Author: Graham Tippett

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A couple of days ago we looked at How to Easily Learn Multiple Scale Patterns in parallel using just three different scale patterns/positions. In this lesson, I’d like to revisit those scale patterns and give you an easy way of learning which chords go with them, that it, which chords you can wail over using this economic system for learning tons of scales.

Here are the first three scale patters for the Major, Melodic Minor and Harmonic Minor scales, and what we’re going to do is visually link each note in the scale to a set of chords.

Major Scale

guitar scales

The F note links to F, Fmaj7 and Fmaj9

The G note links to Gm, Gm7 and Gm9

The A note links to Am, Am7 and Am7b9

The Bb note links to Bb, Bbmaj7 and Bbmaj9

The C note links to C, C7 and C9

The D note links to Dm. Dm7 and Dm9

The E note links to Edim, Em7b5 and Em7b5b9

If this is too much information, start with F, Gm, Am and so on, then go through the 7 chords and finally the 9 chords when you’re ready. You don’t actually need the guitar to do this exercise, as long as you can visualize the scale pattern, so it’s a good one to go through in your head whenever you’re on the train or something.

Melodic Minor Scale

The F note links to Fm, FmM7

The G note links to Gm, Gm7

The Ab note links to Abaug, Abmaj7#5

The Bb note links to Bb, Bb7

The C note links to C, C7 (C7#11)

The D note links to Ddim, Ddim7

The E note links to Edim, Edim7

With the Melodic Minor scale, we get a whole new set of chords to consider. Remember that if you’re going to use the above scale to play over a C7 chord, for example, you’ll need to resolve all your licks and runs to C rather than F.

Harmonic Minor Scale

The F note links to Fm, FmM7

The G note links to Gdim, Gdim7

The Ab note links to Abaug, Abmaj7#5

The Bb note links to Bbm, Bbm7

The C note links to C, C7 (C7b9)

The Db note links to D, Dmaj7

The E note links to Edim, Edim7

The information here works on many levels, from knowing what chords are in each key or scale to being able to call on these scales when improvising over more complex chords and changes. As I mentioned, this is a great one to do when you have a spare moment, as well as to explore the chords in other keys and scales.

If you have a guitar at hand, play the scale and name the chords as you play each note. I guarantee even this simple exercise will do wonders for your playing, as well as giving you more options for improvising, riff-writing and composing.

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This was a real eye-opener for me as I’d never been a fan of learning those ‘etude’ style arpeggio shapes, especially if they were based on the CAGED System. Back at Music College, and after learning all my scales in all positions, I turned the page of the inch-thick book we were given only to find an entirely new set patterns to learn. There were all kinds of random arpeggios and endless patterns and permutations. Needless to say, I shut the book and decided there had to be a better way. It would be a few years before I discovered it but once I understood where arpeggios came from diatonically, I had a context from which to learn them.

Incidentally, this lack of a context for learning is what I believe to be the downfall of trying to learn guitar online by cobbling together bits of free information. You never get the big picture or the holistic view, you just get snippets of information condensed into however many minutes the video lasts. This is why in these blog lessons and in my books, I always provide a complete method or system that anyone can follow by themselves or with a teacher to really advance in their playing.

In the grand scheme of things arpeggios are the halfway house between chords and scales. They’re basically the notes of a chord played in or out of sequence, which is why they’re also known as broken chords.

If you know the chords in a given key, you also know the arpeggios in that key. Compare this to someone teaching you a random major 7 arpeggio and telling you that you can play it over a major 7 chord; where’s the context?

The following exercise is from Hacking the CAGED System – Book 1, which is a complete system and very usable method for learning chords, arpeggios, scales, modes and key signatures.

Let’s use the key of F Major as our example key. If you know the chords in the key of F Major, you know the arpeggios.

f major diatonic chords and arpeggios

We have 7 different chords, therefore there are 7 different arpeggios but only 3 types: major, minor and diminished.

In Hacking the CAGED System, we use 4 master scale patterns to cover the entire neck, as well as to learn chords, arpeggios, scales, modes and key signatures.

Here’s Pattern 1 with the F Major arpeggio highlighted; you may recognize this as the first pattern of the 3NPS scale system.

f major arpeggio guitar

If you’ve learned this scale pattern, why not use it to learn arpeggios instead of learning another completely unrelated pattern? Simply play through the pattern emphasizing the notes in yellow, or just play the notes in yellow if you want the pure sound of the arpeggio. Make a mental note of where they are in the pattern so as to influence your note choice when improvising, rather than that ‘etude’ style arpeggio sound that seems to get taught fairly mindlessly.

Our next chord/arpeggio is G Minor:

g minor arpeggio guitar

Again, make a mental note and emphasize the notes in yellow, hearing how this makes the scale pattern sound like G Minor rather than F Major.

Next up is A Minor:

a minor arpeggio guitar

You know what to do; simply bring the arpeggio out of the scale pattern. You could also loop an Am chord and do this.

Here’s the Bb Major arpeggio in context. Notice how we now have a note below the root which can also be included; in fact, I’d recommend starting on the lowest note whether it’s the root or not.

Bb major arpeggio guitar

Here’s the C Major Arpeggio:

c major arpeggio guitar

Practice phrasing with the notes in yellow against the other notes in the scale.

Here’s the D Minor Arpeggio:

Dm arpeggio guitar

And finally, here’s the E Diminished Arpeggio, which is somewhat of an obvious sound.

e dim arpeggio guitar

Arpeggios with Benefits
Learning arpeggios this way, diatonically, has other benefits such as using the various arpeggios when improvising over a tune in the key. If you have a tune in F Major or D Minor, you can use any of these arpeggios to solo over it; this is very hard to do if you learn them as random patterns with no context. Also, they now form part of the scale pattern, so when you move the scale pattern to another key, you take seven arpeggios with you, which means less thinking and more playing.

If you like this approach to arpeggios, in Hacking the CAGED System, we expand it to 7th arpeggios and beyond and I’ll give you the magic number sequence, so you can access this on the fly in any key.

Hacking the CAGED System – Book 1 is available on Kindle, as a Paperback, in PDF format, on Google Play and shortly on iBooks, check it out here.

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The difference between being good at guitar and being great at guitar is a chasm that seems impassable to most. There’s no way around it, you have to put the time and effort in to get there but the critical issue here is how exactly you spend that time and effort. Not everyone wants to be a guitar virtuoso but what I’d like to share with you in this lesson applies to whatever your goal is for your guitar playing, and might just be the best practice advice you get today.

The philosophy is very simple and very effective:

Practice what is practical.

This means that your practice time should be spent practicing the things you’re actually going to use in the situations you find yourself in when you play music. The concept is mind-blowingly simple, but you’d be surprised at how few guitar players actually apply it, me included. I would practice all sorts of out-there scales and melodic and harmonic minor scale modes because in my mind I was a jazz fusion guitarist. The problem was that I wasn’t in a jazz fusion group (at that point) and had no practical use for the stuff I was practicing. Quite the opposite in fact; I was playing blues and rock covers that called for plenty of improvisation, just not of the jazz fusion variety, and if you’re trying to force it in there the results are usually fairly cringeworthy.

I often joke that the CAGED system refers to the only five keys guitarists play in, and if you’ve ever played in a rock covers band, you’ll know that this isn’t that far from the truth. On a whole other level this can be applied to session work. I was lucky enough to have a semester with Guthrie Govan as my instructor back at the ACM in the early 2000s. I remember in one class we were asking him about session work and he said something along the lines of, ‘I’ll get a call for a [pop] session and I’ve done quite a few of them so I know I’ll be asked to come up with a rhythm part or a solo in one of about 5 keys for a fairly predictable chord progression, so I’ll practice those kinds of things’. This is interesting because it’s basically the same concept – he knows exactly what he needs to practice to get the job done but note that these are basic things, which brings me to my next point…

Practice the Basics
If you have any gaping holes in your playing, chances are you haven’t practiced the basics enough. As guitarists, we tend to want to master flashy sounding concepts like modes and all manner of technically advanced playing BEFORE mastering the basics. If you go back to the Guthrie example, he needs to dominate basic concepts such as knowing the chords in a key, basic scales and rhythm guitar. You’d be surprised at the sheer number of guitarists that can do all kinds of sweep-picking and other technically complex stuff but can’t come up with a decent rhythm part, over-complicate basic scales and don’t know which chords are in which keys.

It’s Not Fusion
Once I realized that I wasn’t playing in a jazz fusion band, I was able to modify my practice routine to reflect what I was actually doing when playing live. However rudimentary it seemed, I knew I needed to go back and practice straight-up pentatonic scales and work on strengthening my rhythm parts as it was a 3-piece, and as soon as I started doing this, the whole band sounded better.

Here’s what I learned from focusing my practice time on stuff that was practical and useful in a live situation.

-Leveraging/practicing the basics, no matter how good you think you are, will make you noticeably better in the shortest amount of time.

-When you play live, and especially when you improvise, a lot of the time you’re going to fall back on the things that are second nature to you, so why not practice those?

-Don’t be afraid to practice basic things to death, there’s always more mileage to be gotten out of them.

-It boosted my confidence when improvising because I felt as though I had ideas to spare.

How to Implement This
The best way to implement this is to analyze exactly what you need to know in the musical situations you regularly find yourself in and practice those. For anything that you practice right now, ask yourself if you’re actually going to use it, or how useful it is, or where exactly you can apply it to your playing.

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This might not be everyone’s cup of tea but if at some point you want to get into jazz or jazz fusion, and are into the scalar approach, you’ll need a way to learn multiple scale patterns without tearing your hair out.

As far as scale systems are concerned, there are a variety of options, and we go through a similar process in the Hacking the CAGED System series, which includes chords, modes and arpeggios into the bargain. For the purposes of this lesson, we’re just going to look at how to learn three different scales using a system that breaks down each scale into just three patterns that cover a large chunk of the fretboard in any key – more than enough for firing off extended jazz fusion lines anyway.

If you’ve checked out our free 3NPS scales guitar hacks eBook, it contains all the information you’ll need to do this though it’s not explained as explicitly as it is here.

Depending on how much time you have to dedicate to practicing scales, or how much of a masochist you are, you could learn up to 5 scales simultaneously but we’ll start with 3 and see how it goes.

The system we’ll be using consists of learning three 3NPS patterns that cover most of the neck instead of the usual seven or the regular CAGED system’s five positions.

Here’s Pattern 1 for the Major, Melodic Minor and Harmonic Minor Scales in F:

3NPS major scale
Major Scale
3NPS melodic minor scales
Melodic Minor
3NPS harmonic minor scales
Harmonic Minor

If you play through them in the order above, you’ll notice that only one note changes with each scale and we maintain the same general pattern.

Here’s Pattern 2 for the Major, Melodic Minor and Harmonic Minor Scales in F:

3NPS major scale pattern
Major Scale
3NPS melodic minor scale
Melodic Minor
3NPS harmonic minor scale
Harmonic Minor

We apply the same logic here by keeping the general framework and modifying just one note with each scale. Play the patterns over and over (I told you this was for masochists) and make a mental note of which note changes each time.

Here’s Pattern 3 for the Major, Melodic Minor and Harmonic Minor Scales in F:

3NPS f major scale pattern
Major Scale
3NPS melodic minor scale patterns
Melodic Minor
3NPS harmonic minor scale patterns
Harmonic Minor

And that’s it! Okay, it’s a lot but imagine doing this with five or seven patterns. It goes without saying that the more you practice this, the more you’ll start to see a couple of interesting things happen, a) you can shift between scales fairly easily, and b) you’ll have more freedom on the fretboard within any of the above scales. As I said, this does require a fair bit of woodshedding, although you could use it as a purely technical (endurance) exercise, and believe me, it’ll improve your technique no end.

Hungry for more scales? Download our free 3NPS Scales eBook and check out the diagrams for a bunch of other scales to add a few more to your work out, although I really wouldn’t recommend more than 5, unless you’re a real masochist!

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Pentatonics Pro is a side project I’ve been working on for a while now which involved mapping out the 330 possible pentatonic scales into a collection of scale patterns (combinations of 5 intervals) along with a method to explore them all over the guitar neck. I have long been fascinated by pentatonic scales; there’s just something mystical about the number five, which for me is the ideal number of notes in a scale. You probably know the major and minor pentatonic scales, but these are only two combinations out of a possible 330. Don’t be alarmed though, I’m not suggesting you learn another 328 pentatonic scales, far from it, but they can be used as a tool to expand your harmonic awareness, improvisation skills, and general creativity when soloing and riff-writing. In this lesson, we’ll look at a few of these scales and see what potential creative uses they have in the woodshed, as well as when playing live.

As I mentioned in the introduction, the important thing here is to explore new sonic possibilities, which doesn’t mean you have to sit and rote-learn a ton of new scales. On the site, you’ll find all 330 pentatonic scales plus a method to make use of them. This method involves learning the scale in one octave to see if you like the sound of it as you’ll be drawn to different combinations of intervals depending on how they sound, the geometric shape of the pattern, as well as how they fall and feel under your fingers; you may favor some intervals over others, and the great thing here is you find out a lot about your own personal taste in note choice.

Once you’ve learned the scale in one octave, and decided you want to experiment further with it, the method then allows you to explore the scale all over the fretboard using the same pattern you just learned. I’m not a huge fan of the famous five positions for pentatonic scales, this is mainly because they turn the exercise into a technical workout rather than creative exercise. I’ve taken care to accommodate the notes in the most comfortable way for each scale by never having the major third on the same string as the root, and likewise having the major sixth on the next string down to avoid large stretches.

Get Your Groove On

Glancing through the selection of 330 pentatonic scales, some will probably seem more useful to you than other, though I’d say that they all have their uses. You may be put off by the ones with four semi-tones in a row, but these can be used to work on your chromatic playing, which will require you to groove on ‘technically’ wrong notes. I like these because you have a block of four semi-tones and two root notes to resolve your chromatic meanderings; plus, four semi-tones is just enough to get that chromatic sound without wondering how on earth you’re going to resolve it.

Scale 7 is a good example and has a pattern that easy to remember visually:

pentatonic scale 7

I also like scales 295 and 296. With these scales, get a drum groove going and really try to lock into the groove with your lines and phrases. The trick to chromatic playing is to make it groove, and when you can do that you can pretty much play any note you want over anything.


There is a large selection of scales here that don’t have any kind of third or seventh in them, which means they can be used in pretty much any context as they’re neither strictly major, minor nor dominant. Scale 91 below is a great example:

pentatonic scale 91

Here we have no third or seventh which produces an ambiguous dark-sounding scale because of the b2 and b6. You could also see this scale as the Phrygian mode without the b3 or b7, which I would most likely use to build tension over a minor chord.

Geometrical Satisfaction

A lot of the scales form nice geometric patterns which are satisfying (at least to me) to see and use as they’re very memorable. Scale 180 looks kind of like a crayon and is another ambiguous scale with no third in it.

pentatonic scale 180

Scale 305 forms a nice triangle but does take some getting used to sound-wise.

pentatonic scale 305

Variations on Modes

If you like a particular mode, you may want to experiment with pentatonic scales based on the sound of that mode. Scale 136 features the bare bones of the Dorian mode (b3 and 6) with a b5 and no 4 or b7:

pentatonic scale 136

Scale 295 has the bare bones of a Mixolydian scale in it (3 and b7) but with four semi-tones in a row – great for chromatic playing in this context.

pentatonic scale 295

There are many other ways you could use the information on this site such as recording yourself improvising using a particular scale (I guarantee this won’t sound as bad as you think when you hear it back), coming up with riffs and hooks. You could also get a looper and practice playing over different chords so that you can hear the scales in context.

Playing Over Chords

To practice playing over chords and chord changes, you’ll need to choose scales with intervals that coincide with the intervals in your chords. Let’s say you want to solo over a major 7 chord, which has the intervals 1, 3, 5, and 7; you’re going to need a scale that at least has a 3 and 7 in it – your job will then be to make the rest of the intervals work.

All in all, I think is an endless resource for honing your improvisation skills and exploring note combinations you probably wouldn’t have thought to play, especially if your solos are based around just a handful of different scale patterns. I’d call it the ultimate rut-buster!

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There’s no doubt about it, Eric Clapton is possibly one of the most influential guitarists of all time and while he tends to get overlooked these days in favor of the the more technical players, there’s a lot you can learn from the great man. Clapton will always be a huge influence on my playing and his flowing pentatonic lines are an endless source of inspiration for licks and runs using predominantly the minor pentatonic scale. In this lesson, we’ll look at a couple of ways in which Eric creates those seamless spurts of creativity when soloing.

You’ve probably noticed that when he takes a solo, Eric’s hand remains firmly clamped in and around box 1 of the minor pentatonic scale. The amount of mileage he can get out of this tiny fragment of the fretboard is quite something but when he ventures up the dusty end, he takes a more horizontal approach to things. In terms of patterns (though I’m sure he doesn’t think this way), it’s almost as if he chops the pentatonic scale in half and uses the top three or four strings to navigate to the higher (and lower) reaches of the fretboard.

Let’s take a look at how these patterns connect to see a logical (since most soloing is done on the top four strings anyway) alternative to awkwardly trying mesh together the famous five pentatonic patterns. We’ll do this in D Minor so you can go and rip over ‘White Room’ with it.

Here’s the top half of box 1 of the minor pentatonic:

eric clapton guitar lesson

If we move up to the top half of the next pattern, we get the following:

eric clapton guitar lesson

You probably already move up to the above pentatonic fragment quite naturally but what about the next one?

eric clapton guitar scales

If, like Eric, you’re used to hanging around box 1 of the minor pentatonic, you may already be out of your comfort zone, which is a good thing as it means you’re learning something new. We’re almost out of fretboard (depending on how many frets you have) with this next pattern:

eric clapton pentatonics lesson

If you have at least 22 frets the last of our five patterns will fit on the fretboard; in case you don’t, it also falls just behind box 1 in the lower octave:

eric clapton guitar lesson pdf

How to Practice
First of all, start from box 1 and work your way the fretboard until you run out of space. You don’t have to play any licks here as our focus is to be able to find the notes without thinking. When you come back down the fretboard go past box 1 and see if you can work out the patterns all the way to the nut. There are no new patterns, you just have to work out which one comes next in the sequence.

Next, try working with each individual pattern while expanding your vision to the adjacent ones. Take note of where the root notes are, as well as the notes you can slide or bend up to in the adjacent patterns. For example, you can bend the D on the B string up 3 semi-tones (3 frets), and likewise with the A on the G string, but the G on the top E string can only be bent up 2 semi-tones (2 frets).

Practice anchoring either your first or third finger on the root note in each pattern, as does Clapton, and see what you can come up with. This is a great way to practice phrasing as you have a finger clamped on the root note to resolve all your licks and runs.

The pentatonic scale lends itself well to the expressive techniques in guitar playing such as bends, slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, vibrato etc., and you’ll see Eric really take advantage of this in every one of his solos. Eric isn’t known for his fast picking technique or shredding ability–and for good reason–he squeezes every drop of emotion out of the pentatonic scale using bends at varying speeds, his amazing vibrato and flurries of hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Taking it Further
What you could do next is add in the blue note (b5) to each pattern, as well as the major 3rd to take things in a more bluesy direction. To do this, practice bending the b3 up a semi-tone and playing the chromatic note in between the 4 and the 5.

If you like the idea of horizontal movement on the fretboard, check out our free eBook: Horizontal Soloing System.

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I see this a lot with beginners and experienced guitarists alike. Most of us start out by learning a selection of open chords, next we move on to barre chords once we have enough hand strength, and then we come across the missing link; triads, which at that point seem to confuse matters rather than doing what they should do, which is to expand our knowledge of chords and provide us with the basis to form any other chord. It’s one of those things that could be staring you in the face, but you won’t see it until someone points it out.

In hindsight, beginners should probably learn triads first, that way it’s far easier to make the connection between open chords, barre chords and triads themselves. In fact, learning an open chord or barre chord is like memorizing a phrase in another language; you can use it in the right circumstances and you’ll be understood, but you have no idea how it’s formed and therefore can’t make your own phrases (chords) outside of that structure. This can easily be solved by learning triads first, then applying that knowledge to open chords and barre chords.

Triads First
A triad consists of three notes and can be major, minor, augmented or diminished. In this lesson, we’ll be dealing with major and minor triads only.

All major triads contain the intervals 1, 3, and 5, so an A Major triad contains the notes A, C#, and E.

We can get this information from the A Major scale (or any major scale):

a major scale notes and intervals

If we put this information on the fretboard, you should be able to see that the A Major open chord (in red) is made up of major triads. When you play a standard A Major open chord, you’re playing two roots (1), two fifths (5) and one major third (3). The low open E string is part of the chord but is not usually played because it’s not a pleasing sound (try it yourself) in this position. What I want you to see here is how major triads are arranged to form major chords. In orange we have an A Major barre chord with much the same weighting of intervals as the open chord, the only difference is that here we have three roots (1), and a different sound due to the distribution of the triads.

In green we have another A Major chord. In this one the notes on the low E string are usually omitted, as well as the 5 on the high E string. This leaves us with two roots (1), two thirds (3) and one fifth (5).

a major triads on the guitar neck

For more on triads check out: How to Learn Triads Faster

If we break these chord shapes down further, it’s easy to see where the triads fall and how we could even add variations to these chords. Here are the triads that make up our open A Major chord:

a major triad guitar a major triad on guitar a major 2nd inversion triad guitar a major root inversion triad guitar

So, instead of just playing an open A Major chord, you can add in and omit notes to get different sounds by using the triads above.

Here’s what happens when we break down the barre chord:

a major triad for guitar hendrix triad for guitar major triads guitar lesson triads guitar lesson

And if you haven’t worked it out already, here are the triad for the third chord shape:

triads up the guitar neck triads lesson for beginners guitar easy triads guitar lesson how to use triads on guitar

These three sets of triads give us all the major triad shapes available on the guitar neck. You may have already been using some of them, especially on the top four strings, the others should help you to complete the picture or fill in the gaps.

Interval Magic
The major triad alone forms the basis for a vast number of chords, which is why it’s easier to build up a repertoire of chords by knowing how to form triads and add intervals to them, rather than trying to memorize hundreds of chord shapes.

For example, if you know that an A Major 7 chord contains the intervals 1, 3, 5 and 7, and you can find your major triads, all you need to do is locate the 7 (G# in this case) on the neck and add it to the triad. You may have to shift the notes around to get a comfortable fingering, but this is an invaluable process that frees you from relying on memorizing chord shapes (phrases in a language).

major 7 chords guitar

Here’s our A Major barre chord shape again with the location of the 7s around it. Can you pull out the triads and add those 7s to them?

Try doing the same to create A7 chords. An A7 chord contains the intervals 1, 3, 5 and b7

a7 chords guitar

Again, you should see the major triads and be able to find ways to combine them with the b7s within easy reach.

In Part 2, we’ll look at minor triads.

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As guitarists we tend to focus on guitar-specific things such as learning licks, riffs, technique and the accumulation of gear. While this is all well and good, at some point you’ll wish you’d taken at least one if not all of the courses below as they’re universal skills that will raise your level of musicianship, which is critical if you play with others on a regular basis or want to make a living from playing guitar.

First up is a skill that’s highly undervalued by guitarists themselves but very sought-after in a guitarist by other musicians: rhythm guitar. If you plan to do any part or full-time playing, you’ll find that most of the time you’ll be playing rhythm guitar rather than soloing. Guitarists that focus on soloing, scales and whatnot will have huge gaps in their knowledge such as chords, timing, strumming, and even how to create a rhythm part.

1. Essential Rhythm Skills
There are a number of approaches you can take to learning rhythm guitar. I find students usually fall into one (or both) of two categories; they either need to improve their strumming technique, or their strumming technique is good, they just need a more chord-based approach to rhythm guitar.

If you feel you need both of these skills, then start with strumming technique. Here are a couple of great resources you could use:

Strumming for the Curious Guitarist is a great course by guitar teacher Dan Dresnok that covers pretty much everything you need to know about strumming, and more importantly, how to count! Dan is a solid, no-frills guitar teacher who explains and demonstrates things very well. Basically, it feels like you’d showed up at his house and got a great lesson, only in the digital medium, you get an entire course for the price of one lesson. Check out the course here.

If you’re in your first year or so of playing, or aren’t looking for something quite as in-depth, check out 12 Strumming Patterns You Must Know for Guitar by Henry Olsen, which does exactly as the title suggests and teaches you 12 really useful rhythm patterns in around an hour.

If you’ve already gotten your strumming skills down and want to improve your rhythm playing, you probably need to check out the chordal/theory side of things. I can honestly tell you that learning random chords and progressions won’t work to a great extent here; in fact, these are actually better for improving your strumming technique. The best approach to expand your knowledge, in my opinion, is to really get your triads down. Triads, when paired with rhythm playing, will unlock the neck for you and allow you to not only create rhythm parts, but understand how they work. You’ll see how to move between chords in the space of a few frets, embellish chord progressions and be able to form any chord off the top of your head. The course you can use to get this done is Michael Palmisano’s Leave the CAGED System Behind, which is not advertised as a rhythm guitar course, but does include this essential chord/theory knowledge. Part 2 has also just come out.

2. Ear Training
Next up is Ear Training, which is something that every musician needs to do throughout their playing career. Guitarists are notorious for avoiding ear training because the ability to use patterns on the guitar somewhat undermines it. If you don’t believe me, try out the exercise in this lesson. Ear Training doesn’t have to be a painful process and I’m a huge fan of two resources for improving your musical ear. The first is Alain Benbassat’s (free) app Functional Ear Trainer (Android | iPhone), which, unlike most ear training apps, is based on cadences and learning to hear intervals in context rather than guessing random pairs of notes because if you want to work something out by ear, 99% of the time it will be in the context of a piece of music.

The second is another course by Dan Dresnok called Ear Training for the Curious Guitarist, which gives you the complete guide to developing relative pitch and working with intervals, and complements what you’ll be practicing in the Functional Ear Trainer app.

3. Music Theory
Last but by no means least is music theory. This is another area where guitarists are at the bottom of the pile due to relying on shapes or learning about theory through guitar-based methods such as the CAGED System. While there’s nothing wrong with this, guitar-based methods tend to complicate things when communicating with musicians that play other instruments, as these theories and methods don’t apply to them. What I’d recommend is a more universal music theory course such as Rajiv Narang’s The Elements of Music | Music Theory and Foundations, which covers everything you need to know about music theory without making it overwhelming.

So, if you feel stuck in a rut, or want to get serious about becoming an all-round musician, a serious study of these three areas will sky-rocket your abilities and set you in good stead for a career in music.

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If you’re serious about learning guitar, beyond having the technical ability to play your favorite songs, then at some stage you’ll need to learn scales. While this might seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be. Sure, the pentatonic scale will have you covered in most situations, but there will be times when you want to branch out or bring other sounds into your solos. The problem here is that a lot of new players think that running scale patterns will provide them with these skills, and completely overlook the skills they really need to be able to do this. Let’s check it out.

If your goal is to explore new sounds and incorporate them into your playing, you need to create the logical steps to reach that point; sounds simple enough but this is where most of the confusion is generated.

Let’s take the Lydian scale (you could insert any scale here) and see how not to go about things:

So, I tell Student A (who’s been playing for a couple of years) to check out the Lydian scale for the next class and try to learn how to use it. Student A comes back the following week and starts firing off 3NPS Lydian patterns and does a little (aimless) improvisation. It sounds like Lydian (at least to me), but when I ask Student A how to use it, he has some good information but he’s somewhat at a loss as to how to really explain the connection between the pattern he’s playing and how to apply the scale in real life.

Breaking it Down
When ‘unboxing’ a scale, it’s a good idea to go over the component parts before you try to assemble the whole thing into something like a 3NPS or CAGED scale pattern. So, let’s start with a simple one octave pattern:

lydian guitar scale

This is A Lydian. Use your low A string as a drone and really listen to the sound of the scale once you’ve gotten the fingering down; throw in some bends, slides, hammers and pull-offs if you know those techniques too. There’s one note in particular that gives this scale its unique sound, which one is it?

lydian scale guitar lesson

If you lower the interesting note by one fret, it’s no longer interesting, and you have the major scale:

a major scale guitar
Cracking the Interval Code
It’s good to know what intervals are in a scale. Think of this as a unique way to identify a scale because the only thing that makes one scale different from another is the distance between each of its notes, in other words, its intervals. Think of the major scale (above) as having the neutral/default intervals: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. It doesn’t matter what key you play it in, it will always have these intervals.If we look at the intervals for the Lydian scale, we’ll see a slight modification to the 4:

1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, and 7.

Let’s put this on the fretboard:

lydian scale guitar lesson for beginners

By now, you should have a better idea of the sound of the Lydian scale in your head, and you may even start to hear it in the music you like. The Lydian scale is also a major scale and can therefore be used over major chords.

Think of it like this:

A major chord has the intervals 1, 3, and 5, as does the Lydian scale; you’re coloring it with other tones such as the #4, 2, 6, and 7. It’s the interplay between these color tones and the chord tones that will give you the Lydian sound.

A major 7 chord has the intervals 1, 3, 5, and 7, as does the Lydian scale; again, you can color it with the other tones from the scale.

If you have a looper, try the scale over an A major or Amaj7 chord and see what it sounds like.

If you don’t have a looper, you should really treat yourself to one.

So, now we know a few useful things about the Lydian scale; an accessible pattern, its unique interval code, that it’s a major scale, that the #4 is the cool note that makes it different from the regular major scale, and most importantly, we know what it sounds like.

You can probably see that Student A’s mammoth 3NPS scale pattern and some scattered information about the Lydian scale being a mode or something wasn’t really the way to go in order to understand and apply the scale. He also glossed over the actual sound of the scale, preferring instead to go straight for the scale patterns and wail over a backing track.

Applying the Lydian Sound
Keep working on the sound of the scale and make sure to experiment with it. Inevitably, you’ll start to hear it in real music, which is what will help you make creative decisions as to when and when not to use it. Making a creative decision based on how well you know the sound is one way to incorporate it. Another way to go about it is to theoretically insert it, which is as simple as thinking, ‘major/major 7 chord coming up, I can play the Lydian scale over it’. This is all well and good, and you should experiment this way, but just because you can play the Lydian scale, it doesn’t mean you should. The theoretical approach doesn’t always account for taste, so you might not get the result you were looking for.

When Can I Learn the 3NPS Pattern?
By all means learn the bigger 3NPS or CAGED patterns when you can really hear the Lydian scale because this will help you bring out the Lydian sound from the bigger picture, as oppose to getting a half-assed Lydian sound from trying to juggle too many notes.

Remember, you can apply this process to any new scale, as well as scales you already know to get a fresh perspective on them.

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If you’re committed to learning the guitar, it’s inevitable that you’re going to get into a rut from time to time. Ruts can last from a weeks to years and can be very frustrating but once you understand the psychology behind getting into a rut, you may even be able to avoid them altogether. This is a very useful skill to have since we have a finite amount of time on this planet and if you’re serious about guitar, you’ll probably want to be the best guitarist you can be for good chunk of that time. In this post we’ll also look at a simple practice concept to also help you avoid getting into ruts on the guitar in the first place.

What is a rut?
A rut is essentially a problem that needs to be solved but is compounded by the fact that you’re stopping yourself from seeing the solution. What do I mean? Think about it this way: you have a problem that cannot be solved by your current knowledge. In other words, you’re trying to get out of a rut by using the exact same information or knowledge that got you in there in the first place – you’re not thinking outside the box, as it were. Think of learning guitar as a pool of knowledge; the amount of water you can hold in your hands is your current knowledge – and your rut – while what you need to do is dip into the rest of the pool to find the answer. The water you’re holding in your hands won’t let you touch any of the other water in the pool. Here’s an example:

Problem: My soloing isn’t melodic enough, it just sounds like scales.

Not the solution: Keep playing from scale shapes but try to be more melodic (current knowledge).

Possible solutions: Try a melodic approach to learning scales, study chord tone soloing, incorporate triads into your playing, study a player that is melodic when they solo to figure out what they’re doing that you’re not… in other words, there are many things you could do but you won’t see them if you’re unwilling to look beyond what you currently know.

How to avoid a rut in the first place
Most ruts are a result of undisciplined playing and directionless practicing. In other words, if you have no goals other than vague desire to get better, or an unstructured practice regime, you’re inevitably going to get into a rut.

When I practice, I use the following three simple concepts to avoid falling into a rut:

1. Practice what you know. This requires the least (mental) effort and involves honing all the things you already know, because no matter how simple or basic you think something is, you can always get more out of it or stumble across something new. These are the things that are second nature to you.

2. Practice what you don’t know. If you glance down to number 3, you may wonder what the difference is between practicing what you don’t know and learning something new. Practicing what you don’t know refers to those things that aren’t yet second nature; things you do know but you still have to think about to execute.

3. Learn something new. This is fairly self-explanatory and involves learning something you know little or nothing about. This will eventually pass up to the ‘practice what you don’t know’ level, then finally it will become second nature.

As you can probably tell, this practice routine represents and ongoing cycle to ensure that everything you learn will eventually become second nature, and the great thing is that what you learn is up to you, rather than having one of those very specific scales, chords, arpeggios etc. practice routines that bore the hell out of you after two days.

Try if for just a week and I guarantee you’ll feel like you’re making progress, as well as avoiding any potential ruts.

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If you want to learn guitar online there are a plethora of options these days; and with technology playing an ever-increasing role in learning, new apps, tools, and interactive courses are cropping up every day. Where most of these are aimed at guitarists wanting to teach themselves, Veevar Guitar combines an online learning community with face-to-face tuition, which is great news for both students wanting to learn, and teachers wanting a steady paycheck. We were intrigued…

Learn Guitar
The Veevar Guitar platform provides an environment in which students not only have access to the online course modules, but can also participate in different forums, get help with anything on the course syllabus, or look for a teacher for face-to-face lessons (this option is only available in the UK at the moment). The course is spread over five levels broken down into different modules which you can work through at your own pace and/or use as the basis for your face-to-face tuition. What I like about this is that the teacher and the student are on the same page; as a student, you don’t have to worry about whether you’re getting a quality lesson or not, and teachers don’t have to worry about planning lessons for each student as all the material is right there. If you’re not based in the UK, or don’t want face-to-face lessons, you’re still getting a comprehensive online guitar course with access to all the teachers on Veevar’s roster via the forums.

Students can sign up here and get 20% off using the code VG20.

veevar guitar reviewThe Platform
As I mentioned, the course has five levels broken down into modules which cover everything from the basics through to intermediate and more advanced concepts. The material is easy to follow with abundant video examples which feature scrolling tab and/or music notation, as well as live fretboard diagrams. You can also speed up, slow down, mute or single out any guitar part and even flip the image if you’re left-handed! The creators have gone to great lengths to cover every detail, as well as any issues you might have in every module, and should you get stuck, you can always get in touch with your face-to-face teacher or ask all the available teachers and course creators in the forums.

Teach Guitar
veevar guitarVeevar Guitar is also a great option for guitar teachers (if you happen to live in the UK) who don’t have time to do the legwork of finding students and tailoring lessons to their needs; this is all done for you leaving you free to concentrate on the teaching part, as well as all your other musical projects and commitments. All you do is sign up as a teacher and create your bio so that students in your local area can contact you and arrange lessons. You get the first 3 months on a free trial basis, then you’ll be charged £60 a month to continue using the service. While £60 might seem a lot to a (UK) guitarist, as long as you’re teaching more than 2 hours a month at £30 an hour, you’re making money! Veevar also has the option to sell your own courses in the site’s shop, which is another potential earner.

Teachers can sign up here by clicking ‘are you a teacher’ in the top right corner.

Our Verdict
What we liked about Veevar Guitar was the emphasis on building a community of teachers and students around learning guitar from a single resource rather than students buying product after product and being left somewhat in the dark as to how really use them to progress on the instrument. It’s still early days for the site but what could set this apart from forums, YouTube instructors, and other online courses is the community-based interaction on offer.Check Veevar Guitar out for yourself here, whether you’re a student or a teacher, and let us know what you think in the comments.
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If you’ve been following this series, you can probably guess how we’re going to form eleventh arpeggios. If you haven’t, feel free to check out Part 1 and Part 2 as they’ll provide you with a solid foundation for incorporating arpeggios into your scalar playing or scales into your arpeggio playing, depending on how you’re seeing things. What I love about this approach is that I don’t have to think of a separate pattern for arpeggios and scales or make any drastic changes to my fingering when playing. All the information I need is right there under my fingers, I just have to notice it.

In Part 2, we saw that the 2 is technically the 9 and used it for ninth arpeggios. Here, the 4 is technically the 11 (in green), so we’re going to use it to form diatonic eleventh arpeggios. First up is Cmaj11:

c maj 11 arpeggio guitar

Just to recap, we now have the intervals 1, 2 (9), 3, 4 (11) and 7 only in very close proximity. Next up is Dm11:

Dm11 arpeggio guitar

Then we have Em11b9:

Em11b9 arpeggio guitar

It’s interesting that playing through arpeggios this way gives you a completely different sound that running scale patterns. Play the three notes in red first, then add in the orange, blue and green notes to hear how the arpeggio builds.

Next up is Fmaj9#11:

Fmaj9#11 arpeggio guitar

I really like the sound of this one; when you play these arpeggios, note that your second finger is always on the root note.

Here’s the G11 arpeggio:

G11 arpeggio guitar

And the Am11 arpeggio:

Am11 arpeggio guitar

And finally, the Bm7b5b9 arpeggio:

Bm7b5b9 arpeggio guitar

Remember, you can repeat these patterns across the neck on adjacent string sets as we did in Part 1 and Part 2. The idea here is to help you bring out the melody in a scale, as well as giving you some ideas for playing over chord changes and note choice into the bargain.

What about thirteenth arpeggios?
Glad you asked. The 13 is technically the 6, so if we add one more note to these arpeggios we’ve come full circle and arrived back to a scale! If you wrote out the intervals in a thirteenth arpeggio, they’re the same as those in a scale: 1, 2 (9), 3, 4 (11), 5, 6 (13), 7. More on that here and here.