Before leaving C Major lets first take a look at a couple of diagrams that you will be seeing a lot of. One is called a chord diagram. Familiarize yourself with this
diagram because you will be seeing a lot of them, not only here but out in the world. The largest string, the 6th string is on the left and from left to right you have the 6th string, followed by the 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st. The name of the chord is at the very top. The next line is just above the nut. An X indicates that the string is not to be played or it is to be muted. Muting is just where you lay a finger either against a string or lightly touching it on top to keep it from sounding. An O means the string is to be played open, no fretting. The solid dot is where a finger is to be placed and at the very bottom you will see numbers.
The number beneath a string means that that is the finger you should use to fret that note. Here is a drawing of a hand and the designation of each digit. Yes, the thumb sometimes gets involved in fretting a chord, too! More on that in another lesson.
The other diagram is best known as guitar tab or sometimes just tab. Tab stands for tablature. It’s a big word but we’re not scared. A lot of times when you buy the actual music for a song there will be an option get the tab along with the actual music. It’s an excellent way to learn a piece of music! In this lesson we are only going to touch on it. The topic of tablature will come about in a future lesson.
At the top we have the treble staff with the notes that are to be played.The chord is indicated at the very top. Sometimes there will also be a chord diagram. This particular tab is for one guitar and that is noted in the space between the treble staff and the tab. If the tab was written for more than one guitar there would be another treble staff for that guitar with a notation of Gtr2 and so on.
So, each guitar will have its own staff. Each guitar will also have its own tab which is what you see at the bottom. The tab, like the chord diagram, corresponds to the six strings of the guitar and the bottom line is the 6th string. The numbers that are directly beneath the notes on the staff indicate the fingering to be used. A zero (0) means the string should be played open, otherwise the fret number shown should be fretted. If there is no number on a particular string, then that string is not played or is muted.
Referring back to the chord diagram of the C Major scale, the same scale would appear in guitar tab as shown below. In the tab we are assuming that eighth notes are being played. Normally, transitioning a scale begins on the root note, in this case the 5th string, 3rd fret. However, when playing a solo using the C Major scale, any of the scale notes can be played at any time.
Minor Scales and Chords
There are Major scales and then there are Minor scales. Major scales tend to sound bright and happy while minor scales seem a little sad. While there is one major scale per note, there are three minor scales that exist for each note. Normally the term minor scale refers to the natural minor scale. There are also the harmonic minor scale and the melodic minor scale. More on them later.
Remember how we came up with the major scale? We had the following notes on the staff:
The major scale was determined by the W-W-h-W-W-W-h interval sequence (w=whole step, h=half step). The minor scale is determined in the same way except the interval sequence is different.
The minor interval sequence is W-h-W-W-h-W-W. The notes of the
scale are C, D, E♭, F, G, A♭ and B♭. How many flats are there in the C Minor scale? As with any chord there are myriad ways to play a chord. The most common open C Minor chords even come in two varieties.
The first variation employs what is known as a barre (pronounced bar). A barre is basically a bridge made by laying one fingeracross the strings at the fret indicated. The tie bar is one indicator but isn’t always used. The other indicator is that the fingering calls for the same finger fretting two different notes at the same fret. Note that the 6th string is not played (muted).
The second variation of C Minor does not involve the barre. Instead only the bottom four strings are played (4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st). That leads me to let you know an important point about guitar playing: you don’t have to play all six strings!
The sixth and fifth strings are muted while your four fingers fret the notes. Since you now know that you don’t have to play all six strings, can you think of another way to play a C Major using only three strings and one finger? Hint: Take a close look at the C Minor var 2 diagram.
In case you don’t get it, here it is: fret the 4th, 3rd and 2nd strings at fret 5 with either your index finger or your ring finger. The 6th, 5th and 1st strings should be muted.
This is how both variations would look in tab.
C Minor Scale
The C Minor Scale is shown in the illustration. When you learning this scale keep this in mind: divide and conquer. Take three or four frets at a time one string at a time. When starting from the root, place your first finger on the C root at fret 3 of the 5th string. Your second finger should hover over the 4th fret. Third finger should fret the D at fret 5 and the fourth finger would fret the E♭ on fret 6. Next you move to the 4th string, fret 3. Then to fret 5 and 6. On the 3rd string, play fret 3, then fret 5. Next you move to the 2nd string, fret 3, then you play fret 4 followed by fret 6. Move to the 1st string and play the same sequence: fret 3, 4 then 6. Check out the tab below to see the transition of this scale.
After you learn that, learn the scale from the open through fret 3. Remember that the O above the nut means that you include that string. Can you name the notes that occupy the playable open positions?
C Minor Scale In Tab
In tab form, the natural C Minor scale looks like the diagram shown. This is the same fingering pattern I gave you above that started at the third fret of the fifth string. Notice that the staff indicates three flats. It also means we are in the key of C minor.
Melodic and Harmonic Minor Scales
I mentioned there were two other minor scale forms: the melodic minor scale and the harmonic minor scale. Here are the differences. In the melodic minor scale, you raise the sixth and seventh notes of the scale by a half step. That means that instead of the natural C Minor scale sequence, C – D – E♭ – F – G – A♭ – B♭ – C, the melodic C Minor scale sequence is C – D – E♭ – F – G – A – B – C. Here is what it looks like as a scale and in tab.
In the harmonic minor scale, you raise the seventh note of the scale by a half step. That means that instead of the natural C Minor scale sequence,
C – D – E♭ – F – G – A♭ – B♭ – C, the harmonic C Minor scale sequence is
C – D – E♭ – F – G – A♭ – B – C. Here is what it looks like as a scale and in tab.
Even though the melodic minor scale and harmonic minor scale exist, it is more likely that the natural minor scale is what you will be playing. You just need to be aware of the other two variations. In future minor chord layout I will stick to the natural minor scale for chord diagrams and tab.
Well, that’s a wrap on this lesson. We learned about chord diagrams, touched on tablature or tab, how minor chords are constructed, learned two of the very many variations of the natural C Minor chord and scale, then looked at those variations in chord diagrams and in tab. Next we looked at the two additional variations in the C Minor scale: the melodic minor scale and the harmonic minor scale.
Next time we’ll spend some time with seventh chords and that should give you a well-rounded basic knowledge of the C key family. Two other forms of scales that we will briefly cover are the major and minor pentatonic scales. Pentatonic scales are the foundation of playing lead guitar.
Practice what you’ve learned here in this lesson. Practice! Practice! Practice!
Until next time…
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