Connecting Chords To A Scale

Often guitar players think of playing chords and scales as two different worlds.

Connecting Chords To A Scale
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Often guitar players think of playing chords and scales as two different worlds.
  • If you're the chord type then maybe you have a hard time memorizing scales, or don't see the value in them, maybe you don't know how cool it can be to apply them.
  • If you're the scale type maybe you like the melodic aspect of scales or repeating the same chord progression over and over with no variation isn't your idea of a good time. I'd like to offer an approach that may help with any or all of these scenarios. With students I always try to relate anything new that they're learning to something that they already know. If you've been playing the guitar for a little while you probably know the A minor chord, I'm going to show you how to play the A minor pentatonic scale around the A minor chord. Since the A minor chord has one note per string, learning the scale involves adding only one extra note to each string.

    The Chord

    A minor: Here's a reminder of the fingering for the A minor chord.
  • Fifth string open
  • Fourth string, middle finger on the 2nd fret
  • Third string, ring finger on the second fret
  • Second string, index on the first fret
  • Open first string
  • You can also play the open sixth string. (We teach this chord along with E minor and D minor in the Rock Prodigy lesson number 17).

    The Scale

    A Minor Pentatonic scale: The nice thing about the pentatonic scale is that it has two notes per string. Here's a reminder of the A minor Pentatonic Scale in open position:
  • From the low E string
  • Play the E string open followed by the 3rd fret
  • A string open followed by the 3rd fret.
  • D string open followed by the 2nd fret.
  • G string open followed by the 2nd fret.
  • B string 1st fret followed by the 3rd fret.
  • And the high E string open followed by the 3rd fret. The great thing is that all the notes of the A minor chord are in the pentatonic scale. Yay!

    The Relationship

    Try this: Play an A minor chord. Now going from the thick E string to the thin E string we'll add the note that is in the A minor pentatonic scale.
  • Open thick E is in the chord, 3rd fret is in the scale
  • Open A string is in the chord, 3rd fret is in the scale
  • 2nd fret of the D string is in the chord, open D string is in the scale
  • 2nd fret of the G string is in the chord, open G string is in the scale
  • 1st fret of the B string is in the chord, 3rd fret is in the scale
  • Open thin E is in the chord, 3rd fret is in the scale

    Now The Fun Begins

    Putting it to music: Now that we've covered the A minor pentatonic scale and how it relates to a common chord shape let's go over a couple ways to make use of it. Instead of playing the whole scale from the lowest to highest note, stick to one register. 1. Play with the open chord and the pentatonic notes on the low E and A strings to create riffs. 2. Play with the open chord and add the pentatonic notes on the high E and B strings to add fills and melody to your rhythm playing. You don't even have to lift up the chord, just add your pinky! 3. Give the chord a full measure of four beats and the scale a full measure of four beats. Then when you are comfortable with it try to do fractions of the bar.

    For The Adventurous Type

    Bonus: Add articulations to create color. 1. Mix Strumming the chord, picking a string or two and hammering on or pulling off between chord tones and pentatonic scale notes. 2. Bend the pentatonic note on the 3rd fret of the B string up a whole step (it will become the same note as the open E string!) 3. Bend either of the E string 3rd fret pentatonic notes up a whole step (it will become an A note which is a chord tone!) Expand: This scale is also married to the C major chord. Try these tools out by combining this pentatonic pattern with the C major chord.
    There are two more chords that are related to this scale which are Dsus and Gsus.

    Wrapping It Up

    So there is some food for thought, learn more about Rock Prodigy here, and if you have any questions just post a comment.
    By Mike Georgia
  • 21 comments sorted by best / new / date

    comments policy
      mjones1992
      Lol at fake account in first comment.
      dumbface12
      I viewed the profile of the author and there was another fake account on his one blog. So, obviously this guy must have multiple accounts or something.
      Edwardtatch
      Now, that's an expensive app...
      Rock Prodigy
      Hi Ed, It is really designed for beginner guitar players who are serious about learning guitar theory and technique, as well as basic things like chords, scales and rhythm. For less than the price of one guitar lesson with a teacher it comes with over 150 Lessons/Exercises. They are laid out in a daily routine for you. If you practice every day, it's several weeks worth of material. For many people it's months worth of content. Almost all of the beginner that use RP have really positive feedback. Check out the Apple App Store reviews to see what people have to say. We just did a new update so you should check some of the older ones to see how we've improved! Thanks for you comment.
      hbtrivedi
      Actually once i found a software to solve this problem...but it comes in a trial version pack and unfortunately i lost that as i was in need to format my PC.. I think it will help every guitarist a newbie or an expert..cause it shows about 2000 or even more chord positions for a single Scale..
      hbtrivedi
      Do i hv to get a chord and scale charts to see what chord matches what scale..?? And where can i get it..?? Pls help
      Rock Prodigy
      That is a great question. We don't currently have a chart that shows all the chords and the related scales. We'll look into putting something together and posting it to www.rockprodigy.com Thanks for the great feedback!
      Archer250
      Uh, wouldn't such a task be painstaking?
      Rock Prodigy
      It would definitely take us a few days... We'll see if we can start working on it next week. Still thinking about how to do it best since there are different directions this could go.
      Josekillo
      Awesome video. Where can I get the Rock Prodigy app?
      JoeViking
      That is a great comment above and one thing I have been searching for a long time. Over various chord progressions what are the best sounding scales (i.e. over I-IV-V = pentatonic or blues) to play over those progressions (or vice versa)? THAT would be great to have....thanks!
      Rock Prodigy
      Thanks Joe, We can probably put together a one or two a week and post them to the Rock Prodigy website. We'll let you know when the first one is ready.
      JoeViking
      http://www.songtrix.com/ Pretty cool....could be a little complex....but thanks! There HAS to be something a litte more simple out there somewhere.....if I am playing a certain chord progression what are the 3 or 4 scales I can use that will sound the best to solo over that particular progression. I smell a business opportunity! : Joe V.