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Learning all the notes and intervals

Question by Billy

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 terms of my knowledge of scales and chord progressions. So searching the web I found your site and it has been greatly helpful.

I do, however have one question, how important is it that I know all the notes of the guitar and learn the scale intervals and the major scale patterns. I realise that if I want to get good at the guitar I will have to master certain aspects of it but are these one.

Also will getting private tuition help me on the road to becoming good on guitar or is it equally attainable if I do it on my own?


Greetings fellow Sheffielder!

You say you're in a band so I would first use this as a gauge of whether you feel held back or not, i.e. so much that you're not enjoying it as much as you could be? Or so much that you're struggling with writing guitar parts. Is your ability holding the other band members back?

Learning intervals and notes will help you, no doubt about it. However, not everyone needs to go so in depth with it all. Some people just have the ear for what sounds good and can flow with it. If you feel your ideas can flow quite freely onto your guitar, then you probably don't need half the theory that others might need to give them that creative boost.

What I will say however is that the more scales you learn, the more creative options you'll have. The more musical "flavours" you'll get a taste for and the more you'll be able to feel when a certain sound is right. If you're interested in making your music sound diverse, this is important.

Learning the intervals and patterns of each scale allows you to improvise confidently in any key and right across the fretboard, which frees up your playing. Master the intervals, and it's not so important to know the actual notes you're playing (except the root note!). This is because you'll hear the relationship between notes rather than the actual notes themselves (if that makes sense!). This is known as relative pitch recognition.

How much will private tuition help?

This is a tricky one as it's different for everyone. There is no substitute for face to face lessons, but not everyone needs them to develop at a pace they're happy with. Not everyone has the money to fork out either!

Without wanting to blow my own trumpet I have had people contact me saying that they learned more on my site than they did through a private tutor. That doesn't mean, however, that the tutor wouldn't have eventually got them to an advanced level. It would just cost a lot of money!

See how you get on with the online lessons. If you feel you're making progress, great. If not, I'm always here to help.

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By: Billy

thanks for the advice, it was helpful! i think although it may take longer i think you are right about the advantages of knowing this stuff and your point about ideas flowing onto the guitar, this does happen but really only with rythme parts (for lead i have to sit down and work it out)so i will progress with your theory page and work through it. also i think your site has been more helpful than some tutoring i have had ( i had a couple of lessons instead of my clarinet lessons)so i'll take the oppurtunity, now, to thank you for putting all this up!

Learn structures and "patterns of structures"
By: bobbi

The OP wrote "I am far behind in terms of my knowledge of scales and chord progressions."

Far be it for me to offer advice, in view of fully THIRTY SIX HOURS of guitar experience.


Q: How does a 747 fly?
A: Applied aeronautical theory.

If theory can make 747s fly, it can help my music soar. (groan. sorry.)

Consider the following:

A) Two sounds form an interval. Learning about intervals is important. Regardless of key, intervals between notes ALWAYS carry the same relationship.

B) Chords are made from "major third" and "minor third" intervals. No matter which note serves as root, no matter what key, no matter what scale, the structures for chords is ALWAYS the same, regardless of instrument, octave or inversion.

For example,

Major chords are ALWAYS built of a "major third interval" and a "minor third interval". The specific notes used to build the "major third" and "minor third" can vary, depending on the key, but are ALWAYS constructed using the same "interval sizes" of a "major third" and "minor third"

Minor chords are also built using a "major third" and "minor third", but in a different "sequence".

Similarly, "Diminished" chords consist of two "minor thirds", while "augmented" chords consist of two "major thirds", no matter what key, scale, fretboard position.

QED: Learning about chord structures allows building chords in any key, for any scale, for any fretboard position.

C) Scales are constructed with absolutely consistent structures in Western music. Major scales consist of a fixed sequence of intervals, with each position on the scale serving a specific "function". No matter what key, all Major scales are constructed using the same size of intervals in the same order. Each "flavor" of minor scale is also constructed using a consistent series of intervals in a specific sequence, no matter what key or scale.

There's lots of other "patterns" that combine to create music. Understanding at least the basics makes guitars much more useful.

An inexpensive keyboard makes theory MUCH MUCH MUCH more comprehensive and practical. It's easy to see relationships when they're !!! LITERALLY !!! visible in black and white on the keyboard.

(e.g. Looking at a keyboard, it's EASY to see the definition of a "major third" spanning 4 semitones and a "minor third" spanning 3 semitones. It's easy to see how to build "extended chords" by "stacking" additional thirds onto the fundamental "triads" mentioned above. (e.g. a seventh builds on a major or minor triad, ninth builds on a seventh of some variety, ditto eleventh and thirtheent).

Theory is your friend!

Intervals NEW
By: Anonymous

There is a level of playing that’s another place completely. It’s like where scale have no meaning anymore and it is just intervals that tell you what to do. It is pure random creativity. It takes years of practice to develop but I’m positive that’s how Guthrie Govan and John Mayer and many other creative players play. It is for advanced player only. If you’re a beginner start with pentatonic and graduate to the modes starting with Dorian once you are a good pentatonic player

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