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A Simple Melody (Guitar Lesson)

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David Isaacs

A Simple Melody

You will be introduced to a simple A minor scale and then learn a song that helps you get your new scale under your finger tips!

Taught by David Isaacs in Beginner Guitar With David Isaacs seriesLength: 12:08Difficulty: 1.5 of 5

In this lesson, you'll learn about the concept of playing in position: three fingers that will cover notes on three adjacent frets. We'll use these three fingers to play a partial A minor scale, and follow up with a simple tune that uses just six notes from this scale. We'll also spend some more time talking about note values and musical notation.

Playing “in position” means that we essentially assign a finger to each fret within a four fret range. Most people's fingers can comfortably reach three frets with three fingers: on the first string, try covering the first fret with the index finger, the second fret with the middle finger, and the third fret with the ring finger. This allows you to reach all three notes without having having to move your hand. We'll be adding the pinky or fourth finger a little later, but for right now we'll stick with three. We could say that this melody is in the first position because the first finger (index) is covering the notes on the first fret. This might also be referred to as the open position, because melodies on the first three frets often incorporate open strings as well.

A “scale” is simply a sequence of notes, generally (but not always) in alphabetical order. In this case, we're using the notes A through E. To do this, we'll need to use our three fingers to cover the first three frets, and will also include open strings. Notice that as we move through the sequence of notes, we'll need to change strings more than once. The pattern of this sequence may not be clear at first, although there is a logic to the layout of the notes that we'll get into later. For now, start by memorizing the sequence, and it's helpful to remember the name of each note along with its location:

A=3rd string, fret 2, middle finger
B=2nd string open
C=2nd string, fret 1, index finger
D=2nd string, fret 3, ring finger
E=1st string, open

Once you can play this five-note sequence A through E, we can move on to our exercise, “Twang Segundo”. As you listen and follow along with the music, notice that we've introduced a new note value, the dotted half note. This note lasts for three counts, and you might also notice that the math adds up: the dotted half note is always followed by a quarter note, which gives us the four counts we need to complete one measure of “four-four” time. You should be relying on your ears as much as your eyes to learn the notes and rhythms, but everyone takes in information a little differently: some of you will find you're relying entirely on the ears, while some will need to carefully watch and count. Both methods are valuable. If you have a great ear, you still want to be able to read a melody or a chord chart. If you're more of a visual learner, you still need to be able to follow by listening. All of these skills together add up to what we call musicianship, and are tools you will continue to use every day you play music.

No matter which approach you favor, make sure that you learn the notes to “Twang Segundo” thoroughly and can play through it in time without the backing track before you try to play along. Good “time” is one of the most important skills for any musician to have, and something you should actively work to develop. Even if you have a good innate sense of rhythm, pay attention to the beat and phrasing (the way the notes are grouped). Again, it's all about conscious practicing: not just doing, but being very clear in your mind about how you're accomplishing it. As I've said before and will say again, it's a powerful way to learn – and it always works when you give it time.

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.

rmedaughrmedaugh replied on August 9th, 2018

Can I play chords AND melody at the same time ? If so, how ?

Bradley.ConwayBradley.Conway replied on August 20th, 2018

Hello rmedaugh! I typically play melodies while chording by picking a string pattern that is within the chord that you are fretting instead of simply strumming the chord. Sometimes I'll open the particular section with one strummed chord, then play a picking pattern for the individual strings within that chord. It usually needs to be kind of quick since you are adding more notes into the same timing space, but it does let the music breath a bit more and provides some "flare" to what would otherwise simply be chord strumming. I hope this helps :)

Rick4076Rick4076 replied on May 20th, 2018

I’m confused by the cords. The fist line says Am with the 3rd string second fret but then further down it also says Am with the 2nd string first fret.

Bradley.ConwayBradley.Conway replied on May 24th, 2018

Hello Rick4076! I can see where that would get confusing. The chord pattern (Am, G, Am) is meant to be played underneath the melody provided in the notation, rather than indicating the notes of the chord. If you give the backing track a listen you'll be able to hear the chording in the background while the melody works withing the chord progression :) I hope this helps! HAPPY JAMMING!!

RomanosGuitarRomanosGuitar replied on January 31st, 2018

Great leason, love the sounds and the feeling on playing this type of songs when hiking or camping. Is it me? I am listening to the playalong and backtrack but none it is a backtrack?

Bradley.ConwayBradley.Conway replied on January 31st, 2018

Hello RomanosGuitar! I'm not 100% sure of your question, but I have reviewed the "Backing Track" and the "Play Along" track for this lesson and they are VERY similar. In fact the only difference that I could find between the two is that the "Backing Track" has the octave harmony laid over to top of the base harmony. The Play Along track however does not have that harmony included, so if you were wanting to play along with one of them I'd recommend the "Play Along" track :)

MarcomirMarcomir replied on October 27th, 2017

OK. It's reach for the poncho again, strap on my six-gun and go gun down the nearest window cleaner, or maybe a traffic warden. Really good lesson again. Thanks Dave.

freefly8freefly8 replied on July 8th, 2017

Nice tune, easy for the playing of note and great for the keeping time (and watching the beat). I am sort of getting the different scale thing and it helped. Thanks again David

gerry15gerry15 replied on June 22nd, 2017

Thanks Dave I am learning to do more than merely strumming a guitar and it feels great!

karolkakarolka replied on February 8th, 2017

Thanks, Dave. Great to work with the scale and listen to the single notes. Enjoyed the melody.

albertjmendozaalbertjmendoza replied on December 15th, 2016

fun beginer melody

markh4859markh4859 replied on September 21st, 2016

Hi, have been enjoying this series, but suddenly unable to open files for lesson 7 or 8....and when I do eventually get it open, it only 'plays' for about 2 seconds before freezing. Has there been a change in the delivery of this service I should know about?

MWM2667MWM2667 replied on July 6th, 2016

started really feel my fingers moving in sync with my picking hand.

PhilDonPhilDon replied on April 19th, 2016

In my opinion the integration of the supplemental materials with each lesson generally sucks. I don't know why an instructor cannot simply say, "Let's open the supplemental material marked 'X'" and give a little time to do that. Well, I know why. Each item of supplemental material is labeled exactly the same. something like, "Lesson Materials." Do I open it? Do I print it? I really don't know. Sometimes if I open it the material occupies the entire screen. Really kind of confusing and obstructing the entire lesson to me.

PhilDonPhilDon replied on April 19th, 2016

In a mini second you referred to "the PDF" and gave no time (in my opinion) to get to it before yo started discussing it. Real tough to catch up, for me.

jservant1198jservant1198 replied on August 3rd, 2016

You can slow the video down, that helps a lot.

Charlie640Charlie640 replied on March 1st, 2016

Love your lessons David, the video played fine for me.

HVCHVC replied on December 27th, 2015

Played fine for me today.

HVCHVC replied on December 27th, 2015

Played fine for me today.

lacurvelacurve replied on December 17th, 2015

The lesson is not playing right. lots of hesitation

shiva.bandishiva.bandi replied on December 5th, 2015

where can i find the background music

triariustriarius replied on November 22nd, 2015

I'm not really a newbie but I wanted to see the newbie stuff and I must say that for this beginner level it's amazing music (with those backing tracks)!

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied on September 28th, 2015

Thanks for making me pay attention to the dotted notes!

bwiliams52bwiliams52 replied on August 2nd, 2015

you commented on using a PDF can I print that?

cydcyd replied on June 17th, 2015

The sound stopped working right around 9:00. It appears there is glitch because he ends the lesson but the video continues without sound.

David.IsaacsDavid.Isaacs replied on May 25th, 2015

The backing track has a melody with a doubled part sounding an octave lower. So on the playalong you will double the low part, which follows almost exactly but not quite. The main, upper melody does end on C and not A, for musical effect.

NirkeNirke replied on May 7th, 2015

Hi, the backing and play-along tracks for this lesson sound the same - I thought one of them should be without the melody part, no? Also, on the GIF version of the tabs - should the last two bars be an "A" note, and not a "C"?

patricia keilpatricia keil replied on April 30th, 2015

I hope to have the lessons for David Isaacs. I think David will be the best ever for me. Unfortunately I've had several """Error leading media: File could not be played""" Am hoping that David's lessons will be ready soon!!!!!

Beginner Guitar With David Isaacs

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Whether you've never played before, or your coming back to guitar after brief startup attempt, you'll find everything you need to get going in this series. David uses real musical examples to teach even the most basic concepts and techniques.

Lesson 1

The Series Introduction

Don't get stuck learning chords, scales and theory with nowhere to apply the things you work on. Take the "David Isaacs" approach and learn the guitar by using real music. You'll be playing along with...

Length: 2:32 Difficulty: 0.5 FREE
Lesson 2

Strings & Things

Tune up, learn your way around your guitar, and explore a simple, musical picking exercise to help you learn the string names. You'll be playing right out of the gate!

Length: 22:20 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Hands on the Fretboard

Learn hand position, posture and see how to set up your playing for success when it comes to your fret hand. Dave goes in depth with his discussion and demonstration of hand mechanics. Don't miss this...

Length: 16:10 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 4

Your First Song!

Learn the E7 minor and Am chords and then immediately put them to use with a simple song. Play along to the provided backing track and feel like you're part of the band...It's only your 4th lesson! Keep...

Length: 15:32 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Power to the Chords

Power chords are some of the most simple and ubiquitous tools for playing and making great songs. Learn the most basic shapes and put them to use right here! Dave also discusses the beginnings of strumming...

Length: 12:21 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Music & Melody

Learn a simple melody and take in a little info about what a 'key' is. You can learn the melody and have a friend strum the rhythm. Or, do it the other way around!

Length: 18:07 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Two Finger Chords & More

These simple, musical tools can take you a long way. Use your index and middle fingers to play a simple Am chord and a simple E chord. You'll also learn how to read chord charts and play through another...

Length: 16:46 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

A Simple Melody

You will be introduced to a simple A minor scale and then learn a song that helps you get your new scale under your finger tips!

Length: 12:08 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Finger Independence

Do you ever feel like you are wearing mittens while you are trying to practice your guitar playing? If you have ever experienced this sensation, this lesson is for you!

Length: 11:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Let's Major on C Major

You'll be introduced to the C Major scale and then you'll be able to put it to use over a soothing acoustic guitar rhythm bed. Have fun!

Length: 10:37 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

The C Chord and G7 Chord

Here you'll get to spend some time applying some fundamental chord shapes. Dave shows how to switch between these two chords seamlessly and, as usual, has a creative example ready to go so you can put...

Length: 18:39 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

G and C Working Together

I know what you're thinking..."I just learned these!" Well, you did learn a C chord and a G chord, but this lesson goes over ways to play these chords together in a chord progression that REALLY sounds...

Length: 11:06 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Playing Most Songs

You've probably heard it before, but most songs out there can really be played with just 3 or 4 chords. In this lesson, Dave gives you the tools to play most of the songs you know and love!

Length: 14:04 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Rhythm & Charts

We're moving into some new territory with this series now. You'll now be focusing more and more on material that you can play in a band setting. Up until now, you've been applying the basics to real music,...

Length: 24:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

A Taste of the Blues

Learn about the blues form and strum along with a cool, laid back, bluesy track. You'll be able to take the material in this lesson a long way down the road! Don't forget to have fun with it now though...

Length: 12:03 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Major Pentatonic Music

Learn the C major pentatonic scale and put it to good use over a catchy tune! You'll be surprised how simple this is and how very musical you can be with just 5 notes arranged in a musically interesting...

Length: 8:38 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 17

Four Fingers and a Chord

The mighty and intimidating F chord is one that most beginners see as a major hurdle in learning the basic chords on the guitar. Dave offers some ways to make the F chord more approachable. Once you examine...

Length: 15:35 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Chord Shapes & Arpeggios

Work on precision with your picking hand and more finger independence with your fretting hand using a soothing practice track called "Chimes". You'll get a good taste of combining melody and rhythm playing...

Length: 15:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Work Those Rhythms

Dave works you through eight different strumming variations, discusses how to feel the groove while keeping the rhythm, and shows you how to take a handful of examples and create any strum pattern you...

Length: 14:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 20

Complete C

Look at the C major scale once again. This time however, you'll get to complete the first position C major pattern. You'll play every note within reach of your first 4 frets. You'll also learn a catchy...

Length: 16:28 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

The Return to Chords

Work in the Am, Dm, and Em chords and play them in a melancholy, yet soothing example. You'll also get to work on your basic strumming.

Length: 12:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Shifty Pentatonic

Learn the E minor pentatonic scale with a small position shift that will get you out of the open position and moving around the neck a little bit. This is where it really starts to feel like you are owning...

Length: 13:53 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Let's Major on A Minor

Earlier in the series, we explored the C major scale. In this lesson, the A minor will get some love. Learn the basic open position and use it in a new melody.

Length: 15:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

In 7th Heaven

Back to some chords now. In case you couldn't tell from the title, we'll be focusing on 7th chords for this lesson. You learned A7 a while back, and now you'll learn E7 and B7.

Length: 13:32 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Walkin' The Blues

Take a moment to pat yourself on the back! You've covered a lot of ground so far! You've been playing real music now for some time, and in this lesson, we're going to learn a walking blues line. What is...

Length: 10:50 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Moveable Chords

Chords that don't have any open strings in them AND chords whose open strings fit comfortably within the chord all called "moveable chords". Learn how to play a couple chords up the neck.

Length: 15:31 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 27

Moveable Pentatonic

In this lesson, you'll take another big step forward when it comes to working outside of the open position. You'll feel like doing some jamming too!

Length: 8:44 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Syncopated Strumming

There are eight more strum patterns for you to dig into in this lesson. This time, they are a bit trickier. Follow along with the rhythm charts and take each example in chunks if needed. Combine them with...

Length: 19:33 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 29

And Now...Barre Chords!

You knew it was coming! This is the lesson where we stop dancing around full fingered moveable chords and dive head first into the most common barre chord shapes. They're not as bad as you may be fearing....

Length: 19:21 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 30

Advancing with Blues

As the musical examples continue to distance themselves from that stereotypical beginner sound, Dave works through this track with a simple, moving melody inside a blues progression.

Length: 14:47 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

Make It up as You Go

Some of you may have been waiting for this one! Now we'll focus on some improvisation...Some lead playing. It's not about knowing all the scales or trying to be fancy. It is about using what you know...

Length: 12:45 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 32

Like a Drummer

Learn how to create motion and percussive interest with your strumming. If you look at and listen to how drummers accent general grooves, there is a lot of insight there in to how to make your rhythm playing...

Length: 17:29 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 33

New Chords, New Strums

Learn B minor chord and continue developing your feel and grooviness when it comes to strumming. Be sure that you are combing over older lessons as well so that you can incorporate many ideas into what...

Length: 21:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 34

A Start to Alternate Picking

Develop precision in your picking. Learn when it's best to use alternate picking. Get comfortable with a few exercises and then apply the technique in a musical context!

Length: 20:26 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 35

A Little Bluegrass

We're going to continue with rhythm playing and 16th note strumming, but this time we're going to touch on some laid back bluegrass playing. This is another simple style of playing to add to your arsenal.

Length: 10:06 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

A Bit More on Barre Chords

Learn a few more barre chord forms and get more advanced with your strumming. As you've come to know and love with these lessons, you'll have a chance to learn a new song!

Length: 13:51 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

Here You Are

You've made it a long way if you've made it to the end of this series! In this final lesson of Mr. Isaacs beginner course, you'll spend some dedicated time moving both major and minor barre chord formations...

Length: 21:58 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only

About David Isaacs View Full Biography Nashville-based Dave Isaacs has made a name for himself as one of Music City's top guitar instructors, working with both professional and aspiring songwriters and artists at his Music Row teaching studio. He is also an instructor in the music department at Tennessee State University and is the coordinator and artistic director of the annual TSU Guitar Summit.

A seasoned performer as well, Dave has released eight independent CDs and gigs steadily as a solo artist, bandleader, and sideman. He continues to write, record, and perform as well as arranging and producing projects for other artists.

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