Category Archives: Beginner Lessons

Guitar lessons for beginners.

Lesson 13: Improvising With Relative Major and Minor Scales

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Relative scales are scales that share the same set of notes but have different root notes (because they are in different keys). They sound different because their intervals (distance of the scale notes from the root note) are different.

For example here is the C Major scale.

Note Names: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
Formula: 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12

C Major Scale

It sounds the way it does because of the order in which you play the various intervals, from the C to the D (0 – 2), from the D to the E (2 – 4) etc.

But what if you kept the same notes but started on the A in stead? Well then you would be playing the relative (Natural) minor scale of this C Major Scale.

Note Names: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A
Formula: 0, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12

Using the Five Fret Pattern you can see that although the notes are the same the intervals are different. A to B (0 – 2), B to C (2 – 3) etc.

So to find the relative minor scale of any given Major scale you simply start playing the same notes from the 6th note of the Major scale. To find the relative Major scale for any given Natural minor scale you start at its 3rd note.

C Major and A minor Scales

In the above diagram you can see all the notes of the C Major / A Natural minor scale.
Can you see where I got the earlier diagram for the C Major scale from? It starts at the eight fret. So if you want an easy way to find the relative minor scale simply start playing from wherever you see an A. Like the example below.

A minor Scale

Knowing how to find the relative minor scale for every Major scale is useful for several reasons. First of all it means that if you know how to play the Major scale you automatically know the Natural minor scale as well.If you practice the Major scale in all 12 keys you’ll know its relative minor in all 12 keys as well.

It means that when you are improvising you can easily switch between the two scales to get a different sound.

Listen to this song Otherside by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (the chord progression for most of the song is Am – F – C – G) and play the above C Major scale over it.

Next play the A minor scale. Can you hear how they sound different?

Now use the below diagram to improvise over the music, but rather than sticking to just one scale pattern for each scale, try to play all over the fretboard in stead.

In order to still get the two different sounds choose to switch your focus every 60 seconds or so between the A and C note. So start and end your licks on A for 60 seconds, then start and end your licks on C for the next minute.

For extra bonus points focus on the intervals that are different for each scale: 0-3, 0-8 and 0-10 for the minor scale and 0-4, 0-9 and 0-11 for the Major scale.

C Major and A minor Scales

Lesson 12: 6th and 7th Chords

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In a previous lesson about chord progressions you may have noticed chords with a 7 behind them V7 or IIm7, examples of which are the G7 and Bm7 chords. These are called 7th chords.

7th chords are chords that consist of 4 notes, starting with a Major or minor triad and playing an extra note on top.

Before I show you how to construct and play these chords let me briefly touch on the naming of intervals and chords. The names 7th and 6th refer to intervals used in these chords. So far in these lessons I’ve avoided using the standard interval names, such as minor 2nd and Perfect 5th because in my opinion they only confuse guitar players who are just starting to learn music theory. The number one priority at this stage is to know how to construct chords and scales and to be able to see them easily on the fretboard.

In future lessons I’ll talk more about standard naming conventions for intervals and then you’ll be able to discuss Augmented 9ths and Perfect 11ths with piano and violin players as much as you want.

Using our method of counting the fret distance from the root note you should easily be able to remember the formulas and apply them to the fretboard using the Five Fret Pattern. Remember the formula for the Major triad is 0 – 4 – 7 and for the minor triad it’s 0 – 3 – 7.

Below you’ll find the name of the chord, the common symbol for it, the formula, an image of all the notes for that chord across the fretboard and an example of of a voicing of that chord. Note that the chord shapes shown are moveable along the fretboard, just play the same shape at different places along the fretboard.

Name: Major 7th
Symbol: M7 of Maj7
Formula: 0 – 4 – 7 – 11
Example: BbMaj7: Bb, A, D, F

Bb Major 7th Notes

Example Voicing: BbMaj7

Bb Major 7th

Name: Dominant 7th
Symbol: 7
Formula: 0 – 4 – 7 – 10
Example: Bb7: Bb, G#, D, F

Bb Dominant 7th Notes

Example Voicing: Bb7

Bb Major Dominant 7th

Name: Major 6th
Symbol: 6
Formula: 0 – 4 – 7 – 9
Example: E6: E, G#, C#, B

E Major 6th Notes

Example Voicing: E6

F# Major 6th

Name: minor 7th
Symbol: m7
Formula: 0 – 3 – 7 – 10
Example: Bbm7: Bb, C#, F, G#

F minor 7th Notes

Example Voicing: Bbm7

Bb minor 7

Name: minor 6th
Symbol: m6
Formula: 0 – 3 – 7 – 9
Example: Bm6: B, D, F#, G#

B minor 6th Notes

Example Voicing: Bm6

B minor 6

Learn the formulas for each of these chords and see how many different ways you can play them along the neck, there are quite a few positions for each chord.

Lesson 10: Chord Progression Library

Circle Of 4ths and 5ths

Please refer to: Lesson 9: The Circle of 4ths and 5ths if you haven’t already before reading this article.

In this article I’m just going to present you with a list of common and not so common chord progressions. Use these to write your own songs, record them and use them to improvise over or use them to figure out how to play popular songs.

Please add any more chord progressions to the comments section and I’ll add them to this article.

Chord Progressions Using Two or Three Chords





I-IV-V7 (The V7 is a Dominant 7th chord. These will be explained in a future lesson)

I – bVII-IV (The VII is flattened)

I-bIII-IV (The III is flattened)

Chord Progressions Using Four Chords










Chord Progressions Using Five Chords



Chord Progressions Using Six Chords


Jazz Progressions








Lesson 7: Scale Formulas

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Five Fret Pattern 1st String

After the last lesson in which I showed you the Five Fret Pattern it is time to start using it to learn scales.

Most people try to learn scales by memorising patterns of finger placements. It’s a good way to learn scales but many people find it hard to break out of these patterns when playing lead or soloing. Since you can easily find scale patterns all over the internet and in many books I won’t do the same here.

Your goal for this lesson should be to memorise the scale formulas below and finding your own patterns on the fretboard using the Five Fret Pattern. The key of the scale will depend on the note you choose as your 0 point. So if you choose your 0 point to be on the 5th fret of the low E string then your scale will be in the key of A.

Try playing along the same string, on just 2 or 3 strings, in a 3 fret span across all 6 strings, basically in any way that you can think of. Play them both ascending up the scale and back down again (note that the melodic minor played in the descending direction becomes the natural minor). This will help you to avoid getting locked in the dreaded ‘box’ and give you freedom to play scales all over the neck.

All of the below examples are in the key of C.

Chromatic Scale

Note Names: C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, A, A#/Bb, B, C
Formula: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Major Scales

Note Names: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
Formula: 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12

Natural Minor Scale

Note Names: C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C
Formula: 0, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12

Harmonic Minor Scale

Note Names: C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, C
Formula: 0, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12

Melodic Minor Scale

Note Names: C, D, Eb, F, G, A, B, C
Formula: 0, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12

Lesson 6: The Five Fret Pattern

Derek Trucks
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I consider the pattern taught in this lesson to be one of the most important things you can learn in order to help your guitar playing. Once you understand this simple pattern your understanding of how the fretboard works will take a giant leap forwards.

One of the things guitar players struggle with when learning music theory is the confusing way in which numbers are used to describe different musical concepts. For example you may have seen how music intervals (the distance between two notes) are described with terms such as Major 2nd or Perfect 5th. As a guitar player it is confusing to relate these terms to the fretboard because they don’t describe the distance in fret numbers, something which you can easily count.

On top of that you might hear people use terms such as whole and half steps or whole and half tones. This is just another needless level of complexity that doesn’t provide any helpful insights. (In case you are wondering half tones and half steps are a distance of one fret and whole tones and whole steps are two frets distance).

In order to make things much easier to learn and help you understand the inner workings of the fretboard we are going to simplify things. By describing music intervals simply by counting the distance in frets between two notes you easily start to notice patterns that will help you learn chords and scales much quickly and you’ll be able to play them all over the neck with ease.

I call the pattern in this lesson the Five Fret Pattern. The pattern is found by placing your finger on any note on the fretboard, in this first example we’ll pick G# on the low E string. This will be our root note or zero point. Since we’re counting a distance we’ll count this as 0 (in the same way that the start of a ruler is 0 cm or inches).

Five Fret Pattern 1st String

So starting with your finger on the 0 in the white circle, count 5 frets along the string until you reach C#. Now you can also find C# on the 2nd string (the A string) where you see the number 5 in the white circle. The next string up, the number 10 in the white circle is the equivalent of moving 10 frets along the 1st string from the G# on the 1st string. So you can see how all the numbers in this diagram show fret distances from the starting point. Note how the number 24 in the diagram shows a C# but two octaves higher. (You get the next octave up every 12 frets. E.g. 12, 24, 36 etc).

As you can see moving up a string is the same as moving 5 frets along the string. This pattern is easy to remember because its easy to mentally count in groups of 5. The only thing you have to be mindful of is that because of the way the strings are tuned in standard tuning that the pattern on the highest two strings is shifted over towards the bridge by 1 fret.
In the below diagrams you can see what the pattern looks like when you choose your starting point on one of the other strings. Remember that this pattern appears the same way anywhere along the fretboard. All it does is show you relative fret distances.

Five Fret Pattern 2nd String

Five Fret Pattern 3rd String

Five Fret Pattern 4th String

Five Fret Pattern 5th String

Five Fret Pattern 6th String

How knowing the Five Fret Pattern can help you play chords and scales all over the fretboard

Now I’ll show you how this can help your guitar playing. If you know for example that the formula for a Major chord is 0, 4, 7 (0 is the root note plus a note 4 frets along and a note 7 frets along) then you can play Major chords all over the neck by simply placing your fingers on a 0, 4 and 7. (Or equivalents an octave higher. 0+12 = 12, 4+12 = 16 and 7+12 = 19).

Put your finger on a random place on the fretboard and see if you can visualise the Five Fret Pattern with the help of the diagrams. Now see if you can find a 4 and 7 or a 12, 16 and 19 that you can fret at once. Strum these notes and you will have played a Major Chord.

Now see if you can find chords using the Minor Chord formula 0, 3, 7 (Or on higher octaves 0+12 = 12, 3+12 = 15 and 7+12 = 19).

You can also use it to play scales all over the neck. Here is the formula for the Major Scale: 0 – 2 – 4 – 5 – 7 – 9 – 11 – 12. Choose a starting point and count the frets along the string (or on other strings using the diagrams) to find the notes in the scale. 0 is the root note, the next note is 2 frets along, the next one is 4 frets along etc.

Learning this pattern in conjunction with all the names of the notes on the guitar fretboard is one of the best things you can do for your musical education.