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 on April 19th, 2016

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 on April 6th, 2016

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 on April 6th, 2016

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 on April 6th, 2016

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 on January 19th, 2016

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 on December 11th, 2015

Great lesson, thanks.

GregGPGregGP replied on October 29th, 2015

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 on October 15th, 2015

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

Don.SDon.S replied on October 5th, 2015

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

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied on September 28th, 2015

So the purpose of skipping F was ?

teggenbergerteggenberger replied on May 5th, 2015

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 on June 9th, 2015

Enter your comment here.

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

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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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