Notes, Scales and Theory (Guitar Lesson)

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Jim Deeming

Notes, Scales and Theory

Jim delves into basic music theory. He starts from square one in this lesson.

Taught by Jim Deeming in Basic Guitar with Jim seriesLength: 29:00Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (03:09) Lesson Introduction In this lesson and the following lessons, Jim exposes you to some basic music theory concepts. Many beginners are turned off by the idea of learning music theory for a few similar reasons. Many beginners don't want to put in the time necessary to learning music theory concepts. They just want to spend their time playing the instrument. Others are intimidated by learning theory. The terminology and mathematical nature of music theory turns off students of all ages.

If you are having similar apprehensions about learning theory, cast them aside quickly. In order to apply basic musical concepts to your playing, it is absolutely necessary that have at least a solid, precursory knowledge of music theory. Learning theory will never hurt your playing ability. It can only improve it. If you follow Jim's instruction regarding this topic, you will most likely find that theoretical concepts are not as complicated as you once thought.

In the scenes that follow, Jim introduces basic theory pertaining to intervals, scales, and chords.

Reading Tablature

Essentially, the tablature system provides a visual map of where specific notes are played on the guitar's fretboard. When reading tablature for guitar, six lines comprise the tablature staff. Each line represents a string on the guitar. Many beginners are confused by this concept. Looking at music notated in tablature is kind of like looking at the fretboard upside down. The line closest to the floor represents the fat, low E string. The next line represents the A string. The highest line represents the high E string.

The numbers written in tablature represent fret locations. For example, if you see "3" written on the bottom line, this means that you are supposed to play the note at the 3rd fret of the low E string. A "0" indicates that the designated string is to be played open.

Reading Standard Notation

Unlike tablature, the musical staff consists of five lines. Each line designates a specific note name. From the lowest line to the highest, these notes are E, G, B, D, and F. It may be useful to remember the saying, "every good boy does fine" to remember the note names of the lines.

A space occurs between every two lines. Each space is designated with a specific note name as well. From the lowest space to the highest, these notes are F, A, C, and E. The names of the spaces spell the word "face."
Chapter 2: (13:02) Note Names and Basic Theory Review of Open String Names

The most logical way to learn the names of every note on the fretboard is to start with the open strings and work your way towards the bridge. Here's a quick review of the names of the open strings:

6th (fat): E
5th: A
4th: D
3rd: G
2nd: B
1st (skinny): E

Natural Notes in First Position

The term "position" typically refers to the fret location of where your left hand index finger plays. For example, if your first finger frets the notes at the 1st fret, you are playing in first position.

In this scene, Jim explains where all the natural notes occur within first position. The term "natural" means that the note name does not contain a sharp or flat. (Note names that contain a sharp or flat are discussed in later scenes.) The musical alphabet contains the following seven natural pitches: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.

Learning Your First Scale

If natural music alphabet begins and ends with the note C, the C major scale is formed. This scale is spelled as follows: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. The C major scale is the best major scale to learn first, because it contains no accidentals. "Accidentals" means sharps (#) or flats (b).

To begin learning the C major scale, fret the basic C chord that you learned in previous lessons. When you fret this chord, you already have most of the notes in the scale under your fingers. Your third finger is fretting C, the root note of the scale. When playing the C major scale, you will begin with this note. Your index finger is also fretting the note C. This is where the scale will end. These two notes are one octave apart. The term "octave" means a span of eight notes.

Now, you must learn the rest of the notes in the scale between the two root notes. Here is a breakdown of where these notes occur:

5th string: C (3rd fret)
4th string: D (open), E (2nd fret), F (3rd fret)
3rd string: G (open), A (2nd fret)
2nd string: B (open), C (1st fret)

Note: Open the Supplemental Content tab for tablature to the C major scale.

It is absolutely necessary that you learn and memorize this scale pattern. Say each note name aloud as you play through the scale. This will help you memorize the location of each note name much faster.

Whole Steps and Half Steps

Between every note in the scale, either a half step or whole step interval occurs.

Note: The following information is taken from lesson 5 of Brad Henecke's Phase 2 lessons.

It may help to examine a piano keyboard to visualize this concept. The keyboard consists of black keys and white keys. A half step occurs between one key to the next regardless of color. Similarly, a half step on the guitar occurs from one fret to the next.

A whole step occurs between two frets on the guitar. For example, a whole step occurs between F on the 1st string and G on the 1st string. These notes are two frets apart.

Now, let’s return to the musical alphabet to apply these concepts. Make a careful note of where half steps and whole steps occur.

Between A and B: whole step
B and C: half step
C and D: whole step
D and E: whole step
E and F: half step
F and G: whole step
G and A: whole step

Many of you are probably wondering how all this theory is going to help your guitar playing. The answer is simple. All major scales follow the same pattern of half and whole steps. If you know this pattern, you can start on any given note and play a major scale.

Start with the C Major scale since it contains no sharps or flats. The C scale is spelled as follows: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Take a look at where the whole and half steps occur within the scale. All major scales follow a pattern of whole step, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half.
Chapter 3: (04:48) More Notes and Relationship to Chords Additional First Position Notes

In addition to the notes found within the pattern of the C major scale, there are a few more first position notes that must be learned. Here is a breakdown of where these notes occur:

6th: E (open), F (1st fret), G (3rd fret)
5th: A (open), B (2nd fret)
2nd: D (3rd fret)
1st: E (open), F (1st fret), G (3rd fret)

You may already be familiar with the locations of these notes from learning basic chords. For example, the basic G chord has its root (G) on the 3rd fret of the low string. The F barre chord has its root on the 1st fret of the low string.
Chapter 4: (08:01) C Scale Double / Alternate Picking Exercise Previously, when you were playing through the C major scale, you were probably using the pick in a downward direction exclusively. In order to play scales quickly, you must develop the upstroke technique.

Note: The following information is taken from lesson 5 of Steve Eulberg's bluegrass series.

In this lesson, you will learn an essential rudimentary right hand technique: double picking. Double picking is also commonly referred to as “alternate picking.” This technique enables a guitarist to play much faster. Repetitious picking in which the pick changes direction with each stroke is known as double picking. If you currently use downstrokes exclusively, your right hand is extremely limited in the range of what it can perform. Knowledge of scales and mastery of double picking are essential skills when playing any form of melodic material.

Double Picking Rules

1. Rest the palm of your right hand on the bridge when playing a double picked passage. The palm should also rest on the bridge when playing any scalar line.

2. Downstrokes and upstrokes must be identical in tone and volume.

3. Your pick strokes need only be large enough to create a solid tone. Keep the pick as close to the string as possible at all times. This will enable you to double pick much faster.

4. Only the very tip of the pick should make contact with the strings. Do not dig your pick into the strings. This will hinder your ability to move fluidly from one string to the next.

5. The right hand fingers not holding the pick should remain slightly curled into the palm. They should only fan outwards when playing rapid palm muted passages in the rock and metal genres.

Two Methods of Double Picking

There are two ways in which double picking can be performed. Both are equally valid options. Experiment with both options for a significant amount of time. After this initial experimentation period, decide which technique is more comfortable for you.

Method 1 - Use the wrist as a pivot to double pick.

Method 2 - This method almost excludes the wrist entirely. The thumb squeezes inwards toward the palm during a downstroke. For an upstroke, the thumb and first finger relax and return to their normal position. Thus, almost all of the picking movement originates from the thumb and first finger. This technique is generally more comfortable for guitarists that have a hitchhiker thumb.

Alternate Picking Exercise

Apply these rules to the exercise that Jim presents in this lesson. You will play through all of the natural notes in open position while double picking. Practice the exercise slowly in eighth notes. Set your metronome at about 60 beats per minute. Play as slowly as you need to. Strive for clarity and rhythmic accuracy.

Note: Open the Supplemental Content tab for tablature to this exercise.

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.

valeeboyvaleeboy replied on August 17th, 2016

Jim you'r lessons are really great but i think you should have discussed the formula of Major Scale which apply for all note from A-G (Note W W H W W W H) like in the key of C it's C D EF G A BC

rogerfunkrogerfunk replied on March 9th, 2016

Enter your comment here.

wormzwormz replied on November 8th, 2012

Why is it a Bb and not a C#???

wormzwormz replied on November 8th, 2012

A# not C#**

esharp045esharp045 replied on September 20th, 2012

Using chords to teach the fret board, is a very intuitive method. Thanks

youngmelyoungmel replied on April 10th, 2012

Thanks Mr. Phil, love that Eddie neumonic! Great lesson Jim.

blixblix replied on March 7th, 2012

Jim i am having troule placing my finger's on the string's in lesson #13 and i keep plaing the lesson over and over. I am very happy with your lesson's i stated on lesson #8 can you help me move on. Thank's

okcpickerokcpicker replied on March 4th, 2012

Thanks, Jim. Basic theory has always been a mystery but your relating it to the piano keyboard makes a lot of sense graphically. Starting to learn the notes in the first position. Yay!!

2xcowboy2xcowboy replied on January 9th, 2012

hi Jim, You showed the d cord 2 0n 3rd 3 on 6th an 4th on 2nd as the way to play d cord. It was easier to go to the d7 cord by leaving 2 on 3rd 3 on 6th and 1 on 2nd

sherchanrock72sherchanrock72 replied on December 5th, 2011

so, rest of the neck notes, how to learn is there anything videos for that.

h0tbox600h0tbox600 replied on September 27th, 2011

I can do the runs from bottom E to top G in both directions ok, but unfortunately for some reason my mind doesn't work backward well. I can find the notes. Will this problem inhibit my playing do you think?

franz01franz01 replied on October 24th, 2011

try to set your metronome at a very slow pace; you will eventually get it

mr_philmr_phil replied on February 21st, 2011

I have been learning Phase 1 from another instructor who I enjoy very much but when I got to Scales and Theory I hit a wall. Not his fault, just my inability to interpreted his method. Instead of getting frustrated, I looked for another instructor who was teaching the same subject and found Jim. I am happy to say I got it first time through the lesson. Thanks, Jim!!

alcoalco replied on February 22nd, 2010

To help memorize the string names, a good way its " Eat All Day Get Big Easy, E- A -D-G-B-E. Sometimes you want to get the names of strings 1, 2 and 3 quickly, here just use Every Boy and Girl (E-B-G)

dewhonourdewhonour replied on December 28th, 2010

Also, try Every Alien Dog Gets Better Eventually.

mr_philmr_phil replied on February 21st, 2011

Also, Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie

reign121reign121 replied on February 10th, 2011

What an awesome, awesome lesson! You've made it truly easy, and simple to understand/remember scales, and notes using the piano keys. This lesson was very informative. I've learned so much, Thanks!

ron88ron88 replied on February 4th, 2011

Your an awesome teacher! I wish there were a better view of your fretting fingers .

psjacunskipsjacunski replied on December 17th, 2010

Excellent lesson...scales now make sense to me, and I've been trying to figure it out for a while now. Thank you.

junesdebjunesdeb replied on September 18th, 2010

After playing the piano for a number of years, I was really please that you compared this to the white keys of the piano. It was a real help to me. I started guitar lessons in January and I'm really thrilled to be learning the notes on the guitar.

gvanausdlegvanausdle replied on January 11th, 2010

Now i am at the point where I have to unlearn a bad habit of a partial alternate picking to a full alternate picking shown in this lesson. Up to this point has been a review for me. Also though I know to pick the open note scale, I now have to learn the notes by name. I have had some piano lessons years ago, and played the trumpet, I never did learn many of the notes on a guitar.

chase_1995chase_1995 replied on December 12th, 2009

Thanks for making this easy enough for an idiot like me to learn it thanks

_just_john_just_john replied on December 4th, 2009

thanks jim, now i know why i have had so much trouble with alternating strings. this exercise will make me start all over on my picking, but maybe i will get away from the crash and burns on fiddle tunes that i have messed up alternate picking on!!!

dallendouglasdallendouglas replied on February 6th, 2009

I have always played useing my Thumb as my pick as I like the softer tone. I can get up and down strokes doing that,but how important is itr for me to master the pick and thumb pick? I have never felt comfortable useing a pick. Thanks

slindsay11slindsay11 replied on January 10th, 2009

Thanks jim i enjoyed this lesson, i have been playing the guitar for a year using tab and have never bothered to learn the notes, how sily is that. I have enjoyed this whole series!!

burford0714burford0714 replied on March 7th, 2008

when playing the c scale and you play the e,f,g then on the high d,e,f,g are you still in the c scale.

chmieloochmieloo replied on December 19th, 2008

yep, E, F and G are notes used in C major chord (but in higher octave), so as long as F on 1th fret of E string is F and F on 13th fret of E string is F they all belong to C scale

psalms1psalms1 replied on November 25th, 2008

Hello Jim. The lesson was great. However, I have a question generated from the Double Picking Exercise. I see that you show lower E as the first E below middle C. However, from looking at frequency charts I see that the guitar lower E has a frequency of the 2nd E below middle C. I am trying to resolve this mentally as I would expect the guitar lower E to be a line below the bass clef and not just under the treble clef. What am I missing?

rumble dollrumble doll replied on November 24th, 2008

I've been doing a Music Theory evening class at a local school & I think it must be really helping me as the theory in these lessons is now starting to make much more sense to me, which is great. I've just done this lesson for the second time & I now feel like I'm beginning to understand things much more than previously.

birchybirchy replied on May 23rd, 2008

The way you have re-designed the supplementary content is MUUUUCH better

kevinacekevinace replied on May 23rd, 2008

Thanks, glad you like it!

joffajoffa replied on April 16th, 2008

Thanks Jim, I enjoyed this lesson (and the previous ones too). It's nice to have a bit of theory every now and then, I think it helps build the big picture.

Jim.DeemingJim.Deeming replied on February 11th, 2008

Hi bval, That's actually a tuner. You can't see it from the front but as I look down on it from the top, there are tuning lights. It's a Sabine AX2000 - you can see one here...

bvalbval replied on February 9th, 2008

Hi Jim, enjoyed your phase 1 series. I was wondering, is that black pad on your guitar to rest your left hand on as it works into those hard to reach frets?

mebalonmebalon replied on May 23rd, 2012

it is a tuner

mebalonmebalon replied on May 23rd, 2012

i was wondering whatwas that blach thing on ur guitar

Basic Guitar with Jim

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Fingerstyle master Jim Deeming teaches you the basics of guitar playing. With over 30 years of experience teaching and playing, Jim will definitely start you in the right direction. This is a great series for beginners and guitarists looking to refresh their knowledge.

Lesson 1

Introduction Lesson

In this short lesson, Jim Deeming will introduce himself and talk about his upcoming lessons.

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Choosing a Guitar

Jim gives his thoughts on purchasing your first guitar.

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Goal Setting

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Jim Deeming walks you through the process of changing your strings. He gives some excellent tips on this important process.

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Meet Your New Guitar

Jim introduces proper playing technique. Then, he explains how to play your first chord.

Length: 52:24 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
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Learning More Chords

Jim teaches you the 3 primary chords in G major. He also explains how chords relate to specific keys. A great lesson!

Length: 39:15 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
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Right Hand Revisited

Jim discusses a plethora of right hand techniques that are essential to guitar playing.

Length: 35:19 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

New Chords and Keys

This lesson provides additional information about chords and keys.

Length: 19:08 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Let's Play

This lesson is all about playing. Jim will start you off playing a song. You will have the opportunity to play along with him.

Length: 20:10 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Alternating Bass and Chords

Jim teaches you a few more commonly used chords. Then, he discusses a technique known as the alternating bass line.

Length: 40:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 11

A Shape Chords

Jim covers all possible fingering options pertaining to the basic open A chord shape.

Length: 17:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Basic Guitar Checkup

Jim talks about the future of his Phase 1 guitar series and where to go from here.

Length: 4:18 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Notes, Scales and Theory

Jim delves into basic music theory. He starts from square one in this lesson.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Chord Fiesta

Jim Deeming invites you to a veritable chord fiesta. He demonstrates common dominant and minor chord shapes.

Length: 43:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

Movable Chords

This lesson is all about movable chords. Learn the importance of barre chords and other movable shapes.

Length: 40:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Proper Practicing

Jim Deeming explains how to create a productive practice routine. Make sure you aren't wasting needless time!

Length: 30:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

The Pinky Anchor

Many guitarists use their pinky as an anchor. Jim explains the pros and cons of this technique.

Length: 9:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
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Palm Muting

Jim discusses an important technique--palm muting. He explains how palm muting is used by flatpickers and fingerstyle players.

Length: 7:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Reading Tablature

Jim Deeming covers the basics of reading guitar tablature. Knowledge of tablature will help with JamPlay lessons as well as learning your favorite songs.

Length: 21:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Tuning Extravaganza

Jim explains various tuning methods. He provides useful tips and tricks that will ensure that your guitar is sounding its best.

Length: 31:45 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Let's Play: "Red River Valley"

Jim is back with another "let's play" style lesson. He teaches the classic song "Red River Valley" and encourages you to play along.

Length: 52:38 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Drop D Tuning

Jim Deeming introduces drop D tuning. Drop D is a popular alternate tuning used in many styles of music including rock, fingerstyle and blues.

Length: 25:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Let's Play: "Wayfaring Stranger"

Jim Deeming breaks down the song sections to the classic tune "Wayfaring Stranger".

Length: 29:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 24

More On Drop D

Jim Deeming takes another, more focused look at drop D tuning.

Length: 6:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Your Friend, the Metronome

Jim Deeming discusses how to use a metronome for practice, skill building, and speed building.

Length: 24:02 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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