Useful Music Theory (Guitar Lesson)

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Randall Williams

Useful Music Theory

In his introductory lesson, Randall Williams discusses music theory in a useful and practical context. This knowledge will be required for his future lessons.

Taught by Randall Williams in Lessons with Randall Williams seriesLength: 26:39Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (02:20) Lesson Introduction Randall Williams JamPlay Biography

For biographical information about Randall, check out his JamPlay biography.

Additional Links

Randall Williams Official Site




Contacting Randall

If you ever have any questions about the materials that Randall covers in his lessons, feel free to send him a private message, forum post, or comment here on JamPlay. You can also shoot him an email: [email protected]

Lesson 1 Objectives

-Learn basic music theory concepts such as the diatonic chords of the major tonality.
-Explore common progressions that utilize these chords.
-Learn the basics of transposition.

Randall's Thoughts on Music Theory

Many music students have a tendency to get bogged down with music theory. For this reason, Randall takes a purely practical approach to teaching music theory. He does not teach theory without showing how it can directly be applied to playing the guitar. The music theory concepts presented in this series will help profoundly in the areas of composition, arranging, improvising, and playing with other musicians. In short, Randall's theory instruction is aimed at making you a better player.
Chapter 2: (04:20) Scales & Chords Intervals

Scales are comprised of a set pattern of intervals. An interval is simply the distance between two notes.

Refer to the "Supplemental Content" section for a list of the most commonly occurring intervals in Western music.

Scale Degrees

Each note within a scale or mode typically carries out a specific melodic function. The name of each diatonic scale degree is listed below along with its function(s):

1– Tonic (stable scale degree)
2 – Supertonic (resolves to 1 or 3)
3– Mediant (relatively stable)
4– Subdominant (resolves up to 5 or down to 3)
5– Dominant (relatively stable)
6– Submediant (functions as upper neighbor to 5 or passing from 5-6-7-1.
7– Leading Tone (resolves to 1. It can also function in a descending sequence from 1 to 6 or 1 to 5.)

Diatonic Triads

Within the major scale, a diatonic triad can be built from each note in the scale. In this case, Roman numerals are used to denote a triad built from a specific scale degree. Uppercase Roman numerals indicate a chord that is built from a major or augmented triad. Lowercase Roman numerals indicate a minor or diminished triad. The diatonic triads built from each scale degree in the key of C major are listed below.

I - C
ii - Dm
iii - Em
IV - F
V - G
vi - Am
viio - Bo

It's important to remember the quality of each diatonic triad. "Quality" refers to whether a chord is major, minor, diminished, dominant, etc. The majority of the diatonic chords are major. Just make a note of where the exceptions occur. In a major key, the I, IV, and V chords are major. The remaining diatonic chords are either minor or diminished.

Common Progressions

The I, IV, V progression is one of the most common progressions used in music. In the key of C, this progression consists of the following chords: C, F, and G. Randall demonstrates countless songs in upcoming lessons that utilize this progression.
Chapter 3: (03:43) Using Chords Chord Substitutions

In folk, rock, and blues music, the viio chord is used less frequently than the bVII major chord. In other words, in the key of C major, Bb major is often used instead of Bo in the context of a progression in C major. However, it should be noted that the viio chord is frequently used in classical music and jazz.

Note: At 02:30, the chord that Randall refers to as "B diminished" is actually just a B7 chord.
Chapter 4: (07:13) Thinking in Numbers The guitar rhythm Randall plays at the beginning of the scene consists solely of quarter notes. Each chord is played with a downstroke and palm muting. For more information about palm muting, please refer to the following lessons: Dennis Hodges Metal Lesson 3 and Jim Deeming Phase 1 Lesson 18.

Play Along Exercises

All of the play along exercises are notated under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

At 00:38, play along with Randall. Switch to the chords that he calls out. This will train your mind to think in terms of Roman numerals or "Nashville numbers" on the fly.

Progressions Used in Play Along

I - IV - V, I - vi - ii - V (01:51)

I - II - IV - V (02:58)

Remember that the ii chord is minor within a major key. When a major II chord is played, this chord is referred to as a non-diatonic chord, or an example of chromaticism. The D major chord contains an F# note. Whereas D minor, the diatonic ii chord, contains an F natural.

I - II - IV - V - I (04:06)

ii - iii - IV - V - I (04:18)
Chapter 5: () Circle of 5ths Note: The following information pertaining to the circle of fifths is taken from Matt Brown's fifth Phase 2 Jazz Lesson. Refer to this lesson for additional information.

A. Features of the Circle

1. The Title

The circle of fifths is frequently referred to as the circle of fourths or cycle of fourths. These various titles all refer to the same diagram. The reasoning behind the two different titles is explained later in the lesson.

2. Order of Flats

At the beginning of any guitar sheet music, you will notice three features. The first symbol written on the staff is the treble clef sign. The treble clef is frequently referred to as the 'G clef." This is because the circular bottom portion of the symbol indicates where the note G occurs on the staff. Guitar music is always written in treble clef. The only exception occurs when a walking bass line is arranged for 7-string guitar. There are other clef symbols. For example, bass instruments are written in bass clef. Alto clef is another common clef. The key signature follows the appropriate clef symbol. This indicates the key that the piece is in. A key signature is comprised of either sharps or flats. The key of C is the only exception. It contains no sharps or flats.

When a key signature containing one or more flats is written out, the flats always appear in the same order. This is known as the "order of flats." A flat is written on the staff to indicate that a certain note is to be flatted throughout the course of the piece. The flats follow this order: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb. It is very important that you memorize the order of flats. Develop some sort of mnemonic device to help you.

Now, take a look at the actual circle. The circle of fifths is laid out in a manner similar to that of a clock. The key of C major is always written at the top in the 12 o'clock position. This is because the key signature for C major contains no sharps or flats. If you move one section to the left of the circle (11 o’clock position), one flat is added to the key signature. This particular key signature denotes the key of F.

The note F is a perfect fourth above C. If you move around the circle in a counterclockwise motion, each subsequent key is a perfect fourth above the last. This is why this diagram is often referred to as the "circle of fourths." If you start at C and move around the circle in a clockwise motion, each subsequent key is a perfect fifth above the previous key. When moving around the diagram in this direction, you are moving in a circle of fifths.

From the order of flats, we know that the first flat is Bb. So, in the key of F, the note B is flatted. As a result, here is how an F major scale is spelled: F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F.

If we move one space counterclockwise from F, we reach the key of Bb Major. Notice how one additional flat is added to the key signature. The second flat in the order of flats is Eb. Thus, the key of Bb Major contains two flats-Bb and Eb. Here is the spelling of a Bb Major scale: Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb. As we continue to move around the circle in this direction, one flat is added to the key signature each time.

3. Order of Sharps

Return to the key of C at the top of the circle. This time we will move around the circle in a clockwise direction. Each time we move one space, one sharp is added to the key signature. For example, the first key after C is the key of G. The key of G contains one sharp. The sharps are always written in the following order: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#. "Fat cats get drunk at every bar" is an excellent mnemonic device that will help you remember the order of sharps.

Since G contains only one sharp, this sharp is F#. As a result, the key of G is spelled as follows: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G. If we move counterclockwise one space (up another perfect fifth interval) we reach the key of D. The key of D contains two sharps-F# and C#.

B. Learning New Repertoire

Every time you learn a new song or piece, first determine what key it is in. Use the circle of fifths as a reference guide to determine the key center. There are a few tricks to learn that will enable you to recognize the key without looking at the circle of fifths.

1. Trick for Flat Keys

Loot at the second to last flat written in the key signature. This flat names the key. For example, look at a key signature containing three flats (Bb, Eb, and Ab). The second to last flat written is Eb. Thus, the name of this key is Eb major.

Look at the very last sharp written. The note a half step above the last sharp names the key. For example, look at a key signature that contains five sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#). A half step above A# is B. Thus, this key is named B major.

Look at a key signature containing three sharps (F#, C#, G#). A half step above G# is the note A. As a result, this key is labeled A major.

The circle of fifths also shows which keys are closely related. For example, C and G are closely related. It's common to modulate or change keys back and forth between closely related keys within a piece of music.

Diatonic Chords in G major

From the circle of fifths, it can be deduced that the G major scale is spelled G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G.

Remember that the pattern of diatonic chords is the same for every major key. The diatonic triads for the key of G major are listed below.

I - G
ii - Am
iii - Bm
IV - C
V - D
vi - Em
vii - F#o

Note: At 06:15 Randall says he is playing F#o, but he is actually playing an F#maj7 chord.

Common Chord Substitution

When substituting the bVII chord for the viio chord in this key, F major is played instead of F#o.

Play Along

Randall plays through some of the progressions from the previous scene in the key of G major. Play along with him and switch to the appropriate chord when he calls it out. This will give you more experience working with the Nashville number system.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

YechielYechiel replied

he is very quety

DL8149DL8149 replied

BTW. Check out Steve Eulberg. Very concise and clear and very easy to follow. His lessons are very good, to me anyway.

DL8149DL8149 replied

Didn't like this too much. The guy seems in love with himself anbd he talks so fast and meanders all over the place. Very scattered, very quick and must be very confusing for beginners to follow. He seems like he lives in his head.

create login namecreate login name replied

Huh? This is going to take awhile.

Pnut01Pnut01 replied

Dude thanks for this lesson. So please tell me if this is correct. If a song is in the key of E, does that mean all the chord that I would need should be in that scale.?

jessy_99jessy_99 replied

This is really helpful :3

gharringtongharrington replied

Randall, great content. Perfect pitch on style. Have watched all Jim D and Steve E series and several of your lessons. Have begun at beginning with you because I am beginning to get it. Learning curve vertical and loving it. Glad Jamplay bottled your brand. Thanks

tomhankintomhankin replied

oops b f no e sorry cannot count

tomhankintomhankin replied

Hi I have just watched both music theory lessons and would love a lesson going into a little more depth the thing about chords and playing in differant keys was great i reallyn had hit a wall there and struggled with it untill these lessons put it in perspective but diminished how do you play a dimiunished chord and why is it diminished is it missing a note say b diminished would be b g no f or am i way off here

adjohns3adjohns3 replied

Good stuff...but with the Circle of 5th theory stuff, I think some VISUAL aids would help make it more visual/clear??? Right now it's a pretty muddy puddle!

dallendouglasdallendouglas replied

Randall, I started ouy looking at your work with CAPO'S and am just bloiwn away with the possabilities,Not oinly for me,as I have a Dystrophy,but others who have less hand strength than me.I IO decided to come back and start at the begining as ,for some reason, I am having trouble with the Transposition Guide,but will figure it out. Maybe at 67 I just don't grasp it as fast? I'am hopeing to help people in our Retirement Community that don't think they could have ever playe Guitar! I have A Spder Capo, a FUll SHUBB,and on your recommendation I bought a"Kyser" Partila Capo.

robabrobab replied

Love your lesson!!

pdedeckerpdedecker replied

At several points in this video including 05:54 it appears that some camera footage is missing because Randall is cropped to the small box for no apparent reason. Is this a mistake?

sv286sv286 replied

It happens a lot in Scene 5. Especially between 5:50 and 7:00, there are long segments where it's only his head in the little box and the rest of the screen is gray.

jboothjbooth replied

I'm not sure what you mean by randall being cropped to the small box, do you mean where it's just his head? I generally do that when I'm trying to show a full screen view of the guitar for whatever reason, that doesn't necessitate the four cam split.

nessanessa replied

Hey there! In some footage, such as 5:54 in scene 4, all cams are not required to get the particular point across. This is a video editors choice, not a mistake. Thanks for the concern/comment!

robabrobab replied

What was your choice? To show his head and not be able to see what he is playing? Sounds like an error to me!!!

hyhunghyhung replied

Your lessons are great but a little short as compared to others. I like, if possible, you give a lesson on how to accompany a singer who sing, let suppose in C. When and why and how to play which chord? Thanks

Randall.WilliamsRandall.Williams replied

Hy, sorry it took so long to reply. I'm filming that exact lesson tomorrow. Should be up soon. R

apocalypsemysticapocalypsemystic replied

Are the oft promised right hand lessons up yet? I have got to get that sound.

Randall.WilliamsRandall.Williams replied

R. hand lessons went up a few weeks ago, lesson #9. let me know if they work for you - on lo-res the right hand is kind of a blur... :) R

apocalypsemysticapocalypsemystic replied

Aha, it looks like its buried in the other lessons. Away!

merischinomerischino replied

Hey Randall! I was just in a live Q&A with DJ Phillips where we were discussing music theory, and I was having some trouble confusing my intervals with my chord progressions, keys, and scales. Someone (Tammy) recommended I come check your series out and can I just say, Wow? I've just completed your first lesson, and I have to say I like your style. You are clear, easy to understand, you repeat things just enough and not too much (for me!), and somehow you manage to make it all tie together and come back to making music and give us some practice as well. Not only did the lesson come back around nicely, but I find I understand the I, IV, V designations, the relationship between C and G, and why all the chords that go together sound good together. Whew! in just under half an hour! I'm eager to take the rest of your series.

bern16bern16 replied

hey randall, i know that you don't want to get into why some notes are major and why some are minor, but could you point me in the right direction so that i can find this out somewhere in here? or do you give the explanation later on?

Randall.WilliamsRandall.Williams replied

Rockin, John - thanks. Not ebony fretboard, it's standard Larrivee L-03 fretboard. LOVE me that guitar!

currannicurranni replied

is that an ebony fretboard randall?? hehe thank

T Russ BluesT Russ Blues replied

Thanks for clearing that musc theory up for me great job!!!

higgs36higgs36 replied

I did the exercises!

jfuqua7jfuqua7 replied

I went to a guitar lesson in person yesterday in order to get some theory understanding, yes I am a beginner. I just can never seem to get everything I need in 30 mins, so I came home and logged into to check out some forum posts and ran across someone talking about you and this lesson. I should have just stayed home and watch you and not wasted my time and gas going to a one-on-one lesson. This lesson rocked. I hope that you dive more into theory. As a beginner, anyone can learn to play a single song, the harder part is understanding how it is constructed. Cheers, John

Randall.WilliamsRandall.Williams replied

Wow, John. Maybe you can make a list of what you want to understand, and help your teacher stay on task and focussed on what you want to learn? Thanks for coming here for lessons! R

scoffeyscoffey replied

Dude, you rock! Thank you for a lesson that just opened my mind!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Music is beginning to make so much more sense!

espnvagineespnvagine replied

Great lesson... Keep it coming

peterpaulpeterpaul replied

Randall, great lesson looking forward to more soon I hope.

dbaylessdbayless replied

Nice lesson, Randall. I appreciated the chance to "jam" with you as you went through the chord progressions. It really helped to bring alive the way different progressions are used in a song. This is a lesson to which I'm sure to come back repeatedly.

bamabama replied

amazing lesson,thanks

metalmachinemetalmachine replied

Great teacher and great lesson. I really like how you repeated things over and over again, that helped alot. Thanks!!!

snowdadsnowdad replied

Really enjoyed the lesson. I'm looking forward to more. I really like how you encourage us to play along, applying what we've learned. Thanks.

nmoundnmound replied

I def look forward to more of your lessons!!!

surferchild007surferchild007 replied

Talk about a jam packed lesson which was easy to digest Thanks soooo much Jam play and Randall. Can't wait to see more :-)

jimbogjimbog replied

entertaining, fun and I realy learnt some things that have been confusing me thanks Randall

blueguitar420blueguitar420 replied

so are these lessons based on theory? If so thats what jam play needs

feltonmfeltonm replied

That was absolutely awesome! I've been playing guitar for 10 years and consider myself to be fairly intermediate but I've been hungry to learn more theory and how to use it to augment my playing. This is simply perfect. Good pace. Good examples. Can't wait for the next one!

cheesebombcheesebomb replied

Been looking forward to your lessons, welcome to the site! loved the lesson too btw.

mkorsmomkorsmo replied

I REALLY dug this lesson... great style and presentation - I liked the pacing too. (And clever use of the pause button... ha!)

philmanphilman replied

I like your style. Great work!

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Welcome to JamPlay, Randall! Great to have ya!

aquariartyaquariarty replied

Really good Randall, and well worth waiting for - hope the next lesson is coming soon.

aaronhoukaaronhouk replied

That lesson really brought a lot of things together for me. A+

Randall.WilliamsRandall.Williams replied

Wow. Jeff said you had a good community - but THIS MANY responses to a lesson after it's been up for only two days. Wow. Humbled, honored, all that stuff. Let me know how it works - if you really paused and wrote stuff down, if it was too easy, all that. Thanks, everybody!

mav67mav67 replied

LOL, Don't have to apologise about taking it slowly, you can take it as slow as you want. Nice lesson, welcome to Jamplay, will be watching out for your lessons.

jgillardjgillard replied

Randall. You are an excellent teacher. You have a way of putting people at ease and a fabulous teaching style. I am looking forward to more!

jpetergjpeterg replied

Refreshing way of teaching really looking forward for the upcoming lessons. Thanks :)

buffy136buffy136 replied

Thank you Randall , you cleared up things I did not quit understand.. cann't wait to see more on your teaching

jesperlindejesperlinde replied

5 of 5 stars.. :) Keep the lessons coming from Randall..

jaybirdjaybird replied

Good presentation. I'm anxiously waiting for more.

CarolLBCarolLB replied

Oh man; Jamplay, you never cease to amaze me with all these wonderful instructors. Randall is fantastic and I can't wait for more!

roguerogue replied

really liked this this lesson and can't wait for more!

jboothjbooth replied

We've got a lot of lessons filmed from Randall, and he will likely be coming back (though not till next year) to film more. But don't worry, there's a lot more coming before we run out of material :)

bulletinaboxbulletinabox replied

great stuff! you cleared up a lot of the questions i had about theory and stuff. very enjoyable! =D

metalheadmclovinmetalheadmclovin replied

Woah good good good stuff. Nice explaining how chords and scales work together and such.

stratmusicstratmusic replied

I really like the way Randall explains things!! I am looking forward to his subsequent lessons!

kevinpickellkevinpickell replied

Wow! This guy can really teach!! I'm really looking forward to this series. Please jamplay...keep the lessons coming from this guy. He's good!!

gerrygerry replied

Cool theory...:) !

martynmartyn replied

he seems like a really cool guy aswell..

martynmartyn replied

i m glad these lessons have arrived

nessanessa replied

Welcome to the site, Randall! All of you JamPlayers out there are in for a real treat. :)

Lessons with Randall Williams

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Randall Williams is a dynamic, powerful, classically trained acoustic musician who interest is found in the dynamic and relevant world of folk. One of Randall's specialties includes the style of cut or partial capo.

Useful Music TheoryLesson 1

Useful Music Theory

In his introductory lesson, Randall Williams discusses music theory in a useful and practical context. This knowledge will be required for his future lessons.

Length: 26:39 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Music Theory Part #2Lesson 2

Music Theory Part #2

Randall Williams returns with the second part of his lesson on useful music theory. In this lesson, he talks about using a capo, ornamenting chords, and the minor scales.

Length: 36:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Open TuningLesson 3

Open Tuning

In this lesson Randall introduces the concept of open tuning. He will talk about how open tunings work as well as how they alter your chords and scales.

Length: 31:48 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Open Tuning Part 2Lesson 4

Open Tuning Part 2

Randall Williams returns to the world of open tunings to talk about open d, open g, and open c. He also give tips on slide guitar and playing in these tunings.

Length: 41:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Partial Capo for Total BeginnersLesson 5

Partial Capo for Total Beginners

In this lesson Randall introduces the partial capo (using a short-cut capo by Kyser) and talks about how it can make the life of a beginner easier.

Length: 12:46 Difficulty: 0.5 FREE
Partial Capo Part 2Lesson 6

Partial Capo Part 2

In this lesson Randall returns to the world of the partial capo (or cut-capo). He covers additional right hand techniques and a few sample songs.

Length: 18:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Partial Capo Part 3Lesson 7

Partial Capo Part 3

Randall returns to the world of the partial capo. In this lesson, he talks more about playing songs and chords. He also introduces a second capo.

Length: 9:41 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Partial Capo Part 4Lesson 8

Partial Capo Part 4

Randall returns with the fourth part of his partial capo for total beginners lesson set. Randall introduces more right hand patterns and talks about playing with a disability.

Length: 11:28 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Randall's ToolboxLesson 9

Randall's Toolbox

Randall Williams shares his technique toolbox in this lesson. He explains over twenty different rhythmic patterns that can be applied to a chord progression.

Length: 27:38 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Randall's Toolbox Part 2Lesson 10

Randall's Toolbox Part 2

Randall shares part two of his toolbox mini-series.

Length: 25:47 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Partial Capo TechniquesLesson 11

Partial Capo Techniques

Randall Williams shares many new ideas in part one of his Partial Capo Techniques mini-series.

Length: 38:25 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Partial Capo Techniques Part 2Lesson 12

Partial Capo Techniques Part 2

Randall Williams shares part two of his fantastic Partial Capo Techniques mini-series.

Length: 16:30 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Partial Capo Techniques Part 3Lesson 13

Partial Capo Techniques Part 3

Randall shares part three of his Partial Capo Techniques mini-series.

Length: 19:29 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Partial Capo Techniques Part 4Lesson 14

Partial Capo Techniques Part 4

Randall Williams continues on to part four of his exciting Partial Capo Techniques mini-series.

Length: 29:34 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Partial Capo Techniques Part 5Lesson 15

Partial Capo Techniques Part 5

Randall concludes his Partial Capo Technique mini-series.

Length: 32:08 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Exploring Songs Part 1Lesson 16

Exploring Songs Part 1

Randall Williams explains and performs the song "Causeway" by Daithi Rua.

Length: 8:24 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Exploring Songs Part 2Lesson 17

Exploring Songs Part 2

Randall Williams takes a look at his original song "Stronger For Your Flame" and offers a wonderful performance.

Length: 10:18 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Exploring Songs Part 3Lesson 18

Exploring Songs Part 3

Randall Williams shares an inspiring, original song called "Draw the Line."

Length: 6:06 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Exploring Songs Part 4Lesson 19

Exploring Songs Part 4

Randall Williams shares his beautiful original tune, "Praying for Land" in this lesson.

Length: 7:50 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Exploring Songs Part 5Lesson 20

Exploring Songs Part 5

Randall Williams teaches his original song "Ghost in the Machine."

Length: 9:37 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Exploring Songs Part 6Lesson 21

Exploring Songs Part 6

Randall Williams shares his touching original song, "I Will Come For You."

Length: 8:38 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
PerformingLesson 22


After sharing many great tunes in his Exploring Songs mini-series, Randall Williams says a few words about performing.

Length: 10:29 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Short Form SongwritingLesson 23

Short Form Songwriting

Randall Williams creates a song with you from scratch in this fascinating lesson about short form songwriting.

Length: 31:18 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Singing with the GuitarLesson 24

Singing with the Guitar

Randall Williams presents his introductory lesson on singing with the guitar.

Length: 10:36 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Singing with the Guitar Part 2Lesson 25

Singing with the Guitar Part 2

Randall explores more singing topics in this lesson. He provides sample exercises and encourages you to sing along.

Length: 26:15 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Exploring Songs Part 7Lesson 26

Exploring Songs Part 7

Randall Williams shares another beautiful original tune called "Guatemala" in this lesson.

Length: 6:55 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Songwriting Part 1Lesson 27

Songwriting Part 1

Randall Williams continues his exploration on songwriting. In this particular lesson, he focuses on musicality and the creative process.

Length: 14:39 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Songwriting Part 2Lesson 28

Songwriting Part 2

Randall Williams continues his discussion on musicality and creating songs.

Length: 23:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Songwriting Part 3Lesson 29

Songwriting Part 3

Randall continues his discussion on songwriting in part 3 of his songwriting mini series.

Length: 21:06 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Songwriting Part 4Lesson 30

Songwriting Part 4

Randall Williams concludes his mini-series on songwriting in this lesson.

Length: 13:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Randall Williams

About Randall Williams View Full Biography He felt that classical music lacked the inclusiveness of folk music, and that the inevitable division between performer and audience was unbearable. And so Randall returned to the world of traveling with his guitar, writing songs in train stations and sleeping on couches, then singing and playing on street corners, cafï, and pubs. For a time he lived aboard a 20' sailboat that he bought for $800, teaching himself how to sail by single-handing through the Baltic and North Seas with his guitar sleeping in the berth beside him at night. He wrote a book about the trip, which begins with the story of almost getting squashed by a tanker before dawn one morning in the North Sea.

He moved to North Africa, then set off across the Sahara by hitching with locals - bouncing through a minefield on the way that made his mother have bad dreams. He loved the adventure, but he missed the music.

In 2005, Randall returned stateside to scrounge up a career as a performing songwriter, hoping it wasn't too late. So far, it hasn't been. As the "Partial Capo Guy," Randall has written two books for Hal Leonard, recorded a DVD for Kyser Musical Products, and given workshops at some of the biggest festivals in United States. As a performer, Randall has been a finalist in the Founder's Title and Mid-Atlantic Song Contests, A regional finalist at Kerrville, a showcase artist at Northeast and Midwest Folk Alliance, and at the International Folk Alliance in Memphis, and an Audience Favorite at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. His 2007 live release, "One Night in Louisiana" made a respectable dent in the folk DJ charts (One single, "Lebanon," was #8 in May,) and he's generally a nice guy to have around, capos or not.

Randall is as much at home in a Bangkok slum or a Senegalese village, at the Kennedy Center in D.C. or the Fine Arts Palace in Brussels sandwiched between a twitchy orchestra and a full house, or shoeless on the floor of your living room. Randall has sung in a dozen languages in over 35 countries.

Lynne Andrews: "When Randall left the confines of classical music largely behind, they lost a great talent, but the world gained a good friend - a friend who will tell its stories with grace, compassion, humility and humor."

Randall began playing guitar seriously in 1988, and played his first open mic one year later. Randall kept playing and learning more and more. Randall began teaching guitar in 1992, while studying musical composition, analysis, and performance. Randall got his undergraduate music degree in 1996, then studied flamenco for about a year (1997) before beginning studies at the royal conservatory of music in mons, belgium.

From 1998 to 2001, Randall studied voice, analysis, and harmony at the conservatory, with classical guitar lessons on the side for about 6 months. Randall's undergraduate study and the conservatory courses added a degree of musical structure to his improvisational ability, and gave him a strong music theory base. He recieved the premier prix for concert singing from the conservatory in 2001.

Randall's most recent discoveries: how to build a structure for creating chords in open tunings, and learning how to structure placement of partial capos in standard and alternate tunings.

Lesson Information

Acoustic Guitar Lessons

Acoustic Guitar

Our acoustic guitar lessons are taught by qualified instructors with various backgrounds with the instrument.

Calum Graham Calum Graham

Award winning, Canadian fingerstyle guitarist Calum Graham introduces his Jamplay Artist Series, which aims to transform...

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Maneli Jamal Maneli Jamal

The acoustic guitar is basically a big wooden box, so it makes sense that it sounds pretty good as a drum! Learning how...

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Danny Voris Danny Voris

Lesson 7 is all about arpeggios. Danny provides discussion and exercises designed to build your right hand skills.

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Eve Goldberg Eve Goldberg

Eve talks about the boom-chuck strum pattern. This strum pattern will completely change the sound of your playing.

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Jessica Baron Jessica Baron

Jessica kindly introduces herself, her background, and her approach to this series.

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Randall Williams Randall Williams

In this lesson Randall introduces the partial capo (using a short-cut capo by Kyser) and talks about how it can make the...

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Miche Fambro Miche Fambro

Miche introduces several new chord concepts that add color and excitement to any progression.

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Amber Russell Amber Russell

Now we look at more harmonics, using a section of Amber's song - 'Love vs. Logic'

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Pamela Goldsmith Pamela Goldsmith

Pamela brings a cap to her first 13 JamPlay lessons with another original etude inspired by the great Leo Brouwer. This is...

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Electric Guitar Lesson Samples

Electric Guitar

Our electric guitar lessons are taught by instructors with an incredible amount of teaching experience.

Will Ripley Will Ripley

Will is back with another classic sounding riff! This riff is a great exercise that gets you using your fingers on more than...

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Billy Sheehan Billy Sheehan

Billy starts his artist series off with a lesson on something he gets asked the most to explain: right hand 3 finger technique.

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Ariel Posen Ariel Posen

Vibrato is a technique that not only gives character to your guitar playing, it conveys your personality on the guitar, giving...

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Horace Bray Horace Bray

Horace provides a short etude on how to practice connecting the different shapes of the G Major open triads. This helps you...

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Steve Stevens Steve Stevens

Steve Stevens shows some of his go-to licks and ideas while improvising over a backing track he made.

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Evan Brewer Evan Brewer

Evan Brewer explains everything you need to know in order to get going with your bass guitar. Topics include the parts of...

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David MacKenzie David MacKenzie

David MacKenzie introduces the tapping technique and teaches a fun exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

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Lauren Passarelli Lauren Passarelli

Lauren Passarelli offers up her wisdom on purchasing a guitar. She also includes information regarding proper setup and care....

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Bumblefoot Bumblefoot

Guns N' Roses guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal pulls out all the stops in his blistering artist series. Dive into the intense,...

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Guthrie Trapp Guthrie Trapp

JamPlay introduces Nashville session player Guthrie Trapp! In this first segment, Guthrie talks a little about his influences,...

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Unlimited Lesson Viewing

A JamPlay membership gives you access to every lesson, from every teacher on our staff. Additionally, there is no restriction on how many times you watch a lesson. Watch as many times as you need.

Live Lessons

Exclusive only to JamPlay, we currently broadcast 8-10 hours of steaming lesson services directly to you! Enjoy the benefits of in-person instructors and the conveniences of our community.

Interactive Community

Create your own profile, manage your friends list, and contact users with your own JamPlay Mailbox. JamPlay also features live chat with teachers and members, and an active Forum.

Chord Library

Each chord in our library contains a full chart, related tablature, and a photograph of how the chord is played. A comprehensive learning resource for any guitarist.

Scale Library

Our software allows you to document your progress for any lesson, including notes and percent of the lesson completed. This gives you the ability to document what you need to work on, and where you left off.

Custom Chord Sheets

At JamPlay, not only can you reference our Chord Library, but you can also select any variety of chords you need to work on, and generate your own printable chord sheet.

Backing Tracks

Jam-along backing tracks give the guitarist a platform for improvising and soloing. Our backing tracks provide a wide variety of tracks from different genres of music, and serves as a great learning tool.

Interactive Games

We have teachers covering beginner lessons, rock, classic rock, jazz, bluegrass, fingerstyle, slack key and more. Learn how to play the guitar from experienced players, in a casual environment.

Beginners Welcome.. and Up

Unlike a lot of guitar websites and DVDs, we start our Beginner Lessons at the VERY start of the learning process, as if you just picked up a guitar for the first time.Our teaching is structured for all players.

Take a minute to compare JamPlay to other traditional and new methods of learning guitar. Our estimates for "In-Person" lessons below are based on a weekly face-to-face lesson for $40 per hour.

Price Per Lesson < $0.01 $4 - $5 $30 - $50 Free
Money Back Guarantee Sometimes n/a
Number of Instructors 127 1 – 3 1 Zillions
Interaction with Instructors Daily Webcam Sessions Weekly
Professional Instructors Luck of the Draw Luck of the Draw
New Lessons Daily Weekly Minutely
Structured Lessons
Learn Any Style Sorta
Track Progress
HD Video - Sometimes
Multiple Camera Angles Sometimes - Sometimes
Accurate Tabs Maybe Maybe
Scale/Chord Libraries
Custom JamTracks
Interactive Games
Learn in Sweatpants Socially Unacceptable
Gasoline Needed $0.00 $0.00 ~$4 / gallon! $0.00
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Mike H.

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I am 66 years young and I still got it! I would have never known this if it had not been for Jamplay! I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar! Ha! I cannot express enough how great you're website is! It is for beginners and advanced pickers! I am an advanced picker and thought I had lost it but thanks to you all, I found it again! Even though I only play by ear, I have been a member a whopping whole two weeks now and have already got Brent's country shuffle and country blues down and of course with embellishments. Thank you all for your wonderful program!

Greg J.

"With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace"

I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


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