Basic Chord Theory

In this video is all the basic theory you’ll need to understand why chords work and sound as they do. I’m focusing on guitar, but the theory remains the same for all instruments. Learn and enjoy.

Advertisements

The Natural Minor Scale

As mentioned in the video here are 2 different methods for playing this scale. They both contain the same notes, but have different methods of reaching a particularly troublesome one.

This first tab, which is my preferred one, requires you change the hand position for the first note on the G string.
image

This next tab requires a stretch to hit that same note, but it now appear as the last note you play on the D string.
image

Arpeggios 1 – Maj, Min & Dim Triad Arpeggios

Arpeggios form a neat middle-ground between chords and scales – you’ll be voicing chords in a manner similar to playing a scale. Today we’re going to cover the three different triads that appear in the Major Scale. A Tonic Triad, as you should know, is built by stacking thirds in your given scale, so the formula for each is as follows:
Major:              R          3        5
Minor:              R        m3      5
Diminished:     R        m3      b5
In each of these we start with our root note, (the 5th fret on the E string), and then play the third. In the case of A Maj this is the 4th fret on the A string, but the 8th fret of the E string for the other two. Our fifths are on the 7th fret of the A string, but flattened to the 6th fret for A Dim. All our Octaves are on the 7th fret of the D string.
We’re playing all of these arpeggios in A, which should allow you to see the differences between each triad. As with scales, it’s important to keep to the one-finger-per-fret rule.

           Well, now what? I’d suggest trying out each of these in various positions on the neck, remembering that they are moveable shapes, (you can play them rooted on the A string as well).
Once you’re happy you can move them around a bit, try applying them to the Nashville Numbering System and see if you can play arpeggios for every chord within a given key using both the E and A string as roots.

The Locrian Mode

(Occasionally spelt “Lochrian” by awkward people)

The modern Locrian is interesting. It exists more as a theoretical entity, but derived just the same as the other modes. It’s very seldom used in music, as there’s not much in it that listeners want to hear, but it does exist and can be applied nonetheless. Moreover, if you’re going to learn the modes, you may as well learn all the modes.

Locrian is the 7th mode in the Major Scale, and most closely resembles the minor formula, so that will be our starting point.

B Natural Minor
R    2    m3   4    5   m6   m7
B   C#    D    E   F#   G    A

In the Locrian mode we flatten the 2 and the 5, (we usually call that a diminished fifth)

B Locrian Mode
R   b2   m3   4   b5   m6   m7
B    C    D    E    F     G     A

The oddness of this mode is largely down to the lack of the natural 5th, which can make resolutions just plain difficult. Below is the tab for B Locrian.

image

As mentioned in the video, entire songs in Locrian are very rare and often unpleasant. The only example I’ve come across of a good-sounding song in the Locrian Mode is John Kirkpatrick’s Dust To Dust.

The Locrian Etude is currently being written, so in the mean time enjoy this 1, 4, 5 progression.

   I                                    IV                                    V
Cdim                               Fm                                 Gb
Cm7b5                            Fm7                             GbMaj7

The Dorian Mode

In this lesson I’m going to go over the 2nd mode of the Major Scale: The Dorian Mode.

The Dorian mode most closely resembles the Natural Minor Scale, so we’ll start with that, here is the D Natural Minor Scale.
R   2   m3   4    5  m6   m7
D   E    F    G   A   Bb    C

To turn this into the Dorian Mode we need to sharpen the m6. So our new pattern is this.
R   2   m3   4    5   6   m7
D   E    F    G   A   B    C

Here is the tablature for D Dorian. Remember, this is a moveable shape so you can, for instance, play it 2 frets higher and make it E Dorian.

image

It’s important to make your own mind up about what the modes sound like, and what particular thoughts or feelings they invoke. Take some time to play around with the above pattern, maybe work out a couple licks and slip them into your regular solos, or over simple backing tracks.

You could also listen to the following tracks as an aural study, as these are all written in the Dorian Mode:
Oye Como Va by Tito Puente, (popularized by Santana)
Billie Jean by Micheal Jackson
Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple
Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles

I will be uploading a Dorian Etude in the near future, but in the mean time you could mess around with this Dorian I, IV, V progression:

   I                                   IV                                     V
Dm                                 G                                    Am
Dm7                               G7                                  Am7

Standard Chord Progressions 1: Maj & Min I, IV, V Chord Patterns

The I, IV, V chord pattern is a very common progression, and it is for that reason I will be focusing on it for several lessons. If you have an interest in blues, rock or jazz music, this will form the basis for many songs you will learn, (especially in the case of the blues). By the end of this lesson, I hope you will be able to play a Maj or Min I, IV, V chord pattern, and understand the theory behind them.

I believe these progressions are so common largely because they are simple to learn. If you want to play a Major I, IV, V pattern, you only have to know Major chords. Similarly, if you want to play a Minor I, IV, V, you will be playing only Minor chords.
The second reason they are common is that you will be using every chord of that type available in the scale. For instance, the Major version will contain every Major chord of that given scale. Likewise, the Minor I, IV, V will contain every Minor chord of that scale. To reiterate, if you play a I, IV, V pattern in either Major or Minor, you will be using every chord of that type in the scale.
A further advantage of these progressions is that you only need to know the root note of the song. Most of the time, when playing a I, IV, V pattern I’m only thinking about the root note of the scale, because it’s not necessary to know the names of the other chords, provided you know you’re sticking in the right key.

First off, I want you to play a G Major scale, and take note of the first, fourth and fifth notes are, (this only works with the full scale, so if you’re only familiar with the Pentatonic scales, now would be the time to go and learn the full ones). The first, fourth and fifth notes are going to be the root notes of your I, IV, V progression.
Now, I want you to play the following chords separately, then try swapping between them a bit:

Once you’re comfortable playing these individually, try these various structures, (I’ve written out the chords, but titled each exercise as the scale degrees you’re using).

Here are a few things I want you to try now:
Play the same chord progressions above as open chords instead of barre chords.
Play these barre chord patterns as minors instead of majors, (the pattern stays the same, it’s just the chords that need to change)
Play these patterns in different keys. Shifting the entire pattern up 2 frets will give you A Major I, IV, V patterns. Shifting it down to the first fret will give you F Major I, IV, V patterns.

Examples of songs using a Maj or Min I, IV, V pattern:

          Pride & Joy by Stevie Ray Vaughn
          Louie, Louie by … I forget, but the most famous version was by The Kinks
          Crossroads by Cream
          Wicked Game by Chris Isaac