I took lessons with a man in my neighborhood for 6 mths then quit.. and for the past 7 have been teaching myself.. I'm coming along well (I play acoustic) and can play stuff like Stairway To Heaven, Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, Crazy On You, Blackbird, and Classical Gas. I would like to learn theory, though. I have been looking into Don Ross and Andy Mckee (CandyRat Records) and in one of Don Ross' class videos.. he explains that his song was done in complete dorian scale.. and goes through tons of theory.

Basically, I would like to know of any websites that you guys know of/use that teaches Guitar Theory or Music Theory. I would like to be able to understand it so I can understand the instrument more.. and write instrumentals using theory.

If you go to the main UG site there are some good articles on theory in the 'Columns' section, but IMO you'd be better off learning from a book or better yet, a teacher.
Garou, I am planning on buying the book, because I do not have the time for a teacher with football going on. I was planning on calling the guy in my neighborhood, but that would cost 18 dollars for 30 minutes.. when I could buy a lifetime book for 18 dollars.
I started writing an answer for someone awhile back and it turned into a full up lesson so I tweaked it up and here it is. It was pretty popular when I first wrote it. There is more but this is enough to get you going.


In this "no bull" beginner guitar lesson we will:

- Learn the major scale (we will use the C scale throughout).

- Learn to identify and build chords from the scale.

This is a beginner lesson. If you want to learn how to play guitar, learn this, learn it here or somewhere else, but learn it. If it looks too hard and you think you'll just skip it, then sell your guitar.

This lesson assumes you know how to tune your guitar and finger notes and basic chords. Make sure you understand each item before moving to the next because (obviously) they build on each other.

For reference: The diagram below includes notes on the guitar neck to the 12th fret. Note: strings on a guitar from the bottom up (eBGDAE) (lower case e being the high e string) are numbered from the bottom up (123456). (On guitar charts the bottom string (or high e string) is always on the top).

e|- F -- F# - G -- G# - A -- A# - B -- C -- C# - D -- D# - e
B|- C -- C# - D -- D# - E -- F -- F# - G -- G# - A -- A# - B
G|- G# - A -- A# - B -- C -- C# - D -- D# - E -- F -- F# - G
D|- D# - E -- F -- F# - G -- G# - A -- A# - B -- C -- C# - D
A|- A# - B -- C -- C# - D -- D# - E -- F -- F# - G -- G# - A
E|- F -- F# - G -- G# - A -- A# - B -- C -- C# - D -- D# - E

1. Understanding steps.
A whole-step (up or down) on the fretboard is two frets (up or down), a half-step is one fret (up or down). For the lesson we will use W=whole step and H=half step.

2. Understanding sharps and flats.
A "sharp" means one fret (a half-step) up (higher note) on the fret board and "flat" means one fret (a half-step) down (lower note) on the fret board. Sharps are identified by the symbol #. Flats are identified by the symbol b. Why are there no flats on the fretboard above? Because I didn't want to clutter it up any more than it is. Just understand that F# on the diagram above could also be a Gb. Why does there have to be different names for the same note? The same way you can be someone's brother and someone else's son, you are the same person but different relations. Let it go for now, there is more to talk about in understanding what sharps and flats mean and understanding when to call it an A# and when to call it a Bb.

3. Understanding music notes.
Only 12 music notes exist. period. If you look at each string on the fretboard above, the note on the12th fret is the same as the note of the open string. So each string starts over again at the 12th fret. The fretboard notes are exactly the same from the 12-24th fret as they are from the 0 to 12th fret so I did not include notes above the 12th fret in the diagram above. How can the notes from the 12th on be the same as the notes from 0-12th? The notes are the same but at a higher pitch. The pitch difference between an open string note and its 12th fret note is called an octave. Guitar necks span 3 1/2 to 4 octaves from the open E (6th string) to the highest fret on the e string (first string) depending on how many frets the guitar has (ex. a 24 fret guitar would span 4 octaves).
Music notes are represented by the 7 letters: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. There are notes in between A-B, C-D, D-E, F-G, and G-A. These 5 notes are (using both the # and b that I didn't want to clutter the fret board up with): A#/Bb, C#/Db, D#/Eb, F#/Gb, and G#/Ab. These 5 notes together with the 7 letters = 12 notes. period. Again, look at one string on the fretboard above from open to the 12th fret and you will see the 12 notes. Unfortunately, there are six strings, all having the same notes, but starting on a different letter. Which makes are fretboard look quite cluttered. How do we then make sense of it.....patterns....

4. A tidbit about positions and scale patterns (just to let you know where we are going).
There are five extended scale patterns that are played at five different positions on the guitar neck. We are only going to look at the open position and the C scale pattern right now (which means you are playing next to the nut and are using open and fingered strings in your scale). Later, we will learn the other four scale patterns so we can play the C scale (in the key of C) anywhere on the neck and easily change to other keys (major and minor) just by moving these patterns up and down the neck. Later, soloing using major scales, minor scales, pentatonic scales, blues scales, and modes will be based from these 5 patterns and changing between them. No worries.

5. Ok then, lets learn a MAJOR scale.
We are going to use the C major scale in the open position, (note: the absence of the word "major" still assumes major: (Ex. The C scale and C major scale are the same thing, a C chord and C major chord are the same thing). The good news is that the following scale lesson applies to ALL major scales. More good news is that it is not very hard to change to minor scales, pentatonic scales and blues scales after you've mastered this.
A scale has 7 notes: A,B,C,D,E,F,G. Each letter is either natural (ex. A), OR its sharp (ex. A#), OR its flat (ex. Ab). Keyword OR, so you will not see an A and A# together in a scale. One letter, one note place in the scale, 7 letters, 7 notes in the scale. got it? There are twelve major scales. Why? Because there are only twelve notes to start a scale from, period. We are going to start on C. Why not A? Because C has no sharps and flats and will be easier to work with.
As I said, the C scale has no sharps and flats. The C scale, always starting on C would be C, D, E, F, G, A, B. If we play only these notes and only chords that are made from these notes then we are said to be playing in the "key" of C. It is possible, however, in a song, to venture outside of the key of the song (play notes that are not in the scale) but for now, we will stay with the musically correct basics. On a piano, the C scale would be all the white keys skipping all the black keys, easy. Not so easy to see on the guitar. Look at the guitar neck above and look at the steps between each note in the C scale, between C and D is a whole step (two frets), from D to E is a whole step, from E to F is a half step etc. So the steps for all the notes in this scale are W,W,H,W,W,W,H (the last H bringing you to the next octave C). (More on this "major scale step pattern" in the next lesson) Again, this major scale step pattern is easy to see on a piano, the half steps are where there are no black keys in between the white keys. Not so easy to see on the guitar when we are playing across all strings, that is why we use patterns. Below is a C scale (C,D,E,F,G,A,B, ending on C one octave higher) in the open position, numbers are fret numbers for that string. Play this up and down, C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C,B,A,G,F,E,D,C. Hey, your first scale. don't worry, we're going somewhere with this.


If we include all the repeating notes from the C scale (in parenthesis)all the way across the six strings in the open position we would get this extended scale pattern (below). Starting from the open 6th string E the notes are: E,F,G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G. (there are still only 7 notes here). This pattern below and 4 others (later) will give you full range of the C scale notes (key of C) on the entire fret board. Practice this one pattern up and down relentlessly. Try moving this pattern up the neck (no open string notes).


6. Moving on to chords.
Lets move back to the pure open position C scale for a minute.


Everything is built from these 7 notes. I am going to rewrite this tab and number the notes in the scale (not to be confused with frets), and then the letters of the notes.



Ok, now we see the 1st note is C, 2nd is D, 3rd is E, 4th is F, 5th is G, 6th is A, 7th is B, 8th (of course) is C again. This numbering is more then obviously pointing out the sequence of notes, this numbering is the basis of chord building. In building chords we also refer to 9th, 11th, and 13th notes. No, there are not new notes to our 7 note scale. When a chord refers to a 9th we are adding what would be the 9th note in the scale if we just kept going beyond the 8th note octave C. Make sense? So we can see that this "9th note" would be a D (3rd fret, B string) an octave higher then the 2nd D.
More on next post...
"and when you lose control, you'll reap the harvest that you've sewn"
Chords are made up of 3 or more notes. There are few exceptions but in fact these exceptions are partial chords. (Ex. C5 = 1, 5 = C G) This is your basic power chord, it omis the 3rd because in the power chord, you just don't need it. The chord formulas included below refer to the notes in the scale. (Ex. C chord is made up of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the C scale: So, the C chord would be the notes C, E , and G)
If you understand that the C chord = C major chord = 1 3 5 = C E G, (this formula 1,3,5 is the base for all chords). The 3rd might be flatted (lowered a half step), sus (omitted) with the 2nd or 4th played in its place, the 5th may be aug (raised) or dim (lowered), but all chords are modified from and/or added to 1,3,5 formula base. Now you can build the rest of the C chords from the formulas below.
It is important to understand that when we play a C chord, say the common open C chord, more than 3 strings are being played. If we plucked down the strings from the 5th to the 1st string, the notes would be C,E,G,C,E. There are still only 3 notes here C, E, and G with the C and the E repeated. This is the same for all chords, no matter how many strings you are playing you are only playing the notes in the formulas below. (Ex. In an open G chord you are playing all 6 strings. How many notes?... 3. Check it out). BTW, We don't play the 6th string on our C chord because we want the C note on the 5th string to be the bass note, the lowest note in our chord. Use the nice chord building program at www.chordbook.com to help with playing these chords on the guitar neck.

7. All about chord names.
If a chord letter has "minor" or "min" or just "m" following it it always applies to the 3rd and means to flat the third of the major chord, this makes it a minor chord (Cm = 1 b3 5 = C Eb G).
If the chord letter has nothing next to it, it is major. (Ex. C = 1 3 5 = C E G).
If you see the word "MAJ" next to the chord letter, it always applies to the 7th, usually written like CMAJ7 (Ex. CMAJ7 = 1 3 5 7 = C E G B).
If there is no word next the the letter and just the number 7 (Ex. C7), then it is a flatted 7th. (Ex.C7 = 1 3 5 b7 = C E G Bb). BTW, minor is usually associated with lower case letters and MAJOR is usually associated with upper case letters.
In a C9, C11, and C13 you add the 9th, 11th, or 13th (not all) to the C7. (Ex. C9 = 1 3 5 b7 9 = C E G Bb D)(Ex. C11 = 1 3 5 b7 11 = C E G Bb F)(Ex. C13 = 1 3 5 b7 13 = C E G Bb A). As you can see, the 9th, 11th and 13th notes (D, F, and A) are the same notes as the 2nd, 4th, and 6th notes of the C scale but an octave higher.
Suspended (written as "sus") means to suspend (omit) the 3rd note and replace it with the 2nd or 4th. So Csus2 = 1 2 5 = C D G, and Csus4 = 1 4 5 = C F G. If you see just "Csus" without the number following the word "sus", it is = Csus4.
Diminished (written as "dim" or "°" or "*") means to flatten the 3rd and 5th of the chord, (and double flat 7th if included). (Ex. Cdim7 = 1-b3-b5-bb7 = C Eb Gb A)
Augmented (written as "aug" or "+") means to sharp the 5th. (Ex. Caug = 1 3 #5 = C E G#)
Add means just that, add ONLY the number written (Ex. Cadd9 = 1 3 5 9 = C E G D). (This is not the same as a C9 that requires the flatted 7th).
If you see add ons to a chord name like this: C7#5#9, it means to play the C7 but sharp the 5th and add the sharped 9th (Ex. C7#5#9 = 1 3 #5 b7 #9 = C E #G Bb D#).
Cmin/MAJ7 means just what it says, play the minor base chord and the MAJ 7 (C Eb G B).
Cmin/B is not the same as Cmin/MAJ7 although they contain the same notes. When we see this "slash chord" (Cmin/B), any letter following the slash refers to a bass note. In this case we are playing a C minor chord with a B bass (B (C) Eb G). Note that in most cases, we would omit the chord bass note and replace with the new designated bass note.
These following base chords (1,3,5) are in the key of C, meaning they just use notes from the C scale: C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim. A C7 chord though is not in the key of C. Why? Because of the added flatted 7th (Bb). A CMAJ7 however, is because the MAJ7th is a B. Got it? There are many other chords (aug, dim, 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th, added, flatted or sharped note chords) that are in the key of C though. Much to learn here.
So lets build a chord, a Cmin7 (or Cm7) would be (always starting with the base chord of 1,3,5): (1, b3 (flatted third because of the word "min"), 5, b7 (add the 7 because of the number 7 in the name but it is a flatted 7 because of the lack of the word "MAJ") So... Cmin7 = 1 b3 5 b7 = C Eb G Bb). Is this chord in the key of C? No. Why? Because of the Eb and Bb. What key is it in then? Could be in the Key of Bb, or Eb, or Ab. Why? Because these scales (keys) have an Eb and Bb as well as a natural C and G in them. You will learn about this in my next lesson. Lets stick with the C scale for now.

Chord Formulas (The chord letter name would go in front of each symbol)(Ex. Cadd4, Cm9, Cdim, etc.)

Chord Type (Symbol)

Major (none)
Added Fourth (add4)
Sixth (6)
Six Nine (6/9)
Major 7th (MAJ7)
Major Ninth (MAJ9)
Major Eleventh (MAJ11)
Major Thirteenth (MAJ13)
Major seven sharp eleventh (MAJ7#11)
1-3-5-7- #11
Major Flat Five (b5)

Chord Type (Symbol)
Minor (m) (min)
Minor added fourth (madd4)
Minor sixth (m6)
Minor seventh (m7)
Minor added ninth (madd9)
Minor six add nine (m6/9)
Minor ninth (m9)
Minor eleventh (m11)
Minor thirteenth (m13)
Minor/Major seventh (m/MAJ7)
Minor/Major ninth (m/MAJ9)
Minor/Major eleventh (m/MAJ11)
Minor/Major thirteenth (m/MAJ13)
Minor seven flat fifth (m7b5)

Chord Type (Symbol)
Seventh (7)
Ninth (9)
Eleventh (11)
Thirteenth (13)
Seven sharp five (7#5)
Seven flat five (7b5)
Seven flat ninth (7b9)
Seven sharp ninth (7#9)
Nine sharp five (9#5)
Nine flat five (9b5)
Seven sharp five sharp nine (7#5#9)
Seven sharp five flat nine (7#5b9)
Seven flat five sharp nine (7b5#9)
Seven flat five flat nine (7b5b9)
Seven sharp eleven (7#11)

Diminished (dim)(°
Diminished Seventh (dim7)(°7)
Augmented (aug)(+)
"and when you lose control, you'll reap the harvest that you've sewn"
gijoe, way to put all the basics in one spot. Awesome post. That is probably a huge help for beginners because it seems to clear up a lot and put it all together in one place. I had to do research for two weeks just to get all of this information when I started with theory.
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Thank you very much.. I didn't notice it till just now and I am going to read it now.. thanks!