The Harmonic Minor Scale…An Improvising Tool

The harmonic minor scale will add a new dimension to to your leads and riffs. This scale has a very unique sound to it making it easy to recognize.

There are several ways to use this scale. The first is that it can be used for all the chords in the scale itself. Down below.

All examples use only the scale notes, no passing tones or bends so you can hear the actual scale.

After you learn it you can do anything you want to it. Use slides, bends, pre-bends, distortion, echo or anything else.

You can Al Demeola use this scale in a lot of his songs. The minor 3rd interval is what gives it a unique sound.

Harmonic Minor Chord Types

All of the above chords can be reduced to triads. The only fifference between this scale and the natural minor is a G♯ which gives us these not so common chords.

Most of the time these uncommon chords are used as passing chords lasting one or two beats of a measure.

Here is what it sounds like played against an Am Chord



Windows Media

The A minor harmonic played against an A minor chord

This scale is easy to recognize in songs

Another Improvising Method

The next way is to start on the 4th note of dominant chords with a sharp 5th or a flatted 9th

I am playing the A minor harmonic scale over an E7♯5 chord using only scale notes.



Windows Media

The A minor harmonic played over an E 7th sharp 5 chord

Playing the A note against the E gives a suspended sound which you can resolve to G♯ or go anywhere else you want as long as it sounds good to you.

A Minor Harmonic Scale

Harmonic Minor Scale List

The keys are the harmonic minor scale and not the relative major. To find the relative major go up a minor third or 3 frets.

The E♭ and D♯ are the same scale just spelled different. This is where I switched to the sharp minor keys









This one is 1-2-♭3-4-5-♭6-♭7

Fairly easy to remember from the major scale. Three and six are flat.

Another way is to raise the 7th of the natural minor scale ½ tone or one fret.


Major Scales…The Mother of Music Scales

Discover all the major scales. These scales are all interconnected and each scale is made from two other scales. They are also the mother scale for many other scales.

However were not going to get into the other scales that come from this scale on this page.

These scales are all identical except for the pitch. In other words every one of these scales are built using the same intervals.

Because they are made from each other you will see the same notes and chords in a few scales.

The Major Scale Layout

All of these major scales come from our music alphabet of 12 notes and like I said up above.

Each scale is two halves of two other scales.

Every scale has the same interval layout just in a different pitch.

The numbers above represent the distance or interval between each note, this is also the number of frets apart.

The C Scale Construction

The first four notes of this scale came from the key of F. The last four notes of the C scale come from the key of G.

Tetra Chords – Major Scales

I learned about Tetra-chords from my old Mel Bay lesson books and they helped me understand how all the keys work together.

Tetra-chords are four note sections that make up the major scale. Each scale has two of these which come from two different scales.

The first one comes from the last tetra-chord of the key listed and the
second one comes from the first tetrachord of the scale listed.

If you follow this list from top to bottom you have the circle of 4ths. This is good to know because many common chord change are 4ths apart.

If you follow the list from the bottom up you have the circle of 5ths another good thing to know for chord changes.

The last column is for the tetra-chord image below this list.


1st Tetrachord


2nd Tetrachord


Add sections


F G A B♭




12 & 1


B♭ C D E♭


F G A B♭


11 & 12


E♭ F G A♭


B♭ C D E♭


10 & 11


A♭ B♭ C D♭


E♭ F G A♭


9 & 10


D♭ E♭ F G♭


A♭ B♭ C D♭


8 & 9


C♯ D♯ E♯ F♯


G♯ A♯ B♯ C♯


8 & 9


G♭ A♭ B♭ C♭


D♭ E♭ F G♭


7 & 8


F♯ G♯ A♯ B


C♯ D♯ E♯ F♯


7 & 8


B C♯ D♯ E


F♯ G♯ A♯ B


6 & 7


E F♯ G♯ A


B C♯ D♯ E


5 & 6


A B C♯ D


E F♯ G♯ A


4 & 5

This image might help you visualize the tetrachord idea.

If you follow the segments to the right or clockwise you have the circle of 4ths if you go the opposite way you have the circle of 5ths. These are both good to know for chord changes.

Major Scale Numbering System

All major scales have numbers that go with the notes for easy identification. You will find out later that this way of referring to numbers makes it possible to refer to all scales and chords no matter what key you are in.

Usually this is used to refer to the chords but it is also our way of building our chords from scales. When referring to chords the numbers are usually written in Roman numerals, upper case for major chords and lower case for minor chords.

This way you can play the chords in any key

I write these Roman Numerals in on sheet music chords to make it easier to play in other keys.

For example if you have a Dm7 chord in the key of C I write ii7 next to it. The lower case is for minor and the upper case is for major.

If you wanted to play the song in G you would play an Am7 chord. Am is the two chord in G.

The Twelve Major Scales

C Major

The first will be the C scale because this is the easiest key with no sharps or flats.

The C Scale

F Major

This scale is a 4th away from C and it has one flat in it.

The F Scale

B Flat Major

This scale is a 4th away from F and it has two flats in it.

The B Flat Scale

E Flat Major

This scale is a 4th away from B flat and it has three flats in it.

The E Flat Scale

A Flat Major

This scale is a 4th away from E flat and it has four flats in it.

The A Flat Scale

D Flat Major

This scale is a 4th away from A flat and it has five flats in it.

The D Flat Scale

G Flat Major

This scale is a 4th away from D flat and it has six flats in it.

The G Flat Scale

F Sharp Major

This scale is equal to G flat but written in F#, it has six sharps in it.

The F Sharp Scale

B Major

This scale is a 4th away from F Sharp and it has five sharps in it.

The B Scale

E Major

This scale is a 4th away from B and it has four sharps in it.

The E Scale

A Major

This scale is a 4th away from E and it has three sharps in it.

The A Scale

D Major

This scale is a 4th away from A and it has two sharps in it.

The D Scale

G Major

This scale is a 4th away from D and it has one sharp in it.

The G Scale


Melodic Minor Scale…Add New Life to Licks

The melodic minor scale will get your licks out of the pentatonic rut we all get stuck in when learning.

The Scale below can be used for improvising over all the chords in the melodic scale which are listed below that.

This scale can also be used starting at the root of minor and minor 6th’s.

Here is a taste of C melodic minor scale played against a Cm/maj7 chord. This is the chord built from the first note of the melodic scale.

No other notes or effects just the scale notes so you can hear the scale notes not someone playing guitar.

The C minor melodic scale played over a C minor major 7th chord

More Uses for the Melodic Minor Scale

A lot of the scales and modes we use start at the root of the chord to be used for improvising.

In the melodic minor the main scale is the only one that will start on different notes other than the root.

Number 2 Melodic Minor Scale Use

Another use is starting 1/2 step or one fret above the roots of dominant chords with altered 5th’s and 9th’s. Similar to the diminished scale. 1/2 step above the root would be a flat 9 that is why you would do it this way.

Below is a sample of the C melodic minor being played against a B7♭5.

The C minor melodic scale played against a B7 flat 5 chord

The B and C are important notes here the C being the flat 9 and the B being the root of the chord. The E-flat gives the minor feel against the C and the major 3rd against the B.

This is an analogy you don’t have to think about all of this when your playing it’s just food for thought.

Number 3 Melodic Use

One more is starting on the 5th of flat5 chords. Whatever the flat 5 note is that is the root note of the scale you would use.

This is the Melodic minor played over a G♭7♭5 chord. The 5th is a C note.

The C melodic minor played over an F sharp 7 flat 5 chord

One More for the Melodic Minor Scale

The last one unless you know more is starting on the 6th of major chords with a sharp or flat 5 or a sharp 11. In this case you are playing a relative minor scale against a major chord

The C melodic minor played against an E flat flat 5 chord

I used the C as the tonic because it is the 6th of E-flat its relative minor. The flatted tone of the E-flat is an A which is the 6th of C. Mmm… This is why it’s called “music theory”.

The Melodic Scale List

The keys will be listed in the minor keys and not the relative major.

You will see double sharp marks like ♯♯. This is because you’re not allowed to use the same note twice in a scale except for diminished and other scales that aren’t connected to the major and minor scales.

A double sharp (♯♯) or a double flat (♭♭) just means two notes or frets higher or lower instead of one.

Melodic Minor Formula

This one is 1-2-♭3-4-5-6-7

An easy one to remember – A major scale with a flatted 3rd.


Discover Altered Chords

Regular chords become altered chords when the 5th, 9th or 11th note is altered. Some of the names can be confusing but it’s really pretty simple.

These chords can be major, minor or dominant chords like G7♭5.

Some of our symmetrical and modal scales can be used for improvising over these chords.

The 5th can be lowered 1/2 tone or raised 1/2 tone or both can be in the same chord.

The 9th can also be lowered or raised 1/2 tone and can be combined with an altered 5th or 11th.

The 11th can be raised 1/2 tone however it can’t be lowered because it would become a major 3rd. Also the 11 and 4 are the same note one octave apart.

A raised 11th is also a lowered 5th note one octave apart.

Remember in chord building theory for guitar octaves don’t count except for our ears. Either will have the same effect on the chord.

The magic number for finding the same notes is 7. Add 7 to 2 you get a 9, subtract 7 from 9 you get a 2. This works for all the other numbers.

Here is a list of scale notes with numbers for a better understanding.































Altered 5th Chords

The 5th of a chord can be lowered or raised.

A C chord C-E-G would become a C flat 5 C-E-G♭

A C chord C-E-G would become a C aug C -E-G♯

Notice that a chord that says aug or augmented after its letter name always refers to the 5th of the chord unless a number comes after the aug or augmented.

Other symbols used are the plus (+) sign(C+5) and the sharp (♯) sign(C♯5) for augmented or raised notes.

Don’t confuse the add with the + sign. The add means to add a note(C add 9) not raise it a half tone like the + sign.

The minus sign(-) is used sometimes for flatted notes(C7-5). It makes the chord symbol shorter and easier to fit in written music.

Here are two flatted 5th chords and two augmented chords.

Altered Dominant Chords – 7th and 9th Chords

The 7th chord is a dominant chord built from the 5th note of the major scale.

Don’t confuse this with a major 7th chord, this 7th is 1/2 step higher.

In the key of C the chord would be a G. The dominant chords start with the 7th chord.

The first chord is a G. G-B-D.

The next chord is a G7. G-B-D-F.

The next chord is a G9 G-B-D-F-A.

Dominant 7th Altered Chords

The 7th can have one or more of the following alterations.

A flat 5, sharp 5 or both.

A flat 9, sharp 9.

A sharp 11 which is equal to a flat 5.

Unless you play Jazz you most likely won’t run into the 11th or 13th alterations.

However understanding this process will help your understanding of chord symbols in other areas.

Flatted 5th – Altered Chords

The only song I can think of that uses the flat 5 so you will recognize it is Led Zepplins’ Dancing Days written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.

This isn’t a true flat 5 because there is no 3rd until the last beat.

You go back and forth on the first two chords, actually notes and end on the last.

You will have to use some palm muting so the chords ring out the right length of time.

Here are links to the mp3 and sheet music.

Dancing Days mp3

Dancing Days Sheet Music

Augmented 5th – Altered Chords

An augmented chord usually but not always comes after an unaltered form of the same chord. When used like this it is leading you into another chord usually with a note in it 1/2 tone higher than the raised 5th.

Here is a common progression you will see in a lot of songs.

See how the 5th of the C chord moves up 1/2 tone at a time.

See how the name of the chords change.

The A minor could be called a C6 although there would be no 5th in it.

The C7 would most likely lead to some form of an F chord.

The Beatles song Oh Darling starts with an augmented chord.

Altered 9th Chords

Flatted 9th Chords

The flatted 9th chords will be written as a 7th chord like C7-9 or C7♭9.

You can think of the flatted 9th note as a raised root. This note will always be 1/2 tone above the root note of the chord it in.

These chords are the beginning of The Beatles song I Want You(She’s So Heavy) from the Abbey Road Album

All the picking is on the 1st 4 strings, no 5th string notes even though they are in the chord.

Here is a link to the CD because you can’t download Beatles songs in mp3.

The Beatles – Abbey Road CD

I Want You – The Beatles – Sheet Music

Augmented 9th – Altered Chords

This chord is a popular altered chord. I’ve heard this refered to as the Jimi Hendrix chord.

He uses this chord in Stone Free.

It can also be used with the flat 9 as a substitute chord sequence like E7+9, E7-9 to E7. this is good if you have a couple of bars of E7 in a row to spice it up.

P.S. Don’t get in the way of the melody, some ones solo or the bass player. Play around until you can make it fit or wait for another song if it doesn’t work on the current one.

What makes this chord really unique is that a sharp 9 is also a flat 3 or a minor 3rd.

This means you can use minor scales and major scales freely for improvising with this chord.

You can use the E Mixolydian, E major and minor pentatonic, the E major and minor blues scales, the E Super Locrian mode, the F diminished scale and more.

The F Diminished isn’t an error, it’s sometimes easier to think 1/2 step above with this scale to get the notes for altered chords in the scale. This scale contains the major 3rd and the minor 3rd/augmented 9th.

Stone Free – Jimi Hendrix

Here are links to the mp3 and sheet music for this song.

Stone Free – mp3

Stone Free – Sheet Music

Augmented 11th – Altered Chords

This is the only alteration for this note. If it was lowered it would equal a major third which isn’t an altered tone.

What the difference between this and a 7th flat 5 chord is that it has a 9 in it.

I don’t know of a popular song that has this chord in it that you would recognize offhand.

If I come across one I’ll put it up but this chord has a unique sound to it. Here are a couple diagrams.

These are dominant chords putting you in the key of A. E is the 5th and dominant note of the A scale.

The T for the fingering means thumb. Wrap your thumb over the neck to play these two notes on strings 5 and 6.

Dominant 13th♭9 – Altered Chords

The 2nd chord image has no root, follow it by the 3rd on the 4th string. think E-3 =’s C.

When we get a lot of notes in a chord we leave out tone to play the ones that are wanted. The bass player will play the root or it will sound implied. In other words the listener thinks they hear the root it because of what was played before this chord. You have already set the stage.

Combined Alterations – Altered Chords

Dominant 7th ♯5 ♯9 – Combined Altered Chords

These chords could be used to replace a C7 for a couple of beats to spice up the progression.

Dominant 7th ♭5 ♭9 – Combined Altered Chords

There is no root for the 2nd and 3rd chords so you must remember them in a different way.

The 2nd chord has its 3rd on the 2nd string. Think back two whole tones to C.

The 2nd chord has its 3rd on the 3rd string. Think back two whole tones to C.

E will always be the 3rd of any C major, augmented or dominant chord.

This is one way. You might choose one of the other notes to reference by but I find the 3rd a good way because it doesn’t ever change unless a chord doesn’t have one.

Dominant 7th ♯5 ♭9 – Combined Altered Chords

Like the chords above the 2nd and 3rd image have no root.

Sometimes a chord diagram will tell you no root with a NR after the chord name. Most of the time they don’t unless it’s a lesson.

The 3rd for the 2nd image is on the 4th string. Think E-3 =’s C

The 3rd for the 3rd image is on the 2nd string.

Dominant 7th ♭5 ♯9 – Combined Altered Chords

I told you about chords have a sharp and flat 5 in the same chord here are a couple examples.

Dominant 7th ♭5 ♯5 – Combined Altered Chords

This chord may also be called a C7♭5♭13 because a sharp 5 is equal to a flatted 13 which is equal to a 6th but one octave higher.

There are probably more but these are the most common.

You don’t have to play Jazz to take advantage of this theory. The individual notes from these chords can be used in improvising in any style of music if played at the right time and tempo.

Top of Altered Chords

Back to Guitar Chord Theory


Harmonic Minor ScalesAdd a Latin Touch

These harmonic minor scales will add a Latin touch to your solo’s and you can combine them with pentatonic scales. This scale has a minor 3rd interval in it giving it a unique sound to spice up licks or leads

This scale is one of my favorite to use improvising over minor chords. Replace the C with a C sharp in the D minor Pentatonic and you will have the basic sound, the minor 3rd interval changes the whole mood. It gives that outside the scale touch for a moment.

The C sharp also leads back to your D note home chord nice too.

Here’s a written D minor harmonic scale with tab.

Here is what it sounds like.

The Harmonic Minor Scales

Harmonic Minor Chords

These are the chords for the harmonic minor scales, a little different than the melodic minor but keeping 3 chords the same.




























































































Harmonic Minor Scale Chord Forms

The first chord from the above list is a minor chord with a major 7th in it.

If you play these three chords in order you will hear a familiar progression used in many songs

The second chord is a minor 7th chord with a flatted 5th.

The 3rd chord is a major 7th with a raised 5th. This chord is used sparingly and for a short duration most of the time.

The 4th chord is a minor 7th, a common chord.

The 5th chord is a dominant 7th chord

The 6th chord is a major 7th

The 7th chord is a Diminished 7th

The diminished 7th chord has 4 names, one for each note it contains.

A G♯ diminished 7th can also be a B, D and F diminished chord.

This chord can be written as G♯ dim or G♯ ° using the degree sign.

This chord can also replace a 7th flat 9 chord, using the chord up one tone from the flat ninth chord. In other words replace a G7 flat9 with a G♯ diminished 7th chord.

Harmonic Scale Patterns

The squares are notes before or after the root, use them after you know how the scale is supposed to sound.

The nut is on the top , the 6th string is on the left.

Left Handed Patterns

The nut is on the top, the 6th string is on the right

More Harmonic the Minor Scale

I hope you found this page useful.


Led Zepplin SongsThe Good Old Days

Led zepplin songs are still played a lot on the radio. They are classic tunes that will live on and on especially Stairway to Heaven. That is a Must Learn song for guitar players.

Led Zepplin was labeled Heavy Metal but they were just a Rock group. That was how they sounded, they didn’t try to create a new sound fad.

I actually like Jimmy Page’s acoustic playing better than his electric style but that’s my opinion. He’s very good at both.

Ramble On

This song could be in the beginner song list because it only uses two chords. You just vary the rhythm at certain points.

Song Chords

If you listen carefully you will hear that these chords are played in different positions along with extra fill-in notes added to them. The chords are still E and A but with embellishment.

They change so fast you couldn’t put that many chord diagrams on a page. Let your ears be your guide and find these other positions and voicings.

Song Links

Ramble On – mp3 Ramble On – Tab

Ramble On - Written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Intro E A E A
//// //// //// //// Verse One E A
Leaves are fall-ing all a-round It's E A
time I was on my way //// E A
Thank's to you I'm much ob-liged for E A
such a pleas-ant stay //// E A And now it's time for me to go E A The Aut-umn moon lights my way E A But now I smell the rain And with it pain, and it's E A headed my way //// E A
//// Ah sometimes I grow so E A
tired but I know one thing I got to do E A
Ramble On And now's the time, the time is now to E A
sing my song I'm go-ing round the world, I got to find my girl E
on my way Chorus A E
Been this way ten years to the day Ramble on A E
Find the queen of all my dreams Got no time to spend and A E
weep The time has come to be A E
gone And tho' our health we drank a A E
thou-sand times Have to Ramble on End Chorus Verse Two
Mines a tale that can't be told E A
My Freedom I hold dear E A
How many years ago in days of old E A
When magic filled the air E A
T'was in the darkest depths of Mordor E A
I met a girl so fair E A
But golem, the evil one crept up E A
And slipped away with her E A
Her, her .....yea E A
Ain't no-thing I can do Chorus A E
Been this way ten years to the day Ramble on A E
Find the queen of all my dreams Got no time to spend and A E
weep The time has come to be A E
gone And tho' our health we drank a A E
thou-sand times Have to Ramble on End Chorus and Fade

Communication Breakdown

This is a typical Rock song. The lyrics don’t matter it’s the beat and the guitar that makes this song along with Roger Plant’s powerful voice.

Song Chords

Song Links

Communication Breakdown – mp3
Communication Breakdown – Tab

Communication Breakdown
Written by Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham Intro E D A D Repeat 4x 8 bars
//////// / / / Verse One E D A D E D A D
Hey girl stop what you do-in E D A D E D A D
Hey girl you'll drive me to ruin E D A D I don't know what it is I like about E D A D
you, but I like it a lot E D A D E D A D Oh let me hold you let me feel your lov-in charms Chorus
A Communications breakdown It's always the same
B I'm having a nervous breakdown drive me insane
//////// / / / //////// / / / End Chorus Go to Verse two Verse two E D A D E D A D
Hey Girl I got something I think you ought to know E D A D E D A D
Hey Babe I wan-na tell you that I love you so E D A D
I wan-na hold you in my arms, Yeah E D A D
I'm nev-er gon-na let you go E D A D
Yes I like your charms Chorus A Communications breakdown It's always the same B I'm having a nervous breakdown drive me insane E D A D E D A D
//////// / / / //////// / / / Ending repeat and fade

E        D A D          E         D A D
Communication Breakdown ////////  / / /

I hope you found this page useful.

Uncategorized – Archives for 2011 June

When you practice things on your guitar you have to slow down and take your time. If you rush through things like playing scales you can get get some bad playing habits.

Close Enough

It’s easy to rush through practice when you have a lot of other things to do and think to yourself that’s close enough but doing this will only set you back and you won’t get any better.

Muscle Memory

Muscles remember things that you practice whether it’s good or bad. Muscles can’t think only you can do that and it’s very easy to train your muscles to do something wrong if you let it go. You say I’ll work on that later but later never comes and you are still playing things mediocre.

Extreme Concentration

To get the most out of your practice you have to play slowly and watch every move that your fingers and hands are doing. You can always play something wright when you do it slow. You have to catch your fingers or hand in the act to see what you need to work on.

Whole Body

You should also pay attention to how you sit. If you hold the guitar right it can help your playing a lot because you can reach everything easily. This also goes for your standing position, don’t hold your guitar low like you see on music videos, that’s for show.

The Metronome

This tools is invaluable for practice. This is how you work things up to speed without making mistakes. They really help with your timing and practice.

Practice Guide

Practice slow, pay attention to fingers, hands and body and correct your playing so you get nice clear notes in time and with little effort.

Stop by and learn about guitar practice and metronomes and lots of other things

Guitar Practice


Minor Pentatonic ScalesFind Those Licks

All Pink Floyd Guitar Guru Sessions $5 Each Till 10/31/2010

The minor pentatonic scale is responsible for countless little licks that make you recognize songs. This is the first scale every guitarist starts out improvising with because it’s so easy to remember and play.

This is another scale that stems from the major scale.

Natural Minor Scale
The Minor Pentatonic’s Mother

The Natural minor scale is the mother scale for the minor pentatonic scale.

This scale comes from the 6th note of the major scale. Every major scale has a relative minor scale the starts on the 6th note of the major scale. It will have the same number of sharps and flats and share the same key signature.

Here is how the natural minor scale sounds



Windows Media

The A Minor natural scale

The Minor Pentatonic

This scale coming from the natural minor scale is a short version leaving out the 2nd and 6th notes.

You may see this scales numbers shown like this 1 3b 4 5 7b. They are using the major scale to show how it is built. This is common, most chord formulas are shown this way. I used the natural minor scale to show you because that is where the minor penta scale comes from.

This is a very useful scale for improvising in any type of music



Windows Media

The A Minor Pentatonic Scale

Minor Penta Patterns

These patterns are just like the major pentatonic except that the root is different. You can see that part of one pattern is in the next pattern. This will help you play all the way up the neck.

You can start with any pattern and go in either direction up or down. The 5th pattern has part of the first pattern in it. It’s a circle like the major scales.

Nut is on top, 6th string on your left

Patterns for Left-Handers

Nut is on top 6th string on your right

Relative Major Scale

Every minor penta scale has a relative major scale. This is just like the major scales. They have a relative minor scale built from the 6th note in the major scale.

We can do it a little different with the pentatonic scales. If you play an A minor penta scale your relative major scale is C a minor third or 3 frets upward.

If you use pattern 1 the minor root is played with your first finger and the major root is played with the fourth finger.

If the chord your are playing over is a C you would use the C note as your “home” note. The minor scale works over major chords for improvising but the major doesn’t work as well over minor chords.

The minor third note is also the augmented 9th note which may be why it works that way. The augmented 9th chord was made popular for non jazz guitarist’s by the Jimi Hendrex’s song “Stone Free”.

This course covers the minor and major pentatonic scales

Daily Guide

It has a day by day practice guide. Good for keeping track of your progress.

It also has over 270 examples written in notation and tab with audio so you can hear how it should sound.

Hammer-ons and Pull-Offs

You also get tips on bending and playing hammer-ons and pull-offs in time

Improvising Tips

You will learn how to use the scales not just learn the notes. Creating new ideas for your leads and playing with the chords

Take the Oath to Practice – Promise Yourself

Here’s the Deal – You Will Have to Practice

You Must Commit Yourself to a Set Amount of Time Each Day for Practice

20 Minutes a Day

20 Minutes a day is fine if its uninterrupted and you pay attention to all aspects of your playing. Both hands not just the fretting hand.

Check it Out

Check it out for yourself. It’s a good course despite the sales page you have to go through to get it.

Pentatonic Power

This is a good primer course to use to get your basics down before going on to the blues course that I recommend to expand on your lead work.

Know Your Pentatonics?

If you have a handle on the pentatonics skip it and go to the blues course.

Blues Course

A good Blues course to go through after the Pentatonic Power course above is “Playing Through The Blues”

Playing Through the Blues

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How to Hold a Guitar Pick

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Learn how to hold a guitar pick so you get the best tone and you aren’t dropping it all the time. This may sound stupid to you but if you start out holding it right all your picking will be easier to do.

The main thing is you want to start out holding it right so you don’t have playing problems in the future that will have to be fixed before you can get any better.

It’s just starting out with a good foundation so you have something solid to build on.

This goes for all the things you learn about playing guitar. Get the basics down and you can learn to play anything at all.

Muscle Memory
How to Hold a Guitar Pick

Muscle memory is the human body’s ability to repeat a learned muscle movement.

It comes from repetition of a movement. Most of the time it happens without us thinking about it like reaching out to open a door.

You didn’t have to practice opening doors but if it was a special door that took a special movement to open it you would be aware of it and learn that movement.

Then every time you went to open that particular door your muscles would just go into action without your thinking about it.

The same is true for every movement you make especially playing guitar because you use your whole body. To move your little finger you have to move a muscle in you hand which moves a muscle in you arm which moves a muscle in your shoulder.

This is why having your whole body reaxed is essential to good guitar playing.

How Muscle Memory Works
For Guitar Players

If you repeat a movement enough times your body will remember this in your muscle “memory”. The muscles will then repeat this action without you thinking about it. This applies to every thing you do physically like hitting a baseball or pitching one. As long as your body doesn’t have any discomfort or pain your body will repeat this movement exactly like you taught it.

Bad Habits – Hard to Break

However your body doesn’t know if it’s right or wrong it just repeats what you taught it. This is why it’s hard to break bad playing habits, you have to retrain your muscles which is much harder than the initial training because your body still wants to use the first way it learned.

Your muscles don’t have a brain they just go on instinct or what you trained them to do.

This is why when you practice guitar or anything else you are learning you should take your time and pay attention to those little details that will make your playing sound professional.

Stop when you make a mistake and find out why; You didn’t change positions when you should have or maybe a different fingering or position will help.

Are you holding your guitar picks right. Firm but not tight, loose but not loose enough to drop them.

Don’t keep practicing something that’s wrong. Stop and fix it even if it means starting all over.

Pay attention to your picking hand along with your fretting hand and the rest of your body and relax your muscles when they get tense.

Use a metronome after you know the fingerings or whatever it is you are learning and start off slow playing

I wanted to explain about muscle memory above before you learn to hold the pick so you will get it right the first time.

There is no exact way for holding guitar picks because everybody’s hands are different but there are some general guidlines you can go by.

Pick Holding Guidelines

  • The pick should be held between the thumb and index finger
  • The Pick should be held Firmly not Tightly it must flex
  • The Pick should extend about a quarter of an inch past your thumb
  • The Pick should be parallel – with the strings, not tilted up or down
  • Your fingers should not hit the strings only the pick

Pick Tilting
How to Hold a Guitar Pick

  • You can tilt the pick slightly toward the tuning keys
  • This gives better tone and speed
  • This can happen naturally without you knowing as you play more

Pick tilting means you are playing the strings at a slight angle making the area of the pick that strikes the string less giving better tone and speed when playing single notes.

In other words you are almost using the edge of the pick coming in at an angle instead of laying flat across the string.

This is also good for chord playing. Chords would sound Clunky if you use too much of the pick.

The area of the pick that strikes the strings is actually pretty small.

Pick Playing Position

I hope that this will clear up what I mean by pick tilting.

First lay your pick completely flat on any string.

Now take the pick and turn it sideways so the skinny edge of the pick is touching the string.

Now lay it back down almost all the way so the pick only touches the string on one side. Got it?

This is a hard thing to explain in words.

The Sweet Spot
How to Hold a Guitar Pick

You will have to experiment until you get the right spot to hold the pick so it feels comfortable and follows the guidelines up above.

Stroking the Strings
How to Hold a Guitar Pick

Down Stroke

When you play a string you should push the pick through the string with the weight of your arm. Don’t twist your wrist to play it.

When you play a single note you want to stop the pick between the string you just played and the string that is below it without hitting it. This will take a little practice to get control of your muscles. This is important to learn for playing single notes.

There will be times when you keep the pick going down to hit more strings as when playing chords or double stops.

Up Stroke

The same is true for the upstroke as for the down stroke the will be times to stop in between the strings and times to follow through.

There will be other situations where you skips strings or mute strings as you play them.

For now you need to practice these two basic moves while you pay attention to what both hands and the rest of your body is doing. Remember. Tension is your Enemy.

More Practice

Another thing you can do is to practice playing 2 or 3 strings in a row and stop between the last string and the one below or above it depending on which direction you are going

This will come in handy for playing triad based riffs and cross picking.

Thank You for visiting How to Hold a Guitar Pick


Two Chord Progressions

I to IV Progression

Two chord progressions are very common. The Rolling Stone’s song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is a good example of this.

The Beatles “Lady Madonna” and “I’ll Cry Instead” are two more examples.

Two Chord Phrases

Sometimes two chords are used together as a phrase acting like a unit or riff rather than two separate chords.

Here is an example of a I-IV as in a Rhythm and Blues Style.

C to F rhythm and Blues Shuffle

I to vi Two Chord Progressions

This progression is the first half of the 50’s progression I vi IV V. It’s also used in a back and forth manner for lyrics in a song that match these notes in the chords.

50’s Doo Wop Era (Opens New Window)

This can also be used as a base for a songs’ verse before going into the bridge or break.

Here is an example in C.

C to Aminor or I to vi chord change in C

This is played using these two chords.

Another version of this was made popular in the 50’s by Chuck Berry. That rhythm that he is known for is a I to vi change but played differently.

The roots for this comes from the Blues guitarists from the early 1900’s

Chuck Berry Music
Chuck Berry Song Book (Opens New Window)

This way of playing it and variations are used in millions of songs.

Here are the chords. You only need to move the 4th finger.

The 3rd finger stays on the 4th and 5th string all the time. You may need to practice this a bit to get your 3rd finger laying flat.

You only play the 3 top strings and you can mute them slightly with the heel of your picking hand.

When you add an A or 6th to C or I chord you make a I6 or in this case a C6. A C6 has the same notes as an Am7 or vi7.

Why Play the Whole Chord?

The reason for fingering the whole chord is because you can add other things with this rhythm.

Here is an example of combining this with the rhythm and blues riff above.

A Combo rhythm of Chuck Berry and Rhythm and Blues

This is just a sample of what you can do with these. You can change them around, add notes, anything that sounds good and fits the music you’re playing.

A Must Know
Two Chord Progressions Rhythm

Here is one riff that you need for rock, blues and country guitar. It’s an offshoot of the above.

It’s a 4th finger stretcher so if you have trouble move the chord up the neck where the frets are closer together and work your way down as you gain some stretch.

Here are the chord forms for this.

The C6 goes back to the C and you start over again. This can also be done with the F chord form near the top of the page except you play these notes on the 5th string.

You can mute the 6th string the whole time, ignore the 6th string in the F.

More Two Chord Progressions

This is just an extension of the C to C6 guitar chord progressions above.

Here is what it sounds like.

More Chuck Berry Style in C

Here are the Chords

This one is a little finger stretcher too. Work it down the neck one fret at a time and have fun.

The ii-V Two Chord Progressions

This two chord progression is a good jamming chord progression.

A good song example of this is Santana’s “Evil Ways”. The only other chord is a VI7. This song can also be in the G minor melodic or harmonic scale as long as the Gm and C chords are triads.

Evil Ways mp3
Santana – Evil Ways Sheet Music (Opens New Window)

The chords for this song are Gm to C with a D7 as a quick turnaround chord.

Here is a quick listen.

A two five progression in F G minor to C

This is just back and forth. You just change quicker on the second one. Later on in the song you accent on the upstroke before going to D7

You might like the D7 in the 10th position better because you can get a nice long slide down to start again with the Gm to C. If you listen to the song you will know what I mean.

Another ii-V guitar chord progression.

Another song that only uses the ii-V progression is “Lowdown” written by Boz Scaggs and David Paich.

Boz Scaggs Low Down mp3
Boz Scaggs-Low Down Sheet Music (Opens New Window)

This song uses chord extensions a minor 9th for the ii chord and a 13th for the dominant chord.

This song is written in E flat.

You can choose which note to play on the 5th or 6th string of the Fm9 chord. One is the root the other is the 5th. I use the 5th(6th string) in the mp3.

Here’s a little listen

Two five progression in E flat with embellished chords

The possibilities of two chord progressions is endless. You don’t have to stay in one key. The chords can come from any major or minor scale.

The main thing is do they sound good together.

I’ve found that the closer together the notes are from the first to the second chord the smoother the sound is and the easier to play most of the time.

One More – Two Chord Progressions

One artist that comes to mind for funk is James Brown. I think he was the origin of funk with choppy rhythms.

James Brown Music (Opens New Window)

Here is a good progression with a funky blues mood to it

Here are the chords in two positions. The E from the C chord goes to F and the B flat goes to A

This is an easy switch back and forth little progression. Here’s a sample, then you can make up your own rhythm for it

The first chord of the progression puts you in the key of F with a C tonal center, the 2nd chord puts you in the key of B flat

Your tonal center note C acts as home even though you are in the key of F. The F is acting as a IV chord which wants to resolve to I which is really V in the key of F

So even though your are in F it seems like your are in C doesn’t it? So change the B to a B flat in the C scale and you have the C mixolydian scale. Ahh… music theory.

C minor pentatonic and C minor blues scales can be be used too for improvising

C7 sharp 9 to F7th progression

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