A Little Music Theory

There are a few things about guitar that have been making me pretty mad. Music theory is one of them.

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I continuously read in guitar magazines where an artist talks about how he plays around a scale and adds a 5th or 7th or something like that. Just what is a 5th or 7th? They never explain. Well, I finally learned what it is and I'm here to share this information with you. If any of you more advance guitarists notice any mistakes that I have made please let me know and I will be more than happy to correct them. I don't want to be sending the wrong information to anyone. Ok, first things first, it's time to learn your musical alphabet. A B C D E F G. After G it starts over at A. As you have probably guessed these are all notes, but they are also intervals. An interval is the difference in pitch between two notes. But those are not the only notes. There are also sharps and flats. We'll use A as an example. Let's say we're playing an A on the guitar and we want to go to A sharp. All you have to do is move up the fretboard(toward your picking hand). If you're still confused about this I'll tab it out on the A string.
-------0----1-------
Congratulations! You just went from A to A sharp(remember that that is not the only A on the fretboard! ). Give yourself a pat on the back. Also, something you might not have realized, you just moved up one half step. You might have seen something like this somewhere WWHWWWH. W=whole step and H=half step. Moving up one half step means that you move up one fret and moving up one whole step means that you move up two frets. So one whole step = two half steps. Now that you have that much down, it's time to go on to something very important in music theory. You must learn the major scale. Once again, we'll use A.
E------------------------------------------4--5------------------------
B------------------------------------5--7------------------------------
G---------------------------4--6--7------------------------------------
D------------------4--6--7---------------------------------------------
A---------4--5--7------------------------------------------------------
E---5--7---------------------------------------------------------------
That was the A Major(Ionian) scale. As far as I know Major and Ionian are the same things, if I am wrong I hope that a more advanced player will tell me so I can correct this. Either way that's the A Major scale. All Major scales have the exact same pattern(with a few exceptions), just different notes.
G Major(Ionian)
E------------------------------------------2--3------------------------
B------------------------------------3--5------------------------------
G---------------------------2--4--5------------------------------------
D------------------2--4--5---------------------------------------------
A---------2--3--5------------------------------------------------------
E---3--5---------------------------------------------------------------
If you compare them you'll notice their similarities. Now you're probably wondering why I'm bothering to show you another boring scale and why it's so important to Music Theory. Well, I'm about to show you. Have you ever looked at an E5 power chord and wondered, "What's the E and What's the 5th? What makes it an E5?" It's really quite simple. E is the root note and 5 is the fifth note of the E Major scale. In case you don't know what the E5 is I'll tab it out for you.
E5 
E------ 
B------ 
G------ 
D------
A--2---
E--0---
Since there are open notes involved we'll have to change the major scale up a bit so we hit the right notes. If I'm correct, the only time you will have to change the scale is when you are dealing with open notes. I'll tab out the E Major scale that you will have to use here.
E---------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------
G---------------------------------------
D--------------------1--2---------------
A-----------0--2--4---------------------
E--0--2--4------------------------------
And that carries it through a whole octave.(An octave the largest interval. to make an octave you go through 8 notes, which, in this case, will carry you from E to E again, E F G A B C D E). Now to put the scale to use. E is the root note of the scale and the root note of the chord. Now, count the notes of the scale until you come to the 5th note. You will notice that it is on the second fret. If you play the root and the 5th together you get the E5 chord. Ok, so what if you want to add a 7th to that? Well that's a stupid idea because it sounds horrible but we'll do it anyway! Count the notes on the scale up to 7. When you get it figured out it should look like this:
E----------
B----------
G----------
D--1-------
A--2-------
E--0-------
And it is probably the most hideous chord you have ever played. Ok, hopefully your parents are done beating you in the head with a brick for making such an ugly sound. This has probably brought up just as many questions as it has answered but remember that these are just the basics, if you have any questions or corrections please send me a message or email me. Oh, I almost forgot, don't send me any hate mail unless you're ready for it to come back at you twice as bad.

36 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    MJK123
    ironwolg, Thanks for posting. As an old beginner, stuff like this is helping me improve...
    ironwolg
    Garce wrote: Correct me if I'm wrong, but those scales are wrong. The tab for E major scale as notes, goes E F# G# A B C# D# E. Mentioned it would be E F G A B C D E. My knowledge for scales comes from this lesson, but I know notes. Correct TAB would be: E----- B----- G----- D-----0--2----- A-----0--2--3- ---- E--0--1--3-----
    no, that's E Phrygian, the third mode of C Major. it's in the key of C Major or A minor. the scales i wrote are correct. if you have any questions feel free to message me
    akolyte123
    I think E7 might be this: E----- B----- G----- D--0----- A--2----- E--0- ---- I'm not an American or Briton (sometimes we have different names to music terms), but we call your chord (btw - it's only a power chord) Emaj7. E7 is that I 've written.
    na thats a Em7.E7 is E G# B D and the power chord isnt actually a chord it only has two notes lol the most basic chord is tha tri tones which have are the basic ones(maj, min, dim and aug)
    estevan
    very nice,and thanks for layin it out so a person can actually get it.btw,that E57 chord,lol,thats just super.
    Doc5678
    E Major scale is not E F G A B C D E, it has 4 sharps (F,C,G,D) i.e. E F# G# A B C# D# E. Also adding a Maj7 to an E5 gives you an EMaj7(no3).
    Rock In Rio
    Ok, hopefully your parents are done beating you in the head with a brick for making such an ugly sound.
    Lol
    Garce
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but those scales are wrong. The tab for E major scale as notes, goes E F# G# A B C# D# E. Mentioned it would be E F G A B C D E. My knowledge for scales comes from this lesson, but I know notes. Correct TAB would be: E----- B----- G----- D-----0--2----- A-----0--2--3- ---- E--0--1--3-----
    AlphaBlackheart
    Great lesson! I'm pretty well familiar with the fretboard and scales. It's great to have finally found a lesson that explains what a 5th and a 7th are. Thanks!
    PoopChute
    To any one who knows, how much would school cost roughly for music theory, im learning and understanding the basics but i want to get more in depth and im just curious of the price range for either canadian or american colleges or universities with a good rep. If some one knows could you answer me here or at trevor-reneau@hotmail.com it would be much apprciated thanx.
    ironwolg
    AlphaBlackheart wrote: Great lesson! I'm pretty well familiar with the fretboard and scales. It's great to have finally found a lesson that explains what a 5th and a 7th are. Thanks!
    no problem! if you ever have any questions ask me
    DomPedro101
    Thanks very much. Its good to see that at least someone realises that a basic lesson needs to start at the most basic level and explain things in plain English (all the ones Ive found up to now have just thrown confusing jargon at me). Im looking forward to the next lesson.
    RHCPritch
    your the man. if you could keep posting lessons like this for every aspect of guitar it would be greatly appreciated
    ironwolg
    RHCPritch wrote: your the man. if you could keep posting lessons like this for every aspect of guitar it would be greatly appreciated
    haha thanks, any suggestions for the next lesson? my theory lessons are so unorganized i really don't even know what all i've covered and what all i haven't, i might just make a lesson titled Music Theory Compilation/Review haha but yeah suggestions for the next lesson would be appreciated
    ironwolg
    PoopChute wrote: To any one who knows, how much would school cost roughly for music theory, im learning and understanding the basics but i want to get more in depth and im just curious of the price range for either canadian or american colleges or universities with a good rep. If some one knows could you answer me here or at trevor-reneau@hotmail.com it would be much apprciated thanx.
    prices are really uncertain for stuff like that. the best thing for you to do would be to find a local community college and call them up and see if they offer music theory classes and see how much they are there. a community college class won't be too expensive especially for just one or two classes. in my class we've gone through four part harmony and non dominant seventh chords and secondary dominant chords and modulation and all kinds of things like that so it's a lot more advanced than what i'm putting out. if you want a university, plan on emptying your wallet, it gets expensive there.
    ddrguitar
    Great intro to theory. The E5(maj7) debacle is just as interesting! I must throw in my two cents though, because I love this chord and use it all the time. It is a staple is the Shoegazer and Indie scenes and sounds great up the neck with some light fuzz. Throw in the 3rd now and then to give it more tonality: A5(maj7) A(maj7) E----- B----- G----- D-7-7-6-6-7-7-6-6-6-6-7-6-6 -6-7-6----- A-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-7-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4----- E-5-5-5 -5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-5-----
    hoody.hoody
    I think E7 might be this: E----- B----- G----- D--0----- A--2----- E--0- ---- I'm not an American or Briton (sometimes we have different names to music terms), but we call your chord (btw - it's only a power chord) Emaj7. E7 is that I 've written.
    3 days grace14
    good theory lesson most others just repeat the ****ing jibberish i went and got it explained by a pro which helped alot
    wyldslide
    killer ive read tabs n shit and wasnt gettin what that shit meant you rock!
    chimpman
    thats actually made sense! yes! a lesson i finally understand! it had to happen eventually... cheers man
    ironwolg
    Guitarguy134 wrote: E--0----- B--0----- G--0----- D--1----- A--2-- --- E--0- ---- If the chord that you called E7 was played with open strings like this, the chord should be Em(Maj7)
    not sure what it's called, if i remember right i just added a 7th to a power chord so it would be E57? idk, lol i never should have created that chord!! ahhh!!!!!
    ironwolg
    irishstang_87 wrote: Nice lesson, easy to understand. Thanks.
    haha i think you guys will have a different oppinion of my next lesson. it's kinda complicated, lots of info to swallow. mainly just new terms but you guys will get it. it's on the waiting list right now. thanks for all the positive feedback
    Ex Shred
    It really is a nice lesson bro and you really do make it easy to understand, nicely done.
    gsomej
    thanks, this a helped me out a bit. that first chord you showed us was a E5, but was the last one? is it a "E57"?
    ironwolg
    gsomej wrote: thanks, this a helped me out a bit. that first chord you showed us was a E5, but was the last one? is it a "E57"?
    yeah but it's a very impractical and hideous chord. you'll have to put a 3rd on it to make it sound right. i'll talk about 7th chords in my next lesson, which i happen to be typing at the moment XP no idea when they'll post it, if they do at all. they work slow
    Guitarguy134
    E--0----- B--0----- G--0----- D--1----- A--2----- E--0- ---- If the chord that you called E7 was played with open strings like this, the chord should be Em(Maj7)
    Mikethespud
    This really helped, I couldn't understand any of the other lessons but this one I could, thanks.