Category: Six String Theory Archives - Jim Bowley

March 28, 2013

Moving Past Minor Pentatonic, One Note at a Time

Mark Knopfler

If you’re anything like me – and probably 99% of all other aspiring lead guitarists – you started off jamming with pentatonic scales, specifically the minor pentatonic scale.

It was exciting to learn that only five notes – played in some relatively easy fingerings – were standing between you and rock guitar stardom.

Add in some spicy bends, some slippery slides, and a few lightning-quick hammer-ons and pull-offs, and you’re in the land of Hendrix, Page and Clapton, not to mention Gibbons, Young, Beck, Knopfler and many more!

But after a while, even the most pentatonic-lovin’ lead guitarist starts to yearn for some new sounds and some new ways to navigate chord changes that are a bit more sophisticated than the same…old…five…notes. I get it.

And that’s why I’ve gathered you all here today. Let’s expand your musical horizons and deepen your skills by moving past the minor pentatonic, one note at a time! (more…)

February 7, 2013

From Major to Minor

In my series, The Only Theory Lesson You’ll Ever Need, I covered what I consider to be the absolute, must-know info about music theory. All the good stuff, none of the fluff.

In Part 1, we hit all the fundamentals, such as the musical alphabet, whole-step and half-step intervals, and accidentals.

In Part 2, we took that information and used it to construct major scales and understand keys.

Finally, in Part 3, we learned to harmonize those same major scales with chords. Armed with this information you could rule the world, or at least your garage band. :)

But the shiny, happy do-re-mi of the major scale is not all there is to music – just ask Yngwie. Sometimes you need a tune that’s moody, dark, sad, even eerie. Those moments require a heaping dose of the minor scale. (more…)

January 28, 2013

Guitarist, Know Thy Notes: A “How To” Guide to Mastering the Fretboard, Part 2

In our first installment of Guitarist, Know Thy Notes, we covered the all the basics of fretboard organization.

To recap, we started out with a comprehensive review of basic theory, including the musical alphabet, whole steps versus half-steps and accidentals.

We also covered the names of the open strings and learned to name the notes along each string, using the fret markers to aid us.

It’s all critical and fundamental information, for sure. But the major takeaway point of that first lesson was the importance of learning the notes on strings 6 and 5 first. This is because those strings provide the starting point from which we can learn notes across the strings.

Being able to navigate the notes across the strings, rather than just along the strings, will enhance our sense of fretboard organization and make us much efficient at finding any note we wish. In Part 2 of our series, we’ll learn how octaves can help us to do just that. Let’s rock, y’all… (more…)

January 22, 2013

Guitarist, Know Thy Notes: A “How To” Guide to Mastering the Fretboard, Part 1

fretboard

If you asked me to name the single most common problem among guitar students, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second.

After all, I see it every day in my own studio. I also struggled with the same issue myself for a number of years. And if the conversations on the online forums are any indication, it’s the same problem that guitarists seem to have the world over:

Guitar players, as a rule, don’t know the notes on the guitar!

Sound familiar?

This is virtually unheard of on most other instruments, but there’s a good reason why mastering the fretboard is so frustrating for guitarists: It’s extremely complex.

The complexity lies in the layout. And the number of frets. And the tuning of the strings. And the multiple ways you can accomplish the same thing. And the layout. And the…well, you get the idea.

But here’s the cold, hard truth: you will NEVER reach your full potential as a guitarist without being able to unlock the mysteries of the fretboard. (more…)

February 7, 2012

The Only Theory Lesson You’ll Ever Need, Part 3

Ben Stein in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"

In Part 1 of The Only Theory Lesson You’ll Ever Need, we covered the foundational elements of music theory: the musical alphabet, the concept of whole steps and half steps, and the use of accidentals (sharps and flats) to fill in the blanks between natural notes.

In Part 2, we used that information to take the next step forward: constructing major scales and understanding keys.

Here in Part 3, we’ll take the final step and use our knowledge of major scales to harmonize them with chords.

This is where music theory really starts to come alive because it gives the musician insight into why certain chords work together to form complementary sounds. You can use this knowledge to empower you to learn songs by ear or to write your own songs. You can also use this knowledge for transposing to other keys, which is essential when applying capo strategies. Rock and roll! (more…)

January 26, 2012

The Only Theory Lesson You’ll Ever Need, Part 2

Math professor

In Part 1 of The Only Theory Lesson You’ll Ever Need, we covered the foundational elements of music theory: the musical alphabet, the concepts of whole steps and half steps, and the use of accidentals (sharps and flats) to fill in the blanks between natural notes.

In Part 2, we’ll use that information to take the next step forward: constructing major scales and understanding keys.

Major scale construction is one of the most important things you could ever learn in music theory, since EVERYTHING else is built upon this foundational concept. And gaining insight into scales and keys teaches us how notes are related within a musical “family”, and what notes tend to complement each other in melodies, riffs and solos. Let’s get it on! (more…)

Jim Bowley is a professional guitarist, teacher and blogger. A native of Baltimore, he has over 30 years of playing experience and an advanced degree in Music Education from Towson University. Jim lives in Bel Air, MD where he maintains a thriving private lesson studio and performs with his band, Remains of Radio.

© 2012 Jim Bowley All rights reserved.
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