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Home > Theory

Guitar Theory Lessons You Can Actually Understand

I'm glad you've shown interest in guitar theory lessons, because that suggests you understand how important this knowledge is, not only to your guitar playing but your overall understanding of music.

These lessons will help you connect your fretboard, chord and scale knowledge and deepen your understanding of how music works on guitar. This is crucial if you want to improvise confidently and come up with ideas in the moment.

Many guitarists don't bother with this stuff, and I can only say they don't know what they're missing out on. I'm sure your results will prove most rewarding!

The problem is, a lot of guitar theory lessons out there are poorly explained and overcomplicated. I've made it my goal to teach guitar theory in a way that focuses your learning on only the most important concepts, explained in plain English. I'll introduce you to some terminology, but it will be backed up with clear and simple explanations.


Guitar Theory Lessons Contents

Note: please make sure you've been through the fretboard lessons section first!

New to guitar theory? Take the foundation course here.

small chevron The Major Scale  Learning theory is far easier when you know the major scale. It's arguably the basis of western music, and the scale against which chords and harmonies can be referenced. This lesson gives you all the details and provides you with clear diagrams of the major scale in different positions.

small chevron Chord Root Notes  Introduces you to the theory behind how root notes work in forming guitar chords. An essential primer for the guitar theory lessons on chord construction below.

small chevron Guitar Chord Theory  How to construct chords, from basic major and minor triads to more advanced, extended chords. Take your knowledge of the major scale (above) and use it to discover a wealth of chord voicings on the fretboard, not just the plain old ones you're used to. Easy-to-follow, nothing overwhelming here but very rewarding indeed. Also in this series... small chevron Guitar Chord Inversions  Following on from the chord theory series above, learn how to construct chord inversions on the fretboard, giving you even more chord voicing options. Also in this series...
small chevron Chord Scales  This lesson will help you understand the concept of harmonizing scales and how you can pull chords from scales. In short, it brings together your knowledge of chord theory and scales into one system.

small chevron Triad Harmonization  Learn how to build economical triad shapes in any key by harmonizing the major scale in 3 positions on the top 3 strings of the guitar. This will help you to explore more melodic expression with your chord playing.

small chevron Chord Scale Relationships  Shows you how to identify a "starting point" for your soloing by connecting scale patterns to chord shapes. This is about using your knowledge of those basic barre/movable chords from the chords section and superimposing scale patterns on those same positions.

small chevron Sharps and Flats  Ever wondered where sharps and flats come from? This lesson explains how sharps and flats are formed in scales and chords. It should also help you understand how important the major scale is in music theory in general.

small chevron Passing Tones  Learn how to identify and use passing tones in scales. These are tones you should avoid emphasising (e.g. holding onto) in your solos. Includes a backing track and ear training exercises to help you pick out the passing tones in the example scales.

small chevron Scale Phrasing  Learn how to build meaningful musical phrases from scales in your solos. This series will show you how to explore scales with purpose and beyond the linear meandering that so many players get trapped in when starting out with scales. small chevron Transposing Guitar Chords  Transposition is about moving a collection of notes to a new pitch. This lesson looks specifically and transposing chord progressions to a new key using 3 simple methods.

small chevron Arpeggios  First learn how to build arpeggios block by block, then learn how to weave them into your guitar solos. This series introduces you to the world of arpeggios, how to construct them and how you can use them to enhance your solos and create more meaningful lead phrases. small chevron Modes of the Major Scale  Series which looks at the 7 modes of the major scale. Each lesson takes you through the individual "flavour" and characteristics of each mode, with jam tracks to help you experiment with your own ideas. Finally, we learn how the modes work together as part of a larger musical expression.
small chevron How to Solo Over Chord Changes  Gives you a clear process for playing melodies (lead) through chord changes. Very important, as most songs use more than one chord! Connects your knowledge of chord shapes, arpeggios and scales to chord progressions. See also...

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Ask Your Guitar Theory Questions Here

This is where you can ask any question regarding guitar theory or music theory in general.

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Theory Related Questions From Other Visitors

Click below to see submissions from other guitarists. Feel free to comment on the answers provided and help expand the topic...

3 Practical Uses For The Circle of Fifths 
I've been reading up on the circle of fifths and it seems more complicated than sharps and flats. Could you clear this up for me? How the Circle of …

Scales Over Diatonic Vs Non-Diatonic Chords 
Mike, your website is fantastic, and the way you explain things too. In order for you to understand my question easily, I'll immediately start with …

Solo Analysis: Remember When by Guthrie Govan 
Landon Asks... I have been recently getting into playing lead and it just feels like I am stuck with pentatonic shapes and licks and blues scales, all …

Why learn the natural major and minor scales? 
Hi! I have been playing guitar since about 6 years. Taking classes in Holland, with a strong focus on Latin music, especially Atahualpa Yupanqui (Argentina). …

When to use Relative Scales 
I know about relative scales, i.e. in the major scale, the 6th interval becomes the relative minor and, in the minor scale, the minor third interval becomes …

Neo-classical scales in diatonic chord progressions 
I am not sure if my Q is correct or not... forgive my ignorance. Is it possible to use neo classical scales for soloing in diatonic chord progressions …

Replacing the diminished chord in a major chord progression? 
I've been playing guitar for a while, but I'm just beginning to pick up theory (particularly chord progressions, with which your site has been extremely …

Methods for Changing Key 
Is there any particular method to changing keys within a song? I noticed that or read it's good to change in the 5th position, e.g. C to G, but I was listening …

When to play modes 
This is the greatest and funniest guitar lessons website I benifited from during all my career. What puzzles me is: 1 - how do I know when a song is in …

Finding the key of songs 
Question: Can you please share some ways to find out the key of the songs and how to find out the chord progressions by using melody lines in scales. …

Learning all the notes and intervals 
Question: I've been playing for a while but I have been teaching myself and just learning songs. I'm now in a band and realise that I am far behind in …

The diversity of harmony and melody 
Question: I've gone through most of your lessons and have enjoyed them thoroughly. But what has been confusing me for a while is the following... …

Scales and progressions unique to styles of music 
Question: Is there a certain scale or chord progression that is unique to different styles of music? And if so could you give some examples? Thank you. …

How Do You Change Between Keys? 
When soloing how do you switch between keys to make it sound good? I'm not sure where to move to make the solo sound good. Suggestions Key changes are …

Working Out the Chords to a Song 
I guess many of us guitar players have been in a situation in which friends expect us to play a song immediately (I do not mean the simple I-IV-V progression!). …

Knowing Which Key You Are In 
If I play a progression such as A minor - E minor - C major, am I in the key of A minor or C major? Answer Key is defined by the chord to which …

Time Signature in Staff Notation. 
When writing notation of the classical guitar after the treble clef time signature symbol is written. For example: 3/4, 4/4, 5/8, 6/8 According …

Ideas for writing songs 
I've been playing a long time, and in spite of that I still have problems comming up with something worth-while beyond just 2, or 3 chord progressions. …

Fretboard Notes 
The guitar fretboard has 2 E strings on the low E you label go's E F# F G ,but on the A string it Go's A B flat B C Why are some flats and some sharps? …

Mastering the notes on guitar 
Question: I am trying to master the notes on guitar is there an easy way? Answer Try breaking it down as detailed in the fretboard lessons . …

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