super stupid question!

This brings me onto my next question: is it deemed a shortcut to favour the D#/sixth and C#/fourth strings because I am able to find my bearings easier as the tunings are so close together and to use the G#/fifth string just simply for passing notes?

Thanks a lot!
Last edited by JSChamberlain94 at Jun 17, 2017,
#2
Yes, the guitar is tuned in 4ths, except for the 3rd to 2nd string, which is a major 3rd.

For the next question - not really. I'd say the 6th, followed by the 5th string are the most important to learn first because those are the strings where you'll be looking for the bass note of your basic barre and power chords. Then you can use the octave shape to find the same note two strings up - the 7th fret on your fourth string is the same note an octave up as the 5th fret sixth string. Same relationship for the rest, though the shape gets shifted when going across the 2nd and 3rd strings. So once you know the 6th and 5th strings you can use the octave shapes to easily find notes on the 4th and 3rd. Eventually you'll want to know all of them, but this is a good way to get started.


I'd refer to note names but you seem to be using half step down and I didn't want to cause confusion. Any particular reason you're learning this half step down? It'd make it much easier to learn in E standard. I really feel like learning in E standard makes a hell of a lot more sense. If you're used to thinking in standard tuning notes it makes it much easier to communicate and play with other guitarists as well. The only real reason to play in half step down is to accommodate a singer with a very slightly lower range or if you're playing along to a recording that's half step down. Otherwise you're just making things difficult for no benefit.
#3
The4thHorsemen That's great, thank you for your reply! I hope you don't mind answering another question. I watched a video from Rob Chapman a long time ago about playing licks to chords. He said a great way to play to chords was to play notes within the same position of a chord. A good way to play to a B Major chord was to play notes in the seventh position. Would this mean knowing consciously which note you would start and end on within that position, in context to the chord played? or do guitarists play licks at random and it just happens to sound good?
#4
You can play licks at random, just staying in the scale and it won't sound bad, as in out of tune or anything, it just probably won't sound very interesting. Lead playing is all about phrasing. The goal really is to know what every note is going to sound like before you play it. It just takes a lot of playing, a lot of practice, and a lot of ear training, and it won't just hit you one day -  it's slow progress. Good lead parts, licks, etc. tend to focus on chord tones. For example, the C major chord is C E G, so while a C is playing those notes are going to sound really strong. It can help to stick to the same position as the chord shape, because then you know where the chord tones are, but you don't have to.

Of course, you don't just play nothing but chord tones all the time, they're kinda the targets. Like you're working your way to them and land on them at the perfect time. Or you can just hammer away at one of them or whatever. There aren't really any rules, just things that seem to work well.

Working on your ear if you aren't already is really the most important thing you can do for your ability to write or improvise. Try humming something and finding that note on the guitar, figure out how to play mary had a little lamb without looking it up, try learning some Black Sabbath songs by ear. Listen to solos and try to copy them.
#5
Quote by JSChamberlain94
The4thHorsemen That's great, thank you for your reply! I hope you don't mind answering another question. I watched a video from Rob Chapman a long time ago about playing licks to chords. He said a great way to play to chords was to play notes within the same position of a chord.
True.
Quote by JSChamberlain94
The4thHorsemenA good way to play to a B Major chord was to play notes in the seventh position.
B major chords can be played in various positions - any place you can find the notes B,D# and F#. 7th position is certainly one choice.
Quote by JSChamberlain94
The4thHorsemen
Would this mean knowing consciously which note you would start and end on within that position, in context to the chord played? or do guitarists play licks at random and it just happens to sound good?
Improvisers that sound good usually know how their notes relate to the chord(s). It's not usually conscious, because the knowledge is all subconscious.
Speaking for myself, I "see" the shapes (arpeggios) of each chord on the fretboard as I solo, so I know which notes are"in" or "out", and how most of those "out" notes will sound. IOW, I don't only choose the "in" notes- they're just the foundation; the "out" notes provide various tensions.
Every chord arpeggio runs all over the fretboard, and forms chord shapes in each position. When you see all that, you have a failsafe map to follow. The rest is deciding on rhythm and phrasing.
Last edited by jonriley64 at Jun 17, 2017,
#6
Quote by jonriley64

Speaking for myself, I "see" the shapes (arpeggios) of each chord on the fretboard as I solo, so I know which notes are"in" or "out", and how most of those "out" notes will sound. IOW, I don't only choose the "in" notes- they're just the foundation; the "out" notes provide various tensions.
Every chord arpeggio runs all over the fretboard, and forms chord shapes in each position. When you see all that, you have a failsafe map to follow. The rest is deciding on rhythm and phrasing.


this. if you know your arpeggios, you've got almost everything you need.

think about it this way, if you can identify a major or minor 7 arpeggio at any given time, you know:

1) the root note
2) the minor 3rd
3) the major 3rd
4) the 5th
5) the minor 7th
6) the major 7th

that's literally half the notes at any given time that you know will either work or not over a given chord.

then you factor in that if something is 1 semitone away from the same note, it will sound really dissonant unless it's voiced well or is used as a transition, so you know the b5 or b2 will be hard to pull off most of the time

as long as you know where your 1 3 5 7 are and what those are supposed to sound like, the rest are just there to create tension or add upward or downward movement in most scenarios (unless you're using extended chords, but let's keep it simple for now)

basically the tl;dr of this is, you don't need to know what notes you're playing by letter. all you have to do is be able to understand their function in the moment. shapes and numbers help you tie this to your muscle memory, so knowing your arpeggios in all kinds of scenarios is a huge boon. it is important to know what your notes are, don't get me wrong, but for me it's usually not even registering to me what letter i'm playing so much at the sound and interval in relation to the progression or given chord at the time, if that makes sense

also, learn your chromatic scale
modes are a social construct
#7
jonriley64 The4thHorsemen Hail Thank you all for your messages. That all makes sense. I'm used to improvising. So as long as I know the leading notes of a chord played in any position, and as long as I use the notes that are not in that chord as movement notes, whether that be up or down, a lick would sound decent?

I'm used to navigating the fretboard in the direction of the string (e.g) finding the root note of a scale (usually D#) in relation to the tuning of the string. Should I actually be finding the roots within the position/shape?

I'm sorry if I'm repeating myself - I feel like I'm having a musical midlife crisis!
Last edited by JSChamberlain94 at Jun 17, 2017,
#8
I'm used to navigating the fretboard in the direction of the string (e.g) finding the root note of a scale (usually D#) in relation to the tuning of the string. Should I actually be finding the roots within the position/shape?

Hail jonriley64 The4thHorsemen On second thought, should I forget this and focus on the notes being played within the chord and put less emphasis on where the D# of the Major scale is on the fretboard?
#9
JSChamberlain94 You're about a third of the way to solving your problem.

The 4th is 5 semitones.  The maj 3rd is 4 semitones.  Minor 3rd is 3 semitones.

Start at any fret and go up 1 frret (e.g from open string (nut) to 1st fret) on SAME string (towards body) ... pitch goes up 1 semitone.  Go up 3 frets, that's  a min 3rd.

Go in the opposite direction to drop pitch by a semitone per fret on SAME string.

If you start at ANY fret (incl open string) on the bass E, and move vertically across that same fret you get

E string -> A string =  5 semitones.  On same fret, A string -> D string = 5 semitones.  In toatal, E string to D string is 10 semitones (5+5).

So, to make an octave (12 semitones), now go horizontally on the D string, up 2 frets.  Total: 10 + 2 = 12.  So, same note name.

Since you know a 4th is 5 semitones, and a maj 3rd is 4 semitones, you can cross from ANY fret on E string to SAME fret on A string (5 semitones), and now drop the pitch 1 semitone (by moving back one fret toward the nut on the A string), and you get 5-1 = 4 semitones (a major 3rd).

Or start on E string, cross to A at same fret. (5 semitones).  Now go up 7 frets (towards body) on A string.  Total: 5 + 7.  The octave again.

See how this works?

Work out for yourself how to make the octave shape between a pitch on some fret on the D string, and its octave on the B string, using the same logic as above.  Notice that the G->B string changes things!

Take a look at https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/for_beginners/a_deep_look_at_guitar_shapes.html

As for random playing ... that relies on luck, and most of the time, sounds weak, unconvincing, and unrelated to the chords.  Chord tones are used quite a lot (depending on style) to make melodic solos.  Also, for stuff like blues beyond beginner players.  A good test is recording a blues solo, and then listen back to just the solo (no chords, bass etc), from a random starting point.  If you can't tell where you are in the blues (e.g 12 bar), that's because the chord tones are not being brought out.  If you want to be a good guitarist, learn your chords, learn the intervals in those chords (between the chord root and each other chord tone), and learn the sound of intervals made from the key centre (so when you hear a bass note in a chord (ignoring inversions) for example, you can tell where in the key this chord is rooted, by ear.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jun 18, 2017,
#10
Quote by JSChamberlain94
Hail jonriley64 The4thHorsemen On second thought, should I forget this and focus on the notes being played within the chord and put less emphasis on where the D# of the Major scale is on the fretboard?
Yes. (But if you're really playing in the key of D#, please call it Eb...)

The advantage of playing from the chords is it will carry you through when chords move out of key, or when you can't tell what the key is. As I said, the chord tones (arpeggios or shapes) are your map through the sequence. Which key they might belong to takes care of itself.
I.e., for passing notes, you can use notes from the chords either side (the following one being favourite usually). And you can use chromatics anyway, if they resolve to chord tones. That's how little the key scale matters.

But - you really do need to know your fretboard thoroughly (chord shapes, note names). It's no good relying on theory, trying to asses which scale or mode ought to be applied according to some partially understood abstract concept.
#11
jonriley64 Thanks for your message. I've been experimenting with recording some basic chords and noodling over them to get the feeling of different intervals moving in and out of those chord shapes. I'm starting to understand that playing within/around chords in a progression with intervals, etc. is like matching chord progressions with scale progressions to mix the feeling up a bit and make things more interesting. Is this right?

Thanks a lot!

Edit: this musical midlife crisis may be coming to an end yet...
Last edited by JSChamberlain94 at Jun 19, 2017,