# 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

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.

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.

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.

# 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

Example Voicing: BbMaj7

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

Example Voicing: Bb7

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

Example Voicing: E6

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

Example Voicing: Bbm7

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

Example Voicing: Bm6

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 9: The Circle of 4ths and 5ths

The circle of 4ths and 5ths is a way of visually representing the relationships between the 12 tones of the chromatic scale. It is one of the most useful tools you can use to understand music theory because it gives you insights into the fundamental way that Western music works.

The great thing is that standard guitar tuning follows the circle of 4ths and 5ths so if you’ve followed previous lessons (Lesson 6: The Five Fret Pattern and Lesson 8: The BEAD-GCF Pattern) you’ll already know a lot about the circle. This lesson will show you how to find the notes in the circle as well as some practical applications for your guitar playing.

The order of the notes around the circle (which determines their relationship to each other) can be found as follows. Starting at the top with C (though you an start with any note) you can find the next note in the clockwise direction by finding the next note 7 notes along in the chromatic scale (the chromatic scale is all 12 notes) as follows: C – C# – D – D# – E – F – F# – G. The interval name of this 7 note / fret distance is the Perfect 5th.

To find the next note name in the clockwise direction we move another 7 notes up the chromatic scale (or 7 frets up the neck) like this: G – G# – A – A# – B – C – C# – D. Continuing in this way, finding the next note around the circle by moving up 7 notes / frets in the chromatic scale, you’ll find all notes in the following order: C – G – D – A – E – B – F#/Gb – C#/Db – G#/Ab – D#/Eb – A#/Bb – F. That is how you find the notes around the circle in the clockwise direction.

You can also find the notes in the anti-clockwise direction by moving along the chromatic scale in Perfect 4th intervals which is a 5 note / fret distance. Again, starting with C you will find the next note to be F like this: C – C# – D – D# – E – F.

Using the above you’ll be able to find out in which order all 12 notes appear around the circle as shown in the diagram at the start of this lesson.

Earlier I mentioned that previous lessons will have given you a good grounding for learning this circle. The guitar strings are tuned (in standard tuning) from the lowest to the highest string in Perfect 4th’s (or a 5 fret distance), the same as the anti-clockwise direction around the circle.

The BEAD-GCF pattern that was easy to remember in the previous lesson can be found by locating the B and then following the circle in the anti-clockwise direction: B – E – A – D – G – C – F – Bb – Eb – Ab – Db – Gb. You can start to see why the guitar is such a great instrument to learn theory on.

Practical Applications

There are many ways in which this circle can help your understanding of music theory and your guitar playing. In this lesson I’ll show one of the things you can do with the circle; how to determine which chords fit in a particular Major key. This will help you when writing your own songs, figuring out songs by ear or when transposing a song to a different key.

Choose a key for which you want to know the chords, for example the key of C. The 7 chords for each key appear in the same order as shown by the Roman numerals. I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, viiº. Capital numerals denote Major chords while small numerals are minor chords. The viiº is a diminished chord (For a lesson on how to play these chords see: Major, Minor and Diminished Chords).

The chords for the key of C in the example below are (I) C Major, (ii) D minor, (iii) E minor, (IV) F Major, (V) G Major, (vi) A minor, (viiº) B Diminished.

The pattern is always the same as you can see for the key of E Major in the diagram below. Just slide the pattern around the circle until the I is over your chosen key and you’ll know all the chords for that particular Major key.

Now when you hear people talk about a I – IV – V progression in the key of B Major you’ll know what they’re talking about.

If you have a song that uses the progression F# Major – B Major – C# Major but you want to change it to the key of E Major, you do the following. First identify the chord pattern, in this case I – IV – V by having the Roman numeral patterns centered around F#. Then slide the Roman numerals pattern around the neck until the I is over the E. Now you’ll see that the same song in the key of E uses the chord progression E Major – A Major – B Major.

Knowing this will help your song writing as well. Choose a key and then some chords in that key to guarantee good sounding progressions. Experiment with different progressions to see what works and write down the Roman numerals for future reference. Another exercise to do is to figure out the patterns of popular songs, you’ll find that many songs share the same progressions but in different keys. This will help you when figuring out songs by ear.

There are many more things you can do with the circle of 4ths and 5ths and I’ll cover them in future lessons. If you want to learn more about how the Circle of 4ths and 5ths and the Roman numeral system can improve your ability to learn songs and help you write your own music then sign up for the GTR Newsletter.

# 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.

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).

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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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