Tag Archives: Note Names

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 11: Standard Music Notation For The Guitar Player

One of the challenges for guitar players wanting to learn how to use standard music notation is knowing where on fretboad to play what’s written down on paper. It’s one thing to read music notation and another thing to then play it on the guitar.

Notes On A Staff

This is why tablature is so popular with guitar players, because it shows them exactly where on the fretboard they should play. The downside is that tablature doesn’t convey time, tempo and rythm.

The following diagram is a great tool for bridging the gap between standard music notation and tablature.


  • The letters along the top from left to right are the note names of the strings from the thickest to the thinnest string.
  • The numbers indicate the fret location, from 0 (not fretted) all the way up to the 24th fret (if your guitar spans two octaves).
  • The letters down the right hand side indicate the note name at that particular fret number and string. This example is for the Key of C.

As an example lets see where we can play the notes from the above diagram. E, G, B, D, F. Which we can remember with the mnemonic Every Good Boy Deserves Food.

The E is on the bottom line of the musical staff. If you look on the diagram below you can see there are three numbers on the lowest of the five black lines. The numbers are the 12 on the E string, the 7 on the A string and the 2 on the D string.

This means that the E on the musical staff above can be played at the 12th fret of the low E string, the 7th fret of the A string and the 2nd fret of the D string.

Musical Staff and Guitar Fret Diagram

These note locations aren’t something you’ll be able to learn overnight. My advice is to concentrate on learning the note locations for the common chords that you play so that you can recognise them when they’re presented to you in standard music notation. For example learn the music notation for these chords.

After that you should start paying attention to the notation of songs that you’re learning to play, not just the tablature. Many song books feature both tablature and standard notation which you can use as a good opportunity to improve your sight reading.

Lesson 8: The BEAD-GCF Pattern

Remember you can zoom in and out on the images in this post by pressing Ctrl + and -. This lesson builds upon Lesson 6: The Five Fret Pattern.

Five Fret Pattern 1st String

The Five Fret Pattern occurs because of the particular way in which the guitar strings are tuned 5 frets apart. The great thing about this is that it makes the guitar reflect fundamental patterns in western music. This is why I think it’s so important for guitar players to learn music theory for the guitar in a way that is specific to the instrument and not just a rehashing of piano lessons.

If you take any starting note and you keep moving up 5 frets along an imaginary infinitely long guitar string, you will eventually cycle through all the different notes (a real guitar string isn’t long enough but the same thing happens when you move vertically across the strings).

Guitar Fretboard Diagram

For example, start with the B note on the lowest string, move 5 frets to the right and you’ll find an E (or follow the Five Fret Pattern and move up to the next string). When you move along another 5 frets (or the next string using the Five Fret Pattern) you’ll reach the A note. If you continue following this pattern you’ll encounter all the notes in the following order:

B – E – A – D – G – C – F – A# / Bb – D# / Eb – G# / Ab – C# / Db – F# / Gb and then the pattern starts at the beginning again: B – E – A – D – G – C – F etc. It’s a circular pattern.

To help you remember this pattern more easily you can simplify it to:

B – E – A – D – G – C – F – Bb – Eb – Ab – Db – Gb

Pronounce the first four notes as the word BEAD and remember the next three with the mnemonic Get Carter For me (after the movie Get Carter). Finally repeat the first five note names but as flats Bb – Eb – Ab – Db – Gb.

Now look at the notes on the fretboard again and see how this pattern appears across the strings. Find the B on the lowest string, then the E on the next string, the A etc and remember that this pattern follow the Five Fret Pattern so it shifts over to the right for the two highest strings.

Pick another note on the lowest string, for example the A at the 5th fret. The next notes are D – G – C, then remember to follow the Five Fret Pattern by moving a fret to the right to find F and Bb.

This pattern is another tool to help you learn all of the notes on the guitar fretboard, but it will also help you learn the Circle of 4ths and 5ths, a fundamental tool for understanding music theory. The Circle of 4ths and 5ths will be covered in the next lesson.

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