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Comments (107)

Hey. I have a few questions. I was skimming the videos and the book and I’m still a bit confused. I understand how to use the CAGED method for major scales and pen tonics. However, I can’t seem to understand how you can apply the caged method for minor scales, modes, and the blues scale. Also can you apply the same concept to the F major scale and etc.

See Fretboard Theory Chapter 4: Five is the Magic Number. On page 58 I talk about how to mix the minor pentatonic with minor CAGED system.


Play Until Yer Fingers Bleed!
Mr. Desi Serna
Website: http://Guitar-Music-Theory.com
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i have a big time problem with singing and playing the guitar simultaneously. Please help me out .

Singing and playing guitar can be tricky for a beginner but it’s not impossible. A sense of good timing, rhythm and ability to combine two actions at once will come with practice and dedication. My website, books and DVDs focus on music theory for guitar with very few references to technique. But there is a great article posted on WikiHow that outlines a good method for developing the ability to strum guitar and sing at the same time. I suggest you try working through their steps.


Desi, I enjoy the lessons. I have something for you to add, how a capo works. My wife plays the keyboard in the key of f flat major. So I am trying to figure out how to play the f, bflat, and c using g, c, and d chord shapes. Where do I place the capo. I tried way up on the fretboard but just does not seem to go. Appreciate some help.

I think you mean F major, not F FLAT major (that would be E), right?

Using a capo requires that you know the root of each chord shape you use and also the notes on strings 6 and 5. In Fretboard Theory Chapter 3 I teach the CAGED system, which includes learning where the root of each chord shape is located in the form. In Fretboard Theory Chapter 1 I teach you how to learn the notes along strings 6 and 5.

When you place a capo on a fret and then play common open chord forms (like G, C, D, etc.) you must look at the root in each chord form and determine what note it actually is in the new position. With a little examination you can play in any key.

For example, if you place a capo at the 3rd fret, then a common open D chord becomes an F (because the root of the D shape is the open 4th string which the capo is holding at fret 3, F). A G shape will give you a Bb and an A shape will give you a C.

Yes Desi you are right it is F maj. I thought because it used the flat accidentals or on the side of the wheel of fifths that uses flats it would be a flat major. I have your fretboard theory material and that is how I figured it out. I have actually been using the capo at the fifth fret and using C maj. open for the f and G open for C. That just sounds weird and it works. I will try the one you mentioned also. Thank you. Wouldn’t it be nice though to have all this laid out on paper to just look at? By the way Fretboard theory is a great course and I would recommend it to anyone just starting guitar. By the way how can you embellish those chords?

Chord embellishments are covered in Fretboard Theory Chapter 10: Extensions.

I tried the third fret capo, AWESOME!

This is an old post I know however is that ALWAYS true that no matter what fret you put the capo on, as long as you pick out the root of the chord you are playing?

Not sure I understand your question. Can you elaborate?

Thank you again Desi, another question maybe you can help me with. I am running my electric guitar straight into a PA system along with my wife’s keyboard and a mic. My wife had told me my guitar sounded awful and we recorded it. Sure enough it does. The banging of the strings is really strongly heard. I lowered the pickups as far as they go and changed strings. That helped. I heard you can mic your amp but I recorded my amp and same problem. Any suggestions?
Thanks a lot.

Not sure what’s causing the problem with your guitar sound. It could be your technique.

I know this Q&A has been posted awhile back but if Charles is still looking for PA tips & Desi doesn’t mind,I can offer some helpful pointers..Whenever your using your amp through a PA your normal amp volume/EQ settings in a free-air performance need to be adjusted slightly to compensate for the added vol/EQ you gain through the PA’s console..With free-air applications (e.g. just an amp on it’s own in a coffee house or garage rehearsal) you set your amps volume/EQ,FX pedals,etc until you achieve the sound that is desirable to you & your bandmates because in these situations your amp is your own personal PA..When using anything that involves a soundboard/console such as PA systems,multi-track recording equipment,etc. your plugging into something that gives more volume & EQ options/capabilities which slightly changes the way you would normally setup/EQ your amp when using it by itself..The method I use is to EQ my amp at a low volume of about 1.5,use my PA channels volume as a master volume & fine tune my overall PA sound with my PA channels EQ options…Another good idea for you & your wife to try if the PA is in stereo is to “slightly” pan away from each other…Try panning your wife slightly to the right or left & then pan yourself the same amount in the opposite direction..This will result with your instrument being slightly louder in one speaker & your wife slightly louder in the opposite speaker but you’ll both still be heard overall by your audience..If your wife is the only one singing then center her mic & if your singin backup center your mic as well but with a slightly lower volume so as not drown out the lead vocal,but rather,compliment it..

Hope this can still help out..

Desi – I want to order all five pieces. I know I can play the DVDs on my home desktop computer and take them with me when I travel and play them on my laptop. If I download the material can I put it on my laptop as well as my desktop ?

I’d like the DVDs mainly to make sure I don’t lose the lessons if the computer crashes. If I download the lessons, can I back them up on another hard drive in case my computer fails? If I have the DVDs that wouldn’t be a problem.

The downloaded files also run a lot faster on a computer than DVDs. So can I download it and back it up? Thanks ! Bruce

As long as you don’t share, post or sell the video files, you can use them on your own devices however you want. I definitely recommend backing them up.

Could you please tell me why the 4th and 7th notes were removed from the major pentatonic scale and the 2nd and 6th from the minor pentatonic scale. Thanks For Your Help . PS Your theory book has been very helpful.

According to Wikipedia, “The ubiquity of pentatonic scales, specifically anhemitonic (without semitones) modes, can be attributed to the total lack of the most dissonant intervals between any pitches; there are neither any minor seconds (and therefore also no complementary major sevenths) nor any tritones. This means any pitches of such a scale may be played in any order or combination without clashing.”

Let me put that in simple terms…

Major modes (Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian) have different 4ths and 7ths but they all contain a full major pentatonic scale. Likewise, all minor modes (Dorian, Phrygian and Aeolian) have different 2nds and 6ths but they all contain a full minor pentatonic scale.

See my blog post Pentatonic Scales Within Major Scale

For this reason, pentatonic scales are easier to apply because you don’t have to give any consideration to the mode and full parent major scale (see Fretboard Theory Chapter 7: Roots, Keys and Applying Scales). And with only 5 notes they’re easier to play too!

Hey, I’m just reading your wonderful book and I’ve learned so much so far; although I am confused on how to begin Major scales for certain keys. For example I know that G Major begins with pattern one on the second fret of the E string. But How would I know what to do for the others? What is the formula, I guess, for discerning where the Major keys start?

Fretboard Theory page 69 illustrates major scale patterns along with roots and reference chords. The black dots are the roots. The black AND gray dots are a reference chord shape. That key is G because the roots (black dots) are G and the reference chord (black AND gray dots) is G. Shift this pattern to different frets to play in different keys and keep track of the roots and reference chord as you go (I show you how to move everything to the key of C on page 71).

I bought the kindle version, I love it by the way! I was wondering if there was a way to print some of the diagrams? My 7″ Samsung tablet just doesn’t have a big enough screen to view the diagrams for practicing.


I would think that the diagrams would be too small on a Kindle too. Unfortunately I’m not able to offer any support. The Kindle version is distributed strictly through Amazon. But you can definitely print the PDF I sell at my own website. http://guitar-music-theory.com/download-order.html I offer discounts to existing customers who need to buy items that they already own in a different format. Email me directly and I can send you a coupon code.

I’m learn Change the world, by Eric Clapton. I’m working on the solo.

I have the correct tablature (songbook) but there are many notes that doesn’t fit in the E major pentatonic or E major scale.

I figured out that the root is E major and the key is also E major. The chord progression of the solo is: E F#m7 Gadd2. So I think the solo is build with the E major pentatonic and adding notes of the E major scale.

I did this picture, it’s the E major scale over the E major pentatonic. The white squares are the notes that doesn’t fit.


PD: I’ve read your book and I’m finally learning something applicable, it’s the best I’ve found.

Excuse my english I’m from South America.

What you have here is a key change (a.k.a. “modal interchange” or “borrowed chord”). There are many key changes in this song. You can’t play a single major scale over the whole thing.

The solos are played over the E7 F#m7 G chords. Clapton treats it like a blues and plays the E minor pentatonic. It fits perfectly. Try it!

Hi. I’m reviewing all sorts of Guitar theory method books. I can’t seem to find anything about you, the author, on any website linked to this material. Where were you trained? What is your experience playing? What is your experience training? Who are your major influences? Why did you decide to write your own book? Basically — when we read all these things you’re teaching, how do we know you are qualified to present such information?

My name is Desi Serna. I have a brief bio posted at: http://www.guitar-music-theory.com/desi-serna/ You can read my reviews at: http://amzn.to/q7nJqh You can also learn more about what I offer by doing a Google search for “Desi Serna”. And you can sample my materials free at: http://Guitar-Music-Theory.com/free

Hi, If I’m playing a blues in the key of E, I could use the E minor pent to build licks, that is what I know so far.

But here is my question, I noticed that when someone is soloing or doing a turnaround you can “hear” the chords involved. For example the change from E7 to A7. When they play over E7 you hear E7 and then when they play over A7 you hear A7. I bet the are not changing the scale.

Here is an example, around 1:49, he is playing over E7 and then over A7, but you can here the change.


It’s has something to do with the notes of the chords? If it’s that so, are licks that you can learn for certaing chords in certain keys?

Thank you

You hear the chord change because he was playing the root A (open A string with his thumb) and emphasizing notes of A7 (A C# E G) in the scale (specifically he was targeting the G at the 3rd fret of string 1). So he was practically just playing an A7 chord.

DESI,i posted a mail but it will not publish,whats the problem.

Sorry, I did not understand your comments and was not sure how to respond to them.

Hey Desi I used to be a student of yours long ago a durdels. I was wondering about the harmonic minor scale used for soloing. Can i use it over the major scale chord progression or do i have to use the harmonic minor chord progression.I like the sound of the scale but the progression sounds kind of funky to me. if used over the major scale the 6 chord would have to always be the root right? im confused I know it is a common scale used but how? Thanks your book is very helpfull hope to see more books in the future.

I remember you, Aric. Thanks for the question. I don’t cover the harmonic minor scale in my Fretboard Theory guitar theory course, I’m actually planning on covering it in volume 2. In the meantime, I should stress that the info I teach in the first series is necessary in order to develop an understanding of the harmonic minor scale. So be sure to learn all about using pentatonic and major scales, modes, chord progressions and playing by numbers before venturing into more complex topics.

As a quick explanation, the harmonic minor scale stems from the 6th mode, Aeolian (natural minor). One degree of the scale is raised in order to create a dominant seventh V (5) chord. For example, in Em you would raise the D note to D#. This changes the B minor chord to B major (or B7 if you add the 7th). Usually, the harmonic minor scale is only applied over the V chord, and the scale returns to natural minor over everything else. You hear this done in the song “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. You can also hear this done in “Smooth” by Santana but in the key of Am. In “Smooth” the notes of Am (A B C D E F G) change over the E7 chord to A B C D E F G#. G# changes the Em chord to E major (or E7).

When I say “V chord” I’m counting from the minor root, not the major root as is taught in Fretboard Theory. Volume 2 will also include a chapter on renumbering chords.

Hello. I was curious.
Say I play a Cadd9 on my guitar, then a G. The key would be C?

Those two chords combined can fit into the key of C and the key of G. They’d either be I V or IV I. See Fretboard Theory Chapter 6: Chord Progressions and Playing by Numbers. That chapter is also available on a DVD. Sign up for a free preview.

Hi Desi, As i have purchased the whole set i am skimming thru everything quickly so i can see what to expect, boy! lots of stuff to learn, so i have gone back to the start. I am just wondering do you have dvds that teach to play songs, i cant stand seeing you showing progressions, showing caged chords etc etc and then you start playing a part of a song, and then stop!!! what a teaser you are! lol! Then you say to go and get the song, but need you to show how to play it.Would love to see you have a dvd, where you can teach a song.

Thanks for the message. I really appreciate the feedback. I’ve tried to get permission to sell song lessons but the publishers won’t let me. But I have songs posted for free on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/user/GuitarMusicTheoryTab

Hi Desi,

many thanks for making fretbord theory plain to me. Book and Video are produced very clearly and comprehendible and are worth their price several times. I didn’t find anything comparable. Now I ask for further Information concerning the naming of the Patterns. Is for example Minor Pattern 1 the same as Major Pattern 5(and so on) or is Minor Pattern 1 the same as Major Pattern 1 only by starting from the corresponding root note? How would you name it correctly?

I wouldn’t dwell on the pentatonic scale pattern numbers because they’re meaningless. I numbered the patterns the way I was taught and the way that I see them numbered most of the time, but occasionally I see them numbered differently. The important thing is too visualize the shapes and how they connect. Also, keep track of the root and what chord/progression you’re playing over.

Hi Desi,

Sorry if this is posted somewhere already, but what book/DVD do you recommend people to start with?

I recommend you follow the outline of my book Fretboard Theory. Four chapters are available on DVD.http://guitar-music-theory.com/download-order.html

Hi Desi

I have listened to your podcasts and have found them enlightening. So much so, that I would like to purchase your “chord progressions and playing by numbers” DVD. I am based in the uk and wonder if your dvd’s are multi region or just region 1.
Can you shed some light on this for me as I am eager to place an order today.



Thanks for your interest in my materials, Paul. My guitar theory DVDs have no region codes. You can play them in any country. They’re also available as digital downloads.

i don’t know if my question got through in the forum, so i’ll just post it here. on one of your podcast on intervals you mentioned that the song smoke on the water was in the key of g minor but how do you connect it to the major scale? would it end up being in a different key signature? does that make any sense? basically how is a song in the key of g minor if the scale starts major?

Yes, “Smoke On the Water” by Deep Purple centers on a G minor tonality, but there’s some other stuff in there too. The opening riff features a b2 and b5 (ala the blues scale). The b2 is used again in the chorus for the Ab chord. As far as the parent major scale, the song doesn’t fit into one key and actually has elements from all three minor modes. The chords in the verse, Gm and F, could fit in G Aeolian mode (Bb major scale) or G Dorian mode (F major scale). The chorus uses a C major chord which is G Dorian and also an Ab which is G Phrygian (Eb major scale). Long story short, keep it simple and just use the G minor pentatonic!

if someone tells you to play a single chord for example Emin7b5 for example how do you know what scale to base this information off of. what scale is the 7th interval coming from? do you just look for the 3rd and the 5th and decipher the scale from there? also is that chord branched from a G major scale?

i meant to say F major fight?

Everything is measured by the major scale. An Emin7b5 has a root, minor 3rd (aka b3), b7th and a b5th. This chord occurs diatonically (naturally) in the F major scale. It’s the seventh degree of the F major scale. I teach chord construction in Fretboard Theory chapters 6 and 10. Intervals are taught in chapter 9.

Do you have any idea when volume two of fretboard theory will be coming out? I’m super excited!

Thanks for your interest in Fretboard Theory Volume 2. I’m excited too! It’s still in the works. I hope to release it this year.


I am really enjoying the videos and book. I am learning alot (wish I would have done this sooner…lol) My question is where is a good place to find accurate tabs of different songs. I have noticed that many online are not completely accurate.


To get the best guitar tab you’ll need to pay for it. The websites below are the best sources for complete, accurate, fully licensed and legal guitar tab.



I see now that United we Tab has now shut its doors, can you recomend another site to look to as a good source of guitar tabs?

I updated my free guitar tab page. Toward the bottom you can see what websites I now recommend for guitar tab.

Dear Desi,
I came upon you by accident searching a praise guitar site and hearing you play ”
Holy, Holy Holy”. I was blessed to do so. I sought you out and subsequently purchased
everything you have published in hard copy and DVD, including your teaching guitar book, and could not be more pleased. I wish they were available when I began playing in 1961….yes that makes me a senior!
I look forward to your vol. 2.
Have you considered producing a DVD for major scales? I will be first in line to purchase.
God bless you in all your undertakings.

Thanks for posting. I really appreciate the feedback. I don’t have a major scales DVD, but I have lots of free major scale songs on YouTube. Just click that link.

Yes, I know you have lots of major scale songs on Youtube and, thank you for that. But, back to my original question, have you considered producing a DVD for learning major scales? This would be a great prequel for your Guitar Theory series. Again, I will be first in line to purchase.

God bless.

Hi Desi,

I’m struggling to get my head around modes. More specifically jamming in modes.

I know the major scale. I understand the boxes of the mode. Ionian, Dorian etc etc. I know the aeolian is the natural minor scale. All good..

But, say if I want to play to a Dorian jam track, I can find my way to box two or to position two of the Ionian box/mode. But I don’t know where to go from there.

If I want to play a C Dorian, I’m literally stuck to playing the intervals from the C root notes across the fret board.

(Not sure if I’m making myself clear)

I just struggle to get my head around that they’re all the same notes! Ie E major Ionian scale has the same notes as F# Dorian.

Good question. Have you seen my modes DVD? It will clear everything up.

Guitar Modes – The Modal Scales of Popular Music DVD

Thanks, will buy next pay day.

Hey Desi,
I was wanting to check in & see if you’ve set a release date yet for Vol.2 of your Fretboard Theory Book & DVD’s??…Also very curious as to what this next volume will be covering?…Im hoping that Vol.2 will go deeper into chord building & cover the remaining chord formula’s beyond the Maj/Min Triad & possibly cover the point & purpose of the circle of 5ths & how it can be applied in practice/theory..I’m sure I could sit here day & list off all the knowledge I’m hoping to see in Vol.2 but most of my Q&A is being recorded into my notebook for postings on your forum..lol..But until I get some net-time I figure I’d see if you might give us a breakdown of the content you’ll be including in your next lessons..Thx

Thanks for your interest in my new book, Tim. Could be done in a month or two. It’s going to cover everything you mentioned and more. Stay tuned!

Hi Desi,
Looking forward to volume 2 of Fretboard theory.

Suggestions of topics I would like covered.

Modal interchange and borrowed chords, parallel keys.
The concept of a relative minor/major.
Circle of fiths/forths
Changing keys between songs of a gig set (building a bridge between the keys)
Secondary dominants

When is volume 2 due for release?


Those are exactly the topics I’ll be covering in the new book and more! Fretboard Theory Volume II could be available in as little as a month. Stay tuned…

Desi Qs

I bought your Book and DVDs and finding them extremely helpful and clear.

I have a question:
Is there a system for writing songs in a minor key ?
ie. The way the major scale dictates the chord choices for a certain key – Can you use a minor scale to determine the building blocks for a song in a minor key ?
Or are all songs based on major keys but some have a minor tonality ?

Really looking forward to book 2

Good question. There are such things as minor keys. But they do not require you to build chords off of a different scale. All of the primary scales stem from the common major scale in the form of modes. For example, if a song is revolving around the sixth degree of a major scale, or the vi (6) chord, and your ear hears that scale degree as the tonal center and root, then you’re in a minor key. The vi chord is minor, and beginning the scale from the sixth degree creates minor scale intervals (but you’re still moving through the same exact patterns that are used for a plain major scale or any of the other modes, you’re just revolving around a different scale degree). The G major scale can also be the E minor scale, same patterns and chords. In G major you’d revolved around the G so that it sounds like the tonal center and root. In Em you’d revolve around the E.

Once you learn how to build chords from the major scale and play the major/minor chord sequence by numbers you actually have the minor scale down too (and all the other modes). A chord progression can revolve around any scale degree. In other words, any number in the chord pattern can be home base. The natural minor scale is based on the sixth scale degree and chord. So for example, Am, Dm and Em would be a vi, ii, iii (6, 2, 3 all minor) chord progression based on the C major scale. You hear this in the song “Maria, Maria” by Santana. Since the Am is functioning as the root you really should call this the A minor scale (or A Aeolian mode) rather than C major but they are the same notes and chords either way. Some musicians like to renumber the chords and always refer to the root as chord number one. If you counted out the C major scale chords STARTING WITH A MINOR, then the “Maria, Maria” progression becomes i, iv, v (1, 4, 5 all minor).

I recommend that you also read my previous blog post, Major and Minor Keys


I bought your book and I really have been enjoying the content so far!

I have many questions though….before I start, I apologize if these are already addressed in the book or here.

Is there a possible way to determine if a guitarist is not playing in standard tuning? For example, I noticed in your book that some songs are listed with open G tuning.
Will vol. 2 cover anything about other tunings?

I also noticed that you don’t recommend guitar exercises because they won’t be experienced in reality. What songs can be played that really exercise your hand and also incorporate the use of the pinkie?

Thanks again for the great book!

You can sometimes recognize open tunings when the 6th string is tuned down. It’s obvious because you hear a pitch lower than the low E. Some players can recognize the sound of an open string and adjust their guitars to any other tuning differences in a song. But the best way to determine a tuning is to get the sheet music! That’s why I do. You can go to http://musicnotes.com and search for songs. Each song includes a free preview, page one of the score which has the tuning info on it.

A great exercise for your 4th pinky finger is to play up and down all the five pentatonic scale patterns using one finger per fret. You can do the same thing with guitar major scale patterns. Also, see my pentatonic and major scale playlists on YouTube for good songs to learn. http://www.youtube.com/user/GuitarMusicTheoryTab

Hi, Desi! Just wanted to say first of all that learning the shapes and the way things fit changed my guitar learning experience completely. Thanks!

Second, is there any order you would recommend learning everything? Or just go straight through the book? Maybe practice a little of each chapter every day?

As a general guideline, you can follow the outline of my book Fretboard Theory. After a quick review, the first main topic it tackles is the pentatonic scale which is also available on DVD. But if you’re primarily a rhythm guitar player, then you could start with chapter 6 (chord progressions) or 3 (CAGED system), both of which are also available on DVD.

I’ve already started learning the major scales and I am interested in buying the book advertised to follow on with chords and so on. However, I’ve noticed that some of the major scale patterns can be played in slightly different ways for a few of the scales in CAGED. It would be good to know if the book uses the same patterns that I’ve learned or not. I don’t particularly want to learn any alternative patterns at the moment.

Major scales are usually taught as either 5 or 7 patterns. Really, they’re both the same. The difference is just in how you break up the neck and shift from position to position. I talk about this a bit in my book, Fretboard Theory. With this said, I teach 5 patterns.

As for combining the CAGED system with major scale patterns, there are a few ways to do it because of the possibility of modes. For example, in the open position you can combine a C chord shape with major scale pattern 3 (as I teach it). This produces C Ionian mode, which is the plain C major scale. But if you’re playing a song in C Mixolydian mode, then you need to mix the same open C chord shape with major scale pattern 1 (again, as I teach it). Mixing the same chord with pattern 5 creates C Lydian mode. The same is true for minor chord shapes.

As you can see, there’s more to mixing chord shapes and scale patterns than you think. Knowing how to apply scales correctly is a crucially important skill. I discuss all of this in Fretboard Theory.

When will Fretboard Theory Volume II be available on Amazon Kindle?

Working on it right now. Should be up in a week or so.

Hi Desi,

I received all of your DVD’s and Fretboard Theory book for Christmas 2 years ago (form my wishlist) and am FINALLY going through them. Great stuff that I wish I learned years ago.

I was just listening to Podcast 3 about practicing Pentatonic scales and am confused. At around the 21 minute mark, you are discussing how the second half of pattern 1 is reused in pattern 2, etc. When I look at the pattern diagram, this doesn’t seem to be the case in that the starting position for pattern 2 is one fret down from the position on the G string in Pattern 1. I’m sure I am mis-understanding what you are saying. Can you please clarify that? Thanks very much!

Hi, Vincent. E minor pentatonic pattern one, as I teach it in Fretboard Theory, uses all of the open strings plus the 3rd fret of strings 6, 2 and 1, and then the 2nd fret of strings 5, 4 and 3. It’s the notes in frets 2 and 3 that get reused to build pattern two. The notes in pattern two in frets 4 and 5 get reused for pattern three, and so on.

Hey, I just found your stuff, but what I am most intrigued in is your ability to make a play along track! I look every where for play along tracks for Pearl Jam specifically, and I saw you had Last Kiss: I really would like to know how you did this! I can’t find any good track out there! So my question is, How do you make a play along? Thanks for your help! ~Adderman

“Last Kiss” and many of the other play along guitar backing tracks on my site were made from MIDI files, MIDI software and a MIDI sound module. Specifically, I used Cubase to program the MIDI information and a Roland Sound Canvas 8850 for all the instrument sounds. I also purchased preprogrammed MIDI files from TranTracks, opened the files in Cubase, played everything through my sound module and then back into Cubase as audio. This is kind of a difficult process. If you’re not familiar with it, then I recommend searching for audio tracks that are already completed. I have more info on my jam tracks page. You can also search for keywords like “guitar jam tracks” and find websites that sell them.

I made my guitar modes tracks using a guitar and a Boss Loop Station.

Thanks a lot! Its a big help for me, and you responded so quick! Thanks again!

Hi Desi,

I highly rate your podcasts and Fretboard Theory volumes. The podcasts on Lead and Mode Scales and Chapter 7 Vol II have really taken my playing to a next level.
Just a query on the right minor mode(s) to think about in Led Zep’s Stairway to Heaven . Basic Am pentatonic lead pattern fits over all the song no question but would it be fair to say the Intro and beginning bits sound better with A Dorian lead- because the chord progression is based on chords stemming from the G Major Scale (with an added Fmaj7 for a small bit?)..if I use an F note playing over this section it sounds off but the F# does the trick (which you find in A Dorian of course). But I don’t understand why the F bums so much if there’s a little bit of Fmaj7 in that section?
But then things change for the solo at 5.55 mins, it’s based over just Am, G, Fmaj7 – during that progression the F note comes in nicely but that would not make it
A Dorian, it makes it A Aoelian (and even A Phrygian sounds fair game for a bit too) . Does this happen because the F gets more weighting during this section? Or is there something else going on?
In your book you overcome this by emphasising the chord tones in the solo progression and imposing them on the standard Am lead pattern. I get that, but I couldn’t get the notes to flow thinking about the chord tones, but it clicked thinking about the modal patterns I learned from your work – the fingers did the rest and the ears approved!
So just wanted to say a big thanks for opening up this understanding of music to me and strongly recommend your work to any aspiring guitarist. I just hope I’m thinking the right way about the effect that Fmaj7 chord has throughout ‘Stairway..’ on the modal choices to make whilst improvising over the song.
Keep up your good work!

Good question. Stairway uses something called modal interchange. This is when you mix and borrow chords from parallel scales, like A minor and A Dorian mode. See Fretboard Theory Volume II Chapter 4: Key Changes.

When this happens, you must switch scales to correspond to the chords, or avoid any troublesome notes, in this case the Fs.

I see you sort your mail before you post it.
Probably a good idea.
Although, I think you should have gone to a good music school before you tackled guitar theory, you’ve probably got the best system out there – so far.
If you had started with a single note and watched the music grow, I would really have been impressed.
if you ended with secondary dominants, or with why Jimi used 11 out of the 12 notes in western 12 tone music I might have tossed my books in the trash and followed you as the pied piper. however, looks like it’s back to the future for me.

Hi Desi. I think I own every thing you have put out, and the podcasts make things ring crystal clear. You are an awesome teacher.
I have a question about your book Guitar Theory for Dummies. I’ve looked all over and can’t seem to find the ” on line content ” that goes with the book. Can you direct me to it?
THANK YOU SO MUCH for all that you do

See Guitar Theory For Dummies Introduction page 3 under the heading “Beyond the Book.” That’s where you’ll find the link to the online content.


I am a music teacher, and theory is my passion. I just discovered your podcast, and I am enjoying your take on theory. It is nice to review the basics and see things from your point of view. Please continue the podcasts.

Hello Desi!
I love your website and answers.Lately I have been experimenting with modal scales and i am amused by locrian mode as i find it really difficult to get some good sounding musical phrases, and all other locrian stuff i try to play sounds plain and monotonous.How do you approach locrian mode?What kind of sound do you think locrian mode has?(sad,dark,horror,powerful?).How to get good musical ideas?
Thank you very much!

As I state in my guitar theory books and DVDs, I don’t use Locrian mode. I can’t give you a single example of it being used in popular music.

Hi Desi,

It seems that Fretboard Theory is derived considerably from Fretboard Logic by Bill Edwards and yet I don’t see any attribution to Bill in your materials.

Have you considered giving him credit?

- Doug

Hi, Doug. There are a few similarities between Fretboard Theory and Fretboard Logic because both books deal with chords and scales for guitar, but other than that the two methods are quite different. My course focuses heavily on application including popular music and song references, something I don’t think Bill Edwards’ books address much. With this said, Fretboard Logic is a great book and a very successful series. I think Edwards helped to shift the focus from traditional instruction that emphasizes notation to a modern perspective that visualizes shapes and patterns on the guitar fretboard.

Hi Desi,

Yes, Fretboard Theory does have an excellent, very useful focus on application to specific songs.

My understanding is that the CAGED understanding of the structure of the guitar fretboard created by the ancient, odd 444434 tuning of the guitar is something that Bill essentially rediscovered and articulated and that it was not part of modern guitar instruction before the publication of Fretboard Logic.

Is that your understanding too?

Thanks for all your good work.
- Doug

The CAGED system has certainly been in existence since the beginning of standard tuning, after all, there is no other way to build chords and arpeggios on the fretboard, but perhaps Bill’s book was the first one to bring attention to it and achieve popularity. You see it everywhere now, so it’s hard to know where the method originated. I wonder who was the first to teach five pentatonic scale patterns…

There is so much about the evolution of music making and the teaching of it from generation to generation that we will never know.

I wonder who came up with standard tuning and how well they actually understood why it works so well.

I think of Bill’s accomplishment as like digging up some old Rosetta stone that shed light on something that was used but not really understood before he explained it in the way he did.

Thanks for the discussion.
I appreciate it.

- Doug

Hi Desi,

I purchased the “Guitar Chord Progressions & Playing By Numbers” DVD, and I really enjoyed it.

Does this mean that “All Along The Watchtower” as played by Hendrix ( Am, G, F) is actually in the Key of C???

Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” is played in the position of C# minor, but with guitars tuned down a half-step to Eb. I’ll treat the notes as if they were in standard tuning…

The progression, centers on the chord C#m and includes B major and A major. These chords are vi, V and IV (six, five, four) out of the E major scale, but because the music centers on the 6th degree, the music is actually in the relative minor, C# minor (also called the natural minor or Aeolian mode). If you renumber the scale to reflect the C# starting position, then the progression by numbers is i-bVII-bVI (one, flat-seven, flat-six).

You play E major scale patterns over the chords, however since the 6th degree is functioning as the tonic (primary note) the sound you produce is really that of C# minor. Focus on C#, not E, as you play the scale patterns.

You can also simply play C# minor pentatonic scale patterns instead of the full minor scale.

Interestingly, Hendrix incorporates an A# in the song’s open solo. Normally the scale would include a b6th, A natural.

I’m loving your book fretboard theory but have one question. When referring to pentotonic scales, caged form G fits into pattern 1 but when referring the major scale, caged form G fits into pattern 5. Is there a significant reason why pattern numbers are taught different between major and pentotonic scales?

The numbers are arbitrary with each set of scale patterns and chord shapes. You’ll sometimes see what I teach as pentatonic pattern 1 taught as 2, with my pattern 5 taught as 1, and so on. The CAGED forms don’t go in an particular order—you could start on any form and connect to the others—but, obviously, if you start on the “C form” then you spell the word CAGED, which is easy to remember. The major scales can actually be mixed in a few different ways. If you’re playing in G Ionian mode (the plain major scale), then yes, my major scale pattern 5 fits with the G form, but if you’re playing in G Mixolydian mode, then my pattern 3 fits with the G form. In Lydian mode, my pattern 2 fits with the G form. You’ll get to know this after finishing Fretboard Theory.

The pattern numbers are really just there for initial reference, and I base my numbers off of what I commonly see others do. As a guitar player, you eventually want to ignore the pattern numbers and focus instead on the different ways the chord forms and scale patterns fit together.

I hope this helps.

USPS is unreliable here. How do you ship your books to USA addresses?

i need some patches and tone details for line6 pod hd 500 buddy. . .it will be helpful if u do some suggestions in this ?

I’m sorry, but I’m currently not a POD HD user.


Love the podcasts!

I was listening to the Podcast 11 with Joe Robinson. What song is he playing at roughly the 35 min mark, shortly after he plays Mr. Lucky by Jerry Reed. I know I’ve heard the song, but I can put my finger on it. Sounds like it must be a Chet piece.

Yes, it does sound like a Chet Atkins piece. Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of it either. Sorry!

I haven’t read all the posts here so I am hoping this isn’t already covered above. My question regards the Fretboard Theory vol. II package…it says it requires a “high speed internet connection”…

I don’t have it and can’t get it (or afford it) at home…so, how would this effect my purchase?

If you do not have a high-speed Internet connection, then I don’t recommend that you purchase the digital videos because they’re huge files and require a lot of bandwidth to download. Wait until they’re available on DVD. I would think that you ought to be able to down the e-books, though, because they’re a fraction of the size. If you experience any problems, let me know and I’ll help. Order page

I have been going through your dummies book lately. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed Fretboard theory 1. Thanks!

Have you considered writing a book on learning about rhythm or applying music theory to other instruments like piano? Of course, I know the notes are literally laid out for you but I thought it would be interesting to learn more about using different chords, arpeggios, etc.

Guitar Rhythm and Technique For Dummies is due out in the spring of 2015.

I’m working through your fretboard theory book, my question is when playing major scales over a dominant chord do you start with position one in that key or can you start in any position?

Scale notes are located all over the fretboard. As long as you are playing the right pitches, it doesn’t matter in which pattern or in what position you play them. This is true for all scales all the time.

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