Scales Modes And Chords Made Easy

An introduction and basic theory to chords and scales.

Ultimate Guitar
Hello everyone I would like to share my thoughts onnchords and how they are arranged for guitar. Basic music theory can go a long way with guitar, it's all based on patterns say for instance you learn an open position chord well that chord has specific notes that make up that pattern that as you move down the fretboard they still have the same relation they are just in a different key. This will be a series starting with chords, barre chords, scales and modes. Now I should start that there are 12 notes total for 24 (or 22) frets and six strings (sometimes more or less) on your guitar. These are A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G#. That's it, now a long time ago some Greek musician played a certain pattern of notes and said hey those sound pretty good so he wrote down this pattern as a guide to play around. This would be the major scale which takes those twelve notes and breaks it into steps. This is the backbone to western music and has been. Learning the major scale means you know many others too which will make more sense as you read I hope, but anyway these steps are W W H W W W H. With W=Whole and H=Half notes. So for instance lets take the popular C scale as an example so starting on C we have : C (Whole step) D (Whole step) E (Half Step) F (Whole Step) G (Whole Step) A (Whole Step) B (Half Step) C. You'll notice it starts and ends on the same note C thus making it the C scale. Ok now we want to play in the key of C well if I'm on an acoustic guitar or playing rythym I would want something loud, something that involves many strings aka a chord but I want it in the key of C, now you could take any of those notes and play them together and your in the key but the most basic chord formation is the triad and all you do to form a triad is take every other note starting with which one you want. So lets say C: For C in C major we start at C and every other note so C, E, G. And 7th chords are taking another one so C, E, G, B (the 7th note in the scale) hence 7th chords. For those of you who like a little math if we numbered the notes of this scale:
I ii iii IV V vi vii I
C  D  E   F G  A  B  C
There we go, I'm using roman numerals and there is a reason some are capital and others are not this is because the capital I IV and V are major chords within the key of C and ii, iii, and vi are minor with vii being diminished. Taking our triad chord we get C, E, and G remember; in the scale degrees up there this makes it where a major chord is 1 3 5 in the scale this is our formula for our major chord. Therefore if you took each note C D E F G A and B and wrote them out in there major scale you would see that within our C scale the only 3 chords which fit into that major chord formula (1 3 5) would be C F and G. Therefore in the key of C there are three major chords C F and G. What about the rest of the notes why are they lower case? well the D, E, and A notes are minor and the B is a diminished chord. I won't talk about the dimished chords or augmented in this lesson but why are these minor you say? Well it requires some information on modes... A major scale is what you see above starting at the root note and ending on the same. A mode is changing this pattern, so if I wanted A minor also called A aeloian mode I would take that sixth chord start and end on it its the "natural" minor. Therefore, doing this
vi vii  I  ii iii IV  V
 A   B  C   D   E  F  G
(Note that they are still in the same order in order to be a mode it has to be those notes in correspondence with their roman numeral to bring it into playing you could play any of those notes on your guitar and still be in the key of C but starting and ending on these patterns evokes a certain tone and this is how you can come to recognize music e.g. is it major or minor a certain progression etc. but focus on the basics first.) Notice that the roman numerals are changed in which one starts first but the I through vii is still intact. You can do this with each note and get the same result and they all have different sounds; try it, play just on the A string starting at the 3rd fret (C) and do the major scale formula. Take a listen to it and now start at the A and do W H W W H W which is the C major scale starting at A, sounded completely different didnt it? That's A minor, so in relation C major=A minor they are the same notes and the different modes can be played by starting at different notes within the scale in the same manor I won't name them all in this lesson. This also goes for any other scale not only C, for example I mostly play in E minor (or G major) so E minor=G major check it write the major scale out its always the 6th note in the scale. Now that we know that the 6th is the minor scale what is a minor chord? Well lets do our triad again, every other note in the C major scale starting at A therefore: A C E. this is a minor chord formula in numbers (6 1 3) if you took the ii, iii, and vi chords of any major scale and wrote there corresponding minor scales out you would see that those chords are (6 1 3) which is a minor chord. Those are you major and minor basic chords in theory I will get into bar chords and positions on the fretboard in the next lesson with scale theory and modes again expanded on. Thanks for reading and just work at it, eventually it becomes natural and you can play in any key, change keys, and come up with other chords of your own and develop your own sound... Anyway

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This is a good article, and unfortunately I have rather long and kind of nit-picky response, but I think it's important. This method breaks down if you go to do the other minor chords in your example. For example, if I choose E, which is a minor chord in the C major scale, and try and write out its minor scale, it will come out wrong: E F# G A B C D E F# is not a note in the C major scale, so while it doesn't affect the triad, it still doesn't work. The same is true for the D minor scale: D E F G A Bb C D Again it doesn't matter with the triad, but Bb is not part of the C major scale. The reason it doesn't work is because A minor is the relative minor for C major, not a mode of the C major scale. It is not the C Aeolian mode, but the A Aeolian mode. So it happens to work well for determining the A minor chord because when you write out the A major scale: A B C# D E F# G# A and then correct the notes to match the C major scale, you end up in A Aeolian. Or rather, if you pick the triad from the A major scale, you get A C# E (A major), which does not fit into the C major scale, so you have to flat the third, which makes it a minor chord. If I do the same with the E major scale, I get: E F# G# A B C# D# E The E chord there is E G# B, which again doesn't fit into C major, so you have to flat the third, giving E G B, which is E minor. Maybe I'm just confused with your method, particularly around the 6 1 3 explanation, and if I've missed it, my mistake.
    Yaauhp nice but I'd think you'd go in deeper I already kenw all this :/
    First of all a lot of this information is just wrong, so I would recommend disregarding this lesson to the readers.
    As slowlybilly said, readers should disregard the lesson, especially those foggy about modes in general. The words "Modes" and "Easy" do not belong in the same sentence, because there's no easy or quick way to learn them. These "lessons" full of false information should really stop because all they do is get people confused.
    AH I been there, everything feels like it's just starting to make sense, you start espousing your newfound wisdom, and suddenly everyone's telling you you're wrong... Sadly, they're mostly right. There should be some kind of rule against mentioning modes *at all* unless you can pass some kind of aptitude test...
    This isn't very accurate information. Also, for future articles, proofread it a bit better and try to not to have a poor conclusion like "anyway."
    JD Close
    How did this get accepted in the first place? Nice grammar and accurate information are abundant. NAWT!
    This is not even readable. Accurate or not -- and I trust that it was not from the other comments -- I couldn't get past a paragraph. I know we aren't a bunch of English majors here, but come on, some ability to write coherently is required if you're going to try to teach anything to anyone.
    basically, the same as falsehood said. i can point out a salient issue or two, but i can only point out the things i actually understood. go review your foundations and then you can try again. but crap like this is why so many guitarists struggle with such simple concepts.