Guitar Music Theory by Desi Serna
Guitarist, teacher, author, and owner of Guitar-Music-Theory.com, Desi Serna, takes you beyond guitar basics, presenting intermediate and advanced level information on how music works and gets applied to the guitar fretboard. Through Desi’s website, blog posts, books, and videos, you receive the instruction you need to increase your knowledge of music, understand the construction of popular songs, and improve your improvisational and compositional skills.
The guitar instruction available on this website is based on Desi’s popular books, Fretboard Theory, Fretboard Theory Volume II, Guitar Theory For Dummies, and Guitar Rhythm and Technique For Dummies. Desi is also the author of How To Teach Guitar and Start Your Own Music Instruction Business.
If you already have a handle on the basics of guitar playing and you want to take your knowledge and skills to the next level and beyond, then peruse the website, read a blog article, watch a free video, join the email list, and become a Fretboard Theory member.
What is Guitar Theory?
What is guitar theory? While music theory pertains to music in general, guitar theory pertains to the guitar specifically. Typically, this includes only those aspects of music that enable guitarists to find their way around the fretboard, play music, and compose. You won’t get far on guitar without learning chord shapes, scale patterns, chord progressions, note positions, and intervals. You won’t accomplish much if you don’t understand keys, modes, harmony, chord relationships, and scale applications to some degree. Without some understanding of rhythm and without developing technique your playing will never take shape. By learning guitar theory, you equip yourself to play songs, compose your own music, and improvise. Learn more about guitar theory
What Scales Should a Guitar Player Learn?
In music, a scale is a series of notes played in ascending and descending fashion. Scale notes make patterns on the fretboard, which guitarists finger and pick position to position. Guitar players use scales to play melodies, riffs, solos, and bass lines.
There are countless types of scales that can be played on guitar, but did you know that popular music is mostly based on just two types of patterns? That’s right. Familiar genres of music like pop, rock, blues, and country use scale patterns based on the pentatonic scale and major scale. Another type of scale, the harmonic minor, is worked into these patterns on occasion. If you want to be successful playing popular styles of music, then you need to focus your attention on these indispensable scales. Learn more about guitar scales
What is the Secret to Building and Using Chord Forms on Guitar?
There are literally thousands of different kinds of chords and chord shapes that can be played on the guitar, but did you know that most are related in some way to just five core forms? In the open position the five forms are C, A, G, E, and D. What does that spell? CAGED. With the guitar CAGED chord system, you barre each of the five open forms and move around the neck playing different chords in other positions, but that’s only the beginning!
You see, the CAGED system doesn’t end with making barre chords. Each chord form has a related arpeggio pattern. The notes from each arpeggio pattern are used to make all sorts of chord shapes. And these chords aren’t just used for strumming. Lead guitarists use the CAGED system to map out chord tones within scale patterns, and then they target these notes while they solo so that their lead lines are guided by notes relating closely to the chords and progression. Learn more about the guitar CAGED chord system
How Do Guitarists Play Chord Progressions and Use the Number System?
Music is always based on movement, whether it be melodic movement, chordal movement, or, in most cases, both. Almost every song is composed using a group of chords that move from one to another. A chord progression is the way in which chords are put together to form a series of chord changes. As chords change they determine the music’s movement and a song’s structure. Composing a chord progression requires you to understand relationships between chords and concepts involving the way chords lead to and pass from one another. Learn more about guitar chord progressions and playing by numbers
What Are Modes and How Do Guitarists Play Modal Scales?
One of the biggest mistakes guitar players make is to assume that the modal concept is just a theoretical idea that doesn’t really have a practical purpose, but this is not true. Most music is based in a mode in one way or another and recognizing modes is critical to understanding how music works. Chord progressions, melodies, harmonies, riffs, lead guitar solos, and bass lines are all derived from modal scales in some fashion. Understanding the modal concept is absolutely necessary if you want to become a knowledgeable, versatile player.
In a nutshell, here’s how modes work. The major scale has seven notes, and any one of them can be used as the starting point, or the primary pitch, of a piece of music. In other words, you don’t always have to base music off of the first degree and chord of the major scale. The sound of the scale changes depending on which degree is primary. Learn more about guitar modes and modal scales
How Do Guitar Players Learn the Fretboard?
With a combination of vertical frets and horizontal strings, the fretboard (or fingerboard) is essentially a grid. When arranged and played on this fretboard grid, notes, scales, chords, and progressions make shapes and patterns. Guitarists visualize these shapes and patterns in order to navigate around the neck. Furthermore, guitarists understand how musical elements fit together by fitting their pieces together like a puzzle. In fact, you can build chords, compose chord progressions, and determine correct scales to play simply by relating to shapes and patterns, with little or no regard to key signatures, notes, sharps, and flats. Even if you take the traditional route of thinking, you still have to translate the music concepts to the fretboard and connect the dots, so to speak. This is why guitarists usually prefer to make use of guitar tablature and neck diagrams over standard notation. Learn more about the guitar fretboard
About Desi Serna
Desi Serna guitar music theory Hailed as a “music-theory expert” by Rolling Stone magazine, guitarist Desi Serna is a music instructor and author who has written several books on guitar including Fretboard Theory, Fretboard Theory Volume II, Guitar Theory For Dummies, Guitar Rhythm and Technique For Dummies, and How To Teach Guitar and Start Your Own Music Instruction Business. He is known for his practical, hands-on approach to music teaching, with a focus on the guitar fretboard and emphasis on popular songs. Desi honed his craft through decades of teaching, performing, and publishing. He lives in the Nashville, Tennessee area, produces all the video instruction featured in the member area, and is online everyday connecting with his customers and giving guitar players personalized training and support.