Chet Atkins – Breakdown of a Beginner Guitar Lesson (part 4)

Image showing Chet Atkins holding his trademark Gretsch guitar on a page analysing a Chet Atkins beginner guitar lesson

Beginner Guitar Lesson with Chet Atkins – Part 4

In this post, the fourth of a series, I continue to explore the hidden depths of a seemingly simple beginner guitar lesson given by Chet Atkins in the below video, by starting to explore how the notes of the scale tune fit with the chords being played.

By now you should have that progression nicely in mind, in your ears and under your fingers. Hopefully you have recorded a loop to play over.
Let’s move forward and anticipate the ‘scale tune’ by laying out the chord progression again, this time with the constituent notes of each chord written above.

Image showing a graphic of Chet Atkins Scale Tune Chord Progression with the notes of the chords written above each bar on a blog page analysing a Beginner Guitar Lesson

The idea in setting the progression out this way is to connect the chords, which should be very familiar, with their constituent notes. As described above, these all derive from the C Major scale. Do not get too hung up on the notes above each chord as separate notes, but view them as small groups that work well together. Does that make sense?

Subsequently, it will be important to try to think of single notes rather than as groups making up chords. Single notes that sit within any of these chords when they appear in the progression and single notes that are being played as part of the ‘scale tune’ that Chet and the student plays in the video.

It’s time to get melodic and begin exploring Chet’s ‘scale tune’.

Chet demonstrated notes in the key of C available from fret 3 of the e string (note = G) descending to fret 3 of the A string (note = C). Like this:

Image showing a graphic of C Major scale in open position from the root note on 5th string on a blog page analysing a Beginner Guitar Lesson

Hopefully you know your note names on all strings to at least fret 3 so should realise that Chet (deliberately one must assume) omitted a few notes (those that are lower than the Root C note on the 5th string)

For completion here is the full set of notes in the C Major scale up to and including fret 3:

Image showing a graphic of C Major scale in open position on a blog page analysing a Beginner Guitar Lesson

For the first, simplest version of the scale tune, which Chet starts and then encourages his student to also play, he plays descending sequences comprising four groups of nine notes over the chord progression. It starts at the highest note that he has shown, the note G at the 3rd fret of the high e string. It goes like this:

G  F  E  D  C  B  A  G  F
F  E  D  C  B  A  G  F  E
E  D  C  B  A  G  F  E  D
D  C  B  A  G  F  E  D  C

A simple stepped sequence of notes whose iterations always begin and end a note lower than the previous one.
So far so good. And so mechanical / mathematical almost.
So how come it sounds sweet and musical?
Let’s look at those same four groups of nine notes alongside the chord progression.

First, look at the ‘scale tune’ notes alongside the chords and the 1, 2, 3, 4 count for each bar (every note is played on a count).

Image showing a graphic of the Chet Atkins Scale Tune over the chord progressions on a blog page analysing a Beginner Guitar Lesson

Of course, all of the notes sound just fine, because all of the notes and all of the chords come from the same place – the C Major scale.
So, instead of having four groups of nine notes (=36) notes to perhaps confuse us, let’s just focus on two at a time.

Look at the first sequence of nine notes:

G  F  E  D  C  B  A  G  F

What is the first note? What chord is it being played over?
Put the two answers together – do you find any significant overlap?
What is the final note? What chord is it being played over?
Put the two answers together – do you find any significant overlap?

Look at the second sequence of nine notes:

F  E  D  C  B  A  G  F  E

What is the first note? What chord is it being played over?
Put the two answers together – do you find any significant overlap?
What is the final note? What chord is it being played over?
Put the two answers together – do you find any significant overlap?

Look at the third sequence of nine notes:

E  D  C  B  A  G  F  E  D

What is the first note? What chord is it being played over?
Put the two answers together – do you find any significant overlap?
What is the final note? What chord is it being played over?
Put the two answers together – do you find any significant overlap?

Look at the fourth sequence of nine notes:

D  C  B  A  G  F  E  D  C

What is the first note? What chord is it being played over?
Put the two answers together – do you find any significant overlap?
What is the final note? What chord is it being played over?
Put the two answers together – do you find any significant overlap?

I hope you can answer these questions and are beginning to see connections between the underlying chords and the notes being examined.

If you are finding the last section difficult, not making connections between chords in the progression and notes in the melody, not seeing significant overlaps, then this might help. Ideally you should have been reading the posts with guitar in hand, playing the chords, playing the melody over the chords, cross-referencing one to the other. Maybe you have also been writing things down on paper to help with your thinking.

If you want to obtain the maximum learning and insight, and don’t yet understand everything, then try interacting with the practical aspects of these posts before the next instalment.

More later …

I teach guitar specialising in Beginner and Intermediate lessons. Read more here.

To book your beginner guitar lessons with me click this link.

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