Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 222

Fifty Flexible

Lesson Plans
for
Teaching guitar
Written and produced by Nick Minnion Cover design by J ohn Minnion
Published by Teachguitar.com Copyright 2004 by Nick Minnion All rights reserved
CONTENTS
Note from the author
Rhythm chart and tablature guide
Section 1 - Basics
1. Chord strumming for the beginner
2. Single note playing for the beginner
3. Blues basics
4. Left hand development
5. Strumming patterns
6. Consolidating
7. Preparation for barre chords
8. Introducing other awkward chords
9. Beginning theory
10. Specific remedies for problems with basics
Section 2 - Beginning Improvising
11. Pre-scale training
12. Starting blues scales
13. How to practice blues scales
14. Left hand technique
15. Orientation
16. Fluency
17. Phrasing
18. Creativity
19. Functionality
20. Specific remedies for problems with beginning improvising
Section 3 Beginning Blues
21. Shuffle patterns
22. 12-bar blues patterns
23. Chord-based blues riffs and licks
24. Ninths, diminished and augmented chords in blues
25. Key-based lead guitar
26. Minor key blues
27. Blues bass lines
28. Integrating lead and rhythm
29. Basics of slide guitar
30. Specific remedies for problems with beginning blues
Section 4 Beginning Theory
31. Names of notes
32. The CAGED system
33. Diagonal octave patterns
34. The major scale
35. Discovering key signatures
36. Principal minor scales
37. Harmonising the major scale
38. Triad construction
39. Harmonising minor scales
40. Specific remedies for problems with beginning theory
Section 5 Beginning Jazz
41. Key-specific improvising
42. Harmonising scales to produce four-note chords
43. Four-note major and minor arpeggios
44. Basic jazz chord fingerings
45. II-V-I chord exercises
46. Modes
47. II-V-I modal exercise
48. Chord substitution basics
49. Chord based improvisation
50. Specific remedies for problems with beginning jazz
Author's notes
Welcome to Fifty Flexible Lesson Plans for teaching guitar!
This book is an attempt to answer the two questions uppermost in the new guitar
tutor's mind:
What do I teach my students ?
How do I do it ?
Each lesson plan includes a list of Objectives which aims to answer the 'What?'
question. Then for each objective there is a list of Methods which aims to answer the
'How?' question.
How not to use this book
This is not a recipe book! There are good reasons why you are most unlikely to be
able to take each lesson plan, simply follow it line by line and thereby produce a
beautifully baked guitar player!
Firstly: This book is based on how I approach guitar playing and teaching. I am a
plectrum-wielding blues guitarist who has learnt a little bit about other styles along
the way. If you are a finger-picking folk guitarist or classical player for example, I
expect you will find huge holes in my lists of objectives. I hope however that, having
studied a few of my lesson plans, you will pick up enough of a feel of what is
required, confidently to develop your own lesson plans with which to plug the gaps.
Secondly: I have tried to write these lesson plans to be applied to relatively slow
learners. This is on the grounds that the same steps can be applied, or at least
checked off, for the faster learners, simply at a faster rate. So, in writing these plans, I
have held in mind the fact that they will need to be adapted by each tutor for each stu-
dent they teach.
How to use this book
My advice is to start with the contents page and home in on any section of the book
that takes your interest. It may be that just reading through a few objectives will, in
itself, fuel you with enough ideas to meet the needs of a particular lesson.
Another approach is to effectively put yourself in the student's shoes and work
through the lesson plans yourself line by line. I would certainly advise learning to
play the exercises and sample pieces yourself before trying to teach them!
You may well find that you have to cycle through some of the objectives several
times before they make sense to you. In other words, in preparing yourself to use
these lesson plans, you are going to have to study them, not just read through them.
Tutors' level of musical knowledge and comprehension
The tutors using these plans will themselves vary enormously in their own level of
musical experience and comprehension. Again, I have assumed a relatively low level
of music theory knowledge and next to each question to be asked of your students I
have included a suggested correct answer in brackets! It is envisaged that the first
benefit of studying this set of lesson plans will be an increase in the tutor's own
musical knowledge and comprehension.
Use of language
During the development of this book I have made several decisions about language. I
am English, but most of my readers are from the USA. By way of compromise I have
mainly stuck to American spellings (Harmonization, not Harmonisation for example),
but have retained English musical terms like tone and semitone (instead of half step
and whole step).
If in doubt about the meaning of any terms used in this book you may find it useful
to check out these references:
On English/American language differences in music
Dictionary.com
Study aids*
A number of features have been built into this book to help you study the lesson
plans.
Annotated definitions: The first time a musical term or unusual English term is used
in a lesson plan I have included a definition of the term accessible from the Annota-
tions sidebar in Adobe Acrobat Reader. These words are highlighted in the text.

Cross-reference links: Reference is sometimes made in one lesson plan to another
lesson plan which may occur earlier or later in the book: To help with navigation
these references are highlighted in blue bold italics thus:
See Lesson plan 36
Clicking on this link takes you to the referenced lesson plan.
Internet links: These are mainly links to articles or printable materials on the
TeachGuitar.com web site. Again these are highlighted in blue bold italics:
Reference:
Article: What to do when your student hasn't done their practice assignment
Providing you are online at the time, clicking on these links will open your default web
browser and bring the web page in question to view. Return to the Lesson plan by
closing or minimizing the browser window.
Rhythm chart and tab guide
Rhythm charts and tablature are used in some lesson plans to show examples of exer-
cises and pieces of music. A guide to the symbols used can be found under Tab guide
in the index
Support
Any problems, queries or feedback please email me direct on nick@teachguitar.com
Happy teaching!
Nick Minnion

RHYTHM CHART AND TABLATURE GUIDE
Rhythm charts in this book use the following symbols:
4/4 Four beats to the bar
12/8 12 (triplet) beats to the bar
| Bar lines
|| End of section
:|| Repeat from beginning
||: :|| Repeat section between these marks
./. Repeat previous bar
The following symbols are used in the tablature in this book:
- - 4/ 6- - Sl i de up f r omf r et 4 t o f r et 6
- - 7\ 5- - Sl i de down f r omf r et 7 t o f r et 5
- - / 9- - - Sl i de up t o f r et 9 f r oma coupl e of f r et s bel ow
- - \ 2- - - Sl i de down t o f r et 2 f r oma coupl e of f r et s above
- - 4b- - - Sl i ght l y bend not e at f r et 4
- 3b( 4) - Bend not e at f r et 3 t o make i t sound as i f pl ayed at f r et 4
- - 2h4- - Hammer - on f r omf r et 2 t o f r et 4
- - 6p5- - Pul l - of f f r omf r et 6 t o f r et 5
- - 7~~- - Sl i ght vi br at o
- - 7~~~~ Sust ai ned vi br at o
- - x- - - - Mut ed or mi ssed not e
Lesson plan 1:
CHORD STRUMMING FOR THE BEGINNER
Suitable for:
Beginners with absolutely no previous experience. Beginners who appear particularly
shy or nervous.
Prerequisites:
None
General Objective:
To get the student in contact with the instrument and with the subject of learning to
play it. To get them started on basic rhythm guitar.
Summary of this lesson plan:
A series of steps calculated to familiarize the student with the instrument and help
them lose any apprehension they may have about their learning to play it.
Introduction to chords and how they are used to accompany songs.
Stress:
Relaxed, casual approach by tutor. Make it fun. Keep it light. Avoid too much
discussion and explanation. Focus on getting student to DO.
Materials required:
Diagram of String Names
Diagram of First Chords
Song sheet
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student comfortable holding the guitar
Methods:
1. Tune the student's guitar
2. Hand their guitar back to them
3. Check that they are holding the guitar in a viable manner
4. Ask them if they find the way they are holding the guitar comfortable
5. Get them to try out different positions if appropriate
Objective 2. Student orientated to strings and their related sounds
Methods:
1. Ask them how many strings the guitar has
2. Get them to play each string one at a time and to listen to the sound made
3. Ask: 'Which string sounds the highest? Which string sounds the lowest?'
4. Indicate on the string names diagram the top string and the bottom string
Objective 3. Student orientated to frets and related sounds
Methods:
1. Point at frets and tell the student: 'These metal strips are called "frets"'
2. Tell the student to press any string down against the 1st fret
3. Get them to play the fretted string and listen to the sound it makes
4. Get them to move up a fret on the same string, play and listen
5. Ask them: 'Which sounds higher?'
6. Continue the exercise until the student knows they can play higher or lower notes
on any given string
Objective 4. Student orientated to string numbering
Methods:
1. Indicate diagram and tell student that the highest sounding string is called the
'top' string.
2. Ask them to guess what we call the lowest sounding one!
3. Explain that the strings are often referred to by numbers 1 - 6
4. Tell them the top string is the 1st string, the bottom one the 6th
5. Now get them to play strings at random as you call out the numbers
6. Continue this drill until the student's response time has markedly reduced
Objective 5. Student orientated to fret numbering
Methods:
1. Indicate diagram and tell student that the frets are numbered from 1 upward,
starting at the nut.
2. Tell them to play the 6th string at the 3rd fret, 9th fret, 4th fret etc.
3. Continue at random until student's response time has markedly reduced.

Objective 6. Student orientated to finger numbering and able to take instructions as
to left hand placing.
Methods:
1. Get student to hold out their left hand, fingers spread.
2. Point to each of their fingers as you tell them: 'We'll call this the 1st finger,
this the 2nd finger, this one the 3rd and this one the 4th finger okay?'
3. You say: 'Okay, lets see if we can put all this together now: hold down the
5th string at the 2nd fret with your 1st finger. Now, at the same time, the
6th string with your 2nd finger. Good! Finally add the 3rd finger on the top
string at the 3rd fret.
4. You say: 'Strum that and hear how it sounds'
5. You say: 'Well done you have just played your first chord!'
Objective 7. Student able to memorize a chord
Methods:
1. Get student to hold down the G chord as in previous objective
2. Tell them to look at the pattern of the fingering on the chart and relate it to the
shape their fingers are making on the fretboard
3. Tell them in particular to note the position of the 1st finger
4. Tell them to take the hand away and then find the shape again referring to the
diagram only if necessary
5. Repeat until student can find the chord, ideally without reference to the diagram
Objective 8. Student able to play a variety of chords
Methods:
1. Decide on a song to best suit the student as their first song to learn
2. Go through the procedures outlined in objectives 7 and 8 above with each of the
chords in the song.
3. Continue until the student can play each of the chords successfully (though not
necessarily completely clean-sounding). They should be allowed to refer to the
diagrams as needed at this stage.
Objective 9. Student's expectations of their own progress adjusted to line up with
reality.
Methods:
1. Listen to the results the student is achieving whilst carrying out the above
objective. If the student is getting perfectly clean sounding chords then skip the rest
of this step.
2. Bring to the students attention any non-optimum sounds - buzzes, dead strings
etc.. that they get on a specific chord.
3. Show student that some of these problems can be cured by paying attention to
correct positioning of the fingers (right behind the frets), correct pressure and correct
angle of approach.
4. Assure the student that many of these details will sort themselves out over time
and that the more time spent playing and changing chords the sooner they will
sound good.
5. Convey to the student that, even if they do everything correctly, it may be some
time before the chords sound perfect. They must allow for the hardening of the finger
tips and the strengthening of the finger and wrist muscles to occur before this is
realistically achievable.
6. Encourage the student to practice chords and chord changes on a 'little and often'
basis during the early stages of their development.
Objective 10. Students ability to read a simple rhythm chart.
Methods:
1. Indicate the part of the song sheet showing the rhythm chart .
2. Point to the bar lines and define them.
3. Point to the time signature and define it.
4. Point to the chord symbols and relate them to the work the student has done thus
far.
5. Assure the student that, initially, you don't expect them to play in perfect time.
(Because it is not physically possible to change chords fast enough before they have
practiced a fair number of hours.)
6. Get the student to play through the chart simply hitting four straight strums to the
bar.
7. Continue and/or repeat this step until the student is interpreting the chart
confidently and correctly.
Objective 11. Student's agreement to focus on their ability to change chords.
Methods:
1. Tell the student that there are three main areas of development in playing rhythm
guitar: right hand movement, left hand precision (clean chords) and chord changing
speed.
2.Demonstrate each of these to the student on your own guitar.
3. Explain that if they focus on chord changing speed, the other two will more or less
look after themselves.
4. Get their agreement to make this their main practice focus.
Objective 12. Student's ability to practice chord changes effectively
Methods:
1. Refer to rhythm chart of chosen song
2. Ask student to work through the sequence as in objective 10, but strumming only
once per bar (once per chord if more than one chord in a bar).
3. Coach student on consistency of finger movement over changes. 1st-finger-first is
probably the best rule to follow for most changes. The point is to get the student to
figure out their own best way of changing and then stick to it.
Objective 14. Student's ability to play in time
Methods:
1. Tell student to play through chosen song as per Objective 12 but explain that this
time you are going to accompany them.
2. Stress that all they are required to do is arrive at the first beat of each bar with the
right chord. You are going to fill in the rest.
3. Do this real slow so that the student has every chance of achieving the objective.
4. Talk to the student as you play thus:
'Okay after 4 lets play G ......... 1... 2.... 3... 4.... Play! Now get ready with D. ..3... 4 and
Hit It! Good! now A minor ... get ready and 3... 4... Hit it! ' etc....
5. Continue the exercise, speeding up slowly if possible, but not so fast that the
student can't keep up. The goal is to play in time, not to play to correct tempo.
References:
1. Article: Contact with the Subject
2. Article: The Virtuous Circles of Confidence Building
3. Article: Little and Often
Lesson plan 2:
SINGLE NOTE PLAYING FOR BEGINNERS
Suitable for:
Beginners with absolutely no previous experience whatsoever. Beginners who
appear particularly shy or nervous. Children. Senior students.
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 1: Objectives 1-5 achieved.
General Objective:
To get the student started on basic melodic/lead guitar and get them introduced to
the way in which chords and riffs relate.
Summary of this lesson plan:
In this lesson plan we lay the foundations of good single-note playing, ensuring that
good fingering habits are developed from the outset. The student then takes the first
steps in accompanying single note passages with easy chords.
Stress:
Relaxed, casual approach by tutor. Make it fun. Keep it light. Avoid too much
discussion and explanation. Focus on getting student to DO.
Materials required:
Speed developer exercise
Single-string boogie
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student applying the One finger per fret rule
Methods:
1. Get the student to locate the 9th fret with the 1st finger
2. Get them to align their 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers with frets 10, 11 and 12
respectively.
3. Demonstrate playing the notes C#, D, D# and E using one finger per fret
4. Repeat as needed until student is confident they are following your instructions
and you observe that they are doing so reasonably accurately (though don't
expect clean sounds and nice rhythm just yet!).
Objective 2. Student aware of methods of optimizing sound production
Methods:
1. Demonstrate optimum approach to student. (Fingers perpendicular to fret
board, contact with tips of fingers, not flats, fingers positioned just behind frets,
pressure just enough to get a clean contact of string against fret, little finger
powered by wrist muscles (its own muscles may not be strong enough at this
stage).
2. For each detail, check and coach accordingly.
3. Repeat objective 1 above, demanding improved sound production from the
student as a result of them attending to these details.
4. Repeat until the student is happy that they are getting the best possible result at
this stage (but explain that constant practice will help improve even more as
fingers harden and muscle strength, coordination and neural control all improve.)
Objective 3. Student understanding speed-developer exercise
Methods:
1. Indicate speed-developer exercise diagram to student
2. Get them to work through the first part of the exercise, sticking just to the 6
th

string, concentrating only on correct sequence to begin with.
3. Once they are confidently playing the first part correctly, coach them on
playing it rhythmically and with best possible consistency of sound.
4. Note that most beginners will play the notes staccato; demonstrate the difference
between staccato and legato and coach them to play the exercise legato.
5. Demonstrate how the exercise proceeds to the second part and is moved
progressively down the fretboard.
6. Ensure that the student understands they are expected to work through this
exercise each time they pick up the guitar and that they should progress as far as
they can, but not to the point of straining a muscle.

Objective 4. Student understanding how these basic principals are applied to playing
single-note guitar passages.
Methods:
1. Indicate single string boogie exercise to student
2. Play through the exercise at moderate speed to give the student an idea of what
they are aiming at achieving
3. Bring the details of the fingering to the student's attention. Show them that you
have lined up your left hand with the 1st finger playing notes on the 3rd fret, 2nd
finger 4th fret and 3rd finger the 5th fret.
Objective 5. Student able to interpret tablature
Methods:
1. Indicate single string boogie exercise to student
2. Ensure student can relate each line of the tablature to the appropriate string of
the guitar.
3. Ensure that the student understands that the numbers on the lines refer to fret
numbers (not finger numbers).
4. Point out that the tab has a time element moving from left to right (may seem
obvious to you, but is not always obvious to complete beginners).
5. Get student to play through the piece, at whatever pace they can, coaching only
on correct sequence.
6. Repeat as necessary until student is confident they are reading the sequence
correctly.
Objective 6. Student playing a single-note passage accompanied by tutor
Methods:
1. Tell student that you are now going to play the single string boogie exercise
together.
2. Tell them not to be too concerned about timing just yet as this will only come
with practice. Tell them you will follow at their pace.
3. Count the student in nice and slow and provide a light accompaniment
following the suggested backing rhythm chart on the exercise sheet.
4. Go through this a few times ideally until student is relaxed about playing it and
having a bit of fun with it.
Objective 7. Student playing accompanying chords
Methods:
1. Tell student that you are now going to reverse roles and that they are going to
play the chords while you play the lead.
2. Check them out on the chord diagrams for A7 D7 and E7 shown on the first
chords diagram.
3. Have them find each chord several times, both in sequence and at random until
they know which is which and can find them without undue hesitation.
4. Get them to strum through the 12-bar sequence one strum on each first beat of
the bar. You strum with them, nice and lightly, filling in the other 3 beats while
they prepare their changes.
5. Have them play through it several times in this manner until a degree of
connectedness is achieved.
6. Finally, play the lead line over their chord changes, allowing them to dictate
the rhythm and accepting that you may have to hold up your lead over some of
their changes.
7. Repeat until definite progress is achieved by the student.
Lesson plan 3:
BLUES BASICS
Suitable for:
All students. Essential lesson for anyone interested in blues guitar, but I find this a
useful route to take most students.
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plans 1 and 2 completed.
General Objective:
To get the student combining single-note and rhythm playing. To introduce the
student to the blues scale and basic 12-bar blues chord sequence.
Summary of this lesson plan:
In this lesson plan the student gets to apply the basics developed in the previous two
lessons. They learn to play a one octave blues scale and then bring all this together to
play a blues that incorporates both strumming and single-note technique.
Stress:
This lesson is considerably more demanding of the student so a bit of expectation
management may be required. Focus on each task separately and don't be in too much
of a hurry to try to piece it all together until all the component parts are well within
the student's control. As always: make it fun, keep it light, avoid too much discussion
and explanation. Focus on getting student to DO.
Materials required:
Speed developer exercise
Single-string boogie
First position blues scale in E
Texas blues
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student prepared to move on and stretch their skills a significant step
further.
Methods:
1. Review the speed-developer exercise and ensure that student is progressing
well with it. They should be able to work down the whole fretboard a step at a
time with this exercise by now.
2. Review single string boogie and check that student is comfortable playing it
through in a way that is reasonably smooth and continuous.
3. If either of these items are not yet up to scratch then time is better spent on
coaching these than moving on just yet.
4. If all appears well to you, ask the student if they are ready for the next step.
5. If not, then backtrack and coach existing exercises in more detail, paying
particular attention to areas that most concern the student.
6. If student is ready, then move on to next objective.
Objective 2. Student able to play single octave blues scale in E (1st position)
Methods:
1. Indicate diagram of blues scales and play through it carefully and slowly
encouraging student to watch and listen to what you are doing.
2. Get student to line up the fingers of their left hand, one finger per fret in the 1st
position.
3. Get them to play the scale slowly, reading it straight off the diagram if possible.
4. Handle any problems or confusions with the student's interpretation of the
diagram.
5. Get the student to play the scale up and down until they have memorized it
and are playing it reasonably smoothly.
Objective 3. Student able to play chords for Texas Blues exercise
Methods:
1.Check student out on their interpretation of the chord diagrams for the E7, A7
(easy versions) and B7 chords.
2. In particular, drill the change from B7 to A7 (suggest using fingers 2 and 3 for
A7 as this makes the change easier).
3. Indicate the sequence to the student and get them to play through it with you
playing both parts, but them playing only the chords at this stage. This gives
them plenty of time to change (until they come to the 10th bar anyway!).
4. If changes are reasonable then coach them a little on getting an appropriate
rhythm. (Make sure you have understood yourself, that the lead run starts on the
2nd beat of the bar!).
Objective 4. Student able to play lead runs for Texas Blues exercise
Methods:
1. Return to the blues scaleexercise from Objective 2. (above) and get student to
run through it a couple more times.
2. Now draw their attention to the tablature on the Texas Blues exercise and play
the E riff through slowly so that they can relate the sound of it to the tab and to
the scale they have just been playing.
3. Show them that it is just the first 5 notes of the blues scale plus the first note
repeated.
4. Ask them to play it. Coach as necessary.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 with each of the other two riffs, the A riff and B riff.
6. Have them play each riff through several times repeatedly until they are happy
they've got it.
Objective 5. Student able to play the Texas Blues lead runs in sequence
Methods:
1. Indicate sequence to student and tell them that you are going to play the whole
piece through slowly and expect them to join you on the lead, but not yet on the
chords.
2. Play through taking care not to over stress the student by playing too fast.
Perfect timekeeping is not relevant at this stage.
3. Repeat several times until the student shows signs of definite progress.
4. Once student is confident, then play only the chord parts in response to their
playing the lead. Try to adjust your timing to theirs, no matter how slow.
5. Repeat until student is happy they are doing ok.
Objective 6. Student able to integrate lead and rhythm parts of Texas Blues
Methods:
1. Indicate the tab to your student and tell them that they are now going to play
both lead and rhythm parts.
2. Tell them just to go for it and not be too concerned about rhythm and
timekeeping to begin with.
3. Once they have got their bearings and are playing the sequence correctly, coach
them on rhythm and timing. In particular, demonstrate how the riff starts on the
2nd beat of the bar.
4. Get them to play it again aiming to get the timing right. Count them in from the
second beat like this: ' 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and'.
5. Continue until student is happy and has a sense of having achieved the end
result to the best of their current ability.
Lesson plan 4:
LEFT HAND DEVELOPMENT
Suitable for:
All students. Essential lesson for anyone struggling with chord changes.
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 1 completed.
General Objective:
To address difficulties with changing from chord shape to chord shape. To speed up
this part of the learning curve.
Summary of this lesson plan:
This lesson addresses the area of difficulty most commonly experienced by new
beginners.
Stress:
Encouragement and expectation management are an important part of this lesson.
There is also a degree of getting the student to focus on problem areas and apply
themselves in a disciplined manner.
Materials required:
Song sheet(s)
Beginner chords
Special equipment required:
Metronome or drum machine (if available)
Coloured pen
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student confident that they can strum in time and that their right hand
action is not the problem.
Methods:
1. Ask the student to mute their guitar by holding their left hand lightly against
all six strings. Explain that for the purposes of this exercise we are going to treat
the guitar purely as a percussion instrument. This enables us to concentrate on
the actions of the right hand.
2. Tell the student to accompany you while you play through a song the student
is currently working on. All that is expected of the student is that they strum
along on their muted guitar using any strumming pattern that keeps them in time
with you.
3. The only difficulty students have with this exercise stems from their having
misunderstood what's expected of them. If the student is struggling to keep time
get them to simplify their strumming pattern. This can be reduced right down to
one downstroke per bar if necessary.
4. Once the student is comfortably playing in time, continue for a verse or two
then stop.
5. Commend the student for their ability to keep good time.
6. If the first song took quite a bit of coaching. Repeat with a different song. Keep
it simple though.
7. Complete this objective by drawing to the student's attention the fact that once
their left hand is taken out of the equation, the right hand functions in perfect
time and their strumming ability is at least adequate to play songs in time.
Objective 2. Student understanding that chord changes are the most important area
to focus on at this stage
Methods:
1. Get the student to play a variety of chords from the chord diagram sheet. This
should include some that they have not played before.
2. Indicate to the student that some of these chords sound better than others.
Demonstrate why this is by showing how it is relatively easy to get a clean sound
out of an E minor chord; less easy to get as good a result from B7, C, D or F.
3. Point out to the student that although it is one of the goals of learning guitar to
get a good clean sound out of every chord, it is not the best thing to focus on at
this stage.
4. Summarize by saying that there are three separable skills that make up good
basic rhythm playing: strumming action, left hand accuracy and chord-changing
ability. The first of these skills is actually already in place to a reasonable degree
(per Objective 1.(above)) and the second will have sorted itself out by the time
they have finished working on the third.
5. Make sure that the student has got the point that, to optimize their progress in
this area, they should focus entirely on the changes.
Objective 3. Student familiar with 1
st
-finger-first principal and able to use it confi-
dently
Methods:
1. Take a copy of the beginners chords sheet and mark with a coloured pen the
position of the 1st finger in each chord shape (except the A7 for which I generally
recommend playing with 2nd and 3rd fingers only)
2. Get the student to play each chord in turn, making a point of locating and
holding down the 1st finger of each new chord, before adding the others.
3. Once the student can do this easily, switch to picking out chords in random
order.
4. Choose an easy song or two and get the student to play through the chord
sequence applying the '1
st
-finger-first principle'.
5. Continue until student is happy with this idea and using it well.
Objective 4. Student aware of the technique of finding shortcuts between specific
chords.
Methods:
1. Take the change from G to Em as an example. Show student how both chords
have the 1st finger on the 5th string at the 2nd fret.
2. Get the student to practice changing from G to Em without their 1st finger
leaving the fretboard (it has to slide along the string a bit).
3. Once they're happy with that, show them how they can then change from Em
to C without moving the 2nd finger.
4. Get them to examine the following changes to see if they can work out similar
shortcuts in the fingering: C - D7, D - Dm, Em - A7, E - E7.
5. Take the change from B7 to A7 as an example. Show student how this can be
achieved by hopping the 2nd and 3rd finger part of the B7 shape across to the
next strings down (from strings 5 and 3 across to strings 4 and 2).
6. Using A7 to Dm show how the change can be made easier by sliding the 3rd
finger up a fret and then adding the 1st and 2nd fingers to form the rest of the Dm
shape.
7. Look at other changes and explore systematic ways of linking the chords. If
possible get the student to find their own methods. It's all about getting them to
use commonsense and making them aware of the possibilities.
8. Point out that this approach is useful at all levels of development. For example
every time I discover a new jazz chord, I apply this method to find the easiest
way of fingering it.
Objective 5. Student aware of the hand rotation technique and happy to use it.
Methods:
1. Take the chords G7 and A major as good examples to demonstrate to the
student how the whole hand position has to rotate through about 90 degrees
when you make a change like this.
2. As an experiment, ask the student to hold down G7, and then without moving
anything but their fingers, change to A major. Have a good laugh with them
about how difficult that is.
3. Demonstrate to the student that each chord belongs to a set of shapes all having
a similar angle of rotation. For example, no wrist or arm movement is required to
get easily from C to Am, so we say they have the same rotational angle.
4. Another way of demonstrating this is to look at the chord G Maj7 fingered as
follows:
E e
======
| | | | | |
- - - - - -
| 1| | | 3
- - - - - -
2| | | | |
And compare it to the same chord, but fingered like this:
E e
======
| | | | | |
- - - - - -
| 2| | | 1
- - - - - -
3| | | | |
These give you a good example of completely opposite rotation.
5. Get the student to play several different chords and to feel how his hand
naturally wants to rotate in a particular way for each chord. The trick is to allow
the rotation by keeping a relaxed, flexible wrist, elbow and shoulder.
6. Now take the E - B7 change as a good example and get the student to
deliberately make a point of rotating their hand position from one chord to the
other. This should make the chord change quicker and much less physically
stressful.
Objective 6. Student aware of other physical factors affecting chord changing ability
Methods:
1. Bring to the student's attention the range of factors affecting chord changing.
These may include: Thumb position, wrist action, elbow action, shoulder action,
angle that the guitar is held at (in all three planes!), sitting posture etc..
2. Stress that the important thing is to find the approach that best suits the
individual student - hand sizes, strength and suppleness vary enormously from
person to person so no hard and fast rules can be applied. A little physical
experimentation should be encouraged.
3. Select a particular change the student has difficulty with and get them to
experiment with it according to all the above points and to see if they can find the
best possible approach to that change for them.
4. Continue with this all the time your student is making useful discoveries. Then
underline the fact that continued regular practice will sort the rest out in time as
their finger tips harden, muscles strengthen and coordination improves.
Objective 7. Student getting used to 'riding over' problems with chord changes
Methods:
1. Choose a song or simple four chord sequence (G Em C D7 for example) that
contains changes that should not present too much of a problem to the student.
2. Explain that you are going to play the sequence together at a nice easy tempo to
start with.
3. Explain that you expect the student to get some of the chords wrong, the
changes badly timed etc.. (because, if they don't make mistakes, you are going to
gradually increase the tempo until they do!)
4. The idea is for them to learn to carry on playing through the errors.
5. Have a go at this exercise and observe how student progresses. Make sure you
pace it right so that they do make some errors, but not so many as to seize
up.completely.
6. Coach them one at a time on these points:
- Arriving on time for the first beat of each bar no matter what happens in the
other three.
- Observe faults as they occur, but don't attempt to correct until next time round
(it's usually too late by the time they have figured out why it sounds wrong)
- Stay relaxed and not get frustrated with themselves.
- Keep smiling so that the audience doesn't realize that the nasty noises are
coming from them.
7. Once the student is happy doing this exercise with you, try the same thing but
against a metronome or drum machine pattern. This is harder because you won't
be covering their mistakes.
8. Gradually increase the tempo of the metronome or drum machine to keep the
student stretching.
Lesson plan 5:
STRUMMING PATTERNS
Suitable for:
All students.
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 4 completed.
General Objective:
To enable the student to play simple strumming patterns to suit a variety of songs
Summary of this lesson plan:
Once the student's left hand is able to change from chord to chord quick enough to
enable continuity it is worth spending a little time on developing basic right hand
technique.
Stress:
This lesson may well need to be expanded to suit the particular style of music you
teach, but I have tried to isolate the underlying basics of all strumming styles.
Build your student's confidence step by step and above all allow them plenty of time
to work out each stage for themselves and reach a point where they are relaxed and
confident that they can do it.
Materials required:
Basic strumming pattern diagrams
Special equipment required:
Metronome or drum machine (if available)
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student familiarized with strum pattern charts and able to interpret
them.
Methods:
1. Ask the student to look at the first strum pattern chart and explain that they
work in a way similar to tablature. The six strings are represented by the
horizontal lines.
2. Point out how the charts are divided up into repeated two-bar sections.
3. Indicate that the arrows represent each strum and have three attributes: length
of strum (how many strings it covers), direction (up arrows represent down
strokes!) and accent (bold strokes are accented).
4. Handle any queries or confusions about this before proceeding further.
Objective 2. Student able to play muted rhythm guitar
Methods:
1. Explain to the student that for a lot of this work you are going to ask them to
play muted guitar.
2. Demonstrate this by playing a few bars of muted guitar yourself and explain
that the purpose of this is to allow the student to concentrate solely on their right
hand action without having to worry about chords and chord changes for the
time being.
3. Get the student to mute their guitar with their left hand. Emphasize that this is
done by allowing the hand to touch, but not press down on the strings. It is
important that the strings don't contact the frets at all.
4. Get them to play using any strum pattern they like until they get used to the
idea of playing muted guitar.
Objective 3. Student able to play through the strum pattern sheet with muted guitar
Methods:
1. Get the student to work on each pattern one at a time. For each pattern, make a
point of slowing down and first concentrating only on correct sequence of actions.
2. Once sequence is correct, coach on timing.
3. Once timing is correct, coach on finer points like smoothness, plectrum control
(if appropriate), relaxation, lightness of touch - coach all these points, but always
one at a time!
4. Once student is happy with a pattern and you have got some significant
progress from them, move on to next pattern and repeat these steps.
5. Continue through the sheet (which is designed to get progressively harder)
until you reach a point where the student begins to experience difficulty.
6. Work through this point to a good result and then stop. Save the rest for a later
lesson.
Objective 4. Student able to find appropriate strum pattern with which to
accompany various songs
Methods:
1. Explain to the student that they are going to continue working with muted
guitar.
2. Choose a song that has a nice plain rhythm to it.
3. Ask the student to accompany you, treating their guitar purely as a percussion
instrument.
4. Initially, suggest an appropriate strumming pattern to them for each song.
5. Play through the song and check that student is strumming in time and is
comfortable with what they are doing.
6. Repeat with other songs, being certain to avoid anything too demanding at this
stage.
7. As student gains in confidence, have them find their own appropriate strum
patterns.
8. Continue exercise until student is confident and happy that they can work the
right hand end of the guitar okay.
Objective 5. Student able to strum along over chord changes.
Methods:
1. Select the easiest strum pattern.
2. Select an easy chord change with which the student is already familiar (G to
Em is a good example).
3. Have the student play the pattern over this change until they can do it
repeatedly without any dropped beats.
4. Select a slightly harder pattern and repeat over the same change.
5. Continue working through different patterns, gradually getting harder.
6. Once student is sailing along nicely, pick a slightly harder chord change and
work in a similar way with that.
7. Continue the exercise until you find a level that presents difficulty to the
student.
8. Coach the student through that level thoroughly until they know they can do
it.
9. End the exercise at that point.

Objective 6. Student able to strum their way through a whole song
Methods:
1. Select a song with a nice easy strum pattern and easy chord changes.
2. Select a slow tempo on the metronome or drum machine.
3. Have the student strum through the song with you accompanying them
playing an identical pattern.
4. Once they appear to be ok with it, back-off on the volume of your own
accompaniment so that you can clearly hear whether the student is up to speed.
5. If all is going well crank up the tempo by 5 b.p.m. and repeat.
6. Work towards a realistic tempo for that particular song and, once achieved,
let the student play it without you accompanying them.
7. Coach them on any aspect of this that can be improved, but be sure to pick
only one aspect at a time.
8. Select a harder song and repeat from step 2.
Lesson plan 6:
CONSOLIDATION
Suitable for:
All students.
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plans 1,2,4&5 completed.
General Objective:
To get the student to put into use all the skills covered thus far. To develop
confidence, and a degree of independence in the student.
Summary of this lesson plan:
This is a blueprint for what should be a number of lessons designed to help the
student thoroughly assimilate all they have learnt so far.
Stress:
The emphasis here is on supporting the student as necessary, but gradually reducing
that support as the student develops their own sense of responsibility for their
playing.
We are not looking for dramatic breakthroughs with these lessons (though they may
occur), we are looking to firm up the student's knowledge and confidence in
applying it.
Materials required:
Song sheet(s)
1st position chord sheet
Conventional songbook
Special equipment required:
Metronome or drum machine (if available)
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student confident that they can play a song they have already learnt
from beginning to end with you accompanying them on rhythm guitar.
Methods:
1. Choose, or get the student to choose the song they find the easiest to play.
2. Ensure that you have the whole song mapped out - intro, verse, chorus, middle
eight, ending, outro - the whole works.
3. If at all possible sing the song (you don't have to be a great singer).
4. Make your accompaniment strong to begin with to support the student, but as
the song progresses, back off a little to allow them to take more rhythmic
responsibility for the song.
5. After one run through, review the song and coach the student through any
bottlenecks.
6. Tell student you are going to go through the song one more time, but this time
you expect them to take more rhythmic responsibility for the song.
7. Play through the song keeping your rhythm playing quite light to allow the
student to take charge.
Objective 2. Student confident that they can play a song they have already learnt
from beginning to end with you accompanying them on lead, bass, percussion and/
or vocals.
Methods:
1. Choose, or get the student to choose another song they find easy to play.
2. Ensure that you have the whole song mapped out - intro, verse, chorus, middle
eight, ending, outro etc..
3. Get the student to play through the song with you accompanying them either
on lead guitar, bass, percussion and/or vocals.
4. After one run through, review the song and coach student over any bottlenecks
or passages they are uncertain about.
5. Encourage the student to relax and generally free up their playing and stress
that this type of lesson should be the most fun because you are closest to working
with an 'end result' of all their (and your) hard work!
6. Play through the song again as many times as feels appropriate with this
attitude in mind.
Objective 3. Student having a sense of 'completing' their learning of a song
Methods:
1. Choose, or get the student to choose a song they already know how to play, but
have not yet committed to memory.
2. Ask them to play the first line of the song from the song sheet.
3. Get them to read out loud the names of the chords in the first line.
4. Now hide the song sheet and get them to play the first line without looking.
5. Repeat 2-4 until they are doing it right and with a high degree of certainty.
6. Now repeat 2-4 with lines 1 and 2.
7. Same with lines 1,2&3.
8. Continue in this manner until you have worked through the whole song.
9. Once they have the song memorized play through it several times using the
methods described in objectives 1 and 2 above.
10. Repeat with other songs as appropriate.
11. Encourage student to practice these songs like this from now on. (Sometimes I
tear up the song sheet to make this point!)
NB. Whenever you do an exercise like this always work with songs written out
four bars to the line. Nearly all songs make more sense when written out like this
and repeated patterns of similar chord changes show up.
Objective 4. Student playing a new song 'straight off the page'
Methods:
1. Choose, a song that the student hasn't played before. It must be easy to play for
the student and contain no chords that are new to them.
2. Get the student to look at the song sheet. Make sure they understand the time
signature and give them some idea of the feel of the song rhythmically.
3. Get them to look through the song sheet and note how parts of the chord
sequence might repeat. Also get them to spot any similarities the song may have
with other songs they have already learnt.
4. Play a verse or two of the song, singing it if possible, just to give them a rough
idea of how it goes.
5. Tell them they are now going to have a go at playing it 'straight off the paper'.
6. Count them in and play with them, minimizing your playing to provide only as
much support as needed.
7. Repeat with a couple more similar songs until student is confident that they can
do this, preferably without help from you.
Objective 5. Student comfortable with reading from songbooks and no longer
mystified by the conventional notation used in them.
Methods:
1. Choose an appropriate page from a songbook. Make sure it is a song written in
4/4 time. Ideally the song book should show chord symbols, lyrics and melody
line in standard notation.
2. Help the student de-mystify the written music by pointing out elements that
they are already familiar with (bar lines, time signature, repeat marks etc..)
3. Point out where the chord symbols are and how they line up with the timing of
the melody and lyrics.
4. Point out a crotchet to them and indicate that that type of note is worth one
beat.
5. Explain how, in 4/4 time, the value of notes and rests in each bar should add up
to 4.
6. Using this knowledge, point to various bars and get them to figure out what
other note types are worth. For example if you have a bar with two crotchets and
a minim in it should be easy enough to figure out that the minim is worth 2 beats.
In a bar with three crotchets and two quavers the student should be able to
calculate that quavers are worth 1/2 a beat each etc....
7. Finally show them how the notes occupy different positions on the stave and
explain that this is what determines their pitch. Note that at this stage you are not
teaching them to read music so much as just taking some of the mystery out of the
subject.
8. Make the point, to the student, that with just these few items cleared up they
can at least follow the shape of the melody and figure out exactly how it
corresponds with chord changes etc.. That is usually sufficient to enable a student
to learn songs from books.
9. Handle any queries the student has about this, but try to avoid going in too
deep. Another lesson can be spent going over the basics of how to read standard
notation.
Objective 6. Student able to work out familiar songs from songbooks.
Methods:
1. Choose a song from the songbook that the student already knows by ear. If the
student doesn't know any of the songs from the book, then find a nice easy song
and play and sing it to them.
2. Have them look through the song first and coach them on their interpretation
of how the song is written out.
3. Check that they are familiar with all the chords used in the song.
4. Have them play the song straight off the page.
5. If the student has difficulty and keeps losing track of where they are in the song
(usually caused by their need to keep looking at their left hand) help out by
following the students progress using your plectrum or finger tip to point to the
appropriate bar.
6. Coach the student through any parts they are struggling with.
7. Choose another song and repeat.
8. Continue until student is confident that they can work with the information
given in songbooks.
Objective 7. Student comfortable with interpreting tablature as found on the
internet.
Methods:
1.Download and print off some appropriate tabs to suit the level and musical
interests of your student.
2. Talk through how the strings and fret numbers are represented on the tab and
ensure that the student is oriented correctly to which way is up, down and along
etc..
3. With a blank sheet of paper cover up all but the first phrase on the tab.
4. Get your student to figure out this phrase and play it in their own time.
5. Get them to repeat the phrase several times through until they have definitely
got it with confidence.
6. Slide the blank paper along to reveal the next phrase.
7. Once they have figured this phrase out, get them to join the two phrases until
they can play them fluidly.
8. Repeat this process with each phrase until the whole piece is worked through.
9. Repeat with other tabs until student is confident that they can learn new songs
this way.
Objective 7. Student's confidence in being able to find simple chord sequences by
ear.
Methods:
1. Choose a song in 4/4 time that uses only three chords. These three chords
should be I IV and V in the same key (e.g.: G C and D or A D and E) the V chord
may be a V7 (D7 or E7 in our examples).
2. Talk to the student about the function of these three chords.
3. Play the song without the student being able to see what you are doing and get
the student to listen carefully, first to the timing of the song.
4. Ask them what time signature they think the song is in.
5. If they can't work this out then coach them by getting them to clap, or strum
muted guitar along to the song until they have some insight into how to work out
the timing.
6. Provide the student with blank paper and pen. Play through the first verse or
chorus and get them to outline their own rhythm chart for the song by writing bar
lines, 4 bars for each line. This way they can map out the correct length of the
verse and or chorus. Check their efforts and coach if necessary.
7. Play through the first part again and get them to note down exactly where
chord changes occur. They can mark this with a small 'x' on the rhythm chart.
They are not trying to say what the changes are, just listening for where the
changes occur.
8. Check and coach if needed.
9. Play through the part once more and get them to fill in the key chord (chord I)
wherever it appears.
10. Check and coach as required.
11. Play through once more and get them to fill in the V or V7 chord wherever it
appears.
12. Check and coach as needed.
13. Play through a final time and get them to fill in the IV chord.
14. Now get them to play the whole section through with you accompanying
them very lightly so that they can hear that they have got it right.
15. Repeat steps 6-14 with the remaining part(s) of the song.
16. Repeat with other songs as appropriate sticking to songs with 4/4 time
signaturess and I IV V chords until the student has a high level of confidence that
they can do this.
17. At a later stage this objective can be repeated using songs with more complex
time signatures and gradually introducing other chords.
Lesson plan 7:
PLAYING BARRE CHORDS
Suitable for:
Teenage and adult students. Not recommended for children. Use discretion with
senior students.
Prerequisites:
Lesson plans 6 and 42 completed.
General Objective:
To introduce the student to the concept of barre chords and to begin the process of
physically preparing them to play barre chords. To enable them to name the six most
commonly used barre chord shapes.
Summary of this lesson plan:
In this lesson we first show the student an exercise that will enable them to
strengthen the required muscles ready to play barre chords in a few weeks time. We
go on to get the student to understand barre chords and learn how to name them.
Stress:
This is mainly about preparing the student. Don't rush the student into playing barre
chords, because there is a real risk of putting them off the whole subject of guitar
playing if you do this. Part of this lesson is about selling the idea of the value of
learning barre chords to the student. The student is going to be asked to invest a
considerable amount of effort and persistence into acquiring the ability to play barre
chords. They simply won't do this unless they have some idea of the value of the
outcome and how it affects their ability to play a much wider range of material.
Materials required:
Chromatic scale derivation
Barre chord diagrams
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student introduced to the concept of barre chords
Methods:
1. Tell the student that you are going to introduce a more advanced way of
playing guitar to them in this lesson.
2. Tell them you are going to prepare them to learn to play barre chords.
3. Demonstrate briefly what a barre chord is by playing a few snippets of songs
that particularly benefit from using barre chords (Sitting on the Dock of the Bay is a
great example).
4. Demonstrate how barre chords enable full control of all six strings and show
how this enables you to play rock, funk, blues, reggae rhythms etc.. more
convincingly than with open chords alone. A lot of this is down to good left-hand
muting skills of course, but you needn't go into detail on that aspect in this lesson.
5. Briefly demonstrate how barre chords enable you to play a whole lot of chords
(many of which simply can't be played as open chords) with just one shape. Make
the point that, once mastered, barre chords enable the guitarist to be far more
versatile in all respects.
6. Warn the student that like most powerful tools, getting used to using barre
chords takes more time and practice than anything else they have learnt on the
instrument so far and explain that you don't expect a result over night and nor
should they.
7. Emphasize that today you are just going to set the process in motion.
Objective 2. Student understanding of the nature of the physical task involved
Methods:
1. Show the student how barre chords involve you fretting all six strings with the
index finger.
2. Point out that, because the finger has to be held straight, whilst still applying
pressure to the strings, an unusually high workload is imposed on the muscles
connected to the 1st finger.
3. Explain that, before the student can be expected to use their finger in this way
without risk of muscle strain, a few weeks worth of regular finger-strengthening
exercises must be carried out.
4. Show them the exercise which is simply to barre the guitar at the 12th fret and
hold the barre down whilst playing slowly up and down the strings thus: E A D
G B e B G D A E. This should take between 6 and 8 seconds. The finger should
then be relaxed and slid down a fret. The finger is then clamped back on the
strings and the strings played in order as before.
5. The exercise should be continued unhurriedly, moving down a fret at a time
until the 1st fret is reached.
6. Tell the student that when they do this exercise they should be listening to the
sound and noting whether it is clean or not, but not making any great effort to get
it clean. Doing the exercise, on a 'little and often' basis, will itself ensure
improvement in this respect.
7. Tell the student that they should carry out this exercise slowly and should on
no account proceed past the point where they feel cramp-like pains developing.
8. Get the student to have a go at the exercise and coach them on doing it with
precision. It is particularly important not to hurry it, as this does not allow the
muscles to load up sufficiently to benefit from the exercise.
9. Once you are sure that the student has fully understood what they need to do,
encourage them to do this exercise as often as possible over the next few weeks
and assure them that this will remove a lot of the pain and frustration from
learning barre chords.
N.B. If your student has less than a year of guitar playing experience you are
well advised to complete this lesson plan two or three weeks later after
checking that they have made good progress with objective 2.
Objective 3. Student understanding the subject of barre chords in general
Methods:
1. Ask the student to play as open chords the five chords C, A, G, E and D. Check
that they play them correctly.
2. Tell the student that, these are the five basic chord shapes, upon which
practically all other chord shapes are based.
3. Demonstrate this to the student by showing them examples of how these
shapes are used to make other chords: Examples of this include the open F chord
(made from the 'E' shape, the Bb chord made from the 'A' shape and the B7 chord
(made by sliding the C7 shape down a fret).
4. Explain that any one of these five shapes can, in theory, be played with a barre
behind it anywhere on the fretboard to produce another 11 chords.
5. Demonstrate how this is done, but underline the fact that some of the shapes
are physically extremely difficult to use in this way. (A barred 'G' shape at the 1st
fret to make G# is a good example of 'extremely difficult!).
6. Conclude by pointing out that in 99% of cases guitarists generally settle on
using either 'E' or 'A' shapes as barre chords as they are physically the easiest to
finger.
Objective 4. Student knowing the six basic barre chord shapes
Methods:
1. Ask the student to play as open chords the three chords E, Em and E7
2. Clarify that there are two common fingerings for E7 and see that the student
knows both of them.
3. Ask the student to play as open chords the three chords A, Am and A7
4. Clarify that there are two common fingerings for E7 and see that the student
knows both of them.
5. Demonstrate to the student how these are all played as barre chords.
6. Underline the fact that the chord type is determined by the shape made by the
2
nd
, 3
rd
and 4
th
fingers.
7. Show how the root note of 'E' shaped barre chords is always found on the 'E'
string, where the barring finger holds it down. Similarly, the root note of 'A'
shaped barre chords is always found on the 'A' string, where the barring finger
holds it down.
8. Now get the student to have a go at playing barre chords at random.
9. Once student is showing signs of progress overcoming the physical exertions
required by this, ask them to play specific chords with specific shapes: B7 using
an 'E' shape, Fm using an 'A' shape, G# using an 'E' shape etc...
10. Continue with this for as long as necessary, coaching where required.

References
1. Article: Don't believe a word your student says!
2. Article: Examine Revise and Consolidate
Lesson plan 8:
INTRODUCING OTHER AWKWARD CHORDS
Suitable for:
All students.
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 7 completed.
General Objective:
To introduce to the student some of the more difficult chord shapes and also the
concept of moving shapes up the neck.
Summary of this lesson plan:
Tackling the dreaded F chord and other chords requiring four fingers. Using these
chords as movable shapes.
Stress:
Pay due respect to the physical aspect of this lesson. Apply the 'little and often'
principle both to the lesson and when briefing the student on how to practice.
Expectation management - let the student know that getting these chords to sound
good usually takes at least a few weeks of consistent practice.
Materials required:
1st position chords
C7 Blues
Song sheets
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student happy playing a four-fingered chord (B7)
Methods:
1. Get the student to look at the diagram for B7 and hold the chord down.
2. Get them to remove their hand from the fretboard and then find the chord
shape again. Repeat this many times.
3. Get them to find the shape purely by feel, without looking at their left hand at
all.
4. Get them to take their hand off the fretboard and find the chord again without
looking. Repeat this many times.
5. Get them to play E B7 over and over again.
6. Get them to play A B7 over and over again.
7. Pick a song with these chords (I use Sloop John B as recorded by the Beach Boys)
and get the student to play through it.
8. Encourage them to practice the song at home.
Objective 2. Student happy playing a movable four-fingered chord shape
Methods:
1. Get the student to look at the diagram for C7 and hold the chord down.
2. Get them to remove their hand from the fretboard and then find the chord
shape again. Repeat many times.
3. Get them to either miss or mute the top and bottom E strings whilst playing C7.
4. Get them to look at the diagram for G7 and practice that until they are happy
playing it.
5. Check them out on D7 similarly
6. Write out a 12-bar blues in G using these chords
7. Get them to play through the 12 bar so that they are getting used to using these
chords in a typical setting. Accompany them with a bit of blues lead or a nice
funky bass line or something because 1st position chords used in blues sound a
bit weak without accompaniment.
8. Continue to work with this until student is comfortable with the chords.
9. Encourage them to practice these chords at home.
Objective 3. Student introduced to the F chord
Methods:
1. Get the student to look at the diagram for F (Open F, not the barre chord) and
hold the chord down. Make a decision whether to teach them the three or four
fingered version (open A on the 5th string or fingered C).
2. Get them to remove their hand from the fretboard and then find the chord
shape again. Repeat several times.
3. Try out various approaches to see if the student can find one that gets a clean
sound out of all five strings (the 6th string should not be included in this chord).
Approaches include using the edges of their fingers instead of tips to hold the
strings down, putting the fingers on in reverse order (3rd finger first, playing a C
chord and 'folding it over' ...etc.. Different things work best for different people so
be experimental.
4. Reassure the student that no matter how hard it seems at first the F chord will
eventually sort itself out. The most important thing is not to avoid using F chords
just because they sound a bit naff to start with.
5. Pick a song that uses F (I use House of the Rising Sun in Am or Knights in White
Satin in Em). Bob Dylan songs like All along the watchtower in Am or Like a Rolling
Stone in C are really good as well.
6. Get them to play through the song coaching them just to go for it with the F
chords and not be put off by the less than brilliant sound they are likely to get at
first.
7. It's worth pointing out that F can't really be avoided as it is used very
commonly.
Objective 4. Student introduced to the idea of moving chord shapes up the neck
Methods:
1. Get the student to play C7.
2. Play it yourself and move the shape up the neck playing C#7, D7,D#7 etc.
3. Show the student how you are either missing or muting the top and bottom
strings, although these can be let ring in some positions (eg. rooted at 7th fret the
shape makes a perfect 6-string E7, at the 12th fret an A7, at the 9th fret a perfect
F#7 ), the chord is otherwise to be considered a four-string chord.
4. Get them to have a go at this.
5. Coach them towards trying to hold the chord shape intact as they move it. (I
use the concept of sliding the fretboard through their hand rather than sliding
their hand along the fretboard.)
6. Spend several more minutes on this.
7. Next explain the concept of root note
8. Point out that the root note in this shape is on the 5th string.
9. Get them to locate the notes C, F and G on the 5th string
10. Get them to move the C7 shape so that they are rooted on C, F and G
respectively and explain that this is one way of playing the sequence C7 F7 G7.
11. Show them the C7 blues printout.
12. Get them to strum through the chord sequence at their own pace to get used to
the idea of changing chords like this up and down the neck.
13. Play the tabbed lead part over the top of their strumming.
14. If appropriate swap roles and coach them through learning the tabbed lead
part. If they are only just making it on strumming the movable C7 shapes then
leave this until they have practiced a bit more.
15. Encourage them to practice this at home.
Objective 5. Student integrating some of these new chords in a song
Methods:
1. Find a song that uses F and C7. (John Lennon's Ballad of John andYoko is a fine
example).
2. Get your student to play through the song to the best of their ability stressing
the need to accommodate late changing and poor sound quality on the new
chords.
3. Play through the song a number of times giving your student a reasonable
amount of support on rhythm guitar.
Objective 6. Student using the F shape as a movable chord
Methods:
1. Write out a 12-bar blues in the key of F using all major chords. (F Bb and C)
2. Show the student how they can play these chords using a movable F shape.
3. Although strictly speaking the chord is rooted on the 4th string most people
find it easier to work it out from the top string root note.
4. Get them to have a go at this, but point out that this is physically likely to be the
hardest part of this whole lesson plan.
5. Encourage them to have a crack at this from time to time because it is a great
way to improve on the sound of their basic F chord and it also helps map out
territory for more advanced ways of playing guitar later (Chuck Berry style Rock
'n' Roll for example).
6. Once they are cool with just strumming movable 'F' shapes you can build on
this by getting them to add the 6
th
note in a shuffle pattern style.
Lesson plan 9:
FOUNDATIONS OF MUSIC THEORY
Suitable for:
All students.
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 1 completed.
General Objective:
To lay the foundations on which a student's comprehension of guitar music theory
will be based.
Summary of this lesson plan:
Learning names of notes and how to find them on the guitar. Understanding the
definitions of basic terms.
Stress:
As with all theory work, avoid over explaining. Get the student to discover by doing.
Check for real comprehension at every step. Get student to put theory to immediate
use. In this way you avoid having to teach and re-teach the same points over again.
Beware of going in too deep too fast.
Materials required:
Special equipment required:
Piano or keyboard, or if neither is available a life size diagram of keyboard layout.
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student familiarized with note names on open strings
Methods:
1. Check with the student to see if they know the names of the notes on the open
strings. If they say they do test them on it.
2. If they are not conversant with open string note names then teach them a
mnemonic like: Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears. Then test them on it.
3. Continue to test in both directions. That is to say: play a string open and ask the
student to name it. Then name a string and ask the student to play it. Continue in
this manner until student can do this with ease.
4. Check that the student knows alternative descriptions for the strings (1st, 2nd ,
3rd string etc.. and top and bottom). Test this knowledge in a similar manner.
5. Finally mix questions like this: What note will we hear if I play the 3rd string?
Which number string is tuned to B? Which two strings have the same note name?
and so on.
Objective 2. Student understanding how natural notes are named on the piano
Methods:
1. Explain that the guitar fretboard is arranged according to the chromatic scale.
2. Define chromatic scale.
3. Underline to the student that it is of vital importance to learn the notes on this
scale and because of that, you are going to go over it in some detail.
4. Tell the student that the chromatic scale is best understood by reference to the
keyboard or piano.
5. Using a keyboard, piano or diagram of a keyboard, ask the student to notice the
layout of white and black keys on the keyboard.
6. Keep prompting the student with questions until they include in their answer
the observation that the black keys are grouped in twos and threes.
7. Ask them if they know why this is.
8. If they are not sure, then demonstrate (with as much participation from the
student as possible), how the pattern of notes provides a method of uniquely
identifying each note. Point out that the white note C always comes just before
the group of two black notes, the D note always between the two black notes, the
E note just after the two black notes ... and so on.
9. Once the student has thoroughly got this idea get them to play white notes
selected at random across the whole range of the keyboard. (This often has quite
an effect on the student - typically they've been mystified for years by the layout
of keys on a piano and are amazed to find understanding it so easy!)
Objective 3. Student understanding the terms sharp (#) and flat (b) and able to name
black notes on the keyboard
Methods:
1. Ask the student if they know what the adjective sharp (#) means in music. The
definition you want is: Sharp means 'Higher'. The student may well give you a
more complex definition, but at this stage we want to keep things real basic. So
sharp means 'Higher'.
2. Deal similarly with the definition of Flat (b) as meaning 'Lower'.
3. Tell the student that, if they ever get confused between these two (and people
very often do), to think of walking into a room barefoot and treading on a SHARP
thumbtack! This makes you leap UP in the air, doesn't it?! Now you go and put
on your biggest pair of boots and come back in and stamp DOWN on the tack and
FLATTEN it. Silly? Maybe, but little memory aids like this work really well and
help save so much confusion later.
4. Point to the note C# on the keyboard as you tell the student that this black note
can be viewed as either C# when you look 'up' at it from the note C, or Db when
you look 'down' at it from the note D.
5. Repeat this with G#/Ab.
6. Ask the student to name other black notes giving you both sharp and flat
names each time.
7. Continue with this until the student is totally confident they can now name any
note on the piano.
8. Test them by picking black or white notes at random.
Objective 4. Student understanding how the notes on the chromatic scale are named
Methods:
1. Get the student to play all the notes (black and white) on the keyboard starting
at E and ascending one note at a time until they have completed an octave.
2. Coach them as necessary until they are doing this fine.
3. Now get them to do it backwards descending from a high E down one note at a
time until they reach the E an octave lower.
4. Once they are happy playing this scale up and down, ask them to name the
notes out loud as they play them, using sharp names for black notes on the way
up and flat names on the way down. You should hear them say: 'E F F# G G# A
A# B C C# D D# E Eb D Db C B Bb A Ab G Gb F E'.
5. Drill and coach this until it is really smooth and the student is certain of their
ability to do it.
Objective 5. Student able to name notes on the guitar
Methods:
1. Remind the student that the guitar fretboard is arranged according to the
chromatic scale.
2. Ask them to play the open 6
th
string and name it out loud.
3. Get them to move up a fret and play the note at the 1
st
fret on the 6
th
string and
name that out loud.
4. Get them to work on up the fretboard a step at a time naming each note, using
sharp names for the notes that would be black on the piano.
5. Coach them on this as necessary until they are happy they can do it.
6. Now get them to play the notes up the 5th string in exactly the same manner.
7. Repeat with the 2
nd
string and other strings as necessary until the student has
got it for certain.
8. Now go back to the 6
th
string, but this time start at the 12
th
fret and play and
name the notes in descending order calling the black notes by their flat names.
9. Repeat and coach as necessary then try the same thing on a few other strings.
10. Ask the student: 'Are you now certain you could name any note anywhere on
the fretboard given a few moments to work it out?
11. If the answer is 'Yes' then congratulate the student (because there are a great
many quite experienced guitar players who have never learnt to do this!)
12. If the answer is 'No' then find out where the confusion is and go one step
before that and repeat the steps above, taking extra care to check the student's
comprehension and ability to apply this information at every step.
Lesson plan 10:
SPECIFIC REMEDIES TO PROBLEMS WITH COMPLETE BEGINNERS
Problem: Student very shy and nervous.
Appears unwilling to start lesson. Will often engage you in small talk in an attempt
to avoid starting the lesson.
Probable cause(s): Highly likely that this student has had negative experiences of
being taught at school or in earlier music lessons. Quite possibly they have been
humiliated by previous teachers or parents in some way. Finding themselves in a
situation of 'being taught something' restimulates all the negative emotions from
these earlier incidents. This student will have a greatly exaggerated fear of failure. By
not picking up the guitar they feel safe because you 'won't discover that they can't
do it'.
Solution(s): Don't make the mistake of getting sidetracked by the small talk. A
couple of minutes discussing the weather, their journey to your house or whatever is
okay to break the ice, but what is needed is friendly, but firm control of the lesson.
Keep it light and go in at a very shallow gradient. Use Lesson Plan 1 making a point
of validating the student as they complete each objective. Work as if you have all the
time in the world for them to follow your instructions. Avoid pressurizing body
language.
Problem: Student has unusually small fingers
Due to age or simply physical build. This may be obvious from the outset (i.e. in the
case of a 6 year-old), or something that becomes apparent as you try and teach them
the first chord or two.
Solution(s): First it is worth looking at the guitar they are using. Small children
should use a half-size guitar (usually tuned G C F Bb D G you stick a capo on your
guitar at the 3rd fret then you can work with the same chord shapes). Three quarter
size guitars are also available which are tuned to standard tuning.
Usually, people with smaller fingers will work better with single note playing than
with chords, at least to start with. If you do work with chords, figure out simpler
versions that they can play for the time being. This usually means restricting the
chords to the top four strings.
It may be worth, especially in the case of adult students, showing them a simple
stretching exercise. Place the left hand, palm down, flat on a table. Gently spread
each adjacent pair of digits on the left hand using the thumb and forefinger of the
right hand, holding the stretch for six seconds for each pair. A few weeks of this done
two or three times a day and your student will find they can reach chord shapes that
appeared impossible at first.
Problem: Student has unusually long fingers
It is a fallacy that very long fingers automatically make playing the guitar easier. Of
course it helps with certain shapes, but it makes others far more difficult. Whereas a
person with small fingers will hate playing C and G7, someone with large fingers
will struggle with D and B7.
Solution(s):
Working with a student's strengths rather than struggling against their weaknesses is
a general principle that can be applied to good effect here. So, from the outset, select
exercises and songs that utilise the students ability to stretch.
Lay in coordination exercises early on, so that the student builds good fingering
habits with their single note playing.
It is likely that you can help this student by introducing barre chords earlier than
usual, as they may actually find them easier to play, once they have the knack, than
some of the more compact open chord shapes. Don't discount the more unusual barre
chords C and G shapes for example they may find these easier than some of the E
and A shapes.
Problem: Student has extremely large fingers
This can appear rather daunting. You get some large geezer with fingers like pork
sausages and you look and think: how is he ever going to get a clean sound from his
chords as the tip of each finger appears to spread across two strings!
Solution(s): Surprisingly, this problem seems to recede simply with time and
practice. As finger tips harden the student is able to contact the strings using less and
less of their finger tips.
Again, introducing coordination exercises early on helps a lot. So does the principle
of working with strengths. This student may find barre chords easier than most, or
they may take to using a movable F shape on the top five strings for example. Rocky
numbers using nothing but 5
th
shape power chords might be a good idea.
Above all, don't allow the thought that this player is somehow disadvantaged one
of the best technical exponents of guitar playing that I know would best be described
as having hands like shovels and fingers like sausages, but he plays with the grace
and fluency of a ballerina! Read up on the life story of Django Reinhardt - practice
overcomes anything!
Problem: Student turns up at first lesson with unviable guitar
You can start learning to play guitar on almost any old hack of an instrument, but
sensible limits should be applied. I have experienced quite a few variations on this
over the years. One student turned up with a guitar brought back by relatives as a
present from their holiday in Spain. The 'instrument' in question was quite clearly
designed purely as an ornament to hang on the wall. The frets were equidistant one
from another and all the strings of equal thickness! This was certainly the worst case
of 'unviable guitar'.
Generally I look at three factors:
1. Can the guitar be tuned and will it stay in tune?
2. Is the action of the guitar sufficiently low to make it playable, at least at the first
three frets?
3. Is the neck and body of the guitar of a size suitable for the student playing it?
Probable cause(s):
This problem arises due to one or both of the following: The student has very limited
financial resources. The student has absolutely no idea about what to look for when
buying a guitar.
Solution(s): Some problems with guitars are treatable. High action can be lowered,
neck angle can be adjusted, loose tremolo systems can be tightened up etc.. You have
to make a decision as to whether you are going to get directly involved in making
these adjustments or refer the client back to the local music shop. My advice is that if
you are going to get involved get the client to leave the instrument with you and do
it outside of lesson time. Charge an appropriate hourly rate for this service.
Other problems are best addressed by persuading the student to replace the guitar in
question. Talk to the student about this. It's worth pointing out that as the student is
going to be paying for lessons with you, it makes financial sense to buy an
instrument that will help, rather than hinder their progress.
I generally offer to go with students to the local guitar shops and help them select a
guitar. In doing this, I am looking after my own interests as a great many of my new
clients come via referrals from the local music shops. A bit of mutual backscratching
does no harm at all!
Problem: Student keeps hitting wrong strings
When doing single note exercises early on, a common problem is that the right hand
finds itself out of sync with the left. So the student is fingering their blues scale notes
fine with the left hand but the pick is hitting the wrong string up the other end
resulting in a considerable amount of confusion and frustration for the student.
Probable cause(s): We all have a different level of ability to coordinate left to right.
There are some clinically recognised medical conditions (forms of Dyspraxia or
Ataxia) that may mean a particular student has this problem to a more severe degree,
but these are very rare and you would normally have been made aware of them prior
to taking the student on. So in almost all cases this is simply a question of asking the
body to do something new.
Solution(s): Tell the student not to worry unduly about this phenomenon. It's worth
explaining that the whole purpose of doing exercises like scales and speed
developers is to develop coordination.
Get them to slow the exercise down. Get them to attempt it without looking at either
hand. When they hit a wrong note ask them to stop and figure out what is
happening. Then repeat the passage again making a conscious adjustment to correct.
This will sometimes lead to over correction, in which case, keep going until the
student has 'homed in' on the right actions. Keep it slow and keep the student
relaxed about it. Tell them, both verbally and with your body language, that you
have all the time in the world to allow them to correct this mistake and encourage
them to take this attitude with themselves over it.
Finally, reassure the student that regular, little and often, practice will resolve these
problems in due course.
Problem: Student complains of lack of rhythm
A common complaint in the early stages. The student plays along with you in the
lesson and all goes fine, but when they get home they just can't seem to find the right
strumming pattern for the song.
Probable cause(s): Hitting the right strumming pattern is largely just a knack that
comes from experience. It doesn't mean that the student 'has no sense of rhythm' or is
in any other way musically impaired. Once the student has a bit more experience
under their belt this problem tends to fade away.
Solution(s):
A very good and immediate pragmatic solution is to record yourself playing the
song(s) in question on a tape or mini-disc. Record them slow enough to suit the
student at whatever level of ability they are at with the material. They can then take
this recording home and play it back to themselves to remind them of how the
rhythm goes.
To enhance the student's rhythmic awareness I do teach specific strumming patterns
(See Lesson plan 5) and also basic awareness of main time signatures. It is also worth
spending time in the lesson having the student accompany you on muted guitar
whilst you play through a rhythmically wide variety of songs. This helps them
develop a range of their own natural strum patterns.
Problem: Student complains of 'Bad sounding chords'
Try as they might, their chords are still full of buzzes and dead-sounding notes.
Probable cause(s):
This is almost always simply a problem of expectations. Truth is that, for most
people, it takes time to get chords clean.
Solution(s):
Obviously, if the problem persists or the student is particularly hung up on it you
should check the following:
1. Their guitar is not causing the problem (raised frets, knackered strings etc..)
2. The student has their fingers placed optimally behind the frets.
3. The student understands that it is the frets that stop the vibrations, not their
fingers.
4. The student is applying sufficient pressure.
5. The student has tried different angles of approach, using the edges of their finger
tips for example.
6. The student is practicing often enough to get their finger-tips hardening.
After that it is 'just a question of mileage'.
When my students complain about this I tell them that I can promise an
improvement if they just do one thing..'What's the one thing?' they ask innocently
'Play those chords another 4000 times!'
Well it's the truth ain't it?
Problem: Student discouraged by lack of progress
A very common phenomenon especially during the early stages.
Probable cause(s):
The three most likely causes are:
1. Unrealistic expectations.
2. Comparison with others.
3. You are trying to teach them too much too fast.
Solution(s):
1. Unrealistic expectations: Give your student a pep talk. Tell them that they are not
alone and that most people learning the guitar go through a point where they feel
that it's much harder than anticipated. Assure them emphatically that, if they
persevere and keep practicing they will progress and that in a few months time
they'll wonder why they ever felt it was so difficult. I tell students that, as a teacher, I
never give up on a student, because I know that providing they keep playing the
guitar, people always improve their playing. Tell them not to look for results, but to
keep strumming away on a 'little and often' basis and they will break through.
2. Comparison with others: This can be tricky 'My older brother learnt to play in
two weeks' .. 'My mate down the pub has only been playing three months and he can
already play Star-spangled banner with his teeth'
I generally point out that music is a multi-faceted subject that draws on a whole
range of different abilities and that no two people develop the same way on the
instrument. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Whilst some people
appear to learn fast, others learn more thoroughly. It may take years, but we all
develop an individual style eventually and this is unique to every individual. So, I
assure them, in a few years time no one will be able to play like they do and they will
become the envy of others trying to learn from scratch.
3. Too much too fast: Find what they can do. Find what they do feel good about and
work only with that. Focus right down to tiny steps forward. Small goals that can
definitely be achieved in short time periods. Take whatever they can do and turn it
into something fun. This might be as simple as them strumming an Em chord while
you improvise a bit of blues lead over the top of it. Anything that provides them with
a sense of having got somewhere.
Then take care to teach them slowly and thoroughly until their confidence picks up
and they begin to get into their stride with the instrument.
Problem: Student appears not to learn
Each lesson you seem to be back at the same starting point. The student is not
progressing, not retaining information.
Probable cause(s): Chances are they are simply not playing between lessons.
Solution(s):
Obviously, you can encourage your student to practice, you can emphasize time and
time again that it is between lessons that the real progress is made and that you are
only a guide they have to do the walking and climbing.
If they are still not really practicing then you have no choice but to run the lesson as a
practice session. This means that during that one hour at least, you see to it that they
spend as much time as possible physically playing the thing. You don't try and teach
anything new, you simply get them to do exactly what they should have been doing
at home. Teaching this way is not much fun, but it is the only way forward. With a
bit of luck, sufficient progress is made during a lesson or two of intense practicing for
them to catch on to the idea that they could be doing this between lessons.
References
1. Tip: What to do when your student hasn't done their practice assignment
2. Article: Virtuous Circles of Confidence
Problem: Student can play a large number of songs, but none of them particularly
well.
This may be your observation or it may be something that they comment on.
Probable cause(s): You've been trying to teach too much too fast and not taking time
to consolidate.
Solution(s):
Spend a lesson or two consolidating. (See Lesson plan 6). If possible, arrange a public
performance opportunity for the student so that they have a definite date by which a
certain song or songs have to be polished. In any event ensure that they learn at least
two songs by heart and to a standard that is complete and consistent.
Problem: Student complains that they don't sound any good playing alone at home
Student finds it easy enough to play along with you in the lesson, but is disappointed
by how they sound at home.
Probable cause(s):
You might be providing the student with too much support in your accompaniment.
It may be that the student is simply not learning each song thoroughly enough.
Solution(s):
Make a point of thinning out your playing and encouraging them to take more and
more rhythmic responsibility. Throw in lead solos over their rhythm playing and check
that they can maintain continuity and good time keeping while you do that.
Have them play songs from cold with you just listening, singing or playing the bon-
gos or bass guitar. In this way, coach each song to a higher standard. Get the student
to play the song without reference to the song sheet. Get them to try playing without
looking at their hands.
Problem: Finds barre chords difficult
No two ways about it, barre chords are one of the trickiest things to master.
Probable cause(s): Student may not have been sufficiently prepared physically (see
Lesson plan 7 above). Student may simply not understand that barre chords take
time to develop into a good sound.
Another possibility is that they can cope with the physical aspect, but haven't
grasped sufficient understanding of theory to be able to identify chords by name and
type.
Solution(s):
First check whether it is a physical or comprehension problem.
If physical, then spend time showing them the basic finger-strengthening exercise
(see Lesson plan 7 ) and emphasize the advice to practice this on a 'little and often
basis'.
If conceptual, run through the basic theory lessons again as covered in Lesson plan 7
Problem: Student confused by chord shapes used further up the neck
The student may stumble on chords used further up the neck before you have had a
chance properly to explain how to identify them
Probable cause(s): The confusion usually arises from a lack of understanding of the
chromatic scale.
Solution(s):
Teach (or revise) knowledge of the chromatic scale per Lesson plan 9 above. Teach
your student to learn where the root note is in any movable chord shape they use.
Teach them songs where they can use these shapes to gain real familiarity with them.
Lesson plan 11:
PRE-SCALE TRAINING
Suitable for:
Any student preparing to learn scales
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 2 completed
General Objective:
To ensure that good basic fingering habits are well established before embarking on
learning scales.
Summary of this lesson plan:
Once a student starts learning scale patterns a lot of their attention will go on
memorising the sequence of notes and the shape of the patterns etc. This lesson is
about really checking to see that basic good habits are well-established before
starting to learn scales.
Stress:
Attention to detail. Impress upon the student that their lead playing will only be as
good as their scale playing and their scale playing will only be as good as their
pre-scale exercises!
Materials required:
Speed developer exercise
Space-invaders exercise
Finger separation exercise
Special equipment required:
Metronome
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student checked out on speed-developer exercise
Methods:
1. Ask the student if they have continued doing the speed-developer exercise
taught in Lesson plan 2 .
2. Get them to play it however they have been practicing it.
3. Coach the student, first ensuring that the actual sequence of the exercise is being
carried out correctly and in full.
4. Now coach on finger position .
5. Then coach on finger angle .
6. Now coach on feel. The exercise should be played legato, not staccato.
7. Now start coaching on rhythm. Set the metronome to around 60 bpm. Get the
student to play one note per beat until going nice and smoothly. Then try for two
notes per beat (4/4 with 8-beat feel).
8. Reset the metronome down to about 45-50 bpm and get the student playing 3
notes per beat (12/8) and if possible 4 notes per beat (4/4 with 16-beat feel), all the
time checking to see that the student is alternating the pick.
9. If the student can keep up with all that, then they are well prepared to start
learning scales. Otherwise, encourage them to really practice hard at this exercise
as it underpins the whole of their lead-guitar playing development.
Objective 2. Student checked out on space-invaders exercise
Methods:
1. Tell student you are going to show them a useful finger-strengthening exercise.
2. Demonstrate the space invaders exercise starting at 9
th
fret, 6
th
string and
fingering 1, 2, 3, 4 leaving the fingers held down as you use them.
3. Emphasise to the student that there is more benefit from playing this exercise
slowly than from playing it fast.
4.Get them to do it starting at fret 9 and working across from 6
th
to 1
st
strings one
at a time.
5. When they finish on the 1
st
string get them to slide down a fret and repeat the
exercise working from 1
st
string back across the strings to the 6
th
string.
6. Get them to continue on down the fretboard in this manner until they reach the
nut or until they simply can't do any more.
7. Don't underestimate how hard this exercise can be to begin with and never
push a student to carry on 'through the pain barrier' there is nothing to be
gained by straining finger muscles.
8. As with all technical exercises, encourage the student to practice it on a little
and often basis.
Objective 1. Student checked out on finger separation exercise
Methods:
1. Tell the student that you are going to show them an exercise to help with finger
coordination.
2. Show them how you do this exercise. Starting at fret 9 on the 6
th
string finger as
follows: 1234 1243 1324 1342 1423 1432
3. Get them going on it allowing plenty of time to get the sequence right
4. Once they are doing it ok get them move to 5
th
string and repeat.
4. Then get them to continue across the strings until completing on the 1
st
string
5. Next get them to move down a fret or two and work back across the strings in a
similar manner.
6. Tell them to continue down the fretboard in this way until they get to fret 1.
7. Finally get them to repeat whole exercise using reverse fingerings: 4321 4312
4231 4213 4132 4123 .
8. Once again, encourage your student to practice this exercise on a little and of-
ten basis.
Lesson plan 12:
STARTING BLUES SCALES
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to improvise or play blues, rock or country
lead guitar.
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 11 completed
General Objective:
To set the student up to learn to play blues scales in 5 positions
Summary of this lesson plan:
This is about getting the student off to a good start learning these scales. It is partly
about encouraging and 'selling the idea' of playing scales and partly about instilling
good habits at the outset.
Stress:
Thoroughness and correct execution are more important than speed of learning or
speed of playing. Don't make too big a deal out of their having to learn scales in my
experience, students quite like working on scales because it is a task that is well
mapped out and easy to understand.
Materials required:
Blues scales in five positions diagram
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student understanding purpose behind learning scales
Methods:
1. Tell the student that you are about to embark on a major part of their guitar
education and that you are going to initiate them into the secrets behind good
lead guitar playing.
2. Say: 'We are going to learn to play the blues scale'. Play a few notes of the scale
to demonstrate.
3. Say: 'This scale is the basic tool behind a whole load of rock, blues, country and
jazz guitar work'. Then, by way of demonstration, play a few snippets of lead
guitar from some or all of those genres. Don't drag this out just enough to show
your student where this is leading to.
4. Deal with any questions or comments you may get back from the student.
Again, don't go off into long-winded explanations or long demos, but deal with
any doubts, reservations or confusions they express on the subject.
Objective 2. Student understanding broad principles behind the learning method for
five position blues scale playing.
Methods:
1. Tell the student that you are going to teach them to play the blues scale
anywhere on the guitar. Briefly demonstrate that the scale only has six notes, but
they are going to learn how to find those six notes anywhere on the fretboard.
2. Play some random bits of blues scales covering the fretboard from one end of
the guitar to the other. Point out, that the pattern when viewed in its entirety is
quite complex and if you tried to teach it to them all in one go, they would
probably never come back for another lesson!
3. Go on to explain that, to make the scales much easier to learn, we chop them up
into five slices. Each slice is learnt as a different 'position'.
4. Point to the diagram of the 1st position scale and tell the student that all they
have to focus on is this one pattern, at least to begin with.
5. Deal with any queries or confusions the student may have before moving on.
Objective 3. Student familiar with 1st position .
Methods:
1. Tell the student that the basic rules of scale playing mostly follow on from the
pre-scale training they have done. These include: one finger per fret, alternate
picking, correct positioning, good rhythm, legato feel etc..
2. Tell them you are going to start in the key of E, but that the patterns they are
learning will later be transferable to other keys.
3. Play slowly through the 1st position so that the student can see and hear what
you are doing.
4. Indicate the 1st position diagram and play through it again asking if the
student can relate what you are doing to the diagram.
5. Get them to play the first octave of the 1st position. If necessary call out the
fingering as they go: '6th string open, three, 5th string open, one, two, 4th string
open, two, now coming down again, open, 5th string two, one, open, 6th string
three, open'
6. Get them to repeat until they can play it without help from you and without
referring to the diagram.
7. Continue with the top octave of the 1st position in a similar way.
8. End off when they can play the whole position up and down without help and
without looking at the diagram.
9. Depending on the experience level of the student, you may now leave that for
them to go off and practice before continuing with the next objectives.
10. Encourage student to practice.
Objective 4. Student checked out on the 2nd position
Methods:
1. Show the student the layout of the 2nd position and point out that it has to be
started on the 2nd finger.
2. Get them to have a go working it out for themselves off the diagram. Assist
only where necessary.
3. Once they can play the 2nd position up and down from memory without
assistance, get them to go back and play the 1st position, followed by the 2nd
position, ideally without missing a beat.
4. Get them to repeat these two positions a number of times to make sure they are
well learnt before progressing further.
Objective 5. Student checked out on 3rd position
Methods:
1. Show the student the layout of the 3rd position and point out that it too has to
be started on the 2nd finger.
2. Play through the position slowly, demonstrating the correct fingering shift that
has to occur at the 2nd string on the way up (move whole hand up a fret) and at
the 3rd string on the way down (move whole hand down a fret).
3. Emphasize that the student will often encounter hand position shifts of this
nature and that the rule is to always to contract rather than stretch to accommodate
these shifts.
4. Get them to have a go at the position, assisting only where necessary.
5. Once they have got it well learnt get them to play through positions one, two
and three. If realistic, coach them on doing this without dropping a beat between
positions.
Objective 6. Student set up to learn the remaining positions 4 and 5
Methods:
1. Point to the diagrams of the 4th and 5th positions and tell the student that now
they have learnt the first three positions the remaining two will present no
difficulties.
2. Point out that the 4th position starts on the 1st finger and the 5th position on
the 2nd finger.
3. Suggest to the student that they work on the first three positions at home and
move on to learning the remaining two positions when they feel ready for it. Tell
them it's better to learn three positions thoroughly than half-learn all five and get
confused between them.
Lesson plan 13:
HOW TO PRACTICE BLUES SCALES
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to improvise or play blues rock or country
lead guitar.
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 12 completed
General Objective:
To train the student to take a systematic approach to scale practice
Summary of this lesson plan:
This lesson is about getting the student to approach their scale practice in a
disciplined and systematic way. Part of this is demonstrating to the student just how
many times they can expect to have to run through scales in order to develop their
lead-playing skills to a useable level.
Stress:
It's nowhere near enough for your student just to 'know' their scales. For them to be
of any real use to them, your student has to play them up and down thousands of
times. This is best done in a systematic way.
Materials required:
Blues Scales Diagram
Special equipment required:
Metronome
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Consolidation of student's knowledge of five positions
Methods:
1. Ask the student whether they have now learnt all five positions.
2. If not then first check them out on positions one, two and three, then coach
them through positions four and five as necessary.
3. Once all five positions are learnt from memory have the student run through
them one after another and coach them on linking without dropping a beat.
4. End off when you are certain that they have thoroughly learnt to play all five
positions in sequence.
Objective 2. Student understanding how to practice 5 positions in E
Methods:
1. Reiterate to the student the fact that their lead playing will only ever be as good
as their scale playing and that you get good at scales by playing through them
thousands of times.
2. Tell them that you want them to take an almost ritualised approach to playing
scales. You are now going to show them this approach.
3. Step one is to play through all five positions in the key of E. Demonstrate this to
the student. As you play through the scales point out the following points:
a. You are playing each note cleanly
b. You are playing legato
c. You are keeping in time and playing to a set rhythm
d. You are not dropping any beats in the transition from one position to the
next.
4. Get your student to have a go at this.
5. Coach them on one training point at a time, taking each point to an improved
level.
6. Once they are able to play through the positions smoothly and easily in E move
on to the next step.
7. If they are struggling to do this well its better to end off on this lesson plan at
this stage encouraging your student to practice five positions in E in the mean-
time. Tell them that, provided they work well on this you will move on to other
keys next lesson.
Objective 3. Student understanding how to practice through other keys
Methods:
1. Check student out on five positions in E and ensure that training points are all
being observed.
2. Indicate the Blues Scales diagram sheet and explain that the patterns for other
keys are basically the same, but that they start from different frets.
3. Tell them, that in order to play in other keys it will be necessary to modify the
1st position as in E this utilises open strings whereas in every other key these
notes must all be fingered.
4. Take the key of F and show the student how the 1st position is fingered.
5. Get them to have a go at this it may take some time for them to get it as,
although it's the same notes, it is an entirely different set of finger movements.
6. Once student is happy playing 1st position in F show them how the 2nd
position overlaps the 1st and coach them on moving straight from 1st position
descending scale into the 2nd position ascending.
7. Repeat this for the join between 2nd and 3rd positions, 3rd and 4th and 4th and
5th.
8. Get them to play all five positions in F repeatedly until they have definitely got
it.
9. Now show them how the exact same patterns can be used for the key of F# by
starting at the 2nd fret.
10. By now they should be getting the hang of it so ask them if they can figure out
how the five positions for the key of G goes.
11. Once they have definitely understood this, point out to them that the end goal
is: to be able to play straight through all five positions in one key after another,
starting at E and working up the chromatic scale of keys (a semitone at a time)
until all 12 have been covered.
12. Suggest that for the first week they focus on playing through five positions in
E, then F, then F#, then G. This gets them used to the exercise and will help build
muscle strength.
13. Then following week they should work through five positions in
E,F,F#,G,G#,A,A#,B.
14. If they practice well, by the end of a few weeks they should have enough
stamina to play through all 12.
15. At some point you will need to show them how to 'fall off one end of the
fretboard and climb back on the other' by this I mean that when you get to the
higher keys you run out of frets especially on acoustic guitar at the top end,
and have to locate the 4th and 5th positions an octave lower. For example, in the
key of D, instead of playing the 4th position at the 17
th
fret, you can play it at the
5th fret.
Lesson plan 14:
BASICS OF TECHNIQUE
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to improvise or play blues rock or country
lead guitar.
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 13 completed
General Objective:
To introduce the student to the basic left hand techniques
Summary of this lesson plan:
In this lesson we introduce the student to the basics of left hand technique.
Stress:
Stripped down to its basics, left hand technique is very simple. The combinations of
mixing techniques and the subtleties of varying the execution of technique is what
gives rise to the broad range of colours and textures the instrument is capable of
producing. Convey to the student that technique takes a few minutes to learn but
lifetimes to master. Make sure that you yourself have practiced each of these
techniques in all their variations well before attempting to demo them as required in
this lesson plan. In other words run through the plan and apply it to yourself a few
times before using it on a live victim!
Materials required:
Blues Backing tracks if available
Special equipment required:
CD or tape player
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student introduced to the subject of left hand technique and made
aware of its importance.
Methods:
1. Demonstrate, ideally by soloing against a pre-recorded backing track, how
using scale notes alone, without techniques produces a pretty dull result.
2. Similarly, show the student by demonstration that these techniques can appear
quite complex when combined as they generally are by the experienced guitarist,
into compound licks.
3. Underline the fact that, although the combinations of techniques are almost
infinite, they are made up of only just six basic techniques: the hammer-on, the
pull-off, the slide and the bend, muting/harmonics and 'violin' vibrato.
Objective 2. Student able to play hammer-ons and variations
Methods:
1.Demonstrate a simple hammer-on to the student. Start with a hammer-on to an
open string. Get them to copy you.
2. Coach them on finger position just behind fret, accuracy of hammering finger,
firmness of hammering action and using wrist action to support finger muscles.
3. In particular, draw to the student's attention that accuracy and firmness of
action are what produce a good result. Excessive speed and force are not
required.
4. Once student is happy playing hammer-ons to open strings follow the same
procedure with hammer-ons to fretted notes.
5. Get student to copy you playing through a number of variations on the basic
hammer-on. These may include snap hammer-ons, double, treble and quadruple
hammer-ons, multiple hammer-ons.
6. Don't include combinations with other techniques at this stage (hammer-on/
pull-offs, hammer-on/slides etc) as this is covered later.
Objective 3. Student able to play pull-offs and variations
Methods:
1. Demonstrate a simple pull-off to the student. Start with a pull-off to open
string. Get them to copy you.
2. Coach them on paying attention to the position of the finger just behind fret.
3. Get them to appreciate the various 'grades' of pull-off from 'passive' simply
lifting the finger straight off the string to 'plucked' scraping or plucking the
string as you pull your finger off it.
4. Get student to copy you playing through a number of other variations on the
basic pull-off. These may include double, treble, quadruple and multiple pull-
offs.
5. Don't include combinations with other techniques at this stage (hammer-on/
pull-offs, pull-off /slides etc) as this is covered later.
Objective 4. Student able to play slides with variations
Methods:
1. Demonstrate a simple slide to the student. Get them to copy you.
2. Coach them on paying attention to the position of the finger (just behind fret)
both at the start of the slide and at the end of it.
3. Coach them on maintaining steady and firm pressure throughout the slide.
4. Get them to appreciate that where the slide stops is more critical than where it
starts.
5. Get student to copy you playing through a number of other variations on the
basic slide. These may include grace-note slides, slow Slides, repeated slides,
reciprocating slides, repeated reciprocating slides etc..
5. Don't include combinations with other techniques at this stage (hammer-on/
slides, pull-off /slides etc) as this is covered later.
Objective 5. Student able to play bends with variations
Methods:
1. Demonstrate a simple bend to the student. Get them to copy you.
2. Coach them on paying attention to the position of the finger (just behind fret).
3. Coach them on using their wrist muscles to power the bend, not their finger
muscles.
4. Get them to listen to the note as they bend it and attempt to bend it to a pitch
exactly half a tone higher.
5. Get student to copy you playing through a number of other variations on the
basic bend. These may include slow bends, fast bends, repeated bends,
reciprocating bends, slow vibrato (same as repeated bends), unbends or released
bends etc
6. Don't include combinations with other techniques at this stage (hammer-on/
bends pull-off /bends etc) as this is covered later.
Objective 6. Student able to play muted notes and harmonics
Methods:
1. Demonstrate to the student how a plucked string can produce five distinctively
different sounds on the guitar according to where and how pressure is applied
with the finger of the left hand.
Open (not fingered at all)
Touched (Muted)
Touched (Harmonic)
Half stopped (Buzz)
Stopped (Clean note)
2. Show them various licks and riffs that utilize these different sounds (with the
possible exception of the half-stopped sound which is rarely used deliberately!).
Funk style guitar is particularly good for this demonstration.
3. Get them to experiment and see if they can deliberately produce each of these
results.
4. In particular get them to notice that if they want a dead muted sound they
should touch the string away from the fret to avoid getting a harmonic.
5. Get student to copy you playing through a number of simple licks and riffs that
utilise these different techniques.
Objective 7. Student able to play violin vibrato
Methods:
1. Tell the student that vibrato is possibly one of the most difficult techniques to
master and that it takes most people years to develop it well. It is also possibly
one of the most important techniques in all styles of playing.
2. Show how simple vibrato is achieved using rapid reciprocating bending of the
string.
3. Get them to try this at various speeds and amplitudes
4. Now show them how violin vibrato differs as the string is not actually moved
only the finger on the string. Get them to hear the subtle difference in tone that
this technique produces.
5. Get them to try playing violin vibrato up a blues scale position or two so that
they have to use each different finger.
6. Coach them towards shaking their whole hand not just the finger itself to
achieve this.
Objective 8. Student able and willing to experiment with using techniques to create
licks
Methods:
1. Explain to the student that mean-sounding licks and riffs on the guitar are
usually based on a selection of notes from a scale or chord which are then
modified with a combination of techniques applied to them.
2. Play a few examples of this by playing straight notes from a scale or chord and
then modifying them by applying techniques.
3. Encourage them to have a go at this. Explain that it is a question of trial and
error and that they shouldn't expect every attempt to produce a brilliant lick or
riff, but that the important thing is to have a go and see what they come up with.
4. Coach this quite gently don't try to improve or correct too much rather
encourage their experimentation.
5. Once they have strung a few ideas together, play a bit of backing rhythm guitar
for them appropriate to their preferred style and let them hear how their licks fit
(or not) the chord changes. Encourage them to alter one note at a time to help the
lick work against a particular chord.
6. Finally encourage them to practice all these techniques repeatedly using scale
and chord notes.
Lesson plan 15:
BASICS OF ORIENTATION
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to improvise or play blues rock or country
lead guitar.
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 14 completed. Lesson plans 7,8 and 9 completed.
General Objective:
To enable the student to play notes from the blues scales in any key, and in any
position in that key, without getting lost.
Summary of this lesson plan:
This lesson has a conceptual goal, but it must be emphasized that this is attained by
physically doing the exercises contained in the lesson plan.
Stress:
The first problem confronting the guitar tutor when it comes to developing the
student's orientation at this stage is deciding which, of the many possible
approaches, to take.
For the more advanced student, there is no doubt in my mind that the CAGED
system is the ultimate answer to all problems of orientation. However the CAGED
system is incredibly powerful and opens up the whole subject of musical
interrelationships on the fretboard in a way that is just too much to take in, for all but
the tiniest minority of beginner/intermediate students.
For the majority of beginner/intermediate students you are better off adopting a
system that starts by helping the student identify the position of the 1st and 4th blues
scale positions in any key.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student knowing the names of all natural notes on the bottom two
strings.
Methods:
1.Tell student that in order to take the next main step forward in their learning it
is no longer sufficient to be able to work out the names of notes on the bottom two
strings they now have to learn them by heart.
2. Ask them which number fret is G at on the 6
th
string. Allow them time to work
it out if necessary.
3. Once they have decided G is at fret 3 on the 6
th
string (we're only ever
interested in frets 0-11 as the guitar fretboard repeats itself after that) ask what
note is on the 5
th
string at that fret.
4. Once they have come up with the answer 'C' commend them on having worked
that out ok.
5. Now ask them to think of something anything at all that links the letters G
and C with the number 3 in that order. An example of this might be 'Girl in Class
3' or 'Go Car 3' accept whatever they come up with. It's not the mnemonic itself
that is important. It's the actual processing of the thought by the student that
matters and makes it stick. For this reason it doesn't work nearly so well if you
give them the ideas yourself they have to put in the mental effort to come up
with their own ideas. Generally, the wackier and more graphic the idea the better!
6. Now do the same thing with A, D and fret 5. Get them to work it out without
prompting from you (if prompting is needed then you should be re-treading
Lesson plan 9). Then get them to come up with a mnemonic that links the note on
the 6
th
string, the note on the 5
th
string and the number 5 all in that order.
7. Repeat for B, E and 7; C, F and 8; D, G and 10 and E, A and 12.
8. Point out to the student that F and B are at the 1st and 2nd frets so are a special
case. It's not normally necessary to come up with a mnemonic for them, but no
reason why not if they're having fun with this!
9. Test them very thoroughly from all perspectives ask 'What notes at fret 3?
What notes at fret 7? Where is G on the 5
th
string? B on the 6
th
string? What note is
on the 5
th
string at fret 8 ? etc Continue to test in this manner covering all
natural notes on both strings at least twice. Don't leave out F and B on the 1st and
2nd frets!
Objective 2. Student able instantly to connect notes of same name on bottom two
strings.
Methods:
1.Tell the student that they are now going to do an exercise to help consolidate
the work done in the previous objective and to lay the foundations for blues scale
orientation work.
2. Ask them to play F on the 6
th
string they should be able to go straight to it if
the previous objective has been thoroughly achieved.
3. Now ask them to play F on the 5
th
string again you expect no more than a
slight hesitation otherwise retread Objective 1 again more thoroughly!
4. Now ask them to play G on the 6
th
string then G on the 5
th
string.
5. Repeat with A on the 6
th
and 5
th
strings, B, C, D, and E.
6. Go round again and repeat from F E until the student is doing this rapidly
and with little hesitation.
7. Now reverse the exercise starting with B on the 5
th
string, B on the 6
th
string; C
on the 5
th
, C on the 6
th
; D on the 5
th
, D on the 6
th
and so on.
8. Continue until hesitation disappears.
9. Now introduce the notes in between ask for F# on both strings, Ab, Bb, C#, Db,
Eb, G# - mix them up ask for them forwards and backwards: 'Play the Db note
that's at the lowest fret, play the Gb that's at the highest fret and so on.
10. Repeat this drill until it is thoroughly learnt it's well worth their effort and
your patience.
Objective 3. Student able to connect movable chord forms with root notes on bottom
two strings.
Methods:
1.Point out to the student that the most commonly used movable chord forms are
rooted on either the 6
th
or 5
th
strings.
2. Get them to find alternative shapes for each chord. For example you might ask
for F7. They should find it using an 'E7' barre chord shape at 1
st
fret, 'A7' barre
chord at 8
th
fret and a 'C7' shape rooted at the 8
th
fret.
3. Write out a 'Generic Blues' for them. Should look something like this:
4
4| | : I | I | I | I |
I V | I V | I | I |
V | I V | I | V : | |
and a look-up chart for each natural key:
I IV V
A D E
B E F#
C F G
D G A
E A B
F Bb C
G C D
And get your student to strum 7
th
chords through several verses of blues in
different keys using the shapes of their choice. Continue with this exercise until
your student appears confident they can strum a 12-bar blues rhythm in any key.
N.B. Coach only on correct chord orientation in this exercise sound and rhythm
quality is not significant at this stage.
Objective 4. Student able to locate 1st and 4th blues scale positions in any key
Methods:
1.Show your student how the 1st position blues scale has its key note on the 6
th

String.
2. To test their comprehension of this ask them to play the 1st position scale in B,
in F, in G#, in D and so on, calling out keys in random order.
3. Now tell your student you are going to play a '60-Bar Blues' that's a 12-bar
that goes through four key changes, one at the end of each verse. A good routine
is Verse 1 in E, verse 2 in G, verse 3 in A verse 4 in C, verse 5 in E again this has
the advantage of leading them through the most commonly-used keys in blues.
4. Get them to improvise lead guitar throughout. Advise them to use 1st positions
only at this point and concentrate on anticipating the key changes correctly. Call
out the key changes in plenty of time to allow your student to anticipate them.
5. Continue with this exercise, not coaching anything other than correct orienta-
tion at this point, until the student is obviously finding it easy to keep orientated.
6. Now demonstrate that the 4th position Blues Scale has its key note on the 5
th

string.
7. Test your student's comprehension of this by asking them to play 4th position
scales in a number of randomly-selected keys until you are sure that they have
got it.
8. Now repeat the 60-bar blues using the same key changes as before. This time
ask your student only to use 4th position licks to play lead.
9. Continue with this, coaching only on orientation, until the student is obviously
finding it easy.
10. Repeat the 60-bar blues asking your student to use licks from both 1st and 4th
positions.
11. Once they have the hang of that, point out how, with this system, there is
nearly always a third place available to play because you can repeat either the 1st
or 4th position an octave higher or lower on the fretboard.
12. Finish off by making sure that they can improvise in at least three distinct
areas of the fretboard over each 12-bar verse and that they are correctly adjusting
all three positions to the key changes as you make them.
Objective 5. Student able to connect 2nd, 3rd and 5th to 1st and 4th positions
Methods:
1.Point out to the student that by learning to locate the 1st and 4th positions in
any key, as they have now done, they have established a reliable framework on
which they can attach the three remaining positions.
2. In the key of A show the student a few licks that easily connect the 1st position
with the 5th:
e - - - - - - - - - 5- \ - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - 5- - 3- h- 4- p- 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G - 7b( 8) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- / - 7- p- 5- - - - -
D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7~-
A - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
3. Get them to copy these licks and have a go at developing some ideas
themselves that link these two positions. A good tip here is to use slides to switch
from one position to another as in the example above.
4. Now repeat these ideas with joining the 1st position to the 2
nd
.
5. Once the student has learnt a few licks of this nature it's time to put them to use
before continuing to try to learn more.
6. Play through the 60-bar blues exercise a few times to accompany your student
while they play lead using the 1st position as a pivot for their ideas.
7. Continue with this until the student is comfortable. Coach only on orientation
and make sure the student is focused on this as well. Plenty of time to smarten up
phrasing, tone, fluency etc.. later.
8. Once they have got this okay, repeat exactly the same set of procedures with
links between the 4th and 3rd, and 4th and 5th positions. In this way the student
will have command of all five positions.
9. As a final test you should be able to select keys at random and they should be
able to cover all five positions in the time it takes to play each 12-bar verse.
10. Final tip don't rush this! Better to spread these exercises over 3 or 4 lessons
than to try to get through it quickly. Thoroughness, not speed, is the key element
at this stage. If you rush the orientation step you slow your student down for the
rest of their guitar-playing life! Do it thoroughly and they will gallop through the
rest!
Lesson plan 16:
DEVELOPING FLUENCY
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to improvise or play blues rock or country
lead guitar.
Prerequisites:
Lesson plan 15 completed.
General Objective:
To improve the students fluency when improvising lead guitar
Summary of this lesson plan:
Fluency is influenced by a number of factors. Firstly the student's orientation has to
be on an unthinking level. Secondly, their command of technique has to be smooth.
Thirdly, and perhaps most difficult of all to teach, they need to unleash a perpetual
flow of creative ideas. This lesson plan addresses each of these points in turn.
Stress:
Fluency means flow. We are not looking for polish, flair, timing or any kind of
cleverness at this stage we are just trying to encourage the student to play more or
less continuously. This of course, is purely developmental in a few more months
we will be trying to persuade the same student to economize!
So the stress in this lesson is not to be too fussy, not to look for any kind of end result
just yet. Just help the student build confidence that they can keep going; keep
moving about the fretboard without getting lost or tripping over their own fingers.
Materials required:
Diagonal 3-octave blues scale runs
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student able to work up and down the scale positions using technique
to help notes flow together.
Methods:
1.Tell the student you are going to help them improve the fluency of their
playing.
2. Get them to play five positions in the key of G or A using hammer-ons and
pull-offs to connect all notes fingered on the same string in any one position. In
other words they are only going to pick each string once and let their left hand do
the rest. Hammer-ons on the way up the position, Pull-offs on the way down.
3. Drill this until a noticeable improvement is observed. Chances are the student
will find this physically hard at first. In this case, let them stop at frequent
intervals, take a minute or two's break and then carry on.
4. Now do the same thing with slides. Take care that the student applies correct
fingering principles a slide should be started using the finger you want to be on
at the end of the slide to maintain correct positioning.
5. Encourage your student to practice this exercise at home using a variety of keys
and positions.
Objective 2. Student able to play diagonal 3 octave runs on the blues scales
Methods:
1.Tell the student you are going to teach them some diagonal runs that link the
octaves of the blues scale in a way that they are most commonly used.
2. Show them the sheet with these runs tabbed out and play through the first run
slowly so that they can relate what you are playing to the tab.
3. Show them in particular how the fingering is shifted to accommodate each
change of position.
4. Get them to play over the fingering shifts a number of times so they are
physically used to this part of the exercise.
5. Learning the rest should be easy. Make sure they relate the pattern to the
positions that they have learnt.
6. Once they have learnt one pattern ascending make sure they can do it
descending as well.
7. Now ask the student to play each of the two patterns in random keys. This
point is essential as it is building on the orientation work completed earlier in this
lesson plan.

Objective 3. Student familiar with basic principals of finger-shifting and confident
that they can make their own decisions on this.
Methods:
1.Tell the student that when they practice scales they are best advised to stick
rigidly to one method of fingering. That method is normally optimised for best
flow at high speed.
2. Tell them, that when they are improvising however, it is necessary to take a
more flexible approach to fingering. The choice of fingering for each lick
determines how the lick might then be extended, and which position they might
naturally slide into next.
3. Tell them that sometimes they might select a particular fingering because they
want their strongest fingers on a particular note which they are going to bend up
a tone and a half and apply slow vibrato at the top of the bend something that is
almost impossible to achieve with their pinky!
4. Demonstrate each of these points and get them to copy some simple examples
themselves.
5. Now select a simple phrase using a set of notes from two or more positions.
Play the notes separately using only your 1st finger.
6. Get the student to locate these notes on their guitar. Then ask them to link the
notes as smoothly as possible, trying out different fingering approaches to see
what works best.
7. Continue with this until the student has developed confidence that they can
make fingering decisions for themselves.
8. Important to note that it is this sort of decision making that determines
individual style and whilst it is often tempting to impose our own ideas on the
student it is also vital to provide them space in which to develop their own style.
So coach only on correct sequence of notes and stress that their fingering
decisions aren't right or wrong just different!
Objective 4. Student able to improvise using blues scales in all positions continuosly
Methods:
1.Go back to the 60-bar blues and tell the student you are going to play through
this a number of times on rhythm guitar while they improvise.
2. Tell them that you are not the least concerned with their phrasing, sound
quality or timing in this exercise.
3. Tell them that the only rules are that they play in key, cover all five positions
and don't pause for breath!
4. Encourage them to use the ideas worked on earlier in this lesson plan to help
them continuously string notes together.
5. Stress that it is totally okay, in fact, positively desirable, to repeat licks and
phrases over and over whilst thinking where to go next.
6. Start the exercise and continue it all the while the student is making good
progress. Coach only on continuity, staying in key and coverage of fretboard.
Objective 5. Student able and willing to experiment with lick formation
Methods:
1.Tell the student you want to teach them to doodle on the guitar in the same way
as an artist does in their sketch pad..
2. Tell them doodling is actually an essential part of the creative process as it
enables the fingers to begin to find their own way round the scales with less and
less conscious effort on the student's part.
3. Demonstrate some doodling on your guitar making sure that you are quite
randomly just letting your fingers mess about with scale notes.
4. Play any lick and then find as many variants as you can play it faster, slower,
backwards, upside-down, inside out, add a note to it, take a note away, substitute
one note for another, change bends to slides, slides to hammer-ons and pull-offs,
experiment, experiment, doodle, doodle, doodle.
5. Now set a timer on your watch or clock to go off in 10 minutes.
6. Tell the student that you want them to do10 minutes doodling without
stopping.
7. Sit there and observe them, but resist coaching unless they are totally stuck.
Objective 6. Student putting all the above into action
Methods:
1.Pick a simple blues-based song (Dylan's All along the Watchtower is ideal) or just
use a generic 12-bar in a single key.
2. Play a good 10-20 minutes of rhythm guitar for your student to jam along with.
3. Stress that this is mainly for fun and that you are not going to coach them,
rather just allow them time and space to experiment.
4. The only intervention should be made when the student is playing quite
definitely out of key and has failed to notice and correct.
5. Make this fun enter into the spirit of it yourself, maybe sing a verse or two to
give the thing some shape, but avoid taking any of the lead yourself.
Lesson plan 17:
DEVELOPING PHRASING ABILITY
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to improvise or play blues rock or country
lead guitar.
Prerequisites:
Lesson plan 16 completed.
General Objective:
To improve the students phrasing when improvising lead guitar
Summary of this lesson plan:
A series of exercises to help the student become aware of how what they play fits
with the accompaniment.
Stress:
Good phrasing is a result of several elements working together including confidence,
listening, chord comprehension, timing, fluency and orientation. It cannot be learnt
overnight!
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student able to locate the key note in any position of the blues scales
Methods:
1. Ask the student to observe how each position of the blues scale contains a
group of three notes that are a semitone apart (IV bV V).
2. Have them find these three notes and play them in each position. Ask them if
they can hear that they are the same three notes all the time.
3. Now explain to the student that these three notes can be considered to be the
centre of the blues scale. This means that they only have to play two notes up
from these three to arrive at the key note. Alternatively they can play two notes
further down from the run of three to arrive at the key note. Here is the whole
blues scale described in generic terms:
I(key note) bIII IV - bV - V bVII VIII(key note)
4. Have them locate as many key notes as possible by using this system as
follows: In each of the positions, first have them locate the three notes in a row.
Play them in ascending order then move two notes further up the blues scale.
Then play them in descending order and move two notes further down the scale.
5. Once they can do this without any sign of confusion tell them that you will now
play some blues rhythm guitar. All they have to do is repeat the exercise they just
did, but listening to how it works against the chord changes.
6. Play a 12-bar rhythm and have the student play along in this way. Coach them
on timing the notes to best fit the changes.
Objective 2. Student able to create a variety of licks centred on the key note.
Methods:
1. Using a blues backing track demonstrate to the student how you can develop a
number of licks that end on the key note. This should be kept simple. Licks of two
three or four notes. Each lick should include some use of left hand technique.
Here's an example in the key of E:
e- - - - - - - - - - - 3b( 4) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 3/ 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - 5- 3h5~~- - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. Draw the student's attention to how the lick is timed to accent the first beat of
each bar. Also draw to the student's attention how this lick works over both the I
and the IV chord but not over the V so well.
3. Have the student have a go at this themselves with you playing a simple 12-bar
rhythm guitar part behind them.
4. Encourage them to repeat licks over and over, trying slight variations in
rhythm, accent and timing.
5. Once they appear to have exhausted their options working round a particular
key note encourage them to move on to another until all five positions have been
covered.
Objective 3. Student able to phrase notes to land on the V note
Methods:
1. Demonstrate to the student that although most of the time phrasing around key
notes is a safe bet, there are times when a key note phrase sounds wrong. This is
almost always when used over the dominant (V) chord in the key.
2. Demonstrate to the student that the safest note to use in this case is the V note
of the key. A good way to do this is by playing against a 12-bar backing. In the
key of E a phrase ending on the key note E will sound resolved both against the
key chord (E or E7) and the IV chord (A or A7) this works because the chord of A
includes the note E as its V! - When the V chord (B or B7 crops up, the phrase
ending on E will cause tension because the note E is not included in the B or B7
chord. So if you want your phrase to sound more harmonious, end the phrase on
the B note (V in the key of E) instead.
3. Get your student to practice a few licks that land on the key note and then
change the lick to end on the V instead. Here's our example from above, modified
to land on the V note instead of the key note.
e- - - - - - - - - - - 3b( 4) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 3/ 5~~- - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - / 4~~~- - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. Get the student to use this pair of licks to play a lead line through a 12 bar. Like
most blues phrases the timing is anticipatory so that the last note should be
played on the first beat of the bar. To put this another way, play the phrase after
this count in:
12/8 : 1 and a 2 and a 3 and
5. The student should play the first version of the lick, landing on the key note in
front of any bar that starts with a I (E) or IV(A) chord and should use the second
version, landing on the fifth in front of any bar starting with the V(B) chord.
6. Once the student is happy doing this with a pair of phrases that you have
showed them, get them to work out a similar pair themselves and play them
against your 12-bar rhythm.
7. Repeat this exercise making sure that the student can figure this out and play it
in any position. Then try a few different keys as well to make sure that this new
knowledge is appended to their existing orientation scheme.
Reference
Article: Assimilating
Objective 4. Student aware of three basic approaches to timing
Methods:
1. Playing lead guitar against a blues backing track, demonstrate to your student
the difference between a lick that anticipates the main (first) beat, one that starts
on the first beat and one that is played after the first beat.
2. Now have them pick a suitable phrase and play it repeatedly against the
backing in a way that anticipates the first beat of each bar.
3. Once they have tried a few of these and have clearly got the hang of it, get them
to find a suitable phrase to start on the first beat (this will almost certainly be a
phrase that starts on the root note of the chord they are playing against). Get them
to try this out against your backing until they have got used to the idea of starting
phrases on the beat.
4. Now get them to play phrases that come after the main beat. Keep this simple -
two-note phrases played to echo the first beat work fine.
5. Once they are confident with these three approaches to the timing of phrases,
have a jam session of several minutes duration. Get them to play rhythm for part
of it while you play a mix of phrases with these three different timing
characteristics. Then they play lead while you encourage them to play different
timings.
6. Continue with this until you are sure they are equally at home with all three
approaches.
Objective 5. Student able to develop their own licks, riffs and phrases
Methods:
1. Choose five simple blues licks, one from each position of the blues scale and
teach them to your student.
2. Take the first of these licks and demonstrate to the student how it can be built
upon to create almost endless variations. Repeat the lick at different speeds, with
different accents. Add different notes to the end of the lick, use different notes to
start it and so on. Play it forwards, backwards, upside down and inside out! Show
the student how to experiment using a single simple lick as a point of departure.
3. Now encourage them to have a go.
4. Coach them to try as many different variations as possible.
5. Now make the point that the more they practice a particular lick the more they
will improve their physical coordination, speed and strength and this in itself will
open up more and more possibilities to extend and vary the lick.
6. So the rule is, tell them, that if they feel limited in their improvising ideas
don't go looking all over the fretboard for that 'special lick' - just repeat the
simple licks you do know until you can do them five times faster! That then
creates the mental space and physical strength, speed and fluency to develop
even meaner sounding licks.
Lesson plan 18:
DEVELOPING CREATIVITY
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to improvise or play blues rock or country
or jazz lead guitar.
Prerequisites:
Previous lesson plans in this section will have had to have been repeated a number of
times. Also, the student will have to have had a fair amount of practice of
improvising both against recorded and live backing before being able to make full
use of this lesson plan.
General Objective:
To encourage the student's creativity
Summary of this lesson plan:
A series of exercises to help the student develop an adventurous creative approach to
improvising and to draw their attention to different aspects of musical creativity.
Stress:
You cannot really teach creativity, as it is so much a function of personality. What
you can do however, is provide a safe arena in which the student's natural creativity
has the best chance of flourishing. For this I believe the teacher's approach must be
non-judgemental, encouraging, stimulating and above all validating of the student's
efforts.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student able to recognise resolved and unresolved sounds and able to
work with them deliberately
Methods:
1. Explain briefly, and demonstrate to your student what the terms resolved and
unresolved mean in music.
2. Against a backing track, play some lead guitar using distinctly separated licks.
Ask your student to listen to each lick you play and tell you whether it sounds
resolved or unresolved against the chord in the backing.
3. If your student gets it right, continue with a different phrase, but if they get it
wrong, repeat the same phrase asking the student to listen a little closer. Needless
to say you should start by using phrases that are very definitely unresolved (land
on bV note) and phrases that are definitely resolved (land on root note). Increase
the subtlety as the student grows in confidence.
4. Play an A7 chord with a steady rhythm and ask your student to use the A blues
scale, but to find a phrase that deliberately sounds unresolved.
5. Once they have found an unresolved phrase tell them to change a note or two
to make it resolve.
6. Repeat this, getting them to use a number of different phrases in different
positions and keys, but only against a single key chord.
7. Once the student has the hang of this, get them to reverse the exercise. Find a
phrase that is resolved then change it so that it becomes unresolved.
8. Be prepared for this exercise to take quite a while. Coach and encourage your
student to persist, even though they may find this really difficult to begin with.
Resist the temptation to feed the student ideas this lesson plan is about the
development of their creativity not yours!
9. If they really can't make any headway with this, it generally indicates that
further work needs to be done on the previous objectives in this section.
10. A useful coaching tip is to tell the student that the notes of the blues scale are
so arranged that if one note doesn't resolve the next one in the scale almost
certainly will. So really, all you're asking them to do is to listen carefully to how
their phrases sound, and then change the end note one step up or down the scale
to switch from resolved to unresolved or vice versa.
11. Once the student has really got the hang of this, get them to jam against you
playing rhythm through a basic 12-bar blues. Ask them to deliberately mix
resolved and unresolved phrases in a way that would keep an imagined audience
on the edge of their seats. Emphasize that there is generally a balance to be
achieved the use of too many unresolved phrases alienates the audience,
because they feel they can't make sense of the music; too many resolved phrases
sends the audience to sleep because the music becomes too predictable.
Objective 2. Student confident in their ability to vary the timing of phrases to good
effect
Methods:
1. Explain to the student that just as in the last exercise where they were altering
the harmonic resolution of the music, a similar effect can be achieved with timing.
2. Play a backing track and demonstrate to the student a phrase that is
conventionally timed. Then play the same phrase later than expected. Then play it
earlier than expected.
3. Demonstrate to the student how there are several different ways to 'mess' with
the timing of phrases: Play them twice as fast, half as slow, half a beat late/early, a
whole beat late/early, a fraction of a beat late/early, play a phrase on upstrokes
only, play the same phrase on downstrokes only. Deliberately play a phrase
completely out of time (surprisingly hard to do!).
4. Now get them to have a go at each of these examples one at a time, repeating
their attempts until they have succeeded with each example.
5. Coach and encourage. This is about playing how you mean to play, so make
sure they alternate between playing phrases with conventional timing and then
the same phrase with deliberate timing liberties being taken.
Objective 3. Student able to understand that harmony is relative to the backing
against which they play
Methods:
1. Explain to the student that notes and phrases on their own are neither in nor
out of harmony and should always be aurally evaluated in the context of the
backing rhythm.
2. As an example, playing against a backing track, show the student how you can
play a phrase that sounds unresolved against a chord, but by continuing the same
phrase until the chord changes, the phrase may become resolved against the new
chord. This is a favourite compositional trick in most genres of music.
3. Get the student to have a go at this, but bear in mind that this is quite a hard
skill to achieve because it requires hearing in an anticipatory way. For this reason
you may have to feed one or two examples to the student for them to try,
depending on their confidence level. The important thing at this stage is that they
become aware of the phenomenon. They will then start to hear it when they listen
to music and understanding what it is, they are more likely to incorporate it into
their own creative style.
Objective 4. Student introduced to the idea of chromaticism and able to use it in
improvising
Methods:
1. Explain in simple terms the concept of chromaticism as used in Jazz
improvisation and in conventional composition.
2. Show the student some examples by playing against a backing track.
3. Get the student to have a go at this. Start them off by suggesting that they
simply fill in the gaps on the blues scale. Coach them on making sure that the fill-
in notes are played off the beat, ie: used as passing notes
4. Tell the student that chromaticism is a useful trick to escape from trouble
whenever they find themselves landing a phrase on a completely wrong note
just move chromatically up the string fret by fret until they hit a note that resolves
really well!
Objective 5. Responsive playing
Methods:
1. Explain to the student the basic idea of call and response as used in all forms of
music. The pairing of phrases that match each other.
2. Against a backing track, play a few examples of paired phrases.
3. Now keep the backing track running and ask your student to play a short
phrase and then leave a gap for you to respond.
4. Coach them on this as necessary the main problem is usually getting them to
keep their phrases short 1, 2 3 or 4 notes no more to begin with.
5. Jam with them in this way them playing a phrase, you playing a response.
Once they are happy with this, swap round and have them respond to your
phrases.
6. Continue with this exercise all the time the student is developing new ideas
and enjoying themselves.
Objective 6. Consolidate work done so far
Methods:
1. Briefly review, with your student, the last 3 lesson plans (16-18).
2. Now play a simple 12 bar and ask your student to play along any way they
like just get stuck in and enjoy themselves!
3. After about 5 minutes of this switch to a slow minor blues.
4. After another five minutes try a minor ballad or two make sure that you pick
something the student will be able to work with using blues scales in their home
key alone.
5. Continue with this until you are satisfied that the student has really taken on
board the lessons of the last three plans.
Lesson plan 19:
DEVELOPING FUNCTIONALITY
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to improvise or play blues rock or country
or jazz lead guitar.
Prerequisites:
Lesson plans 16-18 completed thoroughly
General Objective:
To focus the student on using their improvising skills in a way that enhances the
music they are playing. Training the student to allow space for the other members of
a band and take into account the needs of the audience.
Summary of this lesson plan:
A series of exercises designed to improve the student's awareness of what
contribution their playing should be making to a given musical situation. When to
play, what to play, how much, how loud, for how long. How to start a solo, how to
end it. How to please both your audience and your fellow band-members.
Stress:
Up until now, much of your coaching has been in the direction of getting the student
to throw off restraints, to experiment, play expansively this is all much needed to
develop the student's confidence and range of skills. At this stage, however we bring
back the focus to the needs of the music itself.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student understanding the concept of rhythmic responsibility
Methods:
1. Explain briefly, the concepts of rhythmic responsibility and the hierarchy of
rhythmic responsibility that is normally observed in a band.
2. To provide an example of the importance of this concept ask your student to
jam along with you.
3. Play a really solid 12-bar rhythm taking full responsibility for keeping time and
tying down the main beats in a way that allows your student full rein to
improvise over the top of you.
4. Draw to the student's attention that all the time you are playing like that, they
are at liberty to play with little or no attention to 'having to keep the beat' or
'underline the changes'.
5. Now change your style of rhythm playing take more liberties with the rhythm
imagine you were playing over a good solid bass and drums rhythm section
that allowed you to do this.
6. Tell your student to continue to improvise over what you're playing.
7. After a minute or two ask your student how they found that. Was it easier or
harder to play over? Did they feel they had the same freedom to take timing
liberties themselves?
8. The student's answers to these questions will depend on their own rhythmic
awareness to some degree, but if you have done this exercise properly, most
students will find it much harder to play along to the looser style of rhythm
playing and will have found it quite frustrating!
Objective 2. Student able to play lead with varying degrees of attention to rhythmic
responsibility
Methods:
1. Tell the student that, depending on the situation they are playing in, it will be
necessary for them to make a judgement about how much rhythmic responsibility
to take in their lead playing.
2. Some blues songs use rhythmic lead guitar figures as part of their structure
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton in particular, excelled at this style. B.B.King
however, played over a strong, relatively orthodox, rhythm section and was able
to take a lot more liberties with his lead playing as a result. Tell your student that
these are examples of rhythmic responsibility being inherent in the style of
playing.
3. Ask your student to have a go at playing a 12-bar blues lead part that works
without any backing.
4. To begin with, provide some rhythmic support yourself while your student
develops some ideas for this, but then gradually fade out until the student is
playing unaccompanied. You might make similar use of a drum machine or
metronome for this purpose.
5. Coach your student on two main aspects: firstly keeping the beat and
maintaining even tempo. Secondly: playing in a way that underlines the chord
changes.
6. This is not easy to do for a beginner and plenty of time should be allowed for
the student to achieve this. The coaching style should be encouraging and
supportive rather than critical.
7. Once the student can do this, phase your supportive rhythm playing back in
gradually and get the student to gradually loosen up their playing accordingly. In
effect you are asking the student to gradually pass over rhythmic responsibility to
you.
8. Finally, tell your student that the decision on how much rhythmic
responsibility to take is a very dynamic one depending both on style, and
practical considerations. For example one would play a solo against a backing
provided by a single acoustic guitar with a lot more rhythmic responsibility than
you would play the same solo in the context of a four piece band where the
responsibility is assumed chiefly by the drummer, bass player and rhythm
guitarist.
Objective 3. Student understanding the concept of melodic responsibility and able to
pick out melodies from the blues scales and use these as a basis for soloing
Methods:
1. Tell your student that the ability to improvise a melody, and to build solos on
melodies, is very important, as the melody is usually the part of a song that the
audience most readily identifies with. If, for example, they are doing an
instrumental version of a song that people are used to hearing vocals on, then it is
essential to keep the lead playing pretty close to the original melody
2. So the first step for your student is to practice finding melody lines. As we have
so far worked only with blues scales it is important to select a song that has its
melody made up mostly of blues scale notes. These will often be minor key blues-
based songs like Gershwin's Summertime or the traditional House of the Rising Sun.
Note that in almost any tune you will have to include one or two notes from
outside the blues scale, or substitute for the real melody, notes from within the
blues scale if you prefer. Your student should be coached to take both paths.
3. Play the chords to the song a little slower than you usually would and be
prepared to slow down at points where your student is struggling. Sometimes, it
is better to stop the rhythm altogether and coach the student to find passages of
melody one note at a time. The style of your coaching must be adapted to the
particular student because you will find a very wide range of ability to be able to
do this. Students with previous musical training especially vocal training will
find this a lot easier than those with no previous musical experience.
4. Once they have pinned down a line that is pretty close to the melody of the
song, get them to use that as a point of departure. Get them to play a line of melody
followed by a scale-based fill or a couple of blues licks, then back to the melody,
then another fill and so on.
5. Repeat this with two or three different songs. Check each song first to make
sure that most of the melody notes are from the blues scale.
Objective 4. Student able to play lead that complements vocal or other solo
instrumental playing
Methods:
1. Draw your student's attention to the fact that lead guitar playing is often used
in performances and recordings to complement the vocals or other instrumental
solo lines (piano, sax etc..).
2. Tell them you are going to sing a song and want them only to play in between
the vocal lines in a way that complements them. Tell them to stick to very simple
short phrasing, as often there is only room for sound effect style playing between
vocal lines.
3. Choose a song with a blues feel and let them know what key you are going to
sing it in. Go straight into the song and complete a couple of verses before
stopping to coach the student.
4. Coach mainly on how they are listening and how appropriate their responses
are. Make sure they are keeping it simple.
5. Stick with the same song until they are definitely getting the right idea. Then
try another song or two.
6. If you are not comfortable with singing, use a backing track and get them to
complement your lead guitar lines. Play a tight melodic solo and let them play the
fills. Alternatively you could use sax, blues harp, piano whatever you like that
meets the needs of the exercise.
7. Continue with this until the student shows signs of real confidence.
Objective 5. Student able to make necessary volume or sound quality adjustments
prior to soloing, without missing the first beat of their solo as a result
Methods:
1. Tell the student that you are now going to start focusing on lead guitar solo
playing. Emphasize that playing a good solo in a song, especially under live
performance conditions is a lot more difficult than simply jamming along with
someone at home.
2. Tell them you are going to coach them first on how to come into a solo as this is
probably the most important part of soloing as far as impacting on the audience is
concerned.
3. Tell them that most often they will have been playing quieter, rhythm guitar
work before a solo opportunity comes along. So it is usually necessary to adjust
the output of the guitar just before starting into a solo. This sometimes means
pressing a footswitch or pedal, sometimes adjusting the channel on their amp,
sometimes simply turning up the volume on the guitar. Pick one of these actions
or, if, for example, you are working with acoustic guitars, have the student pick
up a plectrum from a table or some such action that will do as a substitute for the
sort of action they may have to perform in a live situation.
4. Now have them play a 12-bar blues with you. First off they should simply join
in the rhythm guitar part. Then just as you come to the last bar have them break
off from the rhythm playing in sufficient time to make a volume adjustment (or
whatever substitute action) to their guitar in time for them to come in right on the
first beat of their solo verse or chorus.
5. At this stage you are not coaching them on what they are playing, just on
smoothly carrying out the necessary action to prepare to come into the solo at the
right volume.
6. Repeat this until the student's timing is good and their action is smooth and
unflustered.
Objective 6. Student able to come into a solo with a strong, positive approach
Methods:
1. Tell your student that soloing is not for the shy and fainthearted! The most
important part of a solo is the entry. Make this strong and positive and the rest of
the solo is almost irrelevant because your audience will still be wowed by the
entry! Similarly, make the entry weak and indecisive and the rest of the solo is
irrelevant because no-one will be listening!
2. Play a few bars of rhythm guitar to set the feel and tempo of the backing and
ask your student to find a suitable first phrase for a solo over the chords you are
playing.
3. Once they have the phrase ask them which beat of the bar it starts on. They
should be absolutely certain about whether the phrase anticipates the first beat of
the solo verse, or nails it, or follows it.
4. Play through the preceding verse and cue the solo in the same way as a lead
vocalist might do in a live performance situation. This varies from genre to genre.
It can range from the quite straightforward, like: 'Take it away Gerald on guitar'
or 'Play that guitar Sam!' To pretty weird - especially if you play with country
singers - they often use cues associated with the lyrics of the song so listen
carefully! I can remember being completely thrown once depping for a country
band when the singer turned to me and quite conversationally remarked: 'Go
pluck some funky chickens Nick!' For a moment I thought she was telling me to
leave the stage for the barbeque area, but then she pointed at my guitar and
shouted 'Quick! Solo!' Which left me in no doubt!
5. Coach your student to come in strongly, on your cue, on the appropriate beat of
the bar. Go through this several times until they have definitely got it.
6. Then pick another song and drill it in the same way.
7. Repeat with as many different songs as it takes to build the student's
confidence that they can really do this.
Objective 7. Student understanding the importance of building a solo and giving it
appropriate structure
Methods:
1. Choose a particular song and chat with the student about how they will solo
over it. Get the student to decide where in the song the solo should come, what
chords it should be over, and how many bars the solo should last.
2. Then discuss how the solo should build. For example, a one verse solo should
probably start strong, stay strong and work its way up the fretboard finishing
with high notes. A five verse blues solo has to be paced completely differently.
The first verse should be strong. The second should probably build on the first.
The third should go off in a distinctly different direction to provide contrast that
helps sustain the listeners' interest. The fourth should be toned down allowing the
fifth to really take off by comparison and provide a grande finale. Of course this is
only one of many possible approaches, but it serves to provide an example of
how you should discuss this point with your student. The important thing is that
the student decides exactly how they are going to structure the solo, and that
what they decide is appropriate to the style and genre of the song.
3. Now get the student to play their solo in context, either against a backing track
or with you providing rhythm guitar backing.
4. Go through it several times until the solo definitely follows the pattern that the
student decided was best. It may be that this pattern gets changed as they try it
out, but generally this should be at the prompting of the student, not of the
teacher. If the solo really doesn't seem to work, to you, then by all means question
the student and if they agree, get them to change it, but beware of imposing your
own musical prejudices on the student.
5. Once they have got one solo up to a point of satisfaction with the result, agree
with them on a couple more songs they should prepare solos to. They should be
in contrast, and the student should learn to play at least one single-verse and one
eight-bar solo as these are far more common in most genres than the five-verse
solo! They can work on these at home and you can check them out next lesson.

Objective 8. Student understanding how to end off a solo
Methods:
1. Tell your student you are now going to concentrate their attention on the last
part of the solo. Tell them that what you play in the final part of your solo should
be designed to blend smoothly into whatever comes next. Typically this will
either be a verse, middle eight, chorus, or another instrumental solo.
2. Tell the student that blending back into a verse usually requires that the solo
resolves at the end. Against a backing track, play a one verse solo that ends in this
way, leaving a clear space at the end of the solo to settle the song down so that the
vocal entry into the next verse sounds natural.
3. Get the student to have a go at this. Have them try out several approaches to
see what works best for them. When coaching this, bear in mind that there is no
right or wrong way to do this. It's a question of developing a feel for what should
be played, then having the familiarity with the scale notes to be able to reproduce
that feel on the guitar. Coach the student towards developing that feel.
4. Now look at the solo that joins back into a chorus or middle eight. More often
than not this will want to finish on the fifth note or another note that creates an
unresolved feeling. The idea is that you set the listener up in such a way that they
feel really satisfied when the chorus comes back in. Again, this will need a certain
amount of discussion and experimentation. Maybe you could dig out an example
or two from your CD collection to play to the student.
5. Get the student to have a go at soloing back into the chorus of a song with
which they are familiar. Again, coach them on listening, and persisting in tracking
down some ideas that work. It's about developing their awareness as much as
anything.
6. Finally, have them work on the idea of linking their solo to someone else's. One
trick here is to end the solo on a repeated phrase or single note that provides a tag
for the next soloist to hook into. Another idea is to return to the basic melody at
the end of their solo. Experiment and provide them with different contexts to try
out these ideas.
7. A final point, that should be dealt with on the subject of solo ending, is the
signal that the soloist gives the band leader (usually the singer) just as they're
ending the solo. This is normally simply a matter of looking up as you come into
the last bar of your solo and nodding towards the band leader as if to say 'Ok,
back to you now'
Get your student to drill this with you. Handing back to you after a solo. Have
them decide how long the solo should be, and keep you in the dark, until giving
you an appropriate signal that's correctly timed to bring you back in as singer or
next soloist.
Objective 9. Student confident they can function as lead guitarist using the blues
scales in their home keys
Methods:
1. Tell the student you are going to help them consolidate their improvising skills
learnt so far.
2. Pick a range of songs that can be played along to using blues scales in their
home keys. This should cover slow blues in major and minor keys, faster R&B
numbers, minor ballads and blues-based major ballads.
3. Tell the student you are going to play straight through these songs and expect
them to support you with lead guitar. Ask them to play complementary guitar
while you are singing and then take over from you on the solos.
4. At the end of each song, coach them briefly on any points that seem to have
been poorly handled, but continue to the next song.
5. At the end of the last song summarise the coaching points. There will probably
be one or two prevalent mistakes or weaknesses. Re-drill these as necessary going
back over the appropriate objectives.
6. Once these have been handled successfully, repeat the songs again, this time
non-stop, as if in a performance.
7. End off by emphasizing the positive points and by encouraging your student to
work on any perceived weaknesses. This is often a good point at which to remind
the student that they should continue working on the basic scales, on an ongoing
basis, as that is what most deeply affects all their playing in the long run.
Lesson plan 20:
SPECIFIC REMEDIES
Problem: Student unwilling to use all four fingers on left hand
Typical of a self taught student, they appear unable or unwilling to use their 4th
finger when playing scales and when improvising
Probable cause(s): It doesn't come naturally to use the little finger you have to train
it!
Solution(s): There are two steps to take:
The first is to convince the student of the importance of using all four fingers. I point
out that they might get away with being three-fingered on the blues scales, but they
will definitely run into problems later on, with major and minor scales, arpeggios,
modes etc., if they don't develop a four-fingered approach. Ask your student what
the point is of only using three quarters of their available resources!?
The second step is to provide the student with the right exercises to help them
develop good fingering habits. These are covered in Lesson plan 11. In extreme cases
get them to play through the blues scales without using their 1st finger at all just
2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers and get them to improvise like this as well, just until the
weaker fingers come up to strength.
Problem: Student has unusually poor left to right hand coordination
Shows up as an inability to pick the same string with the right hand that they are
fretting with the left. Student may not be able to play without constantly looking
from left to right hand and back again - a bit like a cat watching a game of ping pong!
Probable cause(s): There are clinically recognized conditions that cause coordination
problems, but they are extremely rare. The most likely cause is simply that the
student has had little prior experience of using their hands in this way so it is very
new to them.
Solution(s): One will have to be very patient teaching this student to improvise and
perhaps take a different route through the subject. With this student I would spend a
lot more time on the pre-scale exercises and would meanwhile teach them a number
of riff-based blues pieces to help them develop the physical coordination before
being put under pressure to improvise.
Problem: Student finds it difficult to use their fingers independently
They complain that they are sending messages to one finger but the one next to it
responds instead
Probable cause(s): This again is usually down to the student's lack of previous
similar exercise.
Solution(s): Lots of time taken over the pre-scale exercises will always help with this.
Additionally, here's a useful exercise to help develop the neural pathways from brain
to finger:
With the hand placed flat, palm down on a table top, get the student to raise the 4th
finger and lower it again. Then raise the 3rd finger and lower it again, then the 2nd,
then the 1st, then the thumb. Once they can do this easily enough get them to
combine digits: Raise the thumb and 2nd finger together and lower, raise the 1st and
3rd, 2nd and 4th, thumb and 3rd, 1st and 4th etc.. Go through all possible
combinations many times until the student is doing it easily. Finally, reverse the
exercise: leave down your thumb, lift the four fingers, leave down your 1st finger
raise the thumb and other three fingers and so on. Teach this exercise to your student
and encourage them to practice it whilst watching TV or whatever.
Problem: Student stuck in one position of the blues scale and unwilling to play
outside it
Again this is typical of a self taught student, the longer they have been playing the
harder it is to shake them out of the habit.
Probable cause(s): Usually just habit. Sometimes there's an attitude as well that says:
'Well I get by with this, why should I bother learning to play elsewhere on the
fretboard?'
Solution(s): There are two steps to take:
The first is to bring the student to understand why it is worth their investing time
and effort in learning to play other positions. Do this by demonstrating rather than
just explaining. The reasons for being able to play in all positions include the
following:
If you can play only in one position you restrict your choice as to how high you can
pitch your solo for example, when playing in the key of D and fixed to the 1st
position you will be forced to avoid all the notes in the first 10 frets that's about half
a guitar you're wasting!
Learning to play positionally is a vital step towards mastering the whole subject of
guitar playing. It helps the student form a foundation for more advanced ideas that
they will come across later on in their development.
Playing only the 1st position (and it is nearly always the 1st position that they have
learnt) tends to make them sound like most other novice guitarists, whereas if they
take the trouble to develop some ideas in, say, the 3rd position they will come up
with licks that set them apart from the ordinary!
I make the point that it is hardly an exciting prospect for me as a guitar teacher to
coach them through all five positions, but I do it because I am convinced, after years
of searching, that there is no quicker route to becoming a good lead guitarist than
learning to play all these positions really fluently. 'If you think it's boring to play,
imagine how boring it is to sit here and listen to someone play them!'
The second step is to help cure them of the habit. I sometimes 'put a ban' on them
using that particular position for a while. Each lesson I ask:
'Which position is now the least familiar to you, which is the hardest to work with?'
Then we spend at least half a lesson working that position exclusively, getting them
to memorize it, practice it up and down, copy licks in it, make up their own licks
from it and use it to jam with. I stop them every time they wander away from it.
Then next lesson I ask the question again. Eventually I check them out: selecting
positions and keys at random and seeing that they are equally comfortable in all
positions in any key.
Problem: Student not learning scales
You have given them the diagrams, talked them through it all, showed them what
they're good for, but still they are not learning them
Probable cause(s): This may be just sheer laziness and lack of application on the part
of the student or it may be down to their not making sufficient practice time
available. But often it is because of some minor confusion about how to read the
diagrams, which direction the notes go in, or what fingers to use.
Solution(s): First recheck their comprehension of the diagrams. Do this by having
them play a position they are definitely not yet familiar with, straight off the
diagram. If they can do that then you know it's a lack of practice problem.
If they're not practicing at home then they have to practice in lesson time. So talk
them through each position and get them to do it over and over until they have got it.
Do three positions in one lesson. Next lesson check these three, and if they are secure,
knock off the remaining two.
Reference
Article: What to do when your student hasn't done their practice assignment
Problem: Student has learnt scales but is not practicing them
Their scales are getting no better week by week that means they are not practicing
them.
Probable cause(s): They're either underestimating the importance of them, not
making time to practice or are just not up to really applying themselves
Solution(s): Re-emphasize the importance of continuous practice of the scales to the
student. Check how keen they are to develop lead guitar skills it may be they are
not particularly bothered at this stage. If it's just that they're not finding time or
motivation to practice then spend the first twenty minutes of each lesson with them
playing scales to you. Play along with them if you're still practicing your scales
then it gets the message across that you really do think they're useful!
Problem: Student unable to read scale diagrams
This is not uncommon where there is no previous experience of working with scale
diagrams
Probable cause(s): Sometimes students confuse scale diagrams with chord diagrams.
Often they have not yet become oriented to which way is up on the guitar (because
this is two-dimensional you have higher strings and higher frets). They may not have
realised quite what a scale is. Rarely, they might have an inexplicable block on
reading diagrams of this type, but this would probably already have showed up with
chord diagrams.
Solution(s): Firstly clear the definition of the word scale and its derivation from the
latin 'Scalae' meaning 'Ladder'. These helps present a picture of notes ascending and
descending in pitch.
Show the student how you can play a scale up and down the length of a single string.
Again this reinforces the musical shape of the scale.
Now show the student how, instead of playing all the way up a single string, you can
work your way across the strings. Demonstrate how the strings are tuned five
semitones apart. All this helps the student orientate themselves both to the ascending
and descending sound of the scale and how this can be played in two dimensions on
the guitar.
Finish by emphasizing that when they are interpreting a scale pattern on a diagram
they should start with the 6
th
string and work from the lowest indicated fret to the
highest on that string then work similarly up the 5
th
string, then 4
th
string etc.. On the
way down the scale they should finger the highest indicated frets first and work from
the 1
st
to the 6
th
string.
Finally, if all else fails, try writing out the scale in different formats. You can try
tablature, standard notation or a purely numeric notation like this:
St r i ng: 6 6 5 5 5 4 4 3 3 3 2 2 1 1
Fr et : 0 3 0 1 2 0 2 0 2 3 0 3 0 3
Ti me: >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Different things work better for different people.
Problem: Student doesn't seem to be using left-hand technique
Student is okay finding their notes on the scales and is stringing phrases together, but
appears to be avoiding use of techniques (hammer-ons, bends, slides etc)
Probable cause(s): In my experience this generally goes with a particular mentality.
Improvising is something that can't be done well at the outset you have to start by
doing it badly! Many adults in particular, who are somewhat conditioned to 'doing
things properly' find it hard to 'go out on a limb' and play with the spirit of
adventure that learning to improvise requires. So they will always try to play well
within their comfort zone. This often manifests as an unwillingness to use techniques
when they feel they can get by fine on just playing nice straight notes up and down
the scale.
Solution(s): It is worth underlining to your student that they cannot expect to
improvise well until they have spent many hours improvising badly! Emphasize the
importance of an adventurous approach to the subject. Tell them that you are not
listening to hear if they are playing it right. Rather you are listening to hear if they are
throwing caution to the winds and having a real go at mixing in as many bits of
technique as possible. Tell them they can't master technique without using it!
With students who really struggle with this, you may need to teach them lick after
lick until they have built up enough confidence to start putting the techniques to use.
Quite a good way of doing this is simply putting on a blues backing track and
playing a simple lick to it which you ask your student to copy. You keep repeating
the lick until they have duplicated it more or less and then add a bit to it or change it
in some way. Keep building licks a step at a time in this way, with the student
copying you at each stage, so that they get a real appreciation of how modular lead
guitar playing is.
Problem: Student very reluctant to improvise at all
They have learned their scales and faithfully copied your demonstration of left hand
techniques. But when it comes to improvising they just seize up and won't play a
note.
Probable cause(s): This is most likely the result of conditioning the student has
experienced that has stifled their ability to create. In simplified terms: being brought
up to 'just do exactly as your told' can turn a person into something of a robot that
can't operate without step by step instructions.
Solution(s): On the basis that it is generally better to work with a student's strengths
and not battle against their weaknesses I would probably leave the whole subject of
improvising to one side for the time being. Instead, teach the student to play one solo
after another from tablature or standard notation if appropriate. This way they at
least develop the physical ability to play. Once that's done the door may open up to
get them to improvise a little, but it may be that they'll be just as happy to stay with
playing from memory.
Problem: Student's playing seems misrelated to the backing
The student is playing well, nice inventive phrasing, well-executed use of technique,
but what they're playing bears little or no relation to the accompaniment.
Probable cause(s): Quite often a student at this stage will be so involved in what they
are doing that they are hardly listening to the backing at all.
Solution(s): Sometimes, simply encouraging them to listen more carefully to the
chord changes and rhythmic elements of the backing is sufficient. It is also worth
demonstrating the difference between playing lead that, however fancy, does not
work well against the backing and playing lead that is really attentive to the rhythm
and harmonies of the accompaniment. Encourage them to leave space between the
licks for the rhythm to 'shine out from under' their playing.
Lesson plan 21:
SHUFFLE PATTERNS
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to play blues or rock 'n roll guitar.
Prerequisites:
Sections 1 and 2 completed. Lesson plan 34 (Major scale) completed.
General Objective:
To enable the student to play a number of different shuffle patterns and understand
the theory behind them and their use in blues and rock 'n' roll guitar playing
Summary of this lesson plan:
Shuffle patterns form the basis of a great many rhythm guitar parts in blues and rock
'n' roll style guitar. In this lesson plan we look at the physical approach to these
patterns as well as helping the student understand their theoretical base, both in
terms of rhythm and harmony. We then integrate all this into applying it to some
typical songs from these genres.
Stress:
Shuffle patterns require quite a bit of finger strength so you may have to deliver this
lesson plan in several installments, allowing the student to build up strength and
coordination in their practice time between lessons.
Materials required:
Shuffle patterns and variations
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Major scale theory briefly reviewed and applied to shuffle pattern
formation.
Methods:
1. Check that the student has covered the basics of major scale construction
(Lesson plan 34)
2. Test the student to see that they can form a major scale in the keys of E, A, B,
and D. Make sure they can play these in the open positions.
3. Play a few bars of an added 6
th
shuffle in E to introduce the idea to the student.
Use this form:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - 2- - 2- - 4- - 2- - 2- - 2- - 4- - 2- - - - - -
E- - - 0- - 0- - 0- - 0- - 0- - 0- - 0- - 0- - - - - -
(Played in 4/4 with a straight eight feel).
4. Show the student that this pattern is made up of the I note and the V note with
the VI note added on the snare beat. Make the point that notes are designated
roman numerals relative to the root of the chord.
5. Reinforce this by showing them the corresponding pattern for the A chord
(which should be the identical pattern shifted up a string).
6. Now ask them to have a go at finding these shapes themselves. Get them to
play a few bars of the E pattern, then of the A pattern. If necessary, emphasize
that this may take a bit of practice to get to sound right.
Objective 2. 12-bar blues sequence reviewed and played using open shuffle patterns
Methods:
1. Refer back to Lesson plan 15 and briefly refresh the students understanding of
the generic12-bar blues.
2. Ask them to write out a 12-bar in the key of E. Coach as necessary.
3. Emphasize that the rules of harmony work irrespective of pitch. Then, bearing that
in mind, ask them if they can work out a simple added 6
th
shuffle pattern for the
chord of B.
4. This may take some time and will definitely test the student's comprehension of
subject matter covered so far! The pattern I hope they'll figure out looks like this:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - 2- - 2- - 2- - 2- - 2- - 2- - 2- - 2- - - - - -
E- - - 2- - 2- - 4- - 2- - 2- - 2- - 4- - 0- - - - - -
Which works fine even though the chord is inverted (the V and VI are on the 6
th

string, the I is on the 5
th
string)
5. If they come up with any of the more awkward-to-finger combinations,
commend them for working them out correctly, but show them this pattern as a
simpler alternative. Emphasize how it proves the rule about harmony working
irrespective of pitch.
6. If they haven't managed to work it out at all, talk them through this shape,
relating the notes to the I, V and VI notes on the B major scale. At this stage, it's
not essential to make a big deal over the theory better to get them playing the
patterns but it is useful if they can begin to relate things to the major scale.
7. So now they have a shuffle pattern for each of the primary chords in the key of
E, get them to play through a 12-bar blues in E.
8. Once they have got on top of that, get them to write out a 12-bar in the key of
A.
9. They should then be asked to work out a shuffle pattern for D based on the
same simple I V VI idea as the E and A patterns.
Objective 3. Movable shuffle patterns learnt
Methods:
1. Ask you student to play an 'E' shaped barre chord at the 3
rd
fret to give a G
major chord.
2. Applying what they have learnt in the last two objectives, ask them to isolate
the I and V notes of this shape on the 6
th
and 5
th
strings and to play those two
notes together, fretting them with 1st and 3rd fingers. They may recognise this as
a fifth chord shape.
3. Now ask them to add the VI note fretting it with the little finger on the 5
th
string
at the 7
th
fret.
4. Demonstrate that this pattern can be used as a movable shuffle pattern rooted
on the 6
th
string and is therefore an effective substitute for the 'E' shaped barre
chord any time they want to give their playing an extra bluesy or rock 'n' rolly
sound.
5. Get them to work out how to use this over a 12-bar in G. This should produce
patterns rooted at the 3
rd
, 8
th
and 10
th
frets for G, C and D chords respectively.
6. Once they are happy with this, get them to work out a similar approach for a
blues in A, Bb, C#. Continue with this until they are comfortable with applying it
in any key.
7. Now ask them if they can work out a similar pattern rooted on the 5
th
string.
This can be thought of as derived from the 'A' shaped barre chord.
8. Finish up with encouraging them to put in plenty of practice on these patterns
because they are quite physically demanding.
Objective 4. Student made aware of variations on basic shuffle patterns
Methods:
1. Using whichever pattern the student has so far found the easiest to play,
demonstrate to them, the difference between the straight 4/4 8-beat shuffle (R&B
style) and the 12/8 slow blues shuffle.
2. Get them to play along with you until they are keeping in time with you. Then
have them play these variations without you. Make sure they can easily switch
from one to the other. This might take quite a bit of coaching.
3. Referring to the printout of variations on basic shuffle patterns, take your
student through these one at a time making sure they understand how to
interpret the tablature. Get them to play each one, both in straight eighths and 12/
8 slow blues time.
4. Encourage them to practice these variations and to make up some of their own
as well.
Objective 5. Application
Methods:
1. Choose an appropriate song that uses a straight eighths shuffle pattern as a
rhythm guitar part Elvis, Chuck Berry, Status Quo - there are also a few Beatles
numbers that are good like Back in the USSR'.
2. Play the song to the student and, if appropriate, write out the chord sequence.
3. Get them to have a go at it using whichever patterns they find easiest. If
necessary, keep the song in E or A to enable them to play it in open patterns.
4. Once they have got the hang of this try another song with a similar feel.
5. Now choose a song with a slow blues feel Before you accuse me, The Sky is Crying,
Red House - that sort of thing.
6. Again, have the student play along with you to get the feel. Try transposing to
different keys as well.
7. Impress upon the student that these patterns should be seen as a point of
departure. There are a great many variations on them used in different genres of
music. Perhaps demonstrate a few examples to your student to give them the
idea. Encourage them to experiment.
Lesson plan 22:
12-BAR BLUES PATTERNS
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to play blues or rock 'n' roll guitar.
Prerequisites:
Sections 1 and 2 completed. Lesson plan 37 (Harmonizing the Major scale)
completed.
General Objective:
To make the student aware of some of the many approaches used to play 12-bar
blues on the guitar
Summary of this lesson plan:
This Lesson plan has a strong element of consolidating and putting to use some of
the theory learnt in Section 5. The student learns to play along to 12-bar blues in a
wide variety of ways which all have immediate practical use as well as greatly
enhancing their perception of the fretboard and how to find their way around it.
Stress:
Don't rush through this lesson. Take each step and spend time getting the student
working with it. If you get them to apply it to specific songs, so much the better.
Materials required:
Blues chord treatments
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student checked out on their comprehension of the generic 12-Bar blues
Methods:
1. Ask the student to explain what is meant by I IV V chords. If they do not have
certainty on this point, review the subject of Major Scale Harmonizing (Lesson plan
37) with them.
2. Ask the student to tell you the names of I IV V chords in various keys
including some awkward ones like F, B, Bb, Eb, F# etc.. You want them to be quite
conversant with these chords before progressing further. They may need to use a
pen and paper or refer to the fretboard to do this that's fine.
3. Remind the student of the layout of a typical 12-bar blues in generic terms.
4. Ask the student to play a 12-bar rhythm (either strumming or using shuffle
patterns) in a key of their choice. Coach as necessary then ask them to play a 12-
bar in a different key.
5. End off this exercise when the student has demonstrated that they understand
what a 12-bar blues is and can play one in at least two different keys.
Objective 2. Student knowing the basic I IV V chord patterns using 'E' and 'A'
shapes.
Methods:
1. Have the student join you to play a 12-bar in the key of G using the following
combinations of barre chord shapes:
I IV V
E@3 E@8 E@10 First verse
A@10 A@3 A@5 Second verse
E@3 A@3 A@5 Third verse
A@10 E@8 E@10 Fourth verse
2. Repeat this a couple of times until the student can do it without any prompting
from you.
Objective 3. Student aware of some traditional chord treatments used in blues over
the 'E' and 'A' chord shapes and able to use them in different keys
Methods:
1. Refer to the blues chord treatments printout. Draw the student's attention to the
'E' shape treatments.
2. Have the student learn the first treatment and go over it enough times to be
sure of it.
3. Now play a slow blues backing, you playing a basic shuffle pattern and the
student using the chord treatment over the top of your rhythm playing. Try this
in a couple of different keys.
4. Make sure the student understands exactly how the treatment relates to the
basic chord shapes and major scales based on the root note of each chord.
5. Work your way through each of the 'E' shape based chord treatments in a
similar fashion giving the student plenty of time to absorb each one and find out
what it's good for.
6. Now work similarly with the 'A' shape treatments until the student
understands how they relate and can use them to good effect.
7. Finally allow the student time to mix and match the treatments in an
improvised manner. This approach forms a useful starting point to the whole
subject of chord-based improvising which I call the first step towards advanced
guitar playing.
Objective 4. Student understanding the use of 'C7' and 'D7' shaped chords in blues
and able to use them to good effect
Methods:
1. Have the student play a C7 chord in open position. Draw to their attention the
fact that this shape is fretted on the middle four strings of the guitar. This means
that if you miss or mute the top and bottom strings this becomes a movable chord
shape.
2. Ask them to figure out which is the lowest root note in the chord. Then point out
that this note is the key to working out the name of the chord in whatever
position they play it.
3. To test their understanding of this ask them to play an E7 using this shape (root
at 7
th
fret), an A7 (root at 12
th
fret) and so on. Continue this until they are quickly
and easily working out the names of the chords produced by this shape.
4. Now play a 12-bar in C using 'E' shaped shuffle patterns, but have the student
use the movable 'C7' shape over the top of what you are playing. Try this through
two or three randomly chosen keys until the student is obviously comfortable
with it.
5. Ask your student to play an open D7 chord. Point out that, used on it's own as
a movable shape on the top three strings, the fingering of this chord does not
include a root note, as the root note (present in the D major shape) is moved
down two frets to make the flatted seventh note needed for the D7 chord. The
shape is still best thought of as being rooted on the 2nd string though as this
concept helps make sense of the chord in a way that is useful at a later stage when
converting chord shapes into licks and riffs.
6. Have them play randomly selected 7
th
chords using this shape and then
accompany you through a 12-bar or two as before. This shape is particularly good
to slide into and gives rise to several classic blues licks and riffs.
Objective 5. Student's understanding and ability to use the four groups of movable
chord shapes consolidated.
Methods:
1. Review the last four objectives with the student and then prepare them for a
nice long blues jamming session. Tell them you are going to alternate, verse by
verse, the first and second guitar parts. The first guitar part will take the lion's
share of rhythmic responsibility using solid shuffle patterns or strummed
rhythms based around the 'E' and 'A' shapes. The second part will embellish
using the 'C7' and 'D7' shapes and ideas derived from them. No reason not to
include a few verses of blues scale based lead as well.
2. Launch into a jam, switching parts every one or two verses. Keep any coaching
light and encouraging, if possible keep the music going. Allow the student plenty
of time to consolidate their use of these new ideas. Have fun!
Lesson plan 23:
CHORD-BASED BLUES RIFFS
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to play blues, jazz or rock 'n' roll guitar.
Prerequisites:
Sections 1 and 2 completed. Lesson plans 21 and 22 completed. Lesson plan 37
(Harmonizing the Major scale) completed.
General Objective:
To introduce the student to a methodology for turning chord shapes into blues licks
and riffs, and to have them play a few standard examples of this
Summary of this lesson plan:
This lesson should focus on getting the student to be able to find these ideas and
associate them with the chord shapes learnt in the previous two lessons. A little bit of
fairly advanced theory is introduced here. Use your judgement about the student's
abilities to decide how much of the theory to introduce at this stage.
Stress:
At this stage we are building hard and fast on what are often, still very shaky
foundations, so don't rush your student. Give them plenty of opportunity to
assimilate the material at each stage before moving on. (Ref.1)
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student checked out on their ability to think with the generic major scale
Methods:
1. Review the construction of the major scale with the student and make sure that
they can play a major scale in any key and also write out on paper the names of
the notes of any major scale.
2. Reinforce the idea of working generically with the major scale by assigning
Roman numerals to the steps of the scales the student has written out.
3. Conclude this theory review by asking the student:
'What is the III note in the key of E?'
'What is the V note in the key of B?'
'What is the IV note in the key of G?'
It's fine if they use pen and paper to work this out. It's equally fine if they use the
fretboard, piano keyboard or just do it in their heads. This is all about mental
processing.
4. Clear up with the student the potentially confusing issue of Roman numerals
being used both to describe notes in the scale, and the chords rooted on those notes
when the scale is harmonized.
Objective 2. Student introduced to the basics of chord construction theory
Methods:
1. Have the student play an open C chord.
2. Ask them what notes they are playing; write them down as they call them out.
3. Now show them what you have written down and indicate that there are only
three different notes involved.
4. Ask the student to figure out which Roman numerals would be assigned to the
three notes of the chord when compared against the root note key of C major.
5. Once they have given you the correct answer (I III V) repeat this exercise with
the chord of A major. They should notice that the resulting formula is the same (I
III V).
6. Make it clear to the student that, no matter what major chord they analysed in
this way the formula would be the same.
7. Now reverse the process and ask them to apply the formula to derive the three
notes that make up the E major chord.
8. Once they have got this right (E G# B) ask them:
'Is the note on the open 6
th
string part of the chord?'
(yes) 'So we leave it alone'.
'Is the note on the open 5th string part of the chord?'
(no) 'So where would we fret it to make it part of the E chord?'
(2
nd
fret = B).
'Is the note on the open 4th string part of the chord?'
(no) 'So where do we fret it to make it part of the chord?'
(2
nd
fret = E).
'Is the note on the open 3rd string part of the chord?'
(no) 'So where do we fret it to make it part of the chord?'
(1st fret = G#).
'Is the note on the open 2nd string part of the chord?'
(yes) 'So we leave it alone'.
'Is the note on the open 1st string part of the chord?'
(yes) 'So we leave it alone'.
They will now be amazed to find themselves holding down an E major chord
shape!
This may seem laborious, but the resulting insight into chord construction is well
worth the effort!
Objective 3. Student able to find and play licks based on the III and V notes in chords
Methods:
1. Get the student to play an A major chord in open position. Now get them to
examine the three notes they are holding down (on the 2
nd
,3
rd
and 4
th
strings at the
2
nd
fret) and ask them which is the root note, which the III and which the V.
2. Check that they have figured this out correctly and take plenty of time to help
them if necessary. Once they have worked it out ask them to isolate the III and V
and slide them up the guitar (they can be pinched between thumb and forefinger
or they can pick each string separately).
3. Demonstrate this lick to them:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - 12- - - - 12- - - - 12- - - - - - 11- - - - 11- - - - 11- - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- / 12~~~~12~~~~12~~~~- \ 11~~~~11~~~~11~~~~/ 12- - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
And get them to play it.
4. Once they have got it, ask them which chord they think it should work over.
5. They might say G or F# (either could be correct!) If they say anything else ask
them to explain their reasoning (they won't necessarily be wrong!).
6. If all else fails, tell them you think of this lick as working over a G (or G7) chord
because it starts on the III and V in the key of G and ends on the V.
7. Play a nice solid 12/8 shuffle pattern G and get them to play this lick over the
top.
8. Now get them to figure out where to move the same lick to play over C and
over D.
9. Play through a 12-bar in G and let them use this lick, moving it with the chords
to accompany you.
10. Encourage them to experiment and vary it there are many ideas they can
develop from this.
11. Repeat the same exercise using a 'D' shape.
Objective 4. Student introduced to the idea of using the suspended 4th
Methods:
1. Introduce the sus4 chord to the student. Ask them to figure out it's formula (I
IV V).
2. Using this formula see if they can work out fingerings for Asus4, Dsus4, Gsus4,
E sus4 and Csus4. Underline the fact that to be a true 'suspended' chord the III
must be replaced by the IV. This means that Csus4 in the open position is normally
played with the top and bottom strings muted.
3. Show them this riff:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - 6- - 6- - 5- - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - 5- - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
And indicate how it is adapted from an A sus4 chord shape resolving to an A
major shape. In this case it comes out as Csus4 C major. The riff is best timed
with a rest after the first note then the second note played short and the third note
held. Listen to early stones R&B classics like their treatment of Chuck Berry's Route
66 to get the idea!
4. Get the student to try using this riff following the chords of a quick change 12-bar
in C played with a rocky feel in straight eighths shuffle. The riff works best
played after the first beat of each bar.
5. Once they are happy with this ask them to see if they can find the same idea but
based on a 'D' shaped chord.
Objective 5. Student able to play licks based on minor changing to major
Methods:
1. Have the student play an open A major chord.
2. Now ask them to change it to A minor.
3. Get them to spot the difference between the two chords and from that, get them
to work out the formula for the minor chord (I bIII V).
4. Based on this, have them work out how to change E major to E minor and D
major to D minor.
5. Once the student has grasped the idea that the only difference between the
minor and major chord is the raising of the III note by a semitone, you should
impress on them that this is probably the single most critical element in all blues
licks. If a lick has this element of a shift from minor to major it sounds bluesy no
matter what genre you are using the lick in. Almost all classic blues licks have an
element of this shift in them.
6. Have them play this lick for example:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - 5( 5) - - 7- - - 5- - - - - - - - - - ( 5) - -
G- - - - - 5h6- - - 7- - - 5h6p5h6p5h6- - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tell them this is based on the 'E' shape and ask them if they can work out where
the minor to major shift is. (5h6)
7. Have them use this over a medium tempo 12/8 shuffle 12-bar in A.
8. Once they have the hang of it show them this lick:
e- - - - 10- ( 10) - - - - 10- ( 10) ~~~- - - - - -
B- - - - 11b( 12) - - - - 11b( 12) ~~~- - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
9. Tell them this is based on the 'A' shape and ask them if they can work out
where the minor to major shift is. (11b(12))
10. Have them play this over a rocky 12-bar in G, moving the idea with the
chords.
11. Emphasize to your student that there are many other possible ways of
exploiting this sound and if they listen to blues recordings they will hear licks
based on this movement from minor to major time and time again.
Objective 6. Student able to play licks based on 7
th
chords
Methods:
1. Have the student play any dominant 7th chord they happen to know in open
position.
2. Have them compare this chord to the major chord of the same root and from
that comparison derive the formula for the 7
th
chord type (I III V bVII).
3. Have them figure out one or two other 7
th
chords from this formula.
4. As an example of how 7
th
chords are often used in blues have them try this lick
based on an 'E7' shape.
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 3/ 5- - 3~~~- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - 4/ 6- - 4~~~- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - 3/ 5- - 3~~~- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Have them play this ahead of the beat (anticipating the beat) over a nice slow 12/8
12-bar blues with a quick change in the first line. It has a lovely blues feel.
5. Have them try this 'C7' shape based lick over a faster tempo blues:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - / 10- - - / 10~~~- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - / 9- - - - / 9~~~~- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - / 10- - - / 10~~~- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
That'll work over a G chord. It's rooted on the 5
th
string. Have them work out
where to play it for the C and D chords.
Objective 7. Student consolidating their knowledge of chord based blues licks
Methods:
1. Review the content of this lesson plan and refresh the student's ability to play
some of each kind of lick: using III and V notes, suspended IVs, minor to major
and 7
th
chord shapes.
2. Play through a 12-bar in a nice easy key and have them play along using some
of these ideas. Have them select a different idea every verse or two. If
appropriate, change the tempo and feel of your rhythm playing to match their
selection.
3. Once they are really going well on this, suggest they mix and match some of
these ideas to create a chord based solo. They should also be free to include bits of
blues scale based lead as well blending all these things together is what really
makes great guitar music!
4. Spend a whole lesson or two on this there is loads of scope for helping the
student to develop ideas. They should be encouraged, where realistic, to come up
with some new ideas based on the same formulas.
References:
1. Article: Assimilating
2. Article: Mental processing
Lesson plan 24:
9THS, DIMINISHED AND AUGMENTED CHORDS IN BLUES
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to play blues, jazz or rock 'n' roll guitar.
Prerequisites:
Lesson plan 23 completed. Lesson plan 37 (Harmonizing the major scale) completed.
General Objective:
To introduce the student to the 9
th
chord, diminished 7
th
chord and augmented chord
and enable them to use these chords in blues.
Summary of this lesson plan:
Enough theory just to de-mystify the exotic reputation that some of these chords
seem to have. A look at some typical applications in blues.
Stress:
Keep the lesson reasonably simple and avoid going off on too many tangents with
the theory.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student introduced to the 9
th
chord
Methods:
1. Review with the student, the construction of a dominant 7
th
chord (I III V bVII)
and make sure that there is no residual confusion about that.
2. Tell the student that you are going to introduce them to a chord that is often
substituted for the dominant 7
th
- the dominant 9th chord. (Usually this is just
called the 9
th
chord in the same way that the dominant 7
th
chord is just called the
7
th
).
3. Tell the student that a 9
th
chord is simply a 7
th
chord with one extra note added.
The extra note is the 2
nd
note of the major scale, but, because it is normally added
in the next octave up, it is referred to as the 9
th
note.
4. Have the student play an open C7 chord.
5. Have them work out which note to add to this to make it into a 9
th
chord (D)
6. Make sure they select the D on the 2nd string, rather than the open D (the 9
th

rather than the 2
nd
).
7. The result should look like this:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - 2- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
8. Tell your student that whilst Jazz guitarists often use this shape as a movable
9
th
chord shape, in blues you often turn it into a five string shape by adding the V
on the top string:
e- - - - - - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - 2- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
9. Ask them which string this shape is rooted on (5
th
string).
10. Give them a bit of time to learn this shape which is usually quite physically
difficult to begin with.
Objective 2. Student able to play 12-bar blues using 9
th
chords and riffs based on
them.
Methods:
1. Here is a classic blues sequence using 9
th
chords to great effect (if possible listen
to T.Bone Walker's Stormy Monday Blues as performed by the Allman Brothers on
their Live at Filmore East Album):
12/ 8 G7 | C9 | G7 G#7 | G7 |
C9 | C9 | G7 Am7 | Bm7 Bbm7 |
Am7 | Cm7 | G7 C9 G7 D9 : | |
2. Have your student strum through this song as an excellent example of a jazz
blues sequence.
3. Now reminding the student that the 9
th
chord is really an extension of the
dominant 7
th
, have them figure out how to adapt an 'E7' shaped barre chord into a
9
th
chord. We hope they'll come up with something like this:
e- - - - - - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - 6- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. Have them play a 12-bar using mainly 'E7
th'
shaped chords and experiment
with changing some of these into 9ths by adding the extra finger. This adds a jazz
feel to the chords.
5. Next show them this riff based on a useful 3-note 9
th
chord (it has the V, bVII
and IX notes only):
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - 5/ 7- - 7\ 5~~~- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - 4/ 6- - 6\ 4~~~- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - 5/ 7- - 7\ 5~~~- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
6. Explain how this is rooted on the 6
th
string at the 5
th
fret so the above is based on
an A9 chord.
7. Have them use this over the 12-bar sequence from method 1 above. Tell them it
can be used over the 7
th
and 9
th
chords to good effect (though not the minor 7ths!).
Objective 3. Student introduced to the diminished 7th chord as used in blues
Methods:
1. Tell the student that you are going to get them using diminished 7
th
chords, but,
for the time being you are not going to explain too much about them as this
explanation more properly belongs under the jazz lesson plans!
2. Tell them that in blues, the diminished 7
th
chord is generally used as a
substitute for either a dominant 7
th
or a minor chord. In both cases the substitute
chord is rooted a semitone higher than the chord it replaces so D#dim 7 replaces D7,
Fdim7 is a substitute for E7, Am might be replaced by A#dim7 or Bm by Cdim7
and so on.
3. To illustrate this get them to compare these country blues sequences:
With seventh chords:
12/ 8 A | A7 | D | D7 |
A F#m | B E | A D | A E : | |
Sevenths replaced by diminished seventh chords rooted a semitone higher:
12/ 8 A | A#di m7 | D | D#di m7 |
A F#m| B E | A D | A E : | |
With minor chord:
4/ 4 G | C G | G | D |
G G7 | C Cm | G D | G : | |
Minor chord replaced by diminished seventh chord rooted a semitone higher:
4/ 4 G | C G | G | D |
G G7 | C C#di m7| G D | G : | |
4. Have the student play through these sequences (which may remind you of
songs like Need Your Love So Bad by Fleetwood Mac and the traditional Swing Low
Sweet Chariot'respectively).
5. If appropriate, teach the student other similar songs to help them get a feel for
how these chords are used.
6. It's important to convey to the student that the subject of chord substitution is
rarely a matter of simply swapping one chord for another, that a lot depends on
the context in which a chord is used. For example, in the first sequence above, the
final E could happily be changed to E7, but not so happily to Fdim7 (have them
try it!). After a while they will develop an ear for when these sort of substitutions
work and when they don't. Encourage experimentation!
Objective 4. Student introduced to the augmented chord as used in blues.
Methods:
1. Tell the student that you are going to show them a couple of uses of another
exotic chord often used in blues the augmented chord. Again, you are not going
to explain too much theory about it, but instead look at some immediate
applications.
2. Tell them that the most common use of the augmented chord is as a substitute
for the dominant 7
th
. There are two distinctly different uses shown here.
3. In the first example the augmented chord is used to replace a dominant 7
th

rooted on the I (key or tonic) chord. In this case the root does not change, ie: A
aug is replacing A7th:
Here the I7 forms a nice link to the IV :
4/ 4 A | D A | A | E |
A A7 | D D#di m7| A E | A : | |
But replacing it with I+ gives an even richer sound:
4/ 4 A | D A | A | E |
A A+ | D D#di m7| A E | A : | |
4. Have your student play these two sequences to get an idea of how they sound.
You can tell them that, like the use of the diminished seventh chord, this
substitution is particularly common in jazz and country blues sequences.
5. Our second example shows the V7 being replaced by the V + chord to make a
beautiful jazz-style ending to a blues song. Note we have also taken the liberty of
substituting a I6 chord for the I chord at the end to add to the effect!
Last verse of typical jazz blues 12-bar:
12/ 8 A | D9 | A | A7 |
D9 | D9 | A | A9 |
E9 | D9 | A D9 | A E7 A | |
Made even jazzier by the substitutions:
12/ 8 A | D9 | A | A7 |
D9 | D9 | A | A9 |
E9 | D9 | A D9 | A E+ A6 | |
6. Have your student play through these examples and, if possible, a few other
songs you might know that use these ideas.
Lesson plan 25:
KEY-BASED LEAD GUITAR
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to play blues, jazz, country or rock guitar.
Prerequisites:
Section 2 (Beginning improvisation) completed quite thoroughly.
General Objective:
To enable the student to be able to improvise lead guitar using a key-based approach.
Summary of this lesson plan:
This plan builds on the work done in Section 2 (Beginning improvisation) and shows
the student how to adapt the blues scales to use as country scales over major key
blues.
Stress:
Be prepared for some confusion as the student has their first experience of working
with relativity (Musical not Einsteinian though sometimes I think it might as well
be!)
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student introduced to the concept of relativity
Methods:
1. Check first that the student's blues scales are well learnt. They should be able to
play in any key and any position. Their ability to string some sort of solo together
should be tested at this stage if they can't solo using blues scales in their
primary application, then it's better to review that than push on to using country
scales as they are generally slightly harder to phrase with.
2. Tell the student that there are a limited number of applications for using the
blues scale in its home key (as they have been doing up until now). Basically this is
because the blues scale belongs to the class of minor scales. By a strange
coincidence it can be made to work over a limited number of major key chord
sequences, but they may have already discovered that it tends not to work so well
over more complex major sequences, particularly those with a country, folk, pop
or jazz feel to them.
3. Demonstrate this by playing a straight major ballad type of tune say something
like this:
4/ 4 | | : A | F#m | D | E7 : | |
and ask the student to try playing lead over it using the A blues scale. They
should find that, whilst not exactly horribly out of key, this doesn't quite work as
well as it would played over a 12-bar blues or minor ballad.
4. Now tell them you are going to show them a neat trick. Instead of placing their
1st finger on the A (6
th
string, 5
th
fret) to play the 1st position blues scale in A, tell
them to place their 4th finger on the A and imagine they are playing a 1st position
blues scale in F# instead.
5. Have them try this over the same sequence as written above. They will have to
adjust the phrasing to make it more melodic, more country, but it should fit better
than the blues scale in A.
6. With a bit of luck they will be puzzled by this and ask how come this works.
The answer is best explained by writing out the notes of the F# blues scale and
then the notes of the country scale in A underneath like this:
F# Blues scale: F# A B C C# E F#
A Country scale: A B C C# E F# A
You can then point out to the student that these two scales are made up of the
same notes.
7. Tell your student that this is what is known as relativity in music. The blues
scale is the minor key equivalent of the country scale, because the key of F# minor
is the relative minor key of A major. This can also be stated the opposite way: The
key of A major is the relative major of the key of F# minor.
8. Beware of over-explaining this. Rather get the student to put it to use.
Objective 2. Student getting used to using the blues scale patterns as country scales
Methods:
1. Pick a major key ballad, country song, country blues or jazz blues sequence and
have the student improvise over it using the blues scale patterns as country scale.
2. There are several ways to get the student to look at this:
a. Use the method described in the previous objective put the 4th finger on the
key note on the 6
th
string and play a 1st position blues scale pattern that aligns
with that.
b. Work out what key the song is in, put your 2nd finger on the key note on the 6
th

string and play a 2nd position blues scale pattern.
c. Locate the key note on the 6
th
string and then think three frets down and start a
1st position blues scale pattern there.
d. The traditional music theory approach:- the relative minor scale is built on the
VI note of the major key. So count up the major scale to step VI and that tells you
the 'key' to play blues scales in.
Go over each of these methods with the student and have them decide which one
to adopt.
3. Encourage the student to hunt down melody on this scale, they won't usually
find every note of the melody, but they should be able to get close enough to play
a solo that suggests the melody of the song.
4. Continue working on a good variety of songs from different genres if possible.
Objective 3. Student able to mix blues and country scale over the same backing
Methods:
1. Tell your student that, as far as this level of key-based improvising goes, songs
can be divided into three broad categories:
i] Songs that they must use the 'straight' blues scales over
(typically: minor blues, minor ballads with a blues feel)
ii] Songs that they must use the country scale over
(major ballads, country and folk songs in major keys, trad jazz songs)
iii] Songs that allow you to mix both blues and country scales together
(major key 12 bars, some rock songs, country and jazz blues)
Tell them only experience can really help them decide when to use which.
2. Play an 8-bar country blues like this:
12/ 8 A | A7 | D | D7 |
A F#m B E | A D | A E : | |
Get them to solo over this sequence using blues scales over one verse then
shifting the patterns down three frets to use country scales over the next verse.
3. After they have got the hang of this, stop and ask if they can hear how the
change of scales causes a definite energy shift, or change in feel, from one verse to
the next.
4. Now ask them to solo over the first four bars using blues scales and then switch
to country scales for the last four bars. Try this a couple of times, then reverse it:
country scale over the first four bars, blues over the last half of the song.
5. Now encourage your student to play one phrase using blues scales followed by
another phrase using country scales. This may take a bit of coaching, because it is
quite easy for them to lose their bearings with this.
6. Finally ask them to experiment with starting a phrase in the blues scale and
ending it in the country scale and vice versa mixing the scales completely.
7. Switch to another song with a similar feel and repeat the same process.
Continue this until the student can mix scales reasonably freely without getting
too disorientated.
Objective 4. Student able make up their own mind about which approach to use
over a given song.
Methods:
1. Tell your student that you are going to play a number of different songs and
that, for each song, you want them first to try to work out which key the song is
in. Then you want them to work out whether soloing over the song is best
approached, by using the blues scales, country scales or a mixture of both.
2. Start off with nice clear cut tunes that leave the student little room for doubt
about their approach. Observe how the student goes about discerning the key of
the song and coach them towards using their ears to figure out where the song
resolves.
3. To begin with they should then simply use trial and error to determine which
scales work best. Again, coach as necessary. Avoid being too judgemental,
because often the decision about whether one approach works better than another
is a decision of taste and style, and our perception of this is seldom shared exactly
by others!
4. Make sure you select a good variety of songs. Continue this exercise all the time
the student is gaining confidence. Stop and coach them if they are struggling.
5. Once the student can cope really well with this exercise tell them that they now
have an approach to improvising which is workable over 99% of the music they
are likely to hear and that they should practice by playing along to records or to
the radio. Song after song, find the key, try different approaches and listen to hear
what works best. If they don't practice this in between lessons then spend lesson
time doing it instead.
Lesson plan 26:
MINOR KEY BLUES
Suitable for:
Any student with an interest in learning to play blues, jazz, country or rock guitar.
Prerequisites:
Section 2 (Beginning improvising) completed quite thoroughly.
General Objective:
To familiarize the student with minor blues
Summary of this lesson plan:
A look at how minor blues sequences tend to differ from major and some tips about
how to solo over them
Stress:
This is an introductory lesson so no need to go in too deep on the theory of different
minor scales etc. The idea at this stage, is to focus more on the rhythm aspect and to
become acquainted with typical minor blues sequences. Minor scales are dealt with
in greater detail under the Jazz and Theory sections.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student introduced to the two main approaches to harmonising minor
blues
Methods:
1. Tell the student that playing music in minor keys generally means that the
rules are less rigid. There is really only one major scale, but there is widespread
disagreement about which is the 'real' minor scale. Because of this, there is quite
some variety to the way in which sequences are structured in minor blues.
2. Ask the student to write out for you, a basic major key 12-bar. They should
come up with something like this:
12/ 8 A | A | A | A |
D | D | A | A |
E | D | A | A | |
3. Tell your student that one way to convert this to a minor key blues might be to
simply change the I and IV chords to their minor counterparts, but leave the V as
major:
12/ 8 Am | Am | Am | Am |
Dm | Dm | Am | Am |
E | Dm | Am | Am | |
4. Tell the student that this is a simple minor blues form based on harmonising
the harmonic minor scale.
5. Go on to point out that, commonly, minor blues are built on the harmonising of
the natural minor scale. The only difference this makes is to the V chord which is
altered to a minor chord:
12/ 8 Am | Am | Am | Am |
Dm | Dm | Am | Am |
Em | Dm | Am | Am | |
6. Have the student play through each one of these and see if they can hear the
difference.
7. As with the major key blues any or all of these chords can be extended by
adding the b7 note to make the Im and IVm into Im7 and IVm7 and the V into a
dominant V7.
Objective 2. Student introduced to the concept of the sharped dominant chord as used
in minor blues
Methods:
1. Tell the student that most harmonic minor scale based blues tend to delay the
arrival of the dominant chord by first going to a chord a semitone higher the
sharped dominant chord in bar 9 and then dropping down to the dominant chord
in bar 10.
2. Play this sequence to let them hear the effect of this:
12/ 8 Am | Am | Am | Am |
Dm | Dm | Am | Am |
F7 | E7 | Am | Am | |
3. Have them play through the sequence a few times to get the feel of this then tell
them that very often this is combined with a chromatic chord turnaround at the
end usually using dominant 7
th
chords rooted on the bVII and VII notes of the key
like this:
12/ 8| | : Am | Am | Am | Am |
Dm | Dm | Am | Am |
F7 | E7 | AmG7 G#7| AmG7 G#7 : | |
4. Have your student play through this sequence enough times to get the feel of it.
Then dig out a few songs for them to learn based on these ideas.
5. You can point out to your student that sometimes these ideas are also used in
major key blues, but they are more commonly used in minor blues.
Objective 3. Student introduced to the 7#9 chord and its role in minor blues
Methods:
1. Show your student how to play an E7#9 using this fingering:
e- - - - - - x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - 6- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. Demonstrate how this chord is often used as a substitute for the dominant V
chord in minor blues. Here is an example using what is probably the most famous
minor Blues of all time: Gershwin's Summertime:
12/ 8
Am6 Bm6 | . / . | . / . | . / . |
Dm7 Em7 | . / . | E7#9 F7#9| E7#9 |
Am6 Bm6 | . / . | . / . | Am7 Abm7 Gm7 Gbm7|
C C/ B AmAm/ G| FM7 FM7 E7#9 F7#9| Am6 Bm6| . / . : | |
3. This song shows off a number of other chord ideas that permeate minor blues
especially the jazz influenced 16-bar blues. You can point these out to your
student:
The use of the m6 or m7 as substitutes for the minor.
The minor chord being paired with another minor chord rooted a tone higher.
The dominant chord shifted up a semitone and back.
The use of chords providing a descending bass line, chromatic in bar 12 and
natural minor scale in bar 13.
4. This song is well worth teaching to your students it looks horrific, but is
actually not as hard to play as it is to read!
5. It is recommended that you dig out several more minor blues songs and teach
them to your students at this stage.
Objective 4. Student familiar with a basic approach to improvising over minor blues.
Methods:
1. Tell the student that the first approach to improvising over minor blues will
always be the straight blues scale.
2. Play each of the songs you have worked through in the above objectives 1-3
and allow your student free rein to apply the blues scales in each case.
3. When you get to the more sophisticated jazz blues sequences (like Summertime)
the student may feel they need more notes to add to the blues scale. At this stage
you should take one of two approaches based on your judgement of the student's
ability to absorb the information concerned.
4. The simplest approach is to invite them to add notes to the blues scale on a trial
and error basis. Minor blues is very tolerant and almost any notes can be added
in, at least as passing notes, without causing the ears too much distress. I like this
approach because it teaches the student to play directly by ear and be their own
judge of what works and what doesn't.
5. Other students might fare better with you showing them how to modify the
blues scale 1st position into a natural minor scale. (Drop the bV, add in the II and
bVI) and into a harmonic minor scale (Take the natural minor and restore the bVII
to a natural VII).
6. Whichever approach you take, the next logical step is to suggest that the
student hunt down the melody and then use that as a point of departure to solo.
This may, of course, take a fair amount of coaching and there is no shame in
teaching them a melody or two note for note. My favourites are Van Morrison's
Moondance and Gershwin's Summertime and the blues standard The thrill is gone.
Lesson plan 27:
BLUES BASS LINES
Suitable for:
Any student interested in developing blues, rock or country guitar
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 23 (Chord-based licks and riffs) completed
General Objective:
To familiarise the student with some standard blues bass lines and help them
understand their relationship to blues chords
Summary of this lesson plan:
Exercises to train the student to think of bass line riffs as being derived from chords
and scales
Stress:
Bass lines are fun to learn and understanding them can give a student insight into
how to 'think' within chords. Keep a good balance between the practice and the
theory in this lesson. That balance will vary from student to student.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student introduced to a method of working chord-based bass lines out
from scales
Methods:
1. Ask the student to play an A major scale starting on the 2nd finger, 6
th
string 5
th

fret.
2. Now ask them to identify the I, IV and V notes from that scale.
3. Tell them you are going to strum through a 12-bar in A and first of all you just
want them to play the root notes of the chords on their 2nd finger.
4. Once they can do that get them to play a simple major triad riff as follows:
working from each root note get them to play the notes I III V III (NB. It's
important to emphasize that these generic notes are relative to the root of each
chord played, not just relative to the key of A.)
5. If they are doing this right it should look like this:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- 7- 4- - - 4- 7- 4- -
A- - - 4- 7- 4- - - 4- 7- 4- - - 4- 7- 4- - - 4- 7- 4- 5- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - -
E- 5- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6- 9- 6- - - 4- 7- 4- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - 4- 7- 4- - - 4- 7- 4- - 7- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - 4- 7- 4- - - 4- 7- 4-
E- 5- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - -
6. Coach the student through this, making sure that they start each chord riff on
the 2nd finger. (This reinforces their being orientated to chords and scales)
7. Accompany the student using appropriate chord work over their bass-line.
8. As a variation, have them play the riff pattern I III V VI instead. By all means,
work out other single bar variations based around the major triad.
Objective 2. Student able to play and understand a 2-bar bass line
Methods:
1. Get the student to play a riff based on the pattern: I III V VI bVII VI V III.
Tell them that this is probably the most commonly used blues/rock 'n' roll riff of
all time.
2. Make sure they understand how to work this off all three root notes.
3. Now explain to the student that this is a two-bar riff so when it comes to the
ninth and tenth bars in the basic 12-bar blues they should, typically, only play the
first half of the riff for each of those bars.
4. They should come up with something like this:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- 5- 4- - - - - -
D- - - - - - - 4- 5- 4- - - - - - - - - - - 4- 5- 4- - - - - - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- -
A- - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - 4- 5- 4- - - - - - - - 6- 7- 6- - - 4- 7- 4- - - - - - - 4- 5- 4- - - - -
A- - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- - 7- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4-
E- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
5. Have them get used to playing this with you accompanying them with suitable
chord work.
6. Once they have the basic pattern sorted, have them try different rhythmic
approaches: straight 4/4, 12/8, various degrees of swing and so on. They can also
try doubling every note (good picking practice!).
Objective 3. Student introduced to octave bass lines using the dominant 7
th
chord
Methods:
1. Demonstrate the basic forward diagonal octave pattern to your student and then
get them to play a riff to the pattern: I I VIII VIII bVII bVII V V working
round the 12-bar as follows:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7-
E5- 5- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - -
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - -
A- 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7-
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - -
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - 9- 9- 7- 7- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - 9- 9- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - -
A- - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - -
2. Have your student play this as written for a while until they are well used to it,
accompanying them with suitable chord work.
3. Now encourage them to make up their own variations on this, using the octave
as a frame for trying out different riffs.
4. Extend the experimentation to playing in different keys and using different
rhythms. This should include playing in keys like D, Eb, E , F and F# where you
would be more likely to start on a 5th string root.
Objective 4. Student able to play and understand turnarounds
Methods:
1. Demonstrate to the student the difference between a straight ending and a
turnaround ending in blues.
2. Have them play a few different 12-bar sequences that end on the V chord so
that they really get the feel for what a turnaround is.
3. Tell your student that the rule for the bass line on a turnaround is that it should
end on one of the three notes that make up the dominant triad in the key. The
dominant triad is the chord built by taking the V note of the key and applying the
formula I III V to it.
4. For example, tell them, in the key of A the V note is E so the dominant triad is E
major which is made up of E G# and B (I III V in the key of E).
5. Talk this theory through with the student using plenty of actual examples. Get
them to work out which notes to use in different keys.
6. Get them to play the following examples of turnarounds that land on each of
the V triad notes:
Example 1: Turnaround that lands on the root (I) note of the V triad
(This is shown used together with the I III V III riff shown in objective 1. above)
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- 7- 4- - - 4- 7- 4-
A- - - 4- 7- 4- - - 4- 7- 4- - - 4- 7- 4- - - 4- 7- 4- - - 5- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - -
E- 5- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6- 9- 6- - - 4- 7- 4- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - 4- 7- 4- - - 4- 7- 4- - 7- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - 4- 5- 6- 7- 7- 7~~- -
E- 5- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Example 2: Turnaround that lands on the III note of the V triad
(This is shown used together with the I III V VI bVII VI V III 2-bar riff shown
in objective 2. above)
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- 5- 4- - - - - -
D- - - - - - - 4- 5- 4- - - - - - - - - - - 4- 5- 4- - - - - - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- -
A- - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - 4- 5- 4- - - - - - - - 6- 7- 6- - - 4- 7- 4- - - - - - - - - - - 4- 5- 6-
A- - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- - 7- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - 4- 5- 6- 7- - - - - - -
E- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Example 3: Turnaround that lands on the V note of the V triad
(This is shown used together with the I I VIII VIII bVII bVII VV Octave based
riff shown in objective 3. above)
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7-
E5- 5- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - -
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - -
A- 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7-
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - -
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - 9- 9- 7- 7- - - - - - 7- 7- 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - 9- 9- - - - - - - - - - 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- 7- 7- - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- 4- 5- 5- 6- 6- 7- 5- 4- - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- - - - -
7. Spend plenty of time on this and, if possible help the student to understand
how these things work from the theory perspective as well as having fun learning
to play them.
Objective 5. Student able to use bass lines on an ad hoc basis in their improvising
Methods:
1. Get the student to choose any of the bass-lines learnt in this lesson plan and ask
them to try to blend it in to their improvised lead guitar work.
2. Tell them, for example to improvise as normal using the blues scales over the
first eight bars of a 12-bar, but then throw in bass lines over the changes (V IV)
perhaps reverting to blues scales for the last two bars.
3. Suggest other approaches, for example: coming out of blues scale to use a
turnaround on the last two bars; starting the first four bars with bass-line riffs
then breaking into blues scale; alternating bar for bar, between using bass lines
and more freeform scale-based improvising.
4. Have some fun with this. Keep the coaching light, just sufficient to enable the
student to enjoy experimenting with these ideas.
Lesson plan 28:
INTEGRATING LEAD AND RHYTHM
Suitable for:
Any student interested in developing blues, rock or country guitar
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 27 (Blues bass runs) completed
General Objective:
To get the student started on the idea of integrating rhythm and lead playing in blues
Summary of this lesson plan:
Exercises to train the student to blend lead and rhythm technique to create effective
solo blues instrumental music.
Stress:
This lesson is about introducing a few ideas to the student and then encouraging
them to make up some of their own. Experimentation and trial and error is to be
encouraged, but the tutor should also ensure that the student is confident in their
understanding of how lead and rhythm techniques can be brought together.
Materials required:
Tab for Texas blues
Tab for C7 blues
Tab for 20-bar R&B blues
Slow Minor Blues
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student able to switch fluently from playing lead lines to strumming
chords
Methods:
1. Get the student to play the first blues scale riff from Texas blues:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - 0- - 1- - 2- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - 0- - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0- - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. Note that this riff starts on the second beat of the bar and is counted: 2 & 3 & 4
& 1.
3. Follow this with you playing an E7 chord to a rhythm that sounds like: 'Rat, Ta
Ta, er Tat' (where the 'er' is a half-beat rest!)
4. Once your student is happy with this, swap roles; you play the lead and have
them respond with the rhythm.
5. Then get them to play both parts, coaching them as necessary to get a smooth
transition from the lead bit to the rhythm bit.
6. Once they can do this okay, coach them on the A riff going to A7 chord in a
similar manner.
7. Then coach them on the B riff and, in particular, the quick change from B7 to
A7 which should be played as 3 B7s (Rat, ta ta) with the A7 making up the final
beat (Tat)
8. Once they have each component part sorted out, have them string it all together
in sequence.
9. Encourage them to practice this at home focusing on smoothness rather than
speed.

Objective 2. Student able to make up own Texas style blues
Methods:
1. Point out to your student how the Texas blues played in the last objective is
constructed very simply from a straight bit of blues scale and strummed
dominant 7
th
chords.
2. With this in mind ask them to make up their own blues in a similar style. They
can use bits of blues or country scale and major, minor, dominant or minor
seventh chords in any key of their choosing. Alternatively they could work with
any of the bass runs developed in the previous lesson plan.
3. Coach them on keeping it simple and rhythmic.
Objective 3. Student able to integrate bass lines into a chord shape
Methods:
1. Get the student to play a C7 chord in open position.
2. Ask them which note is the lowest root note in this chord shape. (C on 5
th

string)
3. Get them to slide the shape up the neck until it becomes an F7 played on the
middle four strings of the guitar.
4. Get them to practice this change a number of times until they can do it
reasonably easily.
5. Get them to find G7 using the same shape.
6. Now draw their attention to the chord sequence laid out for C7 blues and have
them strum through it a few times until they can do it in good time.
7. Now get them to accompany you using this sequence while you play the full
version of C7 blues integrating the bass lines with the chords.
8. Now get them to hold down the C7 again and work through the basic riff
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - 1- - 1- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - 3- - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - 2- - 2- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - 3- - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1- - 2- - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3- - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
9. They will have to do this enough times to overcome the difficulty of
dissembling and re-assembling the chord shape without losing time. A less
experienced student will need to go and practice this before completing this
objective in the next lesson.
10. Once they can play the riff over the C7 happily, get them to shift it up the neck
to the F7 and G7 chord.
11. Once these are sorted get them to play through the whole sequence.
12. Repeat until they have got it.
Objective 4. Student able to make up own chord shape based blues
Methods:
1. Get you student to choose one of the basic chord shapes C A G E or D.
2. Using the dominant 7
th
of this chord shape, get them to strum through a 12 bar
blues sequence by moving the same shape to the appropriate fret for each chord
change.
3. Now get them to experiment by integrating a riff in with the shape that repeats
the same for each chord as in C7 blues.
4. Once they have found something that works with one shape get them to try
another.
5. Coach them on having a go at this without worrying too much about getting a
perfect result. If they are stuck, come up with a few simple ideas yourself, talking
them through the process as you go.
Objective 5. Student able to play 20-bar R&B style blues
Methods:
1. Get you student to look at the opening riff for R&B style blues and play it
through many times. Note that the double hammer-on in the first bar is a triplet
and can be replaced by a single hammer-on from C to D if preferred.
2. Coach them on doing it slowly but rhythmically to begin with and allowing the
speed to build up as they get on top of it.
3. Now get them to play through the first eight bars all of which use the same
basic riff.
4. The D7 riff will then need to be drilled separately.
5. The same riff is used for the next bar.
6. In bars 11 and 12, timing is the most important issue and the riff can be
approximated.
7. The last four bars are mainly strumming with simple single note links.
Emphasize timing and maintenance of momentum over this passage as being
more important than note for note accuracy. The student should aim to use a
similar action for the single notes as for the strumming ie: they should 'strum'
single notes.
8. Once they can play each part of this reasonably well get them to string it all
together and play right through several times until they are happy they have got
it.
Objective 5. Student able to play Slow Minor blues
Methods:
1. Get you student to look at the first two bars of Slow Minor blues and play
through it a number of times.
2. Coach them on keeping it slow but rhythmic.
3. Now get them to play through the first eight bars all of which use the same
basic riff moved up to the Fm chord at the 8
th
fret and back to Cm again at the 3
rd
.
4. The rest of the verse is strummed through. Pay special attention to the timing of
the change in bars 11 and 12. The Fm is held for a full 6 beats.
5. Once your student has got the hang of playing the rhythm part get them to solo
over it. It's an excellent song to combine blues scale and chord based work over.
Lesson plan 29:
BASIC BOTTLENECK BLUES
Suitable for:
Any student interested in developing slide guitar style
Prerequisites:
Lesson plan 28 (Integration) completed
General Objective:
To introduce the student to the basics of slide playing
Summary of this lesson plan:
Exercises to train the student to use a bottleneck to play guitar. An introduction to
open tunings
Stress:
This lesson is about introducing the basic rules of slide playing and giving your
student a taste of what this approach to blues playing is about
Materials required:
2 Bottleneck slides
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student understanding the principle of dynamic tuning
Methods:
1. Get the student to put the slide on the 3rd finger of their left hand.
2. Demonstrate how the slide is used just touching the strings, but not pressing
them against the frets.
3. Tell the student that they will have to use their ears to position the slide exactly
and 'tune notes in' as they go.
4. As an exercise to help them get used to tuning as they play, tell them to listen to
the note C as you play it on the 1
st
string at the 8
th
fret.
5. Get them to slide up to the same note and hold it in tune when they get there.
6. Tell them to observe where the slide is in relation to the fret (should be pretty
much right over it).
7. Repeat this with two or three other notes on the top string.
Objective 2. Student able to use slide vibrato
Methods:
1. Explain that to help sweeten the sound and sustain notes slide players use
vibrato on almost every note.
2. Demonstrate to the student the difference between playing with and without
vibrato.
3. Now repeat the previous exercise from Objective 1, but have them apply
vibrato to each note. This may take quite a bit of coaching.
Objective 3. Student able to use muting
Methods:
1. Demonstrate to the student how to use the trailing (1
st
and 2
nd
) fingers on the
left hand to mute out unwanted sounds whilst moving the slide around.
2. Have them try this out with the following simple licks:
e- - - - - - - 12- - 10- - - - - - 12~~- - | | - - - - - - - 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - / 12- ( 12) - - - - / 12- ( 12) - - - | | - - / 12- ( 12) - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - 12\ - 9~~- - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
3. Getting this right takes a considerable amount of practice so once the student
has got the general idea, encourage them to practice this at home until they can
play it smoothly and confidently.
Objective 4. Student understanding how to create slide licks using the blues scale in
standard tuning
Methods:
1. Point out to the student that the licks they have learnt in the previous objective
are based on the 5th position blues scale in E.
2. Play a nice slow 12/8 shuffle rhythm and have the student practice timing the
licks against your backing. This way they can clearly hear how the riff follows the
changes.
3. Encourage them to modify the lick over the V chord (B7) here is a good
example of how they might do that, plus an alternative lick for the IV chord (A7)
Over B7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Over A7. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
e- - - - - - - 12- - 10- / 12- - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - 12- - 10- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - / 12- ( 12) - - - - - - - - 12~~- - - | | - - / 12- ( 12) - - - - 10/ 12\ 10~~- - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. Demonstrate how, at least to begin with, using the blues scale for slide guitar in
standard tuning, it is best to stick to areas of the scales where you can work
straight across the strings at the same fret (as at the 12
th
fret in the examples
above).
5. Show them how the arrangement of notes between the 3
rd
and 4
th
positions on
the lower strings can be used to create ideas:
Over E7. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Over A7 . . . . . . . . . Over B7. . . . . . . .
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - 9- 7- 7/ 9~~~- - | | - - - - - - - - 9- 7- - - - - | | - - - - - - - 9- 7- - - - -
D- - - - 7/ 9- - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - 7/ 9- - - - / 7~~- | | - - - 7/ 9- - - - / 9~~-
A- / 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - / 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - / 7- - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
6. Let them learn these ideas, or something like them from you and then provide
them with backing to develop and experiment with them.
7. By all means let them explore other areas of the blues scale. Note that where
they are working diagonally across the strings, muting becomes more critical to
avoid unwanted tones from notes outside the scale.
Objective 5. Student understanding how to create slide licks chord shapes in
standard tuning
Methods:
1. Tell the student that chord shapes can also be used to generate slide guitar
licks. Again the trick is to start by picking out ideas involving working straight
across the strings.
2. Demonstrate this example that uses the V and III notes based on the 'A' and 'D'
shapes. Example shown is from the 'A' shaped C and 'D' shaped F:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5( 5) 5( 5) 5( 5) 5~~-
B- - - - 5( 5) 5( 5) 5( 5) 5( 5) 5( 5) 5( 5) 5~~- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - / 5( 5) 5( 5) 5( 5) 5- - - - -
D- / 5( 5) 5( 5) 5( 5) 5( 5) 5( 5) 5( 5) 5( 5) ~~- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
3. Have the student try out this idea over a 12-bar playing directly over the I, IV
and V chords with the appropriate shapes.
4. Encourage them to vary the rhythm, slide into shapes from a fret below, slide
down to them from two frets above, slide up three frets from each shape and back
etc
5.Experiment with other bits of chord shape, particularly where you can work
straight across the strings.
6. Try using chord-based ideas over country sequences like this one (it may
remind you of songs like Bob Dylan's 'I'll be your Baby Tonight'):
4/4||:G | G | G | G | A | A | A | A |
C | C | D | D | G | G | G | G :||
7. Once your student has a good grasp of all these ideas have a good long jam
session with them playing slide over your rhythm guitar or bass.
Objective 6. Student understanding basic principles of open tuning
Methods:
1. Point out to your student that a lot of blues slide guitar is played on open-tuned
guitar.
2. Tell them that open tuning normally means tuning the guitar to a specific major
chord and to show how this is done you are going to re-tune to the chord of G.
3. Ask them to tell you which three notes make up the chord of G (G, B, D).
4. Show them how you take the 6
th
E string down to D by tuning it an octave lower
than the 4
th
D string. Then the 5
th
A string down to G by tuning it an octave lower
than the open 3
rd
G string.
5. Point out that the 4
th
D, 3
rd
G and 2
nd
B can remain unchanged and it therefore
remains to take the 1
st
E string down to the with the 6
th
(now D) and 4
th
D string.
6. Once done, ask them to make the same adjustments to their guitar, coaching them
through the process as necessary.
7. Now get them to play the resultant open G chord.
8. To get them started on some popular riffs get them to play the following classic
Delta blues slide riff:
D- - 0- - - / 3- - - 0- - / 3- - 0- - - - - / 12~~~~~- - - - - - - -
B- - 0- - - / 3- - - 0- - / 3- - 0- - - - - / 12~~~~~- - - - - - - -
G- - 0- - - / 3- - - 0- - / 3- - 0- - - - - / 12~~~~~- - - - - - - -
D- - 0- - - / 3- - - 0- - / 3- - 0- - - - - / 12~~~~~- - - - - - - -
G- - 0- - - / 3- - - 0- - / 3- - 0- - - - - / 12~~~~~- - - - - - - -
D- 0- - - / 3- - - 0- - / 3- - 0- - - - - / 12~~~~~- - - - - - - -

This is shown played on all 6 strings but the beauty of open tuning is that you can
select as many or few strings as you like on a riff like this. Get your student to
experiment.
9. Play a shuffle rhythm 12 bar in G (having re-tuned your guitar to standard!)
10. Have them use the above riff over the I chord then adapt it over the IV and V
simply by playing the last chord at the 5
th
and 7
th
frets respectively.
11. As an alternative have them try out this chord based lick which they can again
move to the 12
th
, 5
th
and 7
th
frets for the I IV and V chords:
D- - - - - - - - 12- 12- 12- 12- 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - / 12- - - - - hol d- - - - ( 12) - - - / 12- ( 12) - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12~~~- - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
12. Encourage them to use these ideas as points of departure and experiment around
them. Good slide playing should be energetic, free and uninhibited and that requires
lots of confidence which in turn comes from lots of practice. A lot can be learnt
simply by experimenting around simple ideas like those above.
Lesson plan 30:
SPECIFIC REMEDIES
Problem: Student struggling to stretch for shuffle patterns
Younger students or adults with small or stiff fingers may have trouble playing
added sixth shuffle patterns to begin with.
Probable cause(s): Insufficient stretch, physical strength or coordination or any
combination of these three factors will make it hard to play shuffle patterns.
Solution(s): The first step is to assure the student that with the help of a few exercises
they will get on top of the problem and in preparing their fingers to play these
patterns they will also open up other areas of their playing. In other words it is worth
their investing time and effort into solving these problems.
As well as general stretching and strengthening exercises found elsewhere in this
book, get them to play the following exercise:
Fingering:
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 et c. .
1 1 3 1 1 1 3 1 et c. .
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - 10- 10- 10- 10- - 9- 9- 9- - 9- - 8- 8- 8- - 8- - 7- 7- 7- 7- - - - et c. . -
D- - 10- 10- 12- 10- - 9- 9- 11- 9- - 8- 8- 10- 8- - 7- 7- 9- 7- - - - et c. . -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Working their way down the fretboard to the 1st fret if possible. This makes use of
the layout of the fretboard to gradually stretch the fingers.
Once they can do this easily get them to play the same motif on the 4
th
and 5
th
strings.
Then, once they can do that, the 5
th
and 6
th
strings.
Problem: Student can't grasp theory
They have no problem physically playing the exercises, but really struggle with
understanding the theory behind it.
Probable cause(s): Whenever the student has difficulties with a particular level of
theory the problem always lies with an earlier level that was not completely
understood. For example the student can't understand why the chord of E major has
a G# in it because they didn't really grasp the lesson about key signatures or major
scale formula.
Solution(s): The solution is to backtrack to where the student was doing fine. Run a
review from the bottom up: notes on open strings, chromatic scale formation, tones
and semitones, major scale formula, key signatures, circles of fourths and fifths, then
and only then is it worth discussing chord formulas.
With some students it is better to keep them progressing with the physical playing of
the exercises regardless of their level of understanding. It's true that the more
comprehension a musician has the more efficiently they learn, but for some the
comprehension is a great deal harder than for others. Work with the student's
strengths. The broader their repertoire of what they can play grows, the more solidly
they can apply theoretical concepts to actual examples and this in itself helps the
understanding process.
Problem: Student finds barre chords to hard to play
They are getting very frustrated because every time they play barre chords they take
ages to get hold of and then sound awful anyway.
Probable cause(s): It is either that you have introduced barre chords too early for this
student and given them 'too steep a hill to climb' or that you have omitted the all
important expectation management step and given them an unrealistic idea of how
easy barre chords are to play.
Solution(s): Ultimately, to play guitar without using barre chords is extremely
restrictive. That does not mean however that your student has to cross this particular
bridge right now.
You have to make a firm decision based on the age, strength and confidence level of
the student whether to put barre chord development off until later or whether to
encourage them to persist in their attempts to get them to sound good.
If you decide to delay then concentrate on the student developing a broad range of
songs that utilize easier chord shapes and focus your efforts on harnessing their
enthusiasm because what you want to happen is that they play lots and lots of guitar.
The more they play, the stronger their hands get, the easier they will then find the
addition of barre chords. Try to encourage them to continue with the pre-barre chord
exercise described in Lesson plan 7.
If you decide to persist then encourage a daily physical exercise routine using the
exercise in Lesson plan 7. Talk to the student about their expectations and point out
that nobody learns to play clean barre chords overnight, but if they persist with their
attempts , they will gradually improve and their efforts will build up their hand and
finger strength in ways that help with all aspects of their playing.
In both cases, make a point of helping the student develop stamina. When you are
playing together in lessons make songs last longer add a few guitar solos over their
rhythm playing to keep them playing longer because that helps to build strength in a
way they will hardly notice. Encourage them to practice for longer spells at home.
Problem: Student finds the movable C7 too hard to play
The C7 chord shape isn't actually physically hard to hold down, but if you are not
used to it, it can seem a very difficult chord to move around at first.
Probable cause(s): The student sees you happily moving this shape up and down the
fretboard and then thinks there must be something wrong with them because they
find it really difficult.
Solution(s): Expectation management is required here. It's not a bad shape after the
first 1000 times you use it! Get them to play on a one-strum-per-bar basis through a
12-bar blues or something, so they have plenty of time to move and re-establish the
shape. Reassure them that it just takes practice.
Problem: Student confused by generic note and chord notation (all those Roman
numerals)
They have no difficulty understanding rhythm charts that are written key-specific,
but as soon as those Roman numerals appear they go all blank on you and can't relate
them to chords or notes at all.
Probable cause(s): Firstly it may be that they simply don't understand the Roman
numeral system at all.
Secondly, they may not be clear on the basics of forming a major scale from a
chromatic Scale. Or they may still be confused about why there is no E# in the
chromatic scale in the first place (for example).
Thirdly, confusion is often caused by the fact that Roman numerals are used to
describe both the position of notes relative to the major scale and the chords that are
derived from harmonising the scale.
Solution(s): Always check that it is not the use of Roman numerals themselves that
are the problem. Especially with kids, you can't be sure that they understand the
Roman numeral system as it is generally used less and less these days and not
necessarily covered in school curricula.
Next check back over the first basic theory steps and make sure that they are really
clear on how to build a major scale. If not, then go back a step further and discuss the
chromatic scale, tones and semitones and then the major scale formula.
Then you can clear up the two different areas of application. Primarily you get them
to apply the numerals to the notes of the major scale. Test them on it thoroughly. If
they understand it they will be able to apply it. If they can't apply it they need to be
taken back a step further again.
Once they are happy with describing notes relative to the major scale in terms of
Roman numerals, then take them through the subject of harmonization deriving
chords from the major scale. Use plenty of examples and plenty of tests. It is vital to
get them to work with the information. Transposing songs into different keys is a real
application of this knowledge so I advise plenty of that.
Finally you can explain that chord formulas are thought of generically in terms of steps
relative to the major scale (ie. I III V = major chord, I bIII V = minor chord and so
on). Get them to use this knowledge to work out the notes of several different chords
until it is clear they can use the information with confidence.
Note that this whole process may take several weeks, done a little at a time. Also note
that if you teach with care from the outset, you shouldn't run into these problems at
all. The trick is to use plenty of application and testing to consolidate knowledge at
each level and resist the temptation to move on until each level is really well
understood and applied by the student its not how much ground you cover its
how thorough their grasp of each step is before you move on that determines real
progress.
Problem: Student confused by diminished and augmented chords
These chords both have one or two unusual features that can sometimes confuse
students.
Probable cause(s): Usual problem is with the equidistant intervals that is a feature of
both these chord types.
Solution(s): Get the student to write out a chromatic scale:
C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# .etc..
Then a C major scale:
C D E F G A B C
Now ask them if they know the formulas for the diminished 7
th
and augmented
chords. If they don't know them tell them:
Dim 7
th
= I bIII bV bbVII
Aug = I III #V
Now get them to apply these formulas to the C major scale to derive the C dim7 and
C aug chords:
C dim 7 = C Eb Gb A
C aug = C E G#
Now get them to underline all the notes of the C dim 7 chord on the chromatic scale:
C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C
And ask them if they can spot what is special about this arrangement of notes (they
are all exactly a tone and a half (equivalent to a minor III) apart)
If you get them to repeat the same exercise with the augmented chord they will
discover that its notes are all two tones (equivalent to a major III) apart.
You can say that the practical implication of this is that the C dim7 chord comprises
the same notes as the D# dim 7, the F# dim 7 and the A dim7 chord.
Another way of putting this is that any note in a dim7 chord can be considered to be
the root note.
One more view is that there are only three dim 7 chords
With the augmented chord the same sort of rules apply except that there are four
possible augmented chords.
Problem: Student disorientated by crossover between country and blues scales
Getting to grips with the relationship between blues scales and country scales can
cause confusion in students
Probable cause(s): The most likely cause of confusion stems from their being as yet
insufficiently experienced working with the blues scales in their home keys. So you
are building on shaky foundations by adding a whole new dimension to their lead
playing.
Solution(s): Usually it is best to go back to straight blues scales. Get them more
thoroughly used to jumping around from key to key and from position to position.
Have them use them over as many different types of song as possible, different
tempos, rhythms and feels.
Only when they are thoroughly conversant with using the blues scales in their home
keys should you introduce the subject of using the same patterns for country scales.
The best approach is then to simply state that 'this song is in the key of A, but I want
you to make the F# blues scale work over it' Then get them to do it. Then pick the key
of E and get them using the C# scale.
Next, tell them you are going to play in C and they are to work out which other scale
works over C. If they're smart they'll spot the relationship if not then point out that
they used F# over A (three frets down the fretboard) and C# over E (three frets down
the fretboard) so guess what to use over C..
Keep the emphasis on their playing in lots of different keys in this way until they are
thoroughly used to what to do. Only then answer questions about how and why it
works.
Problem: Student having difficulties handling the slide
No matter what you say to help, the student is really struggling with bottleneck
guitar
Probable cause(s): The slide they are using is either too big or too small
Solution(s): Have a close look at the slide the student is using and at the size of their
fingers. It should become obvious if the slide is the wrong size for them. If you plan
to do a lot of slide teaching it makes sense to keep a few different slides handy to try
out on the student. Weight can make a difference glass slides are much lighter than
steel ones for example.
Problem: Slide work sounds messy
The student is getting a lot of sounds from other strings that spoil the sound of their
slide playing.
Probable cause(s): They haven't got the hang of damping the other strings with their
trailing fingers.
Solution(s): See Objective 3. Lesson plan 29.
Problem: Slide guitar sounds out of tune
The student is playing at the right frets but it all sounds flat.
Probable cause(s): Assuming the guitar is correctly tuned, the cause is that they are
so used to positioning their fretting fingers behind the frets whereas the slide is used
directly over the frets.
Solution(s): Repeat the listening and tuning drill from Objective 1 in Lesson plan 29.
Spend some time on this starting with single notes and working up to 6 string
chords.
Lesson plan 31:
NAMES OF NOTES
Suitable for:
Beginners
Prerequisites:
None
General Objective:
Student able to name any note on the guitar fretboard
Summary of this lesson plan:
This lesson plan treats the fretboard like a grid. By understanding how both axes of
the grid work you can find any note on the grid
Stress:
Make it fun and be very, very patient with the student. If they grasp this level
thoroughly, you remove all sorts of problems from their future studies of music.
Materials required:
Chromatic scale derivation
Diagram of note names
Special equipment required:
Piano or keyboard if possible. If not, then a drawing of the keyboard.
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student familiarized with note names on open strings
Methods:
1. Check with the student to see if they know the names of the notes on the open
strings. If they say they do test them on it.
2. If they are not conversant with open string note names then teach them a
mnemonic like: Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears. Then test them on it.
Objective 2. Student understanding the pattern of the chromatic scale.
Methods:
1. Explain that the guitar fretboard is arranged according to the chromatic scale.
2. Underline to the student that it is of vital importance to learn the notes on this
scale and because of that, you are going to go over it in some detail.
3. Tell the student that the chromatic scale is best understood by reference to the
keyboard or piano.
4. Using a keyboard, piano or diagram of a keyboard ask the student to notice the
layout of white and black keys on the keyboard.
5. Keep prompting the student with questions until they include in their answer
the observation that the black keys are grouped in twos and threes.
6. Ask them if they know why this is.
7. If they are not sure, then demonstrate (with as much participation from the
student as possible), how the pattern of notes provides a method of uniquely
identifying each note.
8. Point out that the white note C always comes just before the group of two black
notes, the D note always between the two black notes, the E note just after the two
black notes ... and so on.
9. Once the student has thoroughly got this idea get them to play notes selected at
random across the whole range of the keyboard. (This often has quite an effect on
the student - they've typically been mystified for years by the layout of keys on a
piano and are amazed to find understanding it so easy!)
10. Tell the student that the black notes are named either sharp (#) or flat (b)
according to whether they are viewed from the note below or the note above.
12. Play C# and tell them 'This is C#, but it can also be called Db'.
13. Play D# and say 'So this is D#, but can also be called Eb'.
14. Play F# and ask them what it could be called.
15. Repeat with G# and A# and so on until student is familiar with enharmonic
names of all the black notes on the keyboard.
16. To summarize, play a chromatic scale as you name all the notes for the student.
Use # names on the way up and then b names on the way down.
17. Ask them to repeat what you have just done, naming the notes in the same
manner.
18. Once they have done this a couple of times with little or no hesitation,
underline the fact that to preserve the pattern of black notes in groups of two and
three, there has to be no E#, Fb, B# or Cb. This is easier to remember as: B and C
have no black note separating them and nor do E and F.
Objective 3. Student able to apply knowledge of the chromatic Scale to the guitar
fretboard
Methods:
1. Explain to the student that the guitar fretboard is laid out according to the
chromatic scale, but that, unlike on the keyboard, there is no way to distinguish
between black and white notes.
2. Ask them to play the open E on the bottom string. Then ask them to play each
note on that string, working up the neck a fret at a time. As they play the note ask
them to name it using # names on the way up.
3. Coach them as they go, making sure they remember that there is no E# and no
B#. Some students will also be confused that A follows G.
4. Stop them at the 12
th
fret and point out that they are back to where they started
because the 12
th
fret is the octave fret on the guitar and the notes there, are identical
to the open string notes.
5. Now ask them to work back down the neck on that same string giving the black
notes their flat(b) names this time.
6. Once they have done it right on the 6
th
string get them to do the same on the 5
th
,
4
th
, 3
rd
, 2
nd
and 1
st
strings. This may seem over long as an exercise, but this is such
an important step that underpins the whole of your student's journey through the
subject of guitar music theory, you cannot afford to under do it!
7. At the end of this exercise get the student's agreement that they can now work
out the name of any note on the fretboard.
Lesson plan 32:
THE CAGED SYSTEM
Suitable for:
Guitarists at any level who are keen to really master guitar music theory
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 31 (Names of notes) completed. Section 1 (Basics) completed
General Objective:
Student able to find any note on the guitar in less than 2 seconds
Summary of this lesson plan:
This lesson teaches the student to use the basic framework of octave patterns that
make up the CAGED system.
Stress:
One step at a time. Warn the student at the beginning that some of what you ask
them to do won't make immediate sense, but that they will appreciate its significance
by the end of the lesson.
Materials required:
CAGED system octave pattern diagram
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student prepared to learn this system
Methods:
1. Ask the student to listen to what you are about to play.
2. Using the CAGED system, play every C on the guitar.
3. Ask the student what they think you just played. If they answer along the lines
of: 'all the same note' or 'all the Cs' then fine. If not ask them to listen again.
4. Repeat a couple of times and then, if necessary tell them that you just played
every C note on the guitar.
5. Point out that, using the same system you can play every C#, every D, D#, E
and so on. Demonstrate this sufficiently to convince the student .
6. Tell the student that this is not difficult to learn and is a really useful thing to be
able to do. Not just to find notes on the fretboard, but as a brilliant method of
organising almost every scale, chord, arpeggio, lick and riff they ever learn on the
guitar.
Objective 2. Student understanding derivation of CAGED system octave patterns
Methods:
1. Ask the student to play a C major chord in open position.
2. Ask them to isolate the two root notes (C on 5
th
and C on 2
nd
strings).
3. Explain that this is a movable octave pattern (demonstrate and get them to
copy you moving this shape up and down the fretboard.
4. Tell them that this shape will always produce an octave, and no matter what
note they use it on the shape should be referred to as a 'C' shaped octave because
of its derivation from the basic open position C chord.
5. Now ask them what letter comes next in the word CAGED.
6. Get them to play an open A chord.
7. Ask them to isolate the two root notes (A on open 5
th
string and A on the 3
rd

string).
8. Get them to play this as a movable octave shape
9. Tell them that no matter where this shape is used we always refer to it as an 'A'
shaped octave pattern.
10. Repeat this exercise with G (three root notes), E (3 root notes) and D (2 root
notes).
11. They should then have covered these five patterns:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3- - 4- - 5- et c-
B- - - 1- 2- 3- 4- 5- 6- et c- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 2- 3- 4- 5- 6- 7- et c- - - - 0- - 1- - 2- - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - 3- 4- 5- 6- 7- 8- - - - - - 0- 1- 2- 3- 4- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3- - 4- - 5- - - - - - - -
' C' shapes ' A' shapes ' G' shapes
e- - - - - 0- - 1- - 2- - 3- et c- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3- - 4- - 5- - 6- et c- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - 2- - 3- - 4- - 5- - - - - - - - - 0- - 1- - 2- - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - 0- - 1- - 2- - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
' E' shapes ' D' shapes
Objective 3. Student able to play the CAGED system octave patterns across entire
fretboard
Methods:
1. Ask the student to play the basic 'C' octave pattern in its primary position (1
st

and 3
rd
frets). Check that they are using their 1st and 3rd fingers to hold this
down.
2. Now tell them to replace their 3rd finger with their 1st finger and ask them:
'What letter's next in the word CAGED?'.
4. Tell them to play the 'A' shaped octave pattern (3
rd
fret and 5
th
fret). Again
they should be using 1st and 3rd fingers.
5. Have them repeat the 'C' shape and 'A' shape a couple of times until they can
do it easily. Ask them what letter comes next.
6. Get them to replace their 3rd finger with their 1st and play the 'G' shaped
octave pattern (5
th
and 8
th
frets). Ideally they should use their 1st finger on the
3rd string, then 3rd finger on 6
th
string and 4th finger on the 1
st
string but they
don't have to hold these down simultaneously!).
7. Have them repeat the 'C', 'A' and 'G' shapes a couple of times until they can
do it easily. Ask them what letter comes next.
8. Again they should replace their 3rd with their 1st finger.
9. Have them play the 'E' shaped octave pattern. Their 1st finger on the 6
th

string, 3rd finger on the 4
th
string and then 1st finger moved across to the 1
st

string.
10. Have them repeat the 'C', 'A' 'G' and 'E' shapes a couple of times until they
can do it easily. Ask them what letter comes next.
11. Replacing the 3rd finger with the 1st, have them play the 'D' shaped octave
pattern.
12. Have them repeat the 'C', 'A' 'G' 'E' and 'D' shapes a couple of times until
they can do it easily.
13. Now point out that they have completed the word CAGED, but that the
system is in effect circular. So they should now continue up the neck starting at
the letter 'C' again.
14. Have them play the 'C' shape from the 13
th
fret to the 15
th
.
15. Have them continue in exactly the same manner on up the fretboard until
they run out of frets.
16. Congratulate them on having played every C note on the guitar.
17. Have them play through this system several times repeatedly until they no
longer need prompting from you. Encourage them to practice it at home.
Objective 4. Student able to apply the CAGED system to any note.
Methods:
1. Play through the CAGED system yourself on the note C then explain to the
student that exactly the same pattern can be used to play the C# notes.
2. Play all the C# notes.
3. Have them play the C# notes.
4. Demonstrate that, when it comes to playing the next note up, D, it is
necessary to rotate the pattern, taking the 'D' off the end of the word CAGED
and sticking it on the front to spell 'DCAGE'.
5. Demonstrate by playing the Ds starting with the 'D' shape played at open
and 3
rd
frets. Then continue with the 'C' shape and so on.
6. Have the student play all the Ds.
7. Demonstrate the D#s are played using exactly the same pattern.
8. Have your student play all the D#s.
9. Demonstrate that, when it comes to playing the next note up, E, it is again
necessary to rotate the pattern, taking the 'E' off the end of the word 'DCAGE'
and sticking it on the front to spell 'EDCAG'.
10. Play all the Es starting with the 'E' shape at open, 2
nd
and open frets.
11. Have the student play all the Es.
12. Demonstrate that the F and F#s are played using exactly the same pattern.
13. Have them play all the Fs and F#s.
14. Demonstrate that, when it comes to playing the next note up, G, it is again
necessary to rotate the pattern, taking the 'G' off the end of the word 'EDCAG'
and sticking it on the front to spell 'GEDCA'.
10. Play all the Gs starting with the 'G' shape at 3
rd
, open and 3rd frets.
11. Have the student play all the Gs.
12. Demonstrate that the G#s are played using exactly the same pattern.
13. Have them play all the Gs and G#s.
14. Demonstrate that, when it comes to playing the next note up, A, it is again
necessary to rotate the pattern, taking the 'A' off the end of the word 'GEDCA'
and sticking it on the front to spell 'AGEDC'.
15. Play all the As and A#s starting with the 'A' shape at open and 2nd frets.
16. Have the student play all the As and A#s.
17. Demonstrate that, when it comes to playing the next note up, B, it is again
necessary to rotate the pattern, taking the 'C' off the end of the word 'AGEDC'
and sticking it on the front to return to 'CAGED'.
18. Play all the Bs starting at the open and 2
nd
frets using the 'C' shape.
19. Have the student play all the Bs.
20. Congratulate your student on having just played every single note on the
guitar knowing what it was as they played it quite a rare achievement!
Lesson plan 33:
DIAGONAL OCTAVE PATTERNS
Suitable for:
Guitarists at any level who are keen to really master guitar music theory
Prerequisites:
Lesson plan 32 (CAGED system) completed. Section 1 (Basics) completed
General Objective:
Student understanding the two basic fingerable octave patterns on the guitar and able
to play them off any note on the fretboard. Student able to associate these patterns
with the CAGED system.
Summary of this lesson plan:
The student is shown how the CAGED system can be reduced to just two basic
patterns.
Stress:
Get the student to play these patterns. Don't over-explain them.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student able to play the two basic octave patterns anywhere on the
fretboard.
Methods:
1. Show the student that there are two basic movable octave patterns that can
be fingered on the guitar. Working off the 6
th
string they look like this:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - 2- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | | - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Forward diagonal pattern Backward diagonal pattern
2. Demonstrate to the student how the forward diagonal goes up 2 frets and up
two strings and should be fingered 1,3). Whilst the backward diagonal goes
back three frets and up 3 strings (and should be fingered 4,1).
3. Get the student to play each of these two shapes off the A note and listen to
them and agree that they are playing an octave.
4. Now show the student how these can be played off any 6
th
string note from
G# upwards. Below that only the forward diagonal can be played.
5. Have the student play these patterns at random up an down the fretboard
until they have obviously made friends with them.
Objective 2. Student able to play the four forward diagonal derived octave patterns.
Methods:
1. Ask the student to play the basic forward diagonal pattern off the A note on
the 6
th
string.
2. Ask them to move up to the D on the 5
th
string and play the same pattern
form there. Get them to notice that this pattern is the same.
3. Now get them to play the pattern off the G on the 4
th
string. This will sound
wrong because of the 2nd string anomaly. Ask the student if they can figure out
how to finger it themselves. If they are confused show them that the shape has
to be stretched up a fret to accommodate the 2nd string anomaly.
4. So they should now be fingering G on the 4
th
string with their 1st finger and
G on the 2
nd
string with their 4th finger. Tell them we refer to that as a stretched
forward diagonal.
5. Now get them to finger C on the 3
rd
string and see if they can work out a
forward diagonal off that note. Again this will be a stretched shape because the
pattern spans the 2nd string and therefore has to account for the anomaly.
6. To summarise, have the student play each of these four patterns in turn like
this:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - 7- - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Objective 3. Student able to play the three backward diagonal derived octave patterns.
Methods:
1. Ask the student to play the basic backward diagonal pattern off the A note
on the 6
th
string. Make sure they use their 4th and 1st fingers for this.
2. Ask them to move their 4th finger up to the D on the 5
th
string and play the
same pattern from there. This will sound wrong because of the 2nd string
anomaly. Ask the student if they can figure out how to finger it themselves. If
they are confused show them that the shape has to be shrunk up a fret to
accommodate the 2nd string anomaly.
3. So they should now be fingering D on the 5
th
string with their 4th finger and
D on the 2
nd
string with their 2nd finger. Tell them we refer to that as a shrunk
backward diagonal.
4. Now get them to finger G on the 4th string and see if they can work out a
backward diagonal off that note. Again this will be a shrunk shape because the
pattern spans the 2nd string and therefore has to account for the anomaly.
6. To summarise have the student play each of these three patterns in turn like
this:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - 2- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Objective 4. Student able to play all seven diagonal patterns at random point on the
fretboard.
Methods:
1. Ask the student to play the four forward diagonal patterns and three backward
diagonal patterns through a few times working from the 5th fret, to make sure they
have understood them.
2. Now get them to select any note at random anywhere on the fretboard.
3. Off the note they select get them to play an octave pattern in as many different
directions as possible using whichever of the forward and backward diagonal
patterns are appropriate. For example, off the note G on the 2nd string 8
th
fret they
can play a shrunk backward diagonal to find G on the 5
th
string 10
th
fret and a
stretched forward diagonal to find G on the 4
th
string 5
th
fret.
4. Get them to try many different examples on different strings. Coach them only
when they miss one or play one incorrectly.
5. Continue this exercise until the student can quickly and easily locate all available
octave patterns from any note on the fretboard.
Lesson plan 34:
THE MAJOR SCALE
Suitable for:
Guitarists at any level who are keen to really master guitar music theory
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 33 (Diagonal octave patterns) completed. Section 1 (Basics) completed
General Objective:
Student understanding the derivation of the major scale and able to play it in any key
and position
Summary of this lesson plan:
First the student is shown the underlying pattern behind the major scale then they
are taken through a powerful method of learning to play it anywhere on the fret
board in any key.
Stress:
Again this is not to be rushed. Take one step at a time and ensure your student gets it
thoroughly. Many guitarists take years to learn what is contained in this one lesson
plan!
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student understanding how to derive a major scale from a chromatic
scale.
Methods:
1. Check that the student understands the terms tone and semitone.
2. Test the student by asking them to play a note anywhere on the fretboard and
then a note a semitone higher, a tone lower, two tones up, a tone and a half
down ..etc.
3. Tell the student that the major scale in any key can be derived by taking the
key note and then applying the formula:
Tone Tone Semitone Tone Tone Tone Semitone
4. Have them apply this by starting on the note G at the 3
rd
fret on the 6
th
string
and moving up the string, playing notes spaced according to the formula.
5. Once they are happy with this, point out that a good way to remember the
formula is to split it into two halves:
Tone Tone Semitone Tone Tone Tone Semitone
If they play it like this they can clearly hear the similarity between the first half
of the scale and the second half.
6. Have them try this out, building major scales up single strings building on
notes chosen at random.
7. Continue this until the student has obviously got it.
Objective 2. Student able to play from memory the major scale pattern fitting the
basic forward diagonal octave pattern
Methods:
1. Get the student to align their hand position so that the 2nd finger plays the
note A at the 5th fret on the 6
th
string.
2. Get them to play the forward diagonal octave pattern from this note to A on
the 4
th
string at the 7
th
fret (using their 4th finger).
3. Now get them to link these two notes with a major scale pattern played with
the fingering pattern: 2 4 1 2 4 1 3 4.
4. Get them to finish by once again playing the diagonal octave pattern.
5. Here is the whole exercise tabbed:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - 7- - - - - - - - - - - 4- 6- 7- 6- 4- - - - - - - - - - - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - 4- 5- 7- - - - - - - - - - - 7- 5- 4- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - 5- - - 5- 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- 5- - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Have your student play this through enough times to commit it to memory.
6. Have them play it in different keys by starting at different frets (on the 6
th

string).
7. Move on, only once the student can do this easily.
Objective 4. Student able to adjust the basic forward diagonal major scale pattern to
start on 5
th
, 4
th
and 3
rd
strings.

Methods:
1. Ask the student to have a go at playing the major scale pattern starting on the
note D 5
th
string 5
th
fret.
2. If needed, point out that the pattern is exactly the same as for the previous
objective.
3. Once they are playing this correctly ask them to try the pattern starting from
the note G on the 4
th
string at the 5
th
fret.
4. If they fail to spot the adjustment needed to account for the 2nd string anomaly
then bring it to their attention. The pattern should go:
Fi nger i ng:
1 4 2 4 1 2 4 1 3 4 3 1 4 3 1 4 2 1 4
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 7- - 8- - 7- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8-
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- - 5- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- - 5- - 4- - - - - - - - - - - -
D- 5- - - - - 5- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- - 5- - 5- - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
5. Have them repeat this paying special attention to correct fingering until it is
smooth and done from memory.
6. Now ask them to try the pattern from the C on the 3
rd
string at the 5
th
fret.
7. Point out that this is the only one of the forward diagonal patterns that should
be started on the 1st finger instead of the second:
Fi nger i ng:
1 4 1 3 1 2 4 1 3 4 3 1 4 2 1 3 1 1 4
e- - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 7- - 8- - 7- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8-
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 6- - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8- - 6- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - -
G- 5- - - - - 5- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 75- - 5- - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Objective 5. Student able to play backward diagonal major scale patterns starting on
6
th
, 5
th
and 4
th
strings.

Methods:
1. Check that the student is completely happy with the forward diagonal major
scale patterns before moving on. If necessary have them repeat the exercises
above as many times as they like.
2. Now get them to repeat the backward diagonal octave shapes as learnt in the
previous lesson plan.
3. Demonstrate how the major scale pattern is played to link the octave from A
on the 6
th
string to A on the 3
rd
string:
Fi nger i ng:
4 1 4 1 3 4 1 4 1 2 1 4 1 4 3 1 4 4 1
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - 2- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1- 2- - 1- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 2- - 4- - - - - - - - - - - 4- - 2- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 2-
A- - - - - - - - - - 2- 4- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- 4- - 2- - - - - - - - - -
E5- - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 5- - - -
4. Have the student learn this paying particular attention to the fingering shift
on the 3
rd
and 4
th
strings.
5. Once they are happy with this proceed with the remaining two backward
diagonal patterns which should be as follows:
Fi nger i ng:
4 2 4 1 3 4 1 3 1 2 1 3 1 4 3 1 4 4 2
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1- - 2- - 1- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3- -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 2- 4- - - - - - - - - - - 4- 2- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - 2- - 4- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- 4- 2- - - - - - - - - - -
A- 5- - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Fi nger i ng:
4 2 4 1 3 4 1 3 1 2 1 3 1 4 3 1 4 4 2
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1- - 2- - 1- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3- -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 2- 4- - - - - - - - - - - 4- 2- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - 2- - 4- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- 4- 2- - - - - - - - - - -
A- 5- - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- 5- - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Objective 6. Student able to play major scale patterns within the CAGED system.

Methods:
1. Demonstrate to the student how the CAGED system is entirely made up of
forward and backward diagonals.
2. Tell them that in order to play every available major scale pattern in any one
key they only have to apply the fingerings learnt in the earlier part of this lesson
plan.
3. Get them to start in the key of C. Have them play the 'C' shaped octave
pattern from string 5 fret 3 to string 2 fret 1 and then join the two Cs using the
backward diagonal major scale pattern. Note that in this particular case open
strings will be used for some of the notes (D,G,B).
4. Now get them to play the next octave shape 'A' shape from string 5 fret 3 to
string 3 fret 5 and connect those notes with the appropriate major scale pattern.
5. Continue through the CAGED system. Note that the 'G' and 'E' shapes will
each produce a two-octave run which should be played both as two separate
single octave runs and as a continuous two-octave run.
6. Once they have completed the 'D' shape pattern they should carry on up the
fretboard repeating the 'C' shape at fret 13, the 'A' shape and so on until they run
out of fret board.
7. Now get them to repeat the exercise in the key of C#, then D, D#, Eand so
on.
8. You may not complete all keys in one sitting at first, but my advice is to get
the student to work on this each lesson until they can play through all 12 keys.
That's a very thorough approach, but lays a very firm foundation for future
work on arpeggios, modes and other scales.
Objective 7. Student able to play major scale patterns in any key any position.

Methods:
1. Pick a key at random and a fret number at random.
2. Tell the student to work out how to play at least one octave of the major scale
in the designated key in such a way that it covers the designated fret.
3. For example you may have picked key: F# Fret: 8. The student should figure
that this will use the 'C' shaped pattern from string 5 fret 9 to string 2 fret 7.
They should then play it correctly of course.
4. At first you may expect the student to find this quite hard. Coach them
patiently until they develop a methodology that helps them apply the CAGED
system to finding the appropriate scale shapes at the right point on the
fretboard.
5. If the student really struggles with this it is a sign that earlier stages have not
been completed thoroughly enough. Retread this theory section with them in
order to spot what has been skipped.
6. Continue the exercise until the student's ability is markedly improved.
7. Repeat this exercise every lesson until the student can do it pretty much
instantly.
8. This exercise is possibly the single most powerful teaching tool in this book
don't undersell it!
Lesson plan 35:
DISCOVERING KEY SIGNATURES
Suitable for:
Guitarists at any level who are keen to really master guitar music theory
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 34 (Major scale) completed.
General Objective:
Student understanding the concept of key signatures and able to work out the 12
most commonly used.
Summary of this lesson plan:
In this lesson plan the student is taken step by step through a process of discovering
how to work out key signatures using the circle of fifths for sharp keys and the circle of
fourths for flat keys.
Stress:
This lesson plan is not only about discovering key signatures. It is about applying all
that has been learnt up until now in this Guitar music theory section. Your student is
going to feel quite hard-worked and it is essential that you do the right amount of
this at the right pace for the particular student. This plan might take as many as 10
half lessons to complete. I would never consider working on this much 'pure theory'
for more than half an hour at a go. Balance it with other stuff that is more fun!
Never attempt this on a student who is not wide awake and mentally focused!
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student understanding the general principal of keys and key signatures.
Methods:
1. First check if the student has already got some idea of what 'key' means. Then,
depending on their answer, help them increase their awareness of what a key is.
This can be done by playing snippets of melody or quickly recognisable chord
sequences in one key and then another and getting the student to spot the differ-
ences and similarities.
2. Now check the student's understanding of 'key signature'. Unless the student
has previous experience of working with standard notation then this concept may
be quite hard for them to grasp. I advise taking a bit of time out at this stage to
introduce your student to the basics of the five-line stave. This should be kept
light you're not trying to teach them to sight read.
3. Using pen and paper demonstrate to your student how the placement of
sharp or flat signs at the beginning of a line of music affects the notes written on
the stave.
4. Review, with them, the basic construction of the major scale and point out that
the system of key signatures is designed to maintain the pattern of tones and
semitones relative to the key note. This can be done simply by comparing the
keys of C major and G major.
5. Once you have demonstrated a few examples and your student shows signs
of getting it, ask them to draw a stave, complete with treble clef (it can be fun
teaching them to draw one of those!) and then draw in a scale of notes from D to
D.
6. Get them to figure out which notes would need to be sharped to maintain the
Tone Tone SemiTone Tone Tone Tone SemiTone pattern. Then get them to draw
the sharp signs in on the stave.
Objective 2. Student understanding how to compute sharp(#) key signatures using the
circle of fifths.
Methods:
1. Tell your student that in traditional music theory the key of C major can be
seen as an important starting point because it is the only major key having no
sharps or flats.
2. Ask your student to play a C major scale on the guitar calling out the names of
the notes as they play them. You write them down as they call them out.
3. Coach only if they make mistakes.
4. Once they have called out the correct notes show them what you have written
down and draw their attention to the fact that you have included one of each
letter name and that none of the notes require sharps or flats.
5. Now write the words 'Five steps up' on the sheet of paper you are using and
ask the student to count five steps up the C major scale counting C as step 1.
They should arrive at G.
6. Ask them to play the G major scale on the guitar calling out the names of the
notes as they play them. Write down the notes they name correcting them as
necessary.
7. Once you have them written down correctly ask them to observe that the scale
again includes one of each letter name, but this time it has been necessary to
sharp the seventh note (F) to maintain the correct pattern.
8. Tell them that we therefore say that the key signature of G major is 'One
Sharp(#) F#'
9. Again write out the words 'Five steps up' and ask the student to count up the
G major scale. They should arrive at D.
10. Have them play the D major scale and call out the notes as before.
11. Correct if necessary then have the student observe the pattern that is now
developing: we have kept the sharp (F#) from the previous key and added a new
sharp(#) which is the seventh note of the new key (C#). Tell the student that this
pattern is stable throughout the circle of fifths.
12. Make sure they have grasped this, then ask: 'So what would you expect the
key signature of A major to be?'
13. You will probably need to work through this with them: D had two sharps,
F# and C#. Up five steps D E F# G A - A must have the same two sharps (F# C#)
plus its seventh note sharped (G#) so the key signature of A major is three
sharps F# C# G#.
14. Now ask them to work out the next key in the circle (E major).
15. Coach them through that as necessary, then ask them to work out the next
one (B major).
16. Draw to their attention the fact that this circle continues to obey the rules as
stated:Up five steps, retain sharps from previous key plus new sharp on seventh
step of new key. You should also underline that in all major keys one of each let-
ter name from A-G must be present.
17. Talk them through the oddity that when we get to the key of F# major (next
in the circle after B major), we introduce the note E#. Hitherto your student will
have been trying to think of E as one of the two notes that doesn't have a # - so
this can be a bit confusing. Likewise in the next key (C#) we end up with a note
B#. You can reassure the student that they will seldom find themselves playing
in these keys anyway.
18. You may also point out that taken to its extreme this method produces in the
next key (G#) the note F## (F double-sharp) which, whilst theoretically perfectly
acceptable, is almost never seen in modern music. (If you wanted a piece of mu-
sic to sound as if written in G# major you would write it in the enharmonic key of
Ab major (four flats(bs) Bb, Eb, Ab, Db).
19. Complete this objective by having the student take up pen and paper and
write out the key signatures of each of the keys in the circle of fifths from C
round to B major.
Objective 3. Student able to compute the flat(b) keys from the circle of fourths.
Methods:
1. Ask the student to write out the letters F G A B C D E F on paper.
2. Now ask them what key signature they would use to make sure that these
notes conformed to the major scale pattern: Tone Tone SemiTone Tone Tone
Tone SemiTone.
3. They should learn from this exercise that this cannot be done using #s sharps
without violating the rule that one of each letter name must be included in the
key.
4. Explain that, for this reason we use the flat (b) designation. So, in this case we
flat the note B to Bb. This puts the correct pattern in place and retains all seven
letter names.
5. Tell the student that flat keys follow a different formula from sharp keys
based on the circle of fourths.
6. Ask them to play the scale of C major and call out the note names. Write
down the notes as they call them. Reiterate that the key of C has no sharps or
flats so we use it as the starting point.
7. Now write out the words: 'Four steps up' on the paper and ask your student
to count up four from C (counting C as 1); they should come to F.
8. Now tell them to flat the fourth note of the new key (Bb) . Tell them: 'So F ma-
jor has one flat, Bb'.
9. Now write down 'Four steps up' again and ask the student for the next key in
the circle (Bb).
10. Now get them to retain the flat (b) from the previous key (Bb) and add the
flatted fourth note of the new key (Eb).
11. Continue on with this exercise in exactly the same manner as the previous
objective (circle of fifths) reinforcing the idea: 'Up four steps, flat the new fourth
note'.
12. Again you may draw the attention of the student to the peculiarities of the
more obscure keys (Gb major with the note Cb in it, Cb major with the note Fb,
Fb major with the note Bbb etc)but assure them that these keys are rarely en-
countered in practice).
13. Complete the objective by having the student write out each of the flat key
signatures in order.
Objective 4. Student able to work out key signatures in their head.
Methods:
1. Tell your student that the order of sharps in the circle of fifths can be remem-
bered by the mnemonic: Frederick Charles Goes Down And Enters Battle (Itself a
circle of fifths).
2. Get them to draw a five line stave, write in the treble clef and then place all
the sharp symbols correctly for the key of C# major using the above mnemonic.
3. Tell them that the order of flats in the circle of fourths can be remembered by
the mnemonic: Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles Frederick (Itself a circle of
fourths notice it is the same as the circle of fifths backwards!)
4. Get them draw a five line stave, write in the treble clef and then place all the
flat symbols correctly for the key of Gb major using the above mnemonic.
Objective 5. Student able to work out minor key signatures.
Methods:
1. Tell your student that minor key signatures have a stable relationship to major
key signatures.
2. Tell them the rule is that the minor key built on the sixth step of any major
scale shares the same key signature with that major scale.
3. Give them some examples: C major has the same key signature as A minor, E
minor the same as G major, F# minor has three sharps because it is the sixth note
in the key of A major which is three steps round the circle of fifths and so has
three sharps .etc.
4. Test them thoroughly on this. Mix up the questions deliberately to make them
think with the data.
Lesson plan 36:
PRINCIPLE MINOR SCALES
Suitable for:
Guitarists at any level who are keen to really master guitar music theory
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 35 (Key signatures) completed.
General Objective:
Student understanding the differences and similarities between the principal minor
scales
Summary of this lesson plan:
The student learns to appreciate that minor scales differ from major in that they are
more flexible. They learn a method of working out and practicing the principal minor
scales in all keys and positions.
Stress:
This lesson builds on the earlier theory lessons and consults the student's under-
standing of what they have so far learnt. At this stage, speed of progress through the
lesson plan is unimportant. Thoroughness is essential and the tutor must ensure that
the student does the mental work involved and thus engages in using what they
have so far learnt.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student understanding how the natural minor scale is derived.
Methods:
1. Review with the student their understanding of relative major and minor keys
and scales.
2. Remind them that the relative minor key is built on the sixth step of the major
scale.
3. Ask them to play the scale of C major over one octave using the 'G' shape back-
ward diagonal pattern:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - 5- - 7- - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. Now ask them to compute the sixth note in the key of C. (A)
5. Get them to play the notes A B C D E F G A starting at the 5th fret 6
th
string:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 7- - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - 5- - 7- - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
6. Tell them: 'That is the A natural minor scale. It contains exactly the same notes
as its relative major: C major.'
7. Have them work out several different natural minor scales in this manner
mixing positions, keys and starting strings until it is obvious the idea has sunk
in.
8. Now take a different approach. Tell them the formula for any natural minor
scale is: bIII, bVI, bVII.
9. To apply this, get them to play a basic forward diagonal G major scale:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 2- - 4- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - 2- - 35- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - 35- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Now ask them to apply the formula working out how to flat the III, VI and VII
notes. They should end up with:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - 35- - 6- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - 35- - 6- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Which is the G natural minor scale.
10. Have them work this out in several different keys and positions using the
CAGED system of octave patterns. Always start from the major scale pattern as
this is how all other scales tend to be defined in music theory.
11. Finally get the student to put these scales to use. Play through a few minor
key songs and have them improvise using the natural minor scales.
Objective 2. Student understanding the harmonic minor scale.
Methods:
1. Tell the student that whilst the natural minor scale is used extensively in mu-
sical composition, they will soon encounter minor key melodies and harmonies
that use notes that are not found on this scale.
2. Point out that songwriters and composers have found it particularly difficult
to write melodies without out using the 'Leading note' (VII note in the major
scale).
3. Tell them that the harmonic minor scale was developed to meet the require-
ment to use this particular note both in melody and underlying harmonies.
4. Have your student play one octave of the A natural minor scale. Now have
them repeat it with the 7
th
note played a semitone higher:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 57- - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - 5- - 7- - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
This is the A harmonic minor scale.
5. Ask the student if they can tell you what its formula is. You may need to re-
mind them that the formula should be expressed in terms of how the scale dif-
fers from the major scale based on the same key note: bIII, bVI.
6. Now get them to play major scales in other keys and octave patterns and then
convert them to harmonic minor scales by flatting the III and VI notes.
7. It is also well worth drilling the comparison between the natural minor scale
and the harmonic minor.
8. There are two points on which your student may comment and if they don't
these are well worth bringing to their attention: firstly, that the harmonic minor
scale has an 'Eastern' flavour to it and secondly that it has a particularly large
gap (a tone and a half) between the VI and VII steps which does not occur in any
other 'conventional' scale.
9. Finally, have the student put the scale to use. You may like to teach them Paint
it Black' by the Rolling Stones - a classic use of harmonic minor scale. Or simply
get them improvising over a minor progression. It should be noted that minor
scales are very flexible and there is no reason not to combine the natural and
harmonic scale in the same melody or improvisation.
Lesson plan 37:
HARMONISING THE MAJOR SCALE
Suitable for:
Guitarists at any level who are keen to really master guitar music theory
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 35 (Key signatures) completed.
General Objective:
Student able to harmonise a major scale to triad level. Student understanding, and able
to apply, basics of harmonisation.
Summary of this lesson plan:
The student is introduced to the art of harmonising and along the way learns the
rudiments of standard notation.
Stress:
Avoid getting in too deep at this early stage. Stick to diatonic harmonising using
triads.
Materials required:
Pen and paper. Standard notation manuscript if available.
Treble and bass clefs
Harmonising the major scale
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student understanding how clefs fix the positioning of notes on staves in
standard notation.
Methods:
1. Ask the student if they know how to read standard notation.
2. If they do, then proceed with next objective.
3. If they don't, or seem at all hesitant then continue with this objective.
4. Draw five lines (or use pre-printed manuscript).Tell the student that this five line
grid is called a Stave.
5. Tell the student that originally, musicians used to scribe fancy letters at the
beginning of the stave to pinpoint which notes belonged where.
6. Over the years this has become reduced down to using standardised symbols
derived from the older lettering system. These symbols are called 'Clefs'.
7. The only two clefs the student is ever going to need to know are the 'F' or Bass clef
and the 'G' or treble clef.
8. Draw a bass clef for your student noting that the two dots of the 'F' clef (descended
from the two horizontal strokes of the original letter 'F') sit either side of the second
line down thus fixing that line as the note 'F'.
9. Draw a treble clef taking care to show the student that the inner curl of the spiral
(originally the detailed part of the letter 'G') sits right on the second line up thus
fixing that line as the note 'G'.
10. Have the student draw a few clefs of their own to check their understanding of
this.
11. Now tell them that the rest of the notes on the stave stem from having fixed the
clef note. Lines and spaces are used. (see diagram).
12. Take some time to explain how notes above and below the stave make use of
ledger lines. In particular familiarise the student with the position of the note 'middle
C' (one ledger line below the stave in the treble clef, one ledger line above the stave in
the ass clef). Point out that strictly speaking this note is the C played at the 1st fret on
the 2nd string of the guitar when tuned to standard tuning and standard pitch.
However, for convenience, we play this note on the 5th string at the 3
rd
fret. This
means in effect that the guitar is played an octave lower than written.
13. Finally test your student by asking them to write a series of notes called out by
you at random. Then write out a series of notes and have your student name them.
Objective 2. Student introduced to the naming and numbering of steps on the major
scale and able to write out a C major scale on the stave.
Methods
1. Explain briefly to your student that notes are written using different symbols to
specify their duration in time, but that, as this lesson is not concerned with the timing
aspect of music, we are simply going to use the semibreve symbol for all notes.
2. Have them write out a single octave C major scale starting on middle C. Coach and
correct if required.
3. Underneath each note have them write the numbers I VIII in Roman numerals.
4. Tell your student that, for the most part, these Roman numerals are used to
describe steps on the major scale in a generic (non key-specific) way.
5. Tell them that there is also a system of names that are used although they are not
used as frequently in modern music as the numbers are.
6. Write out the names of each step below the notes:
I=Tonic
II=Supertonic
III=Mediant
IV=Subdominant
V=Dominant
VI=Submediant
VII=Leading note
VIII=Tonic
7. Inform your student that these names and numbers refer both to the notes on the
scale and the chords built on each of those notes.
Objective 3. Student able to harmonise the notes in the key of C major.
Methods
1. Demonstrate to the student how a scale is harmonised simply by selecting
alternate notes on the scale and piling them vertically above each scale note. (see
diagram)
2. Point out to the student that although each chord looks the same on the stave, they
differ slightly when analysed against their individual root note.
3. For example the chord formed on the supertonic (II) contains the notes D F and A.
Your student might use this shape to play these three notes:
e- - - - - 1- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - 3- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - 2- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - 0- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. They should recognise this as a D minor chord. Tell them that harmonising a major
scale always produces a minor chord built on the supertonic.
5. In a similar manner have them investigate the chords built on each degree of the
scale they should discover that chords are formed as follows:
Tonic = Major
Supertonic = Minor
Mediant = Minor
Sub-dominant = Major
Dominant = Major
Sub-mediant = Minor
Leading note = Diminished
Tonic = Major
Objective 4. Student able to harmonise a major scale in any key.
Methods
1. Have the student draw a stave or use pre-printed manuscript. Have them draw in
a treble clef.
2. Ask them to write in the key signature for A major (3 sharps, F, C, G).
3. Now have them write out an A major scale.
4. Get them to add notes above each scale note to form chords as in previous
objective.
5. Have them satisfy themselves that the pattern: Maj, min, min, Maj, Maj, min, dim,
Maj holds good for this key.
6. Invite them to repeat the exercise with other keys chosen at random. Mix in flat
keys as well as sharp.
7. Continue until the student can do this easily and is convinced that the pattern is
constant for all keys.
8. Now ask them to select a key at random.
9. Have them write out the chords harmonised from the major scale of their chosen
key simply as chord symbols. For example, they chose the key of E major. They
should write out:
E F#m G#m A B C#m D#dim E
10. Now have them play this series of chords and listen to the way they blend
together really sweetly.
11. Repeat with other keys as required until student is happy they fully understand
how to harmonise major scales.
Lesson plan 38:
TRIAD CONSTRUCTION
Suitable for:
Guitarists at any level who are keen to really master guitar music theory
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 35 (Key signatures) completed.
General Objective:
Student understanding how triads are constructed from notes on the major scale.
Summary of this lesson plan:
There are thousands of chords, but they almost all can be seen as extensions of just 6
basic triads. A thorough grasp of these triads is the key to unravelling the complexity
of chord symbols.
Stress:
Take time and have student find plenty of examples so that the theory sinks in.
Materials required:
Pen and paper. Standard notation manuscript if available.
Special equipment required:
A piano or other keyboard instrument is useful.
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student understanding how they can derive chord formulas from
known chords.
Methods:
1. Ask the student to play the chord C major.
2. Now have them work out the names of the notes they are playing. Write them
down as they call them out.
3. Show them the result and point out that there are only three different notes in
the chord (C E G).
4. Now have them write out a C major scale.
5. Have them tell you which steps of the scale are found in the chord. (I III V)
6. Tell the student that this (I III V or 1 3 5) is referred to as the chord formula or
'spelling' for all major chords.
6. Repeat this exercise using an A major chord and A major scale.
7. Repeat with other chords if necessary until student has got it.
8. Now ask them to work out on paper what notes would be in a G major chord,
a B major, F major, Eb major etc work through several examples until the
student is doing this easily and smoothly.
9. Have a go at getting the student to work out chord notes in their head using
simple key signatures to start with and working up to the more complex ones.
10. End off on this only when you are sure the student has fully grasped it and
can use the information.
Objective 2. Student understanding how to work out a minor triad.
Methods:
1. Ask the student to play the chord A major.
2. Now get them to play Am.
3. Tell them to spot the difference between the major and minor chord.
4. Ask them to work out from this what the formula for a minor triad is (I bIII V)
5. Now get them to play a different major chord anywhere on the fretboard.
6. Get them to work out which are the third note(s) and flat them to turn the
chord from major to minor.
7. Have them note how, with some shapes, this can create shapes that are
extremely awkward to finger (examples open Cm and open G minor) which is
why we tend to use barre chords for these.
Objective 3. Student understanding how to work out diminished and augmented
triads.
Methods:
1. Tell the student that the term 'augmented' in music can be understood to
mean 'even more major than major'.
2. Tell them the formula for an augmented chord is I III #V. So it can be seen to
be a major chord that is 'stretched' by sharping the V.
3. Have them play an A major, work out which is the V and sharp it to form the
A aug (A+) chord.
4. Try a similar exercise with a few other major shapes to help them get the idea.
5. Now tell them that in a similar way, the word 'diminished' in music can be
understood as meaning 'even more minor than minor'. From this clue they may
be able to guess that a diminished triad has the formula I bIII bV in effect it is a
'shrunken'minor chord.
6. Have them find a few minor chord shapes and convert them to diminished by
flatting their Vs.
7. Worth making the point that the diminished triad is rarely encountered, but it
forms the basis of two commonly occurring chords, the diminished 7
th
(I bIII bV
bbVII) and half-diminished 7
th
(I bIII bV bVII).
Objective 4. Student understanding how to work out suspended triads.
Methods:
1. Tell the student that the third pair of triads gets its name from the effect they
tend to have on the listener.
2. In both cases the 'suspense' is caused by replacing the III note.
3. Tell the student to play an A major, work out which is the III and replace it
with the IV note of the A major scale. Then, once they have done that correctly,
tell them that is called a suspended 4
th
chord.
4. Similarly have them replace the III with the II and tell them that is a
Suspended 2
nd
a much rarer chord.
5. Finally explain that where the term suspended is unqualified (ie. No number
after it, it can be taken as read that it refers to the IV replacing the III note of the
scale. Example Asus9 (I IV V bVII IX).
Objective 5. Student understanding that they sometimes have to 'read between the
lines' when it comes to chord symbols and formulas.
Methods:
1. Really this is a general discussion point. It is important that your student
understands that there is no exact consensus on the naming of chords and that
the same chord can be named in several different ways. More confusingly,
different chords can share the same name.
2. Give examples like the 'seventh chord'.To most jazz guitarists this is I III V
VII (1 3 5 7), but a rock guitarist would call that a 'major seventh'. The rock
guitarist's 'seventh chord' has the formula I III V bVII (1 3 5 b7), but a jazzman
would probably refer to that by its full name of 'dominant seventh').
3. Advise your student to spend some time reading up on chord formulas. The
web is an ideal source of information on this. By reading several different
people's views on the subject you begin to pick up on where the main points of
discrepancy are.
Lesson plan 39:
HARMONISING MINOR SCALES
Suitable for:
Guitarists at any level who are keen to really master guitar music theory
Prerequisites:
Lesson Plan 37 (Harmonising major scales) completed.
General Objective:
Student understanding how chords are derived from the natural minor and harmonic
minor scales.
Summary of this lesson plan:
Insight into harmonising minor key melodies is provided by examining the differ-
ences between the chords derived from the natural minor scale and those derived
from the harmonic minor scale.
Stress:
Take time and have student find plenty of examples so that the theory sinks in.
Materials required:
Harmonised Minor Scales
Pen and paper.
Standard notation manuscript if available.
Special equipment required:
A piano or other keyboard instrument is useful.
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student learns to harmonise the natural minor scale
Methods:
1. Review with your student the relationship between the major scale and rela-
tive (natural) minor scale.
2. Demonstrate to the student that the chord types resulting from harmonising a
given natural minor scale come out the same as its relative major scale, the only
difference being in their order:
Major Scale: Major Minor Minor Major Major Minor Diminished Major
Natural Minor scale: Minor Diminished Major Minor Minor Major Major Minor
3. Have your student write out chord symbols of chords harmonised on the A
natural minor scale (Am Bdim C Dm Em F G Am).
4. Have them play these chords in order, listening to how they sound together.
5. Repeat this exercise with one or two other keys until the student is happy
with it.
Objective 2. Student understands application of harmonised natural minor scale.
Methods:
1. Select a song that uses chords found by harmonising the natural minor scale.
Here is a typical example reminiscent of songs like Bill Withers 'Ain't no sunshine
when she's gone:
4
4 Am | Am | Am | Am |
Em | Dm | Am | Am ||

2. Have the student play the rhythm part until they are familiar with it and then
ask them to play along to it improvising using the natural minor scale of the key
the song is in.
3. Select one or two other songs be sure to avoid anything that uses a dominant
chord type for the fifth this rules out most minor key songs which are actually
based on the harmonic minor scale rather than the natural minor. Peter Green's Black
Magic Woman and Bob Marley's I shot the sheriff are good examples of natural mi-
nor based songs.
4. Repeat this exercise, if possible getting your student to look at minor songs
they know and deciding whether they are based on the natural minor scale or
not.
Objective 3. Student able to harmonise the harmonic minor scale.
Methods:
1. Using manuscript paper, have the student write out the harmonic minor scale
of A minor. They should do this using an accidental to restore the seventh note
to its natural state (G#).
2. Now have them draw in the rest of the notes to harmonise the scale taking
care to put accidental # signs in front of every G that occurs.
3. The result should look like this diagram.
4. Now get them to analyse each chord and write its name beneath. They should
have:
Am Bdim C+ Dm E F G#dim Am
5. Draw to their attention that only the III V and VII chords differ from the series
harmonised on the natural minor scale. Of these the V is the most significant.
6. Choose a song or two that is harmonised on the harmonic minor scale and
have your student play through the rhythm an also improvise lead to using the
harmonic minor scale.
7. Pick various minor key chord sequences at random and have your student de-
cide which of the two scales the sequence is based on.
Lesson plan 40:
SPECIFIC REMEDIES
Problem: Student confusing the terms 'minor' with 'flat' or 'sharp'
Surprisingly common phenomenon. The student is asked to play Bb and plays Bm, or
is asked for the note C# and plays the chord C minor.
Probable cause(s): The student is already dealing with chords although they have not
yet properly understood the naming of notes. As chords are made up of notes this is
out of sequence.
Solution(s): Go back to Lesson plan 31 (Note names) and repeat it from Objective
1. onwards. Have the student name notes up and down strings, using sharp
names when ascending, flat names when descending. Have them do this again
and again, week after week if necessary until they can do it like a typical child of
6 can count from 1-10 . There is absolutely no point whatsoever in proceeding any
further with music theory until this is down cold.
Then return to chords. Point out that every chord symbol has two main parts a
root note which will be one of the seventeen note names: A A# Bb B C C# Db D
D# Eb E F F# Gb G G# Ab and a chord type description such as: m, min, m7, 7, 9,
maj9, 7#9, 9b13, dim, aug, +, -7, m7b5, sus4, sus9#11. To begin with the student
should be made to listen to and identify by ear the three principal chord types:
major, minor and dominant seventh. They can then appreciate that most other
chords are extensions of these basic types.
Problem: Student confusing root note with key note
A root note is the name after which any chord is named and forms the first part of
the chord symbol. A key note is the first note of the scale from which a melody, or
harmony is constructed. Intervals descriptions can refer to notes referenced against
either. Very confusing for the unwary!
Probable cause(s):
Music works in two dimensions. You hear the notes C and G played simultaneously
that is a harmonic V the vertical dimension. You hear the notes C and G played
one after another that is a Melodic V the horizontal dimension.
The classic confusion arises when evaluating a harmonised scale. You harmonise the
scale of C major C D E F G A B C these represent degrees I VIII in a diatonic series
a horizontal view. Now you build a chord on step III by taking E G and B (selected
by leapfrogging along the horizontal arrangement of notes) and piling them up verti-
cally. At this point you have left the horizontal dimension where everything was de-
fined relative to the Key note C and entered the vertical dimension above the note E.
So you now evaluate the notes E G and B relative to the root note E and this means
applying the key signature of E major and thinking (horizontally!) along the scale of
E major!
Thus the notes E G B whilst having the relationship III V VII in the key of C are re-
evaluated as I bIII V which is how they stand in the key of E major (the G would be
G# normally so hence the bIII). As I bIII V is the formula for a minor triad we know
that these notes form a minor chord Em.
Solution(s): First make absolutely sure the student knows their seventeen note
names and understands how they relate to each other. Next do a really thorough job
on the construction of the major scale so that they are very conversant with the basic
interval names and numbers. Test them over and over. Then tackle the subject of har-
monising scales as set out in the lesson plans above making sure the student is made
aware of the two dimensional use of interval names. Test. Test. Test. Testing builds
the students confidence and really lets you know where they are in terms of their
true comprehension of these complexities!
Problem: Student having problems with letter names.
Student gets confused every time they try and think about what is next after the note
G or G#.
Probable cause(s): This is simply a question of alphabet. For years they have been
used to going A B C D E F G H I J K..etc.. Now suddenly they're being asked to loop
round the first seven letters only: A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B ..etc..
Solution(s): When I get people with this problem I get them to recite the alphabet
from A H but tell them to stop halfway through pronouncing the letter 'H':
Ay Bee Cee Dee Ee Eff Gee Ay- (ch) it's silly but like most memory tricks, it's the
silly things that help people remember.
Problem: Student unable to use CAGED system. Student just doesn't seem able to
use the C-A-G-E-D system to find notes or patterns on the guitar fretboard.
Probable cause(s): This is almost always down to it being half-taught. It is not
enough to simply explain the C-A-G-E-D system the student has to learn it off by
heart and be able to play the CAGED octave patterns fluently, up and down, starting
on any note anywhere on the fretboard.
Solution(s): If necessary re-check the students understanding of the system. Then
have them play it through several times in C. Then C#, D, D#, E, F and so on right
round the chromatic scale. Then pick a note at random and say 'Play me every F# on
the fretboard or every Bb or whatever note you have picked. Make sure they can
work right from open notes up to the dusty end of the fretboard without undue hesi-
tancy.
Problem: Student confused about major scales. Appears unable to work with them
or remember them or learn them.
Probable cause(s): Students may confuse major scales with minor or pentatonic
scales as these are more often used to improvise in rock music.
Solution(s): Go back over the theory lessons from Lesson Plan 31 (names of notes)
onwards. Make especially sure that the terms Tone (Whole step) and Semitone (Half-
step) are well understood. Then drill the student on the major scale formula: Tone
Tone Semitone Tone Tone Tone Semitone, until they can do it in their sleep.
Then work through the lesson plan on key signatures (Lesson plan 35) and underline
the fact that a major scale contains all the letter names (always one of each) and is
then modified by the key signature.
Problem: Student unable to work out key signatures.
You have been over the circles of fourths and fifths and explained the basics of stand-
ard notation to them, yet they still have problems calculating key signatures.
Probable cause(s): Almost certainly this is down to earlier levels being rushed
through too quickly. Key signatures are very hard to grasp unless the student is very
clear on note names, the chromatic scale and major scale construction. It is also fairly
essential that they have grasped the basics of standard notation.
Solution(s): Retread from Lesson plan 31 (note names) onwards. Take care to ask the
student for lots of applications at each stage. Have them work with pen and paper as
well as on the fretboard and , if at all possible, a keyboard as well.
Problem: Student confused about the whole subject of minor scales.
You have been through the lesson plans on minor scales, but the student just doesn't
seem able to unravel them one from another, goes blank when you ask them the dif-
ference between the natural, melodic and harmonic minor scales.
Probable cause(s): One possibility is that your student has run into a common mis-
comprehension about the meaning of the word 'minor'. In daily use the term 'minor'
is used to mean pretty much the opposite of the word 'major'. In music, however, the
word has several different definitions. In the context of 'minor scale' the word
'minor' simply means 'containing the minor (or flatted) III interval', that is to say that
there are a whole bunch of scales (natural minor, melodic minor, harmonic minor,
dorian mode, phrygian mode, minor pentatonic, blues scale) all of which can be con-
sidered of more or less equal importance. The one thing they all have in common is
the use of the minor (or flatted) III. Each of these scales has different applications in
each of the various musical genres. In terms of understanding music theory they are
better considered as altered major scales rather than 'opposite to major scales'.
Solution(s): Have a chat with your student about their understanding of minor scales
and check to see if the cause is as outlined above. If so, then a free form discussion
about scales and their applications should help resolve the issue. If this is not the
problem it is probable that the student failed to completely grasp some essential
point about the major scale, chromatic scale or note naming. A good general rule to
follow is that confusions always show up later than when they are instilled. This means
that the problem is always at a more basic level of the subject than the level at which
it manifests. My approach is nearly always to check the students understanding from
the bottom up. It never does any harm to revise basics, and if they are solid on these,
they will take a matter of seconds to prove that to you> In so doing, you will only
help strengthen their confidence and certainty in their knowledge.
Lesson plan 41:
KEY-SPECIFIC IMPROVISING
Suitable for:
Students with and interest in developing jazz guitar skills
Prerequisites:
Section 4 (Beginning Theory) completed. Unless the student is an accomplished blues
improviser they are also advised to complete sections 2 (Beginning improvising) and
3 (Beginning blues) first.
General Objective:
To prepare the student for their journey into the wicked world of jazz guitar playing.
Summary of this lesson plan:
To round off the student's basic ability to improvise on a key-specific basis (as
opposed to chord-specific). To help the student develop a 'safety net' approach to
improvising that they can fall back on later at times when their brain can't keep up
with the demand that chord-specific improvising makes on it!
Stress:
Little bit of theory consolidation then loads and loads of application. Improvising is
best learnt by improvising. Coach one point at a time followed by at least five
minutes of the student implementing your advice. Avoid long-winded Muso
discussions.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student checked out on pentatonics
Methods:
1. Check that the student has a systematic knowledge of the minor and major
pentatonic scales and their derivatives (blues and country scales). Their system
may be different to yours, but as long as it enables them to play in any key, any
position then it should be accepted.
2. Play a few verses of a variety of tunes and ask the student to show how they
can apply these scales to improvise over them. This should be done entirely by
ear and the student should demonstrate good choices of which scales to use
when. Include the mixing of major and minor over suitable blues, country and
jazz sequences.
3. Where the student shows any signs of uncertainty on this coach them using
suitable sequences, examples and demonstrations.
4. Basically see to it that the student has a thorough grip on the use of these most
accessible scales before proceeding further. If they can't phrase particularly well
or play with any degree of fluidity and construction at this level there is little to
be gained by progressing to more complex scales.
Objective 2. Student checked out on major scale improvising
Methods:
1. Ask the student to demonstrate to you their knowledge of major scale
patterns. Again we are not concerned which system they use exactly, providing
that it enables them to play in any position and any key.
2. Ask them to improvise over a generic major sequence such as the following:
||: IM7 | IVM7 | IM7 | IVM7 :|| iim7 | iiim7 | iim7 |
iiim7 :||

3. Check them out on this making sure they are covering the fretboard well.
Change key after a while and ensure that they are equally confident in any key.
4. Pick a major key song with a strong melody that the student knows. Play the
rhythm part and encourage the student to hunt down the melody using the
appropriate major scale.
5. Once they have nailed the melody more or less, have them use it as a 'point of
departure' for their improvising. Emphasize the importance of this skill to your
student.
Objective 3. Student checked out on minor scale improvising
Methods:
1. Have the student demonstrate their knowledge of the melodic minor scale and
prove to you that they can play it in any key and any position.
2. Choose a minor key sequence for them to improvise over using the melodic
minor scale. (The melodic minor scale is the most versatile as it combines the
intervals found in the natural minor, harmonic minor and dorian modal scales).
3. To emphasize the different 'flavourings' have the student restrict themselves
to the natural minor, and then the harmonic minor scales.
4. Pick a minor key song with a strong melody and have the student hunt down
the melody while you play the rhythm and use that melody as a 'point of
departure' for their improvising.
5. Repeat objectives 2 and 3 as many times as necessary to ensure that the
student is confident in their ability to apply these scales. Coach and encourage
creativity and experimentation. Allow mistakes improvising is about running
risks and learning to recover from mistakes it's not for perfectionists!
Objective 4. Student able to improvise in any key by ear alone
Methods:
1. Tell the student to face away from you so that they cannot see what you are
playing.
2. Choose a reasonably simple tune in a single major or minor key.
3. Play the rhythm part of the tune and hum, whistle or sing the tune to give
your student some idea of the basic melody.
4. Now have your student find out by trial and error what key you are in and
select an appropriate approach to improvising over what you are playing.
5. Coach as necessary this skill is 9/10s derived from practice and confidence,
but you can show the student various systematic approaches if they are
struggling.
6. Repeat this exercise many times using a variety of tunes from different genres.
7. In each case try to get the student to at least attempt to find some of the
melody as well as developing their own counter-melodies.
8. Coach creativity, timing, rhythmic variation, dynamic variation, feel,
structure, development, speed, fluency whatever it takes to get your student
playing in a way that sounds interesting to the listener.
9. As an indication I wouldn't hesitate to spend half a lesson on this over a
period of several weeks all the time the student shows signs of improvement,
time spent helping them developing their key-specific improvising skills is well
spent.
Lesson plan 42:
HARMONISING SCALES TO PRODUCE FOUR-NOTE CHORDS
Suitable for:
Students with an interest in developing jazz guitar skills
Prerequisites:
Section 4 (Beginning theory) completed.
General Objective:
To familiarize the student with the derivation of the chords most commonly used in
jazz guitar.
Summary of this lesson plan:
The student is encouraged to build on knowledge gained in the theory section to
work out four-note chords derived by harmonising the major, natural minor and
harmonic minor scales.
Stress:
Get the student to do the brainwork. The main value of this lesson plan is as an
application exercise of previously learned basics.
Materials required:
Pen and manuscript paper
Scales harmonised to four-note chords
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student able to write out a four-note chord harmonised major scale
Methods:
1. Provide your student with manuscript paper and pen.
2. Ask them to draw in the notes of the C major scale.
3. Now get them to form four-note chords on each note by selecting alternate
notes from the scale (see diagram).
4. Check they have carried this out correctly.
5. Now have the student look at the first chord and analyse it by working out the
interval of each note relative to the root note of the chord. (I III V VII = CMaj7).
6. As at this stage the student may not necessarily know their four-note chord
formulas you may need to tell them that a chord with this pattern of intervals is
called a major seventh chord.
7. Have them work out how to play this chord in 1st position.
8. Move on to the next chord and repeat methods 5-7 above. This should come out
as I bIII V bVII = Dmin7 again you may have to tell the student that this is the
formula for the minor seventh chord type.
9. Repeat for each step of the scale. They should end up with:
I = I III V VII = CMaj7
II = I bIII V bVII = Dmin7
III = I bIII V bVII = Emin7
IV = I III V VII = FMaj7
V = I III V bVII = G7
VI = I bIII V bVII = Amin7
VII = I bIII bV bVII = Bmin7b5 (also known as B half-diminished)
VIII = I III V VII = CMaj7
10. Point out to the student that the seventh chord formed on the dominant (V)
note of the scale has a different formula (I III V bVII) compared to the chords
formed on the tonic and sub-dominant notes. This chord type is referred to as the
dominant seventh and forms the basis of all dominant chord types (9ths 11ths
13ths and their altered forms).
11. Also underline to the student the importance of thinking in two dimensions.
The steps I VIII on the C major scale in this case representing the horizontal (or
melodic) dimension; the formulas worked out for each degree of this scale )
referencing the major scale of the root note of each chord) representing the
vertical (or harmonic) dimension.
12. Have the student play each of these chords in order up the fretboard listening
to how they fit together to make a 'scale of chords'.
Objective 2. Student able to write out a four-note chord harmonised natural minor
scale
Methods:
1. Have your student write out an A natural ninor scale.
2. Now have them harmonise it to four-note chords it in exactly the same manner
as with the major scale. (see diagram)
3. Ask them to analyse each chord against its root note and figure out the chord
formulas. They should end up with:
I = I bIII V bVII = Amin7
II = I bIII bV bVII = Bmin7b5 (also known as B half-diminished)
III = I III V VII = CMaj7
IV = I bIII V bVII = Dmin7
V = I bIII V bVII = Emin7
VI = I III V VII = FMaj7
VII = I III V bVII = G7
VIII = I bIII V bVII = Amin7
4. Have your student note that this is the same series of chords as produced by
harmonising the major scale of C, but moved round. This is why we call C major
the relative key of A minor.
5. Have them play the scale of chords on the guitar listening to the sound they
make.
Objective 3. Student able to write out a four-note chord harmonised harmonic minor
scale
Methods:
1. Have your student write out an A harmonic minor scale.
2. Now have them harmonise it to four-note chords it in exactly the same manner
as with the last two objectives above. (see diagram)
3. Ask them to analyse each chord against its root note and figure out the chord
formulas. They should end up with:
I = I bIII V VII = AminMaj7
II = I bIII bV bVII = Bmin7b5 (also known as B half-diminished)
III = I III V VII = CMaj7+5 (Cmajor seventh augmented fifth)
IV = I bIII V bVII = Dmin7
V = I III V bVII = E7 (E dominant seventh)
VI = I III V VII = FMaj7
VII = I bIII bV bbVII = G#dim7
VIII = I bIII V VII = AminMaj7
4. Have them play the scale of chords on the guitar listening to the sound they
make.
5. Have a general discussion with your student about the naming of chords. Go
over the three main diminished chord types in particular:
I bIII bV = Diminished triad (rarely used as a chord)
I bIII bV bVII = Half-diminished seventh (usually called m7b5)
I bIII bV bbVII (orVI) Diminished seventh chord (often simply called
diminished)
6. Clarify the difference between the major seventh and dominant seventh types
7. Draw to their attention the rather odd minMaj7 chord (also called minor natural
7
th
)
8. Indicate to your student that, in general there is not the greatest consensus about
the naming of chords and that they should be on the look out for the many
alternative names given to the same chords and ways of writing them down as
chord symbols. C major seventh, for example, may be written:
C major 7
Cmaj7
CMaj7
CM7
C^7
Lesson plan 43:
FOUR NOTE CHORDS AND ARPEGGIOS
Suitable for:
Students with an interest in developing jazz guitar skills or wanting to improve their
chord knowledge in general
Prerequisites:
Section 4 (Beginning Theory) completed. Lesson plan 42 (Harmonisation) completed.
General Objective:
The student's ability to work out the main four-note major and minor chords
anywhere on the fretboard in any key. The student's ability to play arpeggios for
these chords. Improved finger strength and coordination. Student familiarity with
the circle of fourths root note pattern as played on the lower two strings of the guitar.
Summary of this lesson plan:
This plan is based on one of the most powerful exercises I know. One exercise that
achieves all the above named objectives, sounds really good to the ear and opens up
the student's ability to 'think' with chords and arpeggios.
Stress:
Get the student to do the brainwork. The main value of this lesson plan is as an
application exercise of previously learned basics.
Materials required:
Pen and manuscript paper
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student able to locate the root notes on 5
th
and 6
th
strings using circle of
fourths.
Methods:
1. Tell the student that they are going to need to become familiar with a particular
pattern of notes on the lower two strings of the guitar as they are the main
reference points for much of the work they will be doing in learning jazz guitar.
2. Demonstrate the circle of fourths pattern:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - 12- - - - - - 10- - - - - 8- - - - - 6- - - - - 4- - - - - 2- - - - - - 12- - - - et c.
E- 12- - - - - - 10- - - - - - 8- - - - - 6- - - - - 4- - - - - 2- - - - - 12- - - - - - 10- - - -
3. Have them play the root note pattern using only their 2nd finger while you
play through the whole arpeggio pattern (see below). In effect they will join you
at the start of each arpeggio. This helps them map out the basic root note pattern
first.
Objective 2. Student able to play the basic major arpeggio set and understanding the
resultant chord names.
Methods:
1. Demonstrate the major arpeggio set pattern to them :
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - 14- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12- - - - - - - - -
A- - - 11- 14- - - - 14- 11- - - - 1114- - - - 1411- - - - 11- 14- - - - 14- 11- - -
E12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - 11- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - 11- 14- - - - 14- 11- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. Have them play through this pattern using a sensible fingering sequence.
3. Ask them to tell you the formulas of the arpeggios as they play them they should
come out with:
I III V VIII
I III V VII
I III V bVII
I III V VI
4. Have them guess at the name of each arpeggio (major, major seventh,
dominant seventh, major sixth respectively). Help them out where they don't
know, or can't guess right. Re-test them.
Objective 3. Student able to play the basic major arpeggio set round the circle of
fourths.
Methods:
1. Demonstrate the major arpeggio set played round the circle of fourths:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - 14- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12- - - - - - - - -
A- - - 11- 14- - - - 14- 11- - - - 1114- - - - 1411- - - - 11- 14- - - - 14- 11- - -
E12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 14- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13- - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - 11- - - - - - - - - - - 11- 14- - - - 14- 11- - - - 11- 14- - - - 14- 11- -
A- - - 11- 14- - - - 14- 11- 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 11- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - 11- 14- - - - 14- 11- - - - 11- 14- - - - 14- 11- - - - - - - - - - 12- - - - - - -
A- - 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 9- 12- - - - 12- - 9-
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 10- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - 11- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 10- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 9- - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - 9- 12- - - - 12- 9- - - - 9- 12- - - - 12- 9- - - - 9- 12- - - 12- 9- - 10- et c
E- 10- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 10- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 10- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. Have them play through the entire set round the circle of fourths a couple of
times. Accompany them by playing the appropriate chord against each arpeggio.
I.e.: E EMaj7 E7 E6 A AMaj7 A7 A6 D DMaj7 D7 D6 G GMaj7 G7 G6 C
CMaj7 C7 C6 F etc
3. Continue with this exercise until you are sure they have got it and can name the
chords as they play the arpeggios.
Objective 4. Student able to play the basic major chord set round the circle of fourths.
Methods:
1. Ask the student to notice how the sound of the chords you are playing against
their arpeggios fits. Explain that that is because you are playing the identical
chord to each arpeggio.
2. Tell them you are now going to swap roles and they are going to play chords
while you play the arpeggios.
3. First get them to look at the normal open E chord and identify the lower octave
pattern (Open 6
th
string, 4
th
string 2
nd
fret).
4. Point out that, in the same way that the highest note is lowered by a semitone
for each arpeggio, so it is with the chord. This can be clearly seen if we tab the
chords:
e- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - - - - - - -
B- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 2- - - - - - - - -
G- - - 1- - - 1- - - 1- - - 1- - - - - - - - -
D- - - 2- - - 1- - - 0- - - 2- - - - - - - - -
A- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - - - - - - -
E- - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - - - - - - -
E EMaj7 E7 E6
Note that we are taking the note on the 4th string down a semitone at a time just
like we did in the arpeggio, but when we get to the Maj6
th
chord, because we are
in open position, we run off the end of the fretboard and have to find the VI (C#)
an octave higher on the 2nd string.
5. Point this out to your student. The important thing is that they connect the
chord formulas to the arpeggios.
6. Now have them try to work out the same chord types rooted on A. Once again
they will have to jump up an octave to accommodate the VI note:
e- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 2- - - - - - - - -
B- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - - - - - - -
G- - - 2- - - 1- - - 0- - - 2- - - - - - - - -
D- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - - - - - - -
A- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - - - - - - -
E- - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - - - - - - -
A AMaj7 A7 A6
7. By all means have your student look at alternative fingerings such as:
e- - - 0- - - 4- - - 3- - - 2- - - - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- -
B- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - - - 0- - - 4- - - 3- - - 2- -
G- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - - - 1- - - 1- - - 1- - - 1- -
D- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- -
A- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- -
E- - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- -
A AMaj7 A7 A6 E EMaj7 E7 E6
8. Continue with D, G, C
e- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 3- - - 2- - - 1- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - - - -
B- - - 3- - - 2- - - 1- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 1- - - 0- - - 1- - - 1- - - - - -
G- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 3- - - 2- - - - - -
D- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - - - -
A- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 0- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 3- - - 3- - - 3- - - 3- - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3- - - 3- - - 3- - - 3- - - 3- - - 3- - - 0- - - 0- - - - - -
D DMaj7 D7 D6 G GMaj7 G7 G6 C CMaj7 C7 C6
In each case ask the student to try to work the shapes out. The thought processes
that occur when this is attempted are valuable in themselves, regardless of
whether the student comes up with the most viable results or not. There is often
more than one alternative to fingering each chord.
Guide the student carefully with suggestions here and there. The important thing
is that they are learning to think about chord and arpeggio construction.
9. By the time we get to F in the circle of fourths we may choose to switch to barre
chords although F can be played as an open chord:
e- - - 1- - - 0- - - 1- - - 1- - - - - - - - -
B- - - 1- - - 1- - - 4- - - 3- - - - - - - - -
G- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - 2- - - - - - - - -
D- - - 3- - - 3- - - 3- - - 3- - - - - - - - -
A- - - 3- - - 3- - - 0- - - 0- - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
F FMaj7 F7 F6
10. Eb will generally be played as an 'A' shaped barre:
e- - - 6- - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - 8- - - - - - - - -
B- - - 8- - - - 8- - - - - 8- - - 8- - - - - - - - -
G- - - 8- - - - 7- - - - - 6- - - 8- - - - - - - - -
D- - - 8- - - - 8- - - - - 8- - - 8- - - - - - - - -
A- - - 6- - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - 6- - - - - - - - -
E- - 6- - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - 6- - - - - - -
Eb EbMaj7 Eb7 Eb6
11. Ab as an 'E' shape barre chord:
e- - - 4- - - - 4- - - - - 4- - - 4- - - - - - - - -
B- - - 4- - - - 4- - - - - 4- - - 6- - - - - - - - -
G- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - 5- - - - - - - - -
D- - - 6- - - - 5- - - - - 4- - - 6- - - - - - - - -
A- - - 6- - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - 6- - - - - - - - -
E- - 4- - - - 4- - - - - 4- - - 4- - - - - - - - -
Ab AbMaj7 Ab7 Ab6
12. You can then get your student to work round the remainder of the circle using
the same barre chord patterns or their dead string or four-note equivalents
(fingerstyle jazz chords):
e- - - x- - - - x- - - - - x- - - x- - - - - x- - - - - x- - - - x- - - - x- - -
B- - - 4- - - - 4- - - - - 4- - - 4- - - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - - 6- - - - 6- - -
G- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - 5- - - - - 6- - - - - 5- - - - 4- - - - 3- - -
D- - - 6- - - - 5- - - - - 4- - - 3- - - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - - 6- - - - 6- - -
A- - - x- - - - x- - - - - x- - - x- - - - - 4- - - - - 4- - - - 4- - - - 4- - -
E- - 4- - - - 4- - - - - 4- - - 4- - - - - x- - - - - x- - - - x- - - - x- - -
Ab AbMaj7 Ab7 Ab6 Db DbMaj7 Db7 Db6
13. Whichever approach(es) you choose the important thing is that the student
gets to play through the circle of fourths continuously for several minutes playing
the chords against your arpeggios. Then swap roles.
14. Encourage your student to work on both elements in their practice. Check
them through both the arpeggios and chords on their next visit.
Objective 5. Student able to play the basic minor arpeggio and chord set round the
circle of fourths.
Methods:
1. Ask the student to tell you the difference between a major triad and a minor
triad.
2. Tell them that the exercise you have just worked through with major chords
can equally be worked out for minor.
3. Have them try to guess the names of the chords thus produced. They should
be:
Em EmM7 Em7 Em6 Am AmM7 Am7 Am6 and so on
4. Talk a bit about the rather odd sounding ' minor major seventh' chord which is
often called 'minor natural seventh' to make it sound less confusing!
5. Take them through exactly the same process as with the major set. Note that the
minor arpeggios are best started on the 1st finger and that there is a bit of a finger
shift necessary on the 6
th
chord:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - 14- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 12- - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - 14- - - - 14- - - - - - - - - 14- - - - 14- - - - - - - - - 14- - - - 14- - - - - -
E12- 15- - - - - - - - - 15- 12- 15- - - - - - - - - - 15- 12- 15- - - - - - - - - - 15- - -
Fg. 1 4 3 3 3 4 1 4 3 2 3 4 1 4 3 1 3 4
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 14- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 13- - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 14- - - - 14- - - - - - - - - - 14- - - - 14- - - - -
A- - - - - - 14- 16- 14- - - - 12- 15- - - - - - - - - 15- 12- 15- - - - - - - - - - 15- -
E12- 15- - - - - - - - - 15- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Fg. 1 4 2 4 2 4 1 . et c. .
6. Have the student play through these arpeggios while you accompany them by
playing the chords.
7. Once they have managed that two or three times through then swap roles.
8. Once again have them at least attempt to work out the chord fingerings from
the arpeggio patterns.
9. Note that for the sets: Em EmM7 Em7 Em6 Am. Dm.open position chords
are used. From there on they are really forced into barre chords as open Gm and
Cm chords are just too difficult for most players to finger.
10. This lesson plan is complete once the student can effortlessly play round
several continuous circles of fourths playing the arpeggios or the chords for the
major or minor sets. It is also essential the can tell you the correct names for each
chord or arpeggio. It will often take a few weeks to achieve this, but the time is
well invested.
Lesson plan 44:
INTELLIGENT JAZZ CHORD FINGERING
Suitable for:
Students with an interest in developing Jazz guitar skills.
Prerequisites:
Section 4 (Beginning Theory) completed. Lesson plan 43 (Arpeggios and chords)
completed.
General Objective:
To build a foundation from which the student can work out their own voicings of
more complex chords in an intelligent manor.
Summary of this lesson plan:
The student is shown a number of approaches to fingering the more commonly used
jazz chords. These are each related to the shapes of the CAGED system.
Stress:
This is not so much about learning chord shapes as it is about learning how to figure
out chord shapes by applying the basic principals thus far learned. Once again it is
vital to get the student to do the brainwork.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student able to derive chords from the 'C' shape.
Methods:
1. Have the student play an E major chord using a 'C'shape rooted on 5
th
string at
7
th
fret.
2. Now from the basic major shape have them figure out which finger to shift to
turn it into the other main triads: minor, augmented, diminished, sus4, sus 2:
e- - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - - - x- - - - -
B- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - - -
G- - - 4- - - 4- - - - 5- - - 3- - - - 4- - - - - 4- - - - -
D- - - 6- - - 5- - - - 6- - - 5- - - - 7- - - - - 4- - - - -
A- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - - - 7- - - - -
E- - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - - - x- - - - -
E Em E+ Edi mEsus4 Esus2
3. Next have them work out the rest of the major set based on the basic major
chord shape. There are different possibilities but the set that suits my fingers
comes out as:
e- - - x- - - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - -
B- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - -
G- - - 4- - - - 8- - - - 7- - - 6- - - - -
D- - - 6- - - - 6- - - - 6- - - 6- - - - -
A- - - 7- - - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - -
E- - x- - - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - -
E EM7 E7 E6
4. Once they have settled on fingerings that suit them have them practice over
and over. Work out a couple of sequences that combine these shapes and have
them play them while you improvise over them.
5. Now have them work out a minor set for example:
e- - - x- - - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - -
B- - - 5- - - - 4- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - -
G- - - 4- - - - 4- - - - 7- - - 6- - - - -
D- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - -
A- - - 7- - - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - -
E- - x- - - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - -
Em EmM7 Em7 Em6
6. Again, make up progressions that use these chords and have the student play
them while you improvise over them.
7. Show the student a set of dominant ninth chords pointing out that these are
commonly used as substitutions for the dominant seventh of which they are
extensions. The minor ninth can be included in this as it is easy to see its
relationship to the dominant ninth, but it should be pointed out that only where a
song is based around the natural minor scale would this work as a substitute for
the dominant chord. It is more often found as a minor chord substitution.
e- - - x- - - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - -
B- - - 8- - - - 7- - - - 6- - - 7- - - - -
G- - - 7- - - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - -
D- - - 6- - - - 6- - - - 6- - - 5- - - - -
A- - - 7- - - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - -
E- - x- - - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - -
E7#9 E9 E7b9 Em9
8. Once again it is important to get the student using these chords in a musical
context so create a sequence to improvise over.
9. Stress to the student that so many chords are used in jazz that there is little
point in trying to memorize them all. Better to see them as logical extensions of the
basic chords. By the above learning method, the student is not so much taught the
chords, as how to understand them and thereby gain the ability more or less to
create their own versions of chords as needed. This is what is meant by an
'intelligent' approach.
Objective 2. Student able to derive chords from the 'A' shape.
Methods:
1. Apply exactly the same approach as used in the previous objective, but to 'A'
shapes. To see these clearly I recommend working halfway up the fretboard
again. So I have shown below some of the shapes I use for chords rooted on D at
the 5th fret on the 5
th
string:
Basic triads:
e- - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - - - x- - - - -
B- - - 7- - - 6- - - - 7- - - 6- - - - 8- - - - - 5- - - - -
G- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - - - 7- - - - -
D- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 8- - - 6- - - - 7- - - - - 7- - - - -
A- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - - -
E- - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - - - x- - - - -
D Dm D+ Ddim Dsus4 Dsus2
Major set:
e- - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - 7- - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - - - - - - -
G- - - 7- - - 6- - - - 5- - - 7- - - - - - - - - -
D- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - x- - - - - - - - - -
A- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - - - - - - -
E- - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - - - - - - -
D DM7 D7 D6
Minor set:
e- - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - 7- - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 6- - - 6- - - - 6- - - 6- - - - - - - - - -
G- - - 7- - - 6- - - - 5- - - 7- - - - - - - - - -
D- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - x- - - - - - - - - -
A- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - - - - - - -
E- - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - - - - - - -
Dm DmM7 Dm7 Dm6
Some other useful chords:
e- - - x- - - - x- - - - - x- - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 6- - - - 6- - - - - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - 5- - - - 4- - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - 6- - - - 6- - - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - x- - - - x- - - - - x- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dm7b5 Ddim7 D+7
Objective 3. Student able to derive chords from the 'E' shape.
Methods:
1. At this stage I would suggest leaving out the 'G' shaped chords. This Octave
pattern tends to lend itself far more readily to useful arpeggio-based runs and a
brief look at these with the student would be of more immediate and practical use.
Explain the point to your student that the 'G' shaped chords tend to be a bit
muddy sounding if rooted on the bottom string and a bit thin if rooted on the 3rd
string. This means that there are nearly always better sounding (and easier to
finger) alternatives to be found in the 'E' or 'A' shapes either side.
2. Get your student to work out their basic triads using the 'E' shape. Here are
some possibilities:
Lower root (6
th
string):
e- - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - - - x- - - - -
B- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 6- - - 4- - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - - -
G- - - 6- - - 5- - - - 6- - - 5- - - - 7- - - - - 4- - - - -
D- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - - - 7- - - - -
A- - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - - - x- - - - -
E- - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - - -
A Am A+ Adim Asus4 Asus2
Higher root (4
th
string):
e- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - - -
B- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 6- - - 4- - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - - -
G- - - 6- - - 5- - - - 6- - - 5- - - - 7- - - - - 4- - - - -
D- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - - - 7- - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A Am A+ Adim Asus4 Asus2
3. Now have them work out a couple of sets of major four-note chords perhaps like
these:
Lower root (6
th
string):
e- - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - - - - - - -
G- - - 6- - - 6- - - - 6- - - 6- - - - - - - - - -
D- - - 7- - - 6- - - - 5- - - 4- - - - - - - - - -
A- - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - - - - - - -
E- - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - - - - - - -
A AM7 A7 A6
Higher root (4
th
string):
e- - - 5- - - 4- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 8- - - 7- - - - - - - - - -
G- - - 6- - - 6- - - - 6- - - 6- - - - - - - - - -
D- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A AM7 A7 A6
4. And a couple of Minor sets:
Lower root (6
th
string):
e- - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - - - - - - -
G- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - - - - - - -
D- - - 7- - - 6- - - - 5- - - 4- - - - - - - - - -
A- - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - - - - - - - -
E- - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - - - - - - -
A AmM7 Am7 Am6
Higher root (4
th
string):
e- - - 5- - - 4- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 8- - - 7- - - - - - - - - -
G- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - - - - - - -
D- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A AmM7 Am7 Am6
5. Also have your student look at these useful chords:
e- - - 7- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - 7- - - 8- - - - 6- - - - x- - - x- - - 7- - - 7- - - - x- -
B- - - 5- - - 3- - - - 7- - - 6- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - 3- - - 7- - - 5- - - 7- - - - 4- -
G- - - 5- - - 4- - - - 6- - - 6- - - 6- - - 6- - - - 6- - - - 4- - - 6- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- -
D- - - 6- - - 6- - - - 6- - - 5- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- -
A- - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - x- - - x- - - - x- - - - x- - - x- - - x- - - x- - - - x- -
E- - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- -
AM9 AM11 AM13 A7+ A9 A7#9 A7b9 A11 A13 Am9 Am13 Am7b5
6. In each case get them to play the chord, but also to figure out how the notes they
are playing define the chord. So they will be holding down the Am7b5 for example
and tell you: 'Here's the root 'A' under my 2nd finger on the 6th string, here's the
flat seventh on the 4th string, the minor third on the 3rd string and the flatted fifth
under my 1st finger here on the 2nd string. So that's I bIII bV b7 A minor
seventh flat five or A half-diminished as it is sometimes called'!
7. Now write out a number of chord sequences that use some of these chords and
have the student 'use them in anger' while you improvise along over the top of
them. At this stage you can begin to teach them a few jazz standards to play along
to.
Objective 4 Student able to derive chords from the 'D shape.
Methods:
1. Have the student work out their basic triads using the 'D' shape:
e- - - 7- - - 6- - - - 7- - - 6- - - - 8- - - - - 5- - - - -
B- - - 8- - - 8- - - - 8- - - 8- - - - 8- - - - - 8- - - - -
G- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 8- - - 6- - - - 7- - - - - 7- - - - -
D- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G Gm G+ Gdim Gsus4 Gsus2
2. And their major and minor sets:
e- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - 6- - - 6- -
B- - - 8- - - 7- - - - 6- - - 5- - - - 8- - - - - 7- - - 6- - - 5- -
G- - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - 7- - - - 7- - - - - 7- - - 7- - - 7- -
D- - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - 5- - - 5- -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G GM7 G7 G6 Gm GmM7 Gm7 Gm6
3. And these sundry jazz chords:
e- - - 6- - - - - - 6- - - - 7- - - 5- - - - 4- - - - -
B- - - 6- - - - - - 6- - - - 6- - - 6- - - - 6- - - - -
G- - - 6- - - - - - 7- - - - 8- - - 7- - - - 7- - - - -
D- - - 5- - - - - - 5- - - - 5- - - 5- - - - 5- - - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Gm7b5 G7#9 G+7 G9 G7b9
4. Once again it is important to find an application so that your student can hear
how these chords sound. This group of shapes works particularly well as second
guitar part chords played over a vanilla sequence of simpler chords rooted on lower
strings. They make great jazz-funk chords. Note that in this case the root is often
dropped and the chord is just played on the top three strings (the first guitar can
take care of the root!).
Objective 5. Student able to play diminished seventh chords.
Methods:
1. Have the student study the diminished seventh chord as a separate case. Due to
its symmetry (the chord consists of four minor thirds) any one of its notes can be
considered the root note so it doesn't easily fit into the CAGED system in quite
the same way as the other chords.
2. Have them play each of these three commonly used shapes:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6- - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - 6- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - -
G- - - 5- - - - - - - - 4- - - - - - - 6- - - - - - - - -
D- - - 4- - - - - - - - 6- - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - -
A- - - 6- - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Adim7 Ddim7 Gdim7
Ebdim7 Abdim7 Dbdim7
Gbdim7 Bdim7 Edim7
Cdim7 Fdim7 Bbdim7
3. Find as many applications as you can that using a variety of the chords from
this lesson plan. Give your student plenty of practice at changing these shapes. It
takes quite a while to get physically used to them and for most students it is a bit
like being a beginner guitarist all over again!
Lesson plan 45:
II-V-I CHORDS
Suitable for:
Students with an interest in developing Jazz guitar skills.
Prerequisites:
Section 4 (Beginning theory) completed. Lesson plan 44 (Jazz Chords) completed.
General Objective:
To make the student aware of the prevalence in jazz of the II V I sequence and to get
them physically used to playing chords associated with it..
Summary of this lesson plan:
Central to this lesson plan is the teaching of a chord-playing exercise which jazz
guitarists can use as a test bed for developing ideas based around the commonly
used II V I sequence. The student is also introduced to the simplest principle of chord
substitution.
Stress:
Keep the exercise simple in the early stages. There is plenty of time to add in more
exotic chords at a later date. Remember that it is likely that your student is going to
find this exercise quite physically demanding to start with and time should be
allowed for there fingers to grow used to playing jazz chords in this manner
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student introduced to the basic idea behind the II V I sequence.
Methods:
1. Tell your student that, in broad terms, jazz musicians tend to classify chords
into three main families: Major chords built on I III V VII or I III V VI, Minor
chords built on I bIII V bVII or I bIII V VI and Dominant chords built on I III V
bVII.
You can also point out that augmented and diminished chords are generally
treated as dominant chords with the special proviso that the diminished seventh
tends to be substituted for the dominant chord rooted a semitone lower ie.
D#dim7 replaces D7 or D9.
2. Demonstrate to your student how these chords are often used in a specific
pattern: minor, dominant, major rooted on the notes II, V and I of a particular
key. Point out that in this arrangement the root notes are following a circle of
fourths and hence produce a particularly resolved feel.
3. Introduce the II V I basic chord exercise to them by playing a few lines of it
and asking them simply to listen to how neatly the chords follow each other
producing a very 'musical' sounding exercise:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 13- - - - 10- - - 12- - - 12- - - - 11- - - - 8- - - - 10- - - - 10- - - - - - -
G- - - 12- - - - 11- - - 11- - - 11- - - - 10- - - - 9- - - - 9- - - - - 9- - - - - - - -
D- - - 14- - - - 10- - - 12- - - 12- - - - 12- - - - 8- - - - 10- - - - 10- - - - - - -
A- - - 12- - - - x- - - - 10- - - 10- - - - 10- - - - x- - - - 8- - - - - 8- - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - 10- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Am7 D7 GM7 GM7 Gm7 C7 FM7 FM7
II V I I II V I I
Key G major. ..Key F major
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 9- - - - - 6- - - - 8- - - - - 8- - - - - 7- - - - - 4- - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - - - - - -
G- - - 8- - - - - 8- - - - 7- - - - - 7- - - - - 6- - - - - 5- - - - 5- - - - - 5- - - - - - - -
D- - - 10- - - - 6- - - - 8- - - - - 8- - - - - 8- - - - - 4- - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - - - - - -
A- - - 8- - - - - x- - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - - - x- - - - 4- - - - - 4- - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - 6- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Fm7 Bb7 EbM7 EbM7 Ebm7 Ab7 DbM7 DbM7
II V I I II V I I
Key Eb major.. Key Db major
Etc..
4. Point out that the root note pattern you are following runs round the circle of
fourths so the first step is to get them to nail the right root note with the right
finger.
(With these basic chords this means the 1st finger in each case).
5. So play through the circle again and while you play the chords have your
student play the appropriate root notes with their 1st finger.
6. Now have them play the first four bars: Am7 D7 GM7 GM7 a couple of times
through until they have physically got the hang of it.
7. Now explain that the sequence modulates down a tone at this point, but that
this is achieved by converting the major seventh chord (I in the current key) into
a minor seventh chord (II in the new key). Hence GM7 changes to Gm7, but in
their head they should be thinking of the key change which is from G major to F
major (Gm7 being II in the key of F). This may take a bit of talking through. If in
doubt get them to do the exercise first and worry about the theory later.
8. Have the student play on round the circle of fourths in this way, continuously
so that when they get to the key of B major (BM7 rooted at 2nd fret) they change
to Bm7 (still rooted at 2
nd
fret) but then jump back to the 12
th
fret for the E7 chord
to start the cycle again.
Objective 2. Student introduced to basic improvising over II V I
Methods:
1. Tell your student that the simplest approach to improvising over II V I
sequences is to consider every I chord to be a key centre. So for the first four bars
Am7, D7, GM7, GM7 they could use the G major scale to improvise. Then over
the next four bars the key centre has switched to F major so they should switch
to using the F major scale..and so on.
2. Play through the chords nice and slowly to give the student the chance to get
their brain round the changes of key and have them improvise as instructed.
3. As they gain confidence gradually come up to tempo.
4. Swap roles and have them play the chords while you improvise, taking care to
restrict your improvising, at this stage, to the key centres rather than the
individual chords.
Objective 3. Student introduced to basic chord substitution
Methods:
1. Tell the student that you are now going to replace each chord with another
one from the same family. So for example each m7 chord is replaced by a m7b5,
each 7
th
chord by a 13
th
and the second bar of the M7 chord by a M9:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 13- - - - 12- - - 12- - - 10- - - - 11- - - - 10- - - 10- - - - 8- - - - - - - -
G- - - 12- - - - 11- - - 11- - - 11- - - - 10- - - - 9- - - - 9- - - - - 9- - - - - - - -
D- - - 13- - - - 10- - - 12- - - 9- - - - - 11- - - - 8- - - - 10- - - - 7- - - - - - - -
A- - - 12- - - - x- - - - 10- - - 10- - - - 10- - - - x- - - - 8- - - - - 8- - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - 10- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Am7b5 D13 GM7 GM9 Gm7b5 C13 FM7 FM9
II V I I II V I I
Key G major. ..Key F major
..and so on
2. Once they have got used to this have them play round the circle a few times
while you improvise around the key centres as before.
Objective 4. Student learns to play II V I sequence using a root note pattern resolving
on 6
th
string
Methods:
1. The pattern of root notes used above is one of many possible variants. I
personally find it the easiest to use, but it is important to draw your students'
attention to other possibilities. Perhaps the next most commonly used is as
follows:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 10- - - - 12- - - 8- - - - 8- - - - - 8- - - - 10- - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - - - - - -
G- - - 10- - - - 10- - - 9- - - - 9- - - - - 8- - - - 8- - - - - 7- - - - - 7- - - - - - - -
D- - - 10- - - - 12- - - 9- - - - 9- - - - - 8- - - - 10- - - - 7- - - - - 7- - - - - - - -
A- - - x- - - - - 10- - - x- - - - x- - - - - x- - - - 8- - - - - x- - - - - x- - - - - - - -
E- - 10- - - - - - - - - 8- - - - 8- - - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - 6- - - - - 6- - - - - - - -
Dm7 G7 CM7 CM7 Cm7 F7 BbM7 BbM7
II V I I II V I I
Key C major. ..Key Bb major
2. Have your student try this out and then come up with a substitution or two of
their own.
3. Once they have succeeded with that have them work out one or two other
alternative root note patterns. The more you ask your student to work mentally
with these ideas the more these all-important relationships will crystallize for
them.
Lesson plan 46:
INTRODUCTION TO MODES
Suitable for:
Students with an interest in developing jazz guitar skills.
Prerequisites:
Section 4 (Beginning theory) completed. Lesson plan 45 (II V I Chords) completed.
General Objective:
To familiarize the student with modes and their derivation. To teach the student a
workable approach to learning, understanding and applying the modes in jazz and
other musical genres.
Summary of this lesson plan:
A brief look at the basic derivation of modes. Then a more detailed look at a method
for harnessing them to use.
Stress:
There is probably more confusion surrounding the subject of modes than any other
element of jazz music theory. This lesson is all about removing that confusion and
preparing the student to be able to use modes in improvising and composition.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student introduced to the basic idea behind the derivation of modes.
Methods:
1. Tell the student that you are going to work on the subject of modes. Ask them
if they know what modes are and, regardless of their answer work through the
following just to make sure.
2. Have them divide a piece of paper into 3 equal columns and then write out
the names of the notes in the scale of C major: 'C D E F G A B C' across the top of
the middle column. (See below)
3. In the column to the left of this scale have them write '1 - Ionian'. In the
column to the right of the scale have them write the word 'In'.
4. Underneath the C major scale have them write the same series of note names
but starting on the D: D E F G A B C D.
5. To the left of this scale have them write: '2 Dorian' and to the right: 'Dorset'
6. On the third line down have them write the notes of the C major scale from E
E: 'E F G A B C D E' , to the left: '3 Phrygian' and to the right 'People'
7. Continue with this until the student has written out:
1 Ionian C D E F G A B C IN
2 Dorian D E F G A B C D DORSET
3 Phrygian E F G A B C D E PEOPLE
4 Lydian F G A B C D E F LIVE
5 Mixolydian G A B C D E F G MOSTLY
6 Aeolian A B C D E F G A ALONG
7 Locrian B C D E F G A B LANES
8. You can now point out that the left hand column contains the numbers and
names of the modes of the major scale. The central column contains the order of
notes in each mode and the rather curious right hand column provides a
mnemonic that helps you remember the order of names.
Objective 2. Student able to write out any mode in any key.
Methods:
1. Point out to the student that the above process could be gone through for any
major key for example A major:
1 Ionian A B C# D E F# G# A IN
2 Dorian B C# D E F# G# A B DORSET
3 Phrygian C# D E F# G# A B C# PEOPLE
4 Lydian D E F# G# A B C# D LIVE
5 Mixolydian E F# G# A B C# D E MOSTLY
6 Aeolian F# G# A B C# D E F# ALONG
7 Locrian G# A B C# D E F# G LANES
Note that the key signature of A major (3 #s) remains constant throughout.
2. Point out to your student that this is rather an unwieldy method of working
out modes and that its purpose is only to help the student understand the
derivation of modes. (A more useful approach to actually learning and applying
modes will be taught in the next objective).
3. To emphasise this point, tell the student that in order to work out the key
signature of a given mode they first have to ask a rather convoluted question
which goes like this:
Of which major scale is X the nth note
Where X is the note you want to start the mode on and n is the number
associated with the particular mode.
4. Using the above formula work through an example with your student:
Say you are looking for the D Locrian mode.
We know that the Locrian mode is the 7
th
mode.
So we ask: Of which Major scale is D the 7
th
note ?
The answer: Eb Major
What is the key signature of Eb Major ?
The answer: 3 bs Bb, Eb, Ab
So we write out the letter names from D to D:
D E F G A B C D
Then apply the Eb key signature:
D Eb F G Ab Bb C D
And there's your D Locrian mode!
It's just whether your brain can process all that information before the chord
changes at the end of the next bar you are improvising over!
5. Ask the student to work through an example or two of their own using this
method.
6. Once they are clear on it move on.
Objective 3. Student understanding how formulas for each mode are worked out.
Methods:
1. Tell the student that now you are satisfied they understand how the modes
are derived you are going to take a different, more workable approach to their
understanding them.
2. Once again have them divide a sheet of paper into three equal columns.
3. Down the left hand column have them write out the names and notes of all
the modes derived from the key of C major like this:
Ionian - C D E F G A B C
Dorian - D E F G A B C D
Phrygian -E F G A B C D E
Lydian - F G A B C D E F
Mixolydian - G A B C D E F G
Aeolian - A B C D E F G A
Locrian - B C D E F G A B
4. In the middle column have them write out the major scales of each of the
starting notes used in the left hand column, like this:
C D E F G A B C
D E F# G A B C# D
E F# G# A B C# D# E
F G A Bb C D E F
G A B C D E F# G
A B C# D E F# G# A
B C# D# E F# G# A# B
5. In the right hand column have them note how the modal scales differ when
compared to the major scales based on the same notes. The final result should
look like this:
Ionian - C D E F G A B C C D E F G A B C (No difference)
Dorian - D E F G A B C D D E F# G A B C# D bIII bVII
Phrygian -E F G A B C D E E F# G# A B C# D# E bII bIII bVI bVII
Lydian - F G A B C D E F F G A Bb C D E F #IV
Mixolydian - G A B C D E F G G A B C D E F# G bVII
Aeolian - A B C D E F G A A B C# D E F# G# A bIII bVI bVII
Locrian - B C D E F G A B B C# D# E F# G# A# B bII bIII bV bVI bVII
6. Check with the student that they have understood this process.
7. Tell them to start with a fresh sheet of paper and repeat the exercise for the
scale of G major. They should of course end up with the same sets of formulas.
8. Repeat as necessary until student is happy they understand this process and
that the formulas are generic.
Objective 4. Student able to produce major modes any key, any position.
Methods:
1. Tell your student that three of these modes can be considered major as they
have a natural III note. Of these, the Ionian mode is identical to the major scale,
the Lydian is a major scale with a sharped IV and the Mixolydian is a major
scale with a flatted VII..
2. Have them play an A major scale in the basic forward diagonal pattern:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- - 6- - 7- - - -
A- - - - - - - - - 4- - 5- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - 5- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tell them: 'That is the A Ionian mode'
3. Now get them to play the same thing only sharping the fourth note:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- - 6- - 7- - - -
A- - - - - - - - - 4- - 6- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - 5- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tell them: 'That is the A Lydian mode'
4. Now get them to play a major scale with a flatted VII:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- 5- - 7- - - -
A- - - - - - - - - 4- - 5- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - 5- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tell them: 'That is the A Mixolydian mode'
5. Play a straight A major chord accompaniment and ask your student to try
improvising over it using each of these major modes in turn. Tell them to listen
to the different 'flavour' each mode lends to what they play.
6. Next have the student work out each of these three modes in all seven
diagonals.
7. Now they should be able, using the CAGED system, to play these modes any
key any position. Test them with seven or eight random examples. Don't move
on until they have definitely got this down cold.
Objective 5. Student able to play minor modes in any key any position.
Methods:
1. Point out to the student that one of the modes is identical to the natural minor
scale. Have them figure out which one. (Aeolian)
2. Now ask them to look at the respective formulas and tell you what the
difference between the natural minor scale and the Dorian mode is. (Dorian
mode has a natural VI).
3. Now ask them to spot the difference between the natural minor scale and the
Phrygian mode (Phrygian mode has a flatted II).
4. Now ask them to spot the difference between the natural minor scale and the
Locrian mode (The Locrian mode has a flatted II (like the Phrygian) and a flatted
V.)
5. Have them play the A natural minor scale in its basic forward diagonal
position:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 7- - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 7- - 8- - - - - - - - - -
E- - 5- - 7- - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tell them:'That's the Aeolian mode'
6. Now tell them to change the bVI to a natural VI:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- - 5- - 7- - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - 5- - 7- - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tell them:'That's the Dorian mode'
7. Now tell them to play the natural minor scale with a bII:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 7- - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 7- - 8- - - - - - - - - -
E- - 5- - 6- - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tell them:'That's the Phrygian mode'
8. Now have them repeat this but with a bV:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 7- - - -
A- - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - 6- - 8- - - - - - - - - -
E- - 5- - 6- - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tell them:'That's the Locrian mode'
9. Have them repeat this exercise up and down for each of the seven diagonal
patterns.
10. Play an Am chord accompaniment and ask them to improvise over it using
each of these modes in turn listening to the different 'flavour' sounds they
produce.
11. Finally test them on random keys modes and positions. Do this really
thoroughly until they know they have cracked this subject.
Lesson plan 47:
USE OF MODES OVER II-V-I
Suitable for:
Students with an interest in developing jazz guitar skills.
Prerequisites:
Lesson plan 46 (II V I Chords) completed.
General Objective:
To enable the student to apply the modes as a means of chord-specific improvising
over the II-V-I sequence.
Summary of this lesson plan:
The student is taught to identify each mode with one of the chords in the II V I
sequence.
Stress:
Start simple and work at student's mental and physical pace.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student understanding the basic connections between modes and
chords
Methods:
1. Tell the student that there are, broadly speaking, two basic approaches to the
use of modes in improvising and composition: Diatonic and Non-diatonic.
Diatonic means restricting ones choice of notes to those within the key the
passage of music is in. Non-diatonic means bringing in notes from outside the
key.
2. Tell the student you are going to start by getting them to use modes against
chords in a purely diatonic way. To do this you are simply going to select the
same number mode to fit the number of the chord:
In the key of G major:
II = Am7 Mode = A Dorian
V = D13 Mode = D Mixolydian
I = GM7 Mode = G Ionian
In the key of F major:
II = Gm7 Mode = G Dorian
V = C13 Mode = C Mixolydian
I = FM7 Mode = F Ionian
In the key of Eb major:
II = Fm7 Mode = F Dorian
V = Bb13 Mode = Bb Mixolydian
I = EbM7 Mode = Eb Ionian
And so on..
3. Tell your student that, as a first step, it is vital when improvising in this way
to pinpoint the right root note with the right finger. The Dorian starts on the 1st
finger. The Mixolydian on the 2nd finger and the Ionian on the 2nd finger. Play
the chords round the circle of fourths as in Lesson Plan 45 (II V I chords). Get
your student to follow the sequence, playing only the root note of each chord,
but with the correct finger in preparation for playing the modes.
You play:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - 13- - - - 12- - - 12- - - 12- - - - 11- - - - 10- - - 10- - - - 10- - - - - - -
G- - - 12- - - - 11- - - 11- - - 11- - - - 10- - - - 9- - - - 9- - - - - 9- - - - - - - -
D- - - 14- - - - 10- - - 12- - - 12- - - - 12- - - - 8- - - - 10- - - - 10- - - - - - -
A- - - 12- - - - x- - - - 10- - - 10- - - - 10- - - - x- - - - 8- - - - - 8- - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - 10- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Am7 D13 GM7 GM7 Gm7 C13 FM7 FM7
II V I I II V I I
Key G major. ..Key F major
While they play:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - 12- - - - - - - - - 10- - - 10- - - - 10- - - - - - - - - 8- - - - - 8- - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - 10- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Fg: 1 2 2 2 1 2 2 2 et c
4. Have them do this round a circle or two until they can follow you at as fast a
tempo as you would be likely to play.
5. Now concentrate on the first four bars. Have them play the Dorian scale
rooted on the A, the Mixolydian rooted on the D and the Ionian on the G:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 11- 12- 14- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - - - - 12- 14- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 9- 10- 12- - - - - - - -
A- - - 12- 14- 15- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 9- 10- 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 10- 12- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A Dor i an . D Mi xol ydi an . . .
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 11- 13- 14- 14- 13- 11- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - 11- 12- 14- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 14- 12- 11- - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - 12- 14- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 14- 12- - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G I oni an
6. Have them repeat this a few times through.
7. Now have them switch fingers on the G note to convert to the Dorian scale
and so continue on round the circle of fourths.
8. Have them play through the circle a few times. To begin with they should be
playing straight scales, but once they have established these, encourage them to
improvise on the scales. (You may need to slow the accompaniment down to
allow this).
9. Get the student to look closely at the notes they are playing in any one key.
Explain that although they are changing modes with the chord changes they are
in fact staying within the key. This is best shown by looking at the first four bars:
Over Am7 we play A Dorian using the notes: A B C D E F# G A
Over D13 we play D Mixolydian using the notes: D E F# G A B C D
Over GM7 we play G Ionian using the notes: G A B C D E F# G
All of these scales are simply sections of the G major scale. Tell your student that
this is what we mean by diatonic use of modes. The result is a very harmonious
sound.

Objective 2. Student understanding non-diatonic use of modes
Methods:
1. Tell the student that you are now going to take a look at non-diatonic use of
modes. That is using modes in such a way as to bring in notes from outside the
key.
2. Have them look at the interval pattern chart they developed in Lesson plan 46
(Introduction to modes).
3. We have already seen that the modes can be split into two broad categories:
Major: Ionian, Lydian, Mixolydian
Minor: Dorian Phrygian, Aeolian, Locrian
In terms of matching modes to chords it is also useful to note that the
Mixolydian scale matches dominant type chords: (Those built on I III V bVII)
and the Locrian scale matches diminished chord types (Because it has the bV
note).
4. Now have the student experiment with substituting modes by type. This
works by viewing each of the II V I chords as representative of a class of chord
and matching the modes accordingly:
II = Minor chord type = Choose from Dorian, Phrygian or Aeolian modes.
V = Dominant chord type = Mixolydian mode
I = Major chord type = Ionian or Lydian modes
The Locrian mode can be used as a substitute for the Mixolydian in the same
way as the Diminished 7
th
chord can be used as a substitute for a Dominant
chord rooted one semitone lower. This means that D# Locrian can replace D
Mixolydian. The locrian can also be used as a bridging scale between each of the
other chord changes, again, in the same way that the diminished chord can be
used to bridge between any other two chords. Your student should be
encouraged to experiment with these ideas. Remember their ears are the only
judge of what is 'right' and what is not!
5. Spend as much time as possible playing II V I round the circle of fourths for
your student to improvise over the top of. Encourage them to utilise both the
diatonic and non-diatonic approaches. Work on the basis of creating and them
resolving tensions- a concept that lies not just at the heart of jazz music but at
the heart of most art forms.
Lesson plan 48:
BASIC CHORD SUBSTITUTION
Suitable for:
Students with an interest in developing jazz guitar skills.
Prerequisites:
Lesson plan 47 (modes over II V I Chords) completed.
General Objective:
To introduce the student to basic chord substitution ideas
Summary of this lesson plan:
The student is taught to categorize chords into three broad types and to experiment
with interchanging chords of the same type.
Stress:
Chord substitution is a vast and complex subject. Stick to broad basic principles to
begin with. This way the student has a workable method to fall back on from the
outset. They can then use that as a point of departure from which to explore the more
esoteric elements of the subject.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student understanding the three basic chord type families.
Methods:
1. Introduce the subject of chord substitution to your student by warning them
that it is ultimately a lifetime's study, but that you are going to help them get off
to a good start by addressing some useful broad principles that can be applied
relatively easily.
2. Tell your student that the basis of this lesson is that chords can all be
considered to belong to one of just three families: Major, Minor and Dominant.
(Your student should immediately be able to spot the connection with the II V I
chord sequences that have formed the basis of the last few lessons.)
3. Here for reference is a list of commonly used jazz chords by family. No such
list can ever be considered complete or even correct as there are some chords
that cross boundaries from one family to the next but this will be enough to go
on with:

Major Chords ( ) = Optional note
Chord Type Symbol Formula
Major M,Maj 1-3-5
Added Fourth add4 1-3-4-5
Sixth 6 1-3-5-6
Six Nine 6/9 1-3-5-6-9
Major 7th Maj7 1-3-5-7
Major Ninth Maj9 1-3-5-7-9
Major Eleventh Maj11 1-3-5-7- (9)-11
Major Thirteenth Maj13 1-3-5-7-(9)-(11)-13
Major seven sharp eleventh Maj7#11 1-3-5-7- #11
Major Flat Five Majb5 1-3-b5
Minor Chords
Chord Type Symbol Formula
Minor m 1-b3-5
Minor added fourth madd4 1-b3-4-5
Minor sixth m6 1-b3-5-6
Minor seventh m7 1-b3-5-b7
Minor added ninth madd9 1-b3-5-9
Minor six add nine m6/9 1-b3-5-6-9
Minor ninth m9 1-b3-5-b7-9
Minor eleventh m11 1-b3-5-b7-(9)-11
Minor thirteenth m13 1-b3-5-b7-(9)-(11)-13
Minor/Major seventh m/Maj7 1-b3-5-7
Minor/Major ninth m/Maj9 1-b3-5-7-9
Minor/Major eleventh m/Maj11 1-b3-5-7-(9)-11
Minor/Major thirteenth m/Maj13 1-b3-5-7-(9)-(11)-13
Minor seven flat fifth m7-5 or 1-b3-b5-b7
Dominant Chords
Chord Type Symbol Formula
Seventh 7 1-3-5-b7
Ninth 9 1-3-5-b7-9
Eleventh 11 1-(3)-5-b7-(9)-11
Thirteenth 13 1-3-5-b7-(9)-(11)-13
Seven sharp five 7#5 1-3-#5-b7
Seven flat five 7b5 1-3-b5-b7
Seven flat ninth 7b9 1-3-5-b7-b9
Seven sharp ninth 7#9 1-3-5-b7-#9
Dominant Chords continued...
Chord type Symbol Formula
Nine sharp five 9#5 1-3-#5-b7-9
Nine flat five 9b5 1-3-b5-b7-9
Seven sharp five sharp nine 7#5#9 1-3-#5-b7-#9
Seven sharp five flat nine 7#5b9 1-3-#5-b7-b9
Seven flat five sharp nine 7b5#9 1-3-b5-b7-#9
Seven flat five flat nine 7b5b9 1-3-b5-b7-b9
Seven sharp eleven 7#11 1-3-5-b7-#11
4. Have your student work through this chart (over several lessons I advise!)
and find at least one fingering for each of the chords listed. It is an essential part
of being a jazz musician to be able to relate to chords by formula and 'create'
fingerings from this information there are simply too many chords to
memorise otherwise!
5. Have your student take a basic vanilla chord sequence and jazz it up by
substituting chords according to type families. For example take the chords of
House of the Rising Sun'. Here's the vanilla sequence:
Am C D F
Am C E E
Am C D F
Am E Am E
So we classify Am as MINOR
C, D and F as MAJOR
And E as DOMINANT (the fifth chord in the key is always DOMINANT)
Here is an example of chords we could substitute from the same families as
follows:
Am7 CMaj7 DMaj6add9 FMaj7
Am7 CMaj9 E13 E7#9
Am7 CMaj7 DMaj9 FMaj6
Am7 E9 Am7 E7#9
6. Whilst in theory, any major chord can be replaced by another major chord,
minor chord by minor and dominant by dominant; in practice some
substitutions sound better than others. Encourage your student to experiment,
using their ears as the final judge in all cases.
7. Choose another song with a different set of vanilla chords for your student to
experiment with.
8. Repeat over a number of different song types until your student is getting
results from this process that they feel happy with.
Lesson plan 49:
CHORD BASED IMPROVISING
Suitable for:
Students with an interest in developing jazz guitar skills.
Prerequisites:
Lesson plan 48 (Basic chord substitution) completed.
General Objective:
To introduce the student to some basic methods of improvising over chords and
chord changes.
Summary of this lesson plan:
The student is taught to work out chord-based licks and use them to improvise over
simple chord sequences.
Stress:
Build the student's confidence one step at a time. Keep to simple ideas and use lots of
application. Remember that, at this stage, the student's brain and fingers are both
being asked to travel (to them) unfamiliar paths.
Materials required:
None
Special equipment required:
None
Objectives and methods:
Objective 1. Student able to improvise using direct arpeggio method.
Methods:
1. Show the student a simple chord sequence. For example:
4
4 ||: Amaj7 | Dmaj7 | Amaj7 | Dmaj7 |
Bm7 | F7 | Amaj7 | E7 :||
2. Tell them that before deciding exactly what to play over each chord it will
really help them to pinpoint the right root notes with the right finger. At this
stage we are sticking to roots on the 6
th
and 5
th
strings. A useful rule is :
Major or dominant use 2nd finger on the root note
Minor use 1st finger
As you play the chords get them simply to nail the right root note for each chord
with the right finger. Once they can do that at a reasonable tempo move on.
3. Tell them that the object of this exercise is simply to use the arpeggio of the
chord as written. Initially they should simply play one note per half beat like
this:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6- 7- 6- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - 6- 7- 6- - - - - - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- - - - - - - - 6- 7- 6- - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- - - - -
E- - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Amaj7 | Dmaj7 | Amaj7
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - 6- 7- 6- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8- 10- 8- - - - -
D- - - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- - - - - - - - - 7- 9- 7- - - - - - - - - 710- - - - - - - - 10- 7
A- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 9- - - - - - - 9- - - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- 10- - - - - - - - - - - 10- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dmaj 7 | Bm7 | F7
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- 9- 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - 6- 7- 6- - - - - - - - - 6- 9- - - - - - - 9- 6- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - 4- 7- - - - - - - 7- 4- - - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
| Amaj7 | E7 :||
4. Have them play through these arpeggios against your playing the chords as
backing. Start slow and gradually pick up the pace as they gain confidence.
5. Once they are on top of this get them to vary the timing, phrasing and order
of notes within each arpeggio, in other words to improvise within each
arpeggio. Again, slow the whole thing down to begin with because the extra
workload will quickly overwhelm your student otherwise.
Objective 2. Student able to improvise using extended arpeggios.
Methods:
1. Using the same sequence as in the previous objective get your student to
extend their arpeggios by turning each four-note chord into a five-note chord ie:
Amaj7 to Amaj9
Dmaj7 to Dmaj9
Bm7 to Bm9
F7 to F9
E7 to E9
2. Play the rhythm part exactly as before ie. You stick to the 7
th
chords, its only
the arpeggios that are extended to 9
ths.
3. Have them play over the sequence using a predetermined pattern first of all. I
suggest something like:
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- - - - - - - - - - - - 6- 7- - - 7- 6- - - - - - - - - - - 4- - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - 6- 7- - - 7- 6- - - 4- 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6- 7- - - 7- 6- - - - -
A- - - - - 4- 7- - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Amaj7 | Dmaj7 | Amaj7
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 8- - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - 6- 7- - - 7- 6- - - - - - - - - - - - - 6- - - - - - - - - - - - - 8- 10- - - 10- 8-
D- - - - 4- 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- 9- - - 9- 7- - - - 710- - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 9- - - - - - - - - - - - 8- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- 10- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
| Dmaj7 | Bm7 | F7
e- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G- - - - - - - - - - - - - 4- - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- 9- - - 9- 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D- - - - - - - - - 6- 7- - - 7- 6- - - - - 6- 9- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A- - - - - 4- 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - 7- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E- - - 5- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
| Amaj7 | E7 :||
4. Again, have them play through the sequence many times in this preset way
before encouraging them to improvise on the ideas.
Objective 3. Student able to improvise using modes over chords.
Methods:
1. Using the same sequence again, suggest to your student that they select a
mode to fit each chord. The simplest approach is to use the number of each
mode matched with the degree of the scale the chord is built on ie:
Amaj7 = I = A Ionian
Dmaj7 = IV = D Lydian
Bm7 = II = B Dorian
F7 = VI = F Aeolian
E7 = V = E Mixolydian
Note that the VI chord has had its type altered to produce a tension that is
resolved when we get back to the V chord. For this reason the F Mixolydian
scale may work best (This respects the chord type rather than the diatonic
position of its root note).
2. Again, have the student start by simply playing ascending scales over each
bar.
3. Once they have got good at that try them out on the same scales
descending. This requires re-mapping the root notes an octave higher and re-
thinking the fingering. Encourage them to work out this step for themselves
before playing over your backing.
4. Next have them improvise using the modes in a freer way, they can select
notes at random from each mode, develop rhythmic and melodic ideas. In
particular encourage them to develop neat joins from one chord to the next.
This is the beginning of 'Playing over the changes' a crucial ability in jazz
improvising.
5. Finally have your student combine the arpeggio based ideas with the modal
ideas.

Lesson plan 50:
SPECIFIC REMEDIES
Problem: Student unable to improvise convincingly using pentatonic scales
They are keen to learn jazz guitar, but can't yet improvise over simple blues
sequences.
Probable cause(s): There are quite a number of possibilities. I would run a bit of a
checklist on this, something like:
1.Have they thoroughly learnt the scales (Major and Minor Pentatonic, Blues and
Country scales)?
2. Do they have a reliable orientation system so that they can play in any position any
key?
3. Are they able to play through the scales with good basic technique, fingers behind
frets, alternate picking (or viable finger-picking system) ?
4. Do they play these scales rhythmically and reasonable fluidly?
5. Are they well-acquainted with the basics of embellishment techniques (slides,
hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends, vibrato)?
6. Do they have an awareness of where the keynotes are in the scales?
7. Are they able to phrase?
8. Is there any evidence that they are hearing the chord changes and attempting to
play to them?
9. Are they psychologically pre-disposed to avoid risk? (Improvising involves taking
the risk of getting it wrong!).
Solution(s): Having thoroughly assessed your particular student against the above
checklist, the best solution would be to take them (back) through the appropriate
steps in section 2 (Improvising). Also see to it that they get their hands on some
suitable backing tracks to practice over. The most important thing they can do about
their lack of improvising ability is to do loads of it! A backing track is a great help
with this.
Problem: Student unable to improvise convincingly using major scales
They can work well over any kind of blues-based sequence and are obviously
confident with pentatonic scales, but start struggling as soon as you ask them to
work with major scales.
Probable cause(s): A likely cause is simply a lack of familiarity with using these
scales to improvise with. Guitarists are prone to resorting to using major scales only
as a theory tool.
It is also worth noting that major scales are more demanding on the weaker fingers
than pentatonics tend to be.
Solution(s): Check them out on their basic major scale exercises making sure that
they have a viable fingering pattern. Then just have them playing over nothing but
major key sequences for a few weeks. Emphasise the need to take a more melodic
approach and develop less reliance on embellishment techniques.
Problem: Student unable to improvise convincingly using minor scales
Student appears to have little or no problem using major scales, but finds minor
scales hard to handle.
Probable cause(s): Most likely cause is some confusion about the differences between
the different minor scales.
Solution(s): Check out each scale type thoroughly one at a time. Start with the
natural minor scale. Have them tell you its formula. Have them play it through all
seven diagonal patterns and then through randomly selected keys using the CAGED
system. Teach them a song or two that uses chords and melodies based on this scale.
Then, and only then, have them improvise using it.
Once they are totally confident they can use the natural minor scale to improvise in
any key, any position, only then should you move on and address the harmonic
minor scale in a similarly thorough manner. Only once they can work with this scale
in any key, any position should you move on and address the melodic minor scale.
Once happy with that you can then look at the other modal minor scales. In each case
I find it worth comparing the intervals of the scale with those of a major scale based
on the same key note and of the natural minor scale.
Problem: Student seriously confused by harmonising scales to produce four-note
chords
Student just doesn't seem able to grasp this exercise and can't think with the
information.
Probable cause(s): Look for earlier areas of confusion. Most likely these will be on
the subject of key signatures. On the other hand they may still be confused by
standard notation or they may not have really grasped triads.
Solution(s): Golden Rule: Wherever confusion arises the cause is always at a
previous level that was studied incompletely or insufficiently. Check the student out
from the bottom up:
That means: Note Names, Chromatic Scale, Tones and Semitones, Major Scale
formula, Key Signatures, Circles of Fifths and Fourths, Frederick Charles et al. Basics
of standard notation, Basic Triad construction, Major scale harmonising to triads,
Arpeggios and chords then see if all doesn't suddenly become wonderfully clear on
the subject of harmonising scales to four-note chords.
Problem: Student struggling with jazz chord fingering
Student finding it really hard to change from shape to shape..
Probable cause(s): This is really more a problem of tuition. It is easy for the tutor, if
they themselves have been playing these chords for a number of years, to forget just
how physically awkward these shapes are when first encountered.
Solution(s): Simply allow more time for your student to get to grips with these new
shapes physically. It is often like starting from the beginning again for a student who
has played nothing but open chords and simple barre chords.
Problem: Student finds the whole subject of modes complicated
Even your suggestion that you are going to work with modes throws them into a
state of panic.
Probable cause(s): A common problem with modes is the way people are taught to
think of them in terms of how they are derived from major scales. This only helps you
understand their derivation it does not help you make use of them!
Solution(s): Look closely at the related lesson plans on modes (Lesson plans 46 and
47) and you will see how modes have to be understood relative to their own key note.
Furthermore, if one breaks them down into their formulas, they then tend to fall
quite neatly into variations of either major or natural minor scales and the whole
subject quickly simplifies and becomes easily applicable.
Problem: Student confused about chord families
Student finds it hard to differentiate between major minor and dominant chord
types..
Probable cause(s): As always, it will be something that was missed earlier. Chord
classification is complicated by the fact that there are several useful ways of grouping
chords. For example I distinguish triads from four-note chords. Or I might talk about
10 types of seventh chord. Diatonic and altered chords. Major sets and minor sets.
Then the three families: major, minor and dominant. Each of these ways of looking at
chords is valid at various points in the development of the student's understanding
of music theory. In terms of usage however, for a jazz guitarist, the division into
major minor and dominant is of paramount importance. However, the earlier views
are mostly necessary to arrive at a full appreciation of what these three different
families really signify.
Solution(s): Once again my recommendation is carefully to retread the whole subject
of chord formation from the bottom up. Look for elements along the way that the
student only half-grasped and work through them more thoroughly. That way, by
the time you get back up to the level of the three chord families (sounds like a mafia
movie plot doesn't it?!), the Student will suddenly find the idea clicking into place
and the problem will have miraculously disappeared.
Glossary of terms used
II, V, I sequence: For example: In the key of G major: Am7 D7 GM7.
IV, bV, V: Roman numerals refer to steps on the major scale scale.
2nd string anomaly: Assuming standard tuning (E A D G B E), all the strings on the guitar are tuned a
fourth apart except for the 2nd string (B) which is tuned a third higher than the 3
rd
string. This exception
disturbs the shapes of chords etc. as we move across the strings.
4/4 with 8-beat feel: Counted as: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.
4/4 with a 16 beat feel: Counted as: 1 e and a 2 e and a 3 e and a 4 e and a.
12/8: Counted as: 1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4 and a.
12/8 Slow blues shuffle: (Also see 12/8) Each main beat is considered to be three equal (triplet) beats the
second and fourth main beats are emphasized by the snare drum.
A
Ad-hoc: One-off.
Alternating: Up/Down/Up/Down etc.
Amplitudes: A measurement of size of vibration rather than speed or frequency.
Anticipates: Occurs just before. Heralds.
Arpeggios: Chords played one note at a time.
Ataxia: Failure of muscular coordination; irregularity of muscular action.
Augmented: I III #V.
B
Backward diagonal octave pattern: The octave pattern fingered from the 6th string to the 3rd.
Bottlenecks (Lesson plan 6): Parts of the song that prove difficult and slow the student down.
BPM: Beats per minute.
C
CAGED system: A powerful fretboard orientation system based on the octave patterns produced by the
five open chord shapes C, A, G, E, and D.
Call and response: Pairing of phrases that sound as if they answer each other.
Chord substitution: The principle of replacing a chord or series of chords with different chords to add col-
our and movement to jazz progressions.
Chromatic scale: The scale of all 12 notes.
Chromaticism: Linking notes or phrases using segments of the chromatic scale.
Circle of fifths: A sequence of notes produced by moving five major scale steps up from each note of the
circle.
Circle of fourths: A sequence of notes produced by moving four major scale steps up from each note of the
circle.
Clefs: Symbols derived from ornate letter names used to pinpoint a given line of the stave as representing a
certain note.
Complements: Goes well together with, or enhances the effect of.
Consensus: Commonly held agreement.
Convoluted: Strung out, long-winded, complicated.
Country scale: The country scale is a major pentatonic with a minor III added to it. Its formula is I II bIII
III V VI.
D
Dead String: A jazz guitarist's chord shape typically using the root on the 6th string, then muting the 5th
string, playing the rest of the chord on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings.
Depping: Deputising. Standing in for a guitarist who is off sick or on holiday.
Derivation: A word that describe where something originates or is derived from.
Diatonic harmonizing: Using only notes from within the key that result in a sound pleasing to the ear.
Diminished: Diminished chords have a flatted V.
Diminished 7th: I bIII bV bbVII.
Dominant: The fifth note in a major scale or any chord harmonized on it.
Dominant 7th: The seventh chord is built by harmonizing the V (dominant) note of the major scale. It's
formula is I III V bVII.
Dominant 9th: I III V bVII IX.
Dominant type: Chords that are built on the fifth (or dominant) note of a key. They are generally exten-
sions of I III V bVII.
Dyspraxia: Impaired or painful function of any organ of the body.
E
Enharmonic: Notes that sound identical but are named differently. For example: An augmented fourth (a
perfect 4th raised or "augmented" by a semi-tone) sounds the same as a diminished fifth (a perfect 5th flat-
ted or "diminished" by a half-step) but each have different names.
Esoteric: Hidden.
Expectation management: Student has unrealistic expectations about the nature of the task. You have to
help them adjust their reality accordingly.
F
Family: The three principle chord families are: Major (I III V VII or VI and extensions), Minor (I bIII V bVII
or VI and extensions), and Dominant (I III V bVII and extensions).
Fill: A phrase or phrases that link one line of melody to the next.
Fingerable octave patterns: Movable patterns where both notes are fingered, as opposed to octave patterns
that use open strings.
Finger angle: Fingers on their tips, not on their flats.
Finger position: One finger per fret. Fingers just behind the frets.
Five-line stave: The five horizontal lines on which, and between which, are positioned the notes in stand-
ard notation.
Flat (b) Keys: Key signatures expressed as a certain number of flats (bs) as opposed to those expressed in
sharps (#s).
Formula: A way of describing chords generically using Roman numerals to describe which steps of the root
note major scale are used to make up that chord. For example, a major chord uses the Roman numerals I,
III, V. In the G major scale (G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G) the I is the first note G, the III is the third note B, and the
V is the fifth note D. This means that you would need the notes of G, B, and D in any order to make up the
chord of G major.
Forward diagonal octave pattern: The octave pattern that is fingered on the 6th and 4th strings or the 5th
and 3rd strings.
Four-note equivalent: In fingerstyle jazz, a chord played with the thumb and first three fingers.
G
Generic 12-bar blues: (Also see Generic terms and Roman numerals) Generic means written out using the
Roman Numeral system. This means that the piece can be adapted to any key.
Generic terms: By using the Roman numeral system we describe note and chord relationships in a way
that can be applied equally to any key.
Genre: Type of music. Examples of genre are: Pop, Blues, Jazz, Funk, Hip hop, etc.
Grace-Note: A note that has no significant time value of its own. Used to embellish the note fol-
lowing or preceding it.
H
Half-step (Semi-tone): Distance between any two adjacent notes on a chromatic scale. Also known as a
semi-tone.
Harmonic minor scale: A minor scale widely agreed upon as being best utilized for harmonizing music
written in minor keys. It has a flatted III and a flatted VI but retains the natural VII.
Harmonizing: Building chords on a given scale.
Hierarchy of rhythmic responsibility: For example: the drummer lays down the basic tempo and feel, the
bass player locks into that and the rhythm guitarist provides colour to fill in some of the gaps. The lead vo-
cals or other instruments then have freedom to play over that rhythmic base without being too concerned
about creating rhythmic structure.
Home keys: For example, using the E blues scale for a song in the key of E. (As opposed to say, using the E
blues scales for songs in G major--which is a related key).
I
Inverted: An inverted chord is one in which the root note is not the lowest note heard in the chord.
K
Key: A piece of music is generally assigned a key. This defines how notes and chords used in that piece of
music relate to each other to create moments of tension and resolution in the music.
Key centre: Point of resolution in the piece of music.
Key note: If you are playing in the key of E major, the key note is E. If in the key of F# minor, the key note
is F# and so on.
Key signature: The number and name of sharps (#) or flats (b) that naturally occur in a given key is called
its key signature.
L
Legato: In a smooth, even style without any noticeable break between the notes.
M
Major arpeggio and chord Set: Arpeggios and chord shapes for Major, Major seventh, Dominant seventh,
and Major sixth chords.
Major scale: Produced from the chromatic scale by applying the formula: Tone, Tone, Semi-tone, Tone,
Tone, Tone, Semi-tone also known as Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half or W W H W W
W H.
Major seventh: I III V VII
Manuscript paper: Prepared sheets of paper with blank five-line staves ruled on them.
Melodic minor scale: Has a bIII on the way up then a bVII bVI and bIII on the way down.
MinMaj7 chord: Minor Major seventh: I bIII V VII. Also called a minor natural seventh.
Minor arpeggio and chord set: Arpeggios for Minor, Minor Major seventh, Minor seventh, and Minor sixth
chords.
Minor scale: Scales using the minor III instead of the major III.
Minor thirds: Notes that are a tone and a half apart.
Mnemonic: A way of remembering something, for example, the names of the open string note names on
the guitar E A D G B E. A way of remembering this might be Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears.
Modes: Scales derived from the major scale by starting at each degree of the scale.
Muso: Someone who is more interested in the mechanics of music than in actually playing it.
N
Names of modes: Modes are named after Greek Islands!
Natural: Naturally occuring in the major scale.
Natural minor scale: The minor scale built directly from the VI note of the relative major. It has a bIII, bVI
and bVII.
Non-diatonic: Including notes that don't belong in the key.
Numbers of modes: The number of each mode indicates which degree of the major scale the mode is
started on.
O
Octave fret: The 12th fret is positioned exactly halfway between the nut and the bridge. When strings are
stopped at this fret, they vibrate at exactly twice the frequency of the open string thereby producing a note
one octave higher.
One finger per fret: Positional playing. For example: If the 1st finger is playing notes at the 3rd fret, the
2nd finger looks after notes at the 4th fret, the 3rd finger at the 5th fret, the 4th finger at the 6th fret.
P
Passing notes: Notes played briefly and not carrying any rhythmic weight.
Pivot: An area of a scale from which to start and to which to return. An orientation point.
Point of departure: A basic idea from which to develop improvised phrases.
Positions: Guitar on right thigh or left thigh; neck angled up or horizontal; guitar pointing across students
body or away from it.
Pressurizing body language: Leaning forward in your seat, fidgeting or showing any other signs of impa-
tience towards the student.
Q
Quick-change 12-bar: Typically I, IV, I, I in the first measure; IV, IV, I, I in the second measure; and V, IV, I,
V in the third measure.
R
Reciprocating bends: Backwards and forwards or up and down.
Reciprocating slides: Backwards and forwards or up and down.
Resolved: Phrased in a way that sounds completed.
Response time: How long the student takes to respond to, and successfully carry out, an instruction.
Rhythm chart: Chart showing time signature and chord changes in each bar together with information
about the sequencing of a piece of music.
Rhythmic responsibility: Playing in a way which dictates the tempo.
Root note: The name of the note on which the chord is built. The root note of E minor is E. The root note
of Eb minor is Eb, the root note of F#min7b9#13sus is F#.
Root note pattern: One of the seven octave patterns derived from the CAGED system.
Rudiments: Basic elements.
S
Scale: A series of notes differing in pitch according to a specific scheme.
Semibreve: Whole note. One semibreve lasts for four beats.
Semitone (Half-step): Distance between any two adjacent notes on a chromatic scale. Sequence: Never
mind what fingers, picking or rhythm their using - just make sure they are playing the right notes
in the right order.
Seven diagonals: The basic octave patterns that make up the CAGED system.
Sharp (#) Keys: Key signatures expressed as a certain number of sharps (#s) as opposed to those expressed
in flats (bs).
Sharp (#) Signs: The sharp signs are written precisely accross the space or line on which the relevant note
would normally be written.
Sharped: Raised by a semi-tone (half-step).
Shrunk: The effect of the anomaly on any shape based on a backward diagonal octave pattern is to make
it cover less frets.
Snare beat: 2nd and 4th beats of the bar. This is when the drummer is usually hitting the snare drum.
Hence the name. Also called the "backbeat".
Sound effect: Very short phrases of one or two notes coupled with a bit of technique to produce an effect
appropriate to the lyrics being sung.
Staccato: Cut short crisply, detached, separated from the next note.
Standard notation: Music written in the conventional manner, using five-line staves, clefs, key signatures,
proper rhythmic notation, words in Italian, etc.
Standard pitch: A = 440Hz.
Standard tuning: E A D G B E.
Stave: Five horizontal lines on which, and between which, notes can be written.
Straight eight feel: (Also known as 4/4 with 8-beat feel) Counted as 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.
Straight ending: Typically a blues that ends on two bars of the key chord.
Stretched forward diagonal: A forward diagonal pattern that is adjusted to allow for the 2nd string anom-
aly.
Stretched shape: The effect of the anomaly on patterns based on the forward diagonal octave patterns is to
make them cover more frets.
T
Tempo: Speed.
Texas-style blues: A rhythmic style of blues playing that integrates chord and lead work.
Tone (Whole step): Distance between any two alternate notes on a chromatic scale.
Treble-clef: The treble clef was originally on ornate letter G. It fixes the first line up as the line on which
the G note is written.
Triad: Three note chord.
Turnaround: The last bar or two of a 12-bar blues designed to lead back into the next verse.
Turnaround ending: Typically ending on a V or V7 chord which leads back to the key chord at the start of
the next verse.
Type (a.k.a. Chord type): For example: major, minor, seventh, minor 9th.
U
Unbends or released bends: The string is bent before it is played. The bend is then released after the note
is struck.
Unresolved: Phrased in a way that sounds unfinished or inconclusive.
Unviable: Guitar can't be tuned or has impossibly high action. Also a guitar that is simply the wrong size
for the student.
V
Validating: Praising, commending.
Vanilla sequence: The sequence of simple chords underlying the more complex chords used to jazz up a
piece of music. The main structural chords.
Viable: Workable; practical.
Violin vibrato: A subtle vibrato produced by rapidly shaking the hand in the same plane as the string. The
string itself is not moved. This is how a violin player sweetens the tone - hence the name.
W
Whole step (Tone): Distance between any two alternate notes on a chromatic scale.