INTRODUCTION TO MUSIC THEORY
FOR GUITAR, V 0.2, (C) 1994, BY DIMITRIS DRANIDIS
Guitar is a very nice instruments for a lot of reasons. One can play
all kinds of songs, and music. One can learn to play the instrument
without a teacher too. And I guess most of the people out there
haven't had a teacher, just like me. It is really fun to learn and
explore the instrument all by yourself. (Though with a teacher it
would go faster :-)
Playing is great! Understanding what you're playing improves playing
and brings you closer to your instrument, your songs or music. I
believe that it does not need a lot to understand music theory.
[Theory is not a bad word. Get used to it.] Most guitar players are
interested in chords. Accompanying songs with the guitar is great!
Well all you have to do in order to play all the chords of this world
is to learn the intervals and then the chord construction. Then you
don't need any chord charts any more. If you want to understand
furthermore why a particular chord sounds good in a particular part in
a song then you must learn some harmony too. Harmony is based on
scales and chords. It has simple rules and is easy to understand if
you catch the main idea..
So let us begin.... This introduction covers
* Music Material
* SONGS for harmony exploration
* CHORD PATTERNS APPENDIX
Dimitris Dranidis (10.11.1994)
* Notes, tones, semi-tones
* Types of intervals
* Inversion of intervals
Notes, tones, semitones
In well-tempered instruments (the guitar is one) we have 12 distinct
notes in an octave. These build the chromatic scale: (starting from c)
c #c d #d e f #f g #g a #a b c
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1
Notes are noted with the first 7 letters of the latin alphabet:
a b c d e f g
and symbols for chromatic alterations: # (sharp) and b (flat). More on
these comes later. The following is a diagram of the frets and the
notes on the guitar. All the 12 tones and only these can be found on
the fretboard. The instrument is called well-tempered since it is
fretted and the intervals are not the physical intervals (those found
in the nature) but "well tempered" so that music in every key is
sounded as good as on any other key. If we exclude bending, then no
other notes can be played on this instruments. For example, there is
no note between c and #c.
1st 3rd 5th 7th 9th 12th fret
The distance between two succeeding notes is a half-tone (H). Two
half-tones build a whole-tone (W). On the guitar each fret is a
If we leave the sharped notes apart, then we get the 7 natural notes.
1st 3rd 5th 7th 9th 12th fret
Starting from c they build the C major scale:
c d e f g a b c
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
W W H W W W H
Observe this on the second string:
These notes build a diatonic scale. A diatonic scale consists of 7
notes, arranged so, that they (usually) build 5 whole-tones and 2
half-tones. The first and the last tone of a diatonic scale is called
tonic. The seventh tone is called leading tone because it leads to the
tonic. There are names for the rest but we'll leave them for later.
There are two types of accidentals. The sharp and the flat. The sharp
(#) raises the tone of the note by a half-tone. In the guitar that's
the next fret. The sharp produces 7 sharped notes: (#c, #d, #e, ...).
because #e ~ f and #b ~ c only 5 notes are new. the flat (b here noted
as !) lowers the tone of the note by a half-tone. in the guitar that's
the previous fret. the flat produces 7 flatted notes: (!c, !d, !e,
...). again because !c ~ b and !f ~ e only 5 of them are new, and
these are the same which are produces by sharped notes, i.e. #c ~ !d,
#d ~ !e, #f ~ !g, #g ~ !a, #a ~ !b.
The chromatic scale consists of all the 12 notes, 7 from the diatonic
and 5 flatted or sharped.
I find the alphabetic system very difficult to keep in mind or "sing".
I use solfege when I want to sing a melody, a chord, a scale or to
name a note. I might still write "c" but say "do". So what you should
learn is the sequence:
do re mi fa sol la ti do
c d e f g a b c
Unfortunately the only easy to remember is f (fa) therefore one must
memorize this sequence. Altered notes are easy to remember too:
di ri fi si li
#c d# #f #g #a
ra ma -- lo ta
!d !e !g !a !b
though you won't need them a lot.
By intervals we mean the distance between the notes in the diatonic
/______________9th______________ \ |
/ __________octave__________ \ | |
/ \ | | |
c d e f g a b c' d' e' f' g' a'
\2nd/ | | | | |
\__3th__/ | | | |
\____4th____/ | | |
\______5th______/ | |
So d is a second away from c, e is a third away from c and so on. c'
is an octave away from c and d' is a ninth away from c and so on. So d
is either a second or a ninth away from c, f is either a fourth or an
eleventh away from c. If we begin from e, then f is a second away from
e and g is a third away form e and so on. Notice however that the
second c-d is a whole-tone, while the second e-f is a half-tone; the
third c-e consists of two W's (four H's), while the third e-g consists
of one H and one W (three H's). In order to distinguish between
"small" and "big" intervals we need to declare types of intervals. In
the following we use the letter H for half-tones. By an interval of 5
H we mean five half-tones or equivalently 5 frets on the guitar.
TYPES OF INTERVALS
There are five types of intervals:
1. Perfect (p)
Perfect intervals are the unison or octave, the perfect fourth and
the perfect fifth. These are noted as u, o, p4 and p5
respectively. A perfect fourth consists of 5 H, and a perfect
fifth of 7 H.
Ex. c-c, d-d, ... : u or o, (0 H or 12 H)
c-f, d-g, e-a, f-!B, g-c, a-d, b-e, ...: p4, (5 H)
c-g, d-a, e-b, f-c, g-d, a-e, b-#f, ...: p5, (7 H)
2. Major (M)
Major intervals are the major second, third, sixth, and seventh.
These are noted as M2, M3, M6 and M7 respectively.
Ex. c-d, d-e, e-#f, f-g, g-a, a-b, b-#c,... : M2, (2 H)
c-e, d-#f, e-#g, f-a, g-b, a-#c, b-#d,... : M3, (4 H)
c-a, d-b, e-#c, f-d, g-e, ... : M6, (9 H)
c-b, d-c#, e-#d, f-e, g-#f,... : M7, (11 H)
(At this point notice that all the intervals in the major scale
[Ionian mode] are either perfect or major)
3. Minor (m)
Minor intervals are the minor second, third, sixth, and seventh.
These are noted as m2, m3, m6 and m7 respectively.
Ex. c-!d, d-!e, e-f, f-!g, g-!a, b-c : m2, (1 H)
c-!e, d-f, e-g, f-!a, ... : m3, (3 H)
c-!a, d-!b, e-c, f-!d, ... : m6, (8 H)
c-!b, d-c, e-d, f-!e, ... : m7, (10 H)
(You should not associate minor intervals with flatted notes. If
we start the diatonic scale from the note E then all the natural
intervals are either minor or perfect:
e-f : m2,
e-g : m3,
e-a : p4,
e-b : p5,
e-c : m6,
e-d : m7
[by the way, that's the E phrygian mode])
4. Augmented (#)
Augmented intervals are perfect or major intervals which are
raised a half-note step. Most used are the augmented fifth (#5)
and ninth (#9).
Ex. c-#g : #5, (8 H)
c-#d : #9 (15 H)
(Notice that the second and the ninth are the same notes an octave
c d e f g a b c' d' e' f' g' a' ..
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 ..
the same is true for the fourth and the elfth or for the sixth and
5. Diminished (b)
Diminished intervals are perfect or minor intervals which are
lowered a half-note step. Most used are the diminished fifth and
seventh which are noted as b5 and b7 respectively.
Ex. c-!g : b5, (6 H)
c-!!b : b7 (9 H)
(Notice the double-flatted b; we could write a instead, but a is
the sixth in the diatonic and we want the seventh which is b)
If we put these intervals in a sequence and tidy them up, we get the
following nice table:
chromatic c !d d !e e f !g g !a a !b b c
diatonic c d e f g a b c
sharps #c #d #f #g #a
flats !d !e !g !a !b
perfect u p4 p5 o
minor m2 m3 m6 m7
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