Complete C (Guitar Lesson)

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David Isaacs

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 tune that puts this knowledge to good use.

Taught by David Isaacs in Beginner Guitar With David Isaacs seriesLength: 16:28Difficulty: 1.5 of 5


In this lesson, we’re going to expand on the C major scale you learned in lesson 10. That scale covered a range of one octave, or eight scale steps. A one-octave scale will cycle through the musical alphabet until you end up back at the letter you started with, but sounding one octave higher: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C.

Of course, our open position contains more than 8 notes, so that means there’s more we can add to the scale without leaving the first three frets. Remember, “position” is the four-fret distance you can reach when you place all four fingers on the strings. The position is named from the fret your index finger is on. So technically we’re playing in first position, since we’re using the first finger to play the notes of the first fret. But since we’re also incorporating open strings, this is often called the open position.

Looking at our PDF, you’ll see our familiar 8-note scale on the first line. On the second line, we repeat the first octave but continue past the high C to play four more notes, ending up with high G on the third fret of the high E string. The scale then descends through the entire open position, continuing past the bass C we started with, all the way to our open low E before returning to bass C.

There’s an important reason why we’re doing it this way and not just playing the notes from lowest to highest. Everything we do has a musical reason behind it as well as a technical reason. In this case, the musical reason is that we want to hear the key of C.

A “key” in music is a specific set of notes that make up the scale. You may have noticed that we’re been using specific notes consistently and not others. For example, there’s a note on the first fret of the G string that we’ve never played. That note is a G sharp, but because it doesn’t belong to the key of C we leave it out…along with all the other frets we haven’t touched yet.

But there’s more to the concept of “key”. When we’re in the key of C, we hear the note C as home base. Play the one-octave scale on the first line again and you’ll see what I mean: when you reach the high C, it should feel like you’ve completed a musical thought. Play it again and stop at the seventh note, open B. Does the scale sound finished? My guess is, you’ll agree that it doesn’t sound finished until we play that last C. In other words, there’s almost a kind of gravitational pull that makes your ear want to hear that final C. This is one of the fundamental ideas in music: we start somewhere, we go somewhere else, and then generally return home to where we started.

Keeping that in mind, play the entire scale exercise. Try stopping when you reach the high G on the first string, or the low E. Does the musical idea sound complete, or does it seem like there’s supposed to be more? You’re right, there is…and you’ll hear it when you complete the scale and arrive back at C.

Pay special attention to this as you play “Upscale”, and notice when the musical ideas feel complete. When you listen this way, you’ll probably start to feel like the ending leaves you hanging, and in fact it does. By stopping on low B instead of finishing with C, we never fully come “home” to C. In this exercise, that’s intentional, and it’s a musical effect you’ll hear often.

Take a look at the notation and you’ll notice a few new things. The last note of the first bar of “Upscale” is connected to the first note of the next bar by a curved line. This line is called a tie, and it literally ties the two notes together. In other words, we play the first note and then let it ring through the time value of the next one. When you listen, you’ll hear how the melody holds through the first three beats of that second bar. The tie appears again twice in the next line for the same effect. If you find the rhythm hard to follow, count along in eighth notes: one-and-two-and-three- and-four-and. At this point, you should be comfortable enough with quarter and eighth note rhythms that the rest of the exercise should be pretty clear. You might also try listening several times without playing, then “speaking” the rhythm or singing along. Now we’re not just playing a scale, we’re practicing the learning process: use your ears first, and then let the fingers follow. That’s good advice for playing any piece of music, and will help you learn faster and more effectively.







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Member Comments about this Lesson

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


guitarpretenderguitarpretender replied

Great lesson,I am finally using the guitar pro app for the supplemental materials. With this lesson,I'm improving my Rythmn. Thanks. Barb

scannon120scannon120 replied

Don't want to jump ahead but just wondering how this C scale related to the C major pentatonic scale? Thanks so much. David's lessons are so creative !

scannon120scannon120 replied

Don't want to jump ahead but just wondering how this C scale related to the C major pentatonic scale? Thanks so much. David's lessons are so creative !

scannon120scannon120 replied

Don't want to jump ahead but just wondering how this C scale related to the C major pentatonic scale? Thanks so much. David's lessons are so creative !

saldisk1saldisk1 replied

Hello David in your "PLay Along" supplemental on the lesson Complete C that backing track is so simple but beautiful. Do you teach that somewhere on the site? Love your teaching style...the reason I subscribe. Thanks Sal

Brandon30Brandon30 replied

Great lesson, thanks.

Pick-AxPick-Ax replied

Would be helpful if these longer lessons were put on a single page so it can be read straight through and not have to be committed to memory. One way to do that without reducing the font to an unreadable size, would be to separate tab and notation and offer each on it's own page.

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied

Finally got it down. This lesson forced me to count out and determine how the dotted notes play out.

Don.SDon.S replied

Dave, I found this lesson to be useful as I continue learning to read notation.

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied

So the purpose of skipping F was ?

teggenbergerteggenberger replied

btw: something that helps me to find the scale notes backwards: Do/Ra/Me/Fa... backwards is'Joy to the world...'

patricia keilpatricia keil replied

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Beginner Guitar With David Isaacs

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Complete CLesson 20

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David Isaacs

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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