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

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.

Chet Atkins – Breakdown of a Beginner Guitar Lesson (part 3)

Beginner Guitar Lesson with Chet Atkins – Part 3

In this post, the third 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 think of the key and the notes used to play the chords and the scale tune.

Chet is using the C Major scale over a chord progression so that chord progression must surely be in the key of C right? Well, yes, of course.
Here is the C Major scale in a linear notation with a repeat so it spans two octaves.

R    2    3    4    5    6     7    R     2    3    4    5    6    7     R
C    D    E    F    G    A    B    C    D    E    F    G    A    B    C

The chords in the progression are all made from notes in the C Major scale:
C chord = notes C, E, G
Dm chord = notes D, F, A
G7 chord = notes G, B, D, F
Am chord = notes A, C, E

If you do not already know about simple chord construction then look carefully at each group of notes within the chords, then find those same notes as laid out in the line of notes in the C Major scale. There should be something you notice … a pattern, a sequence, a common feature that they share.
Are you still struggling to see it? If so, look at this …
C = C, E, G
R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R
C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C

Dm = D, F, A
R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R
C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C

G7 = G, B, D, F
R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R
C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C

Am = A, C, E
R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R 2 3 4 5 6 7 R
C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C

Do you now see how the very make up and structure of those chords stem directly from notes of the C Major scale, notes that appear in the C Major scale at regular spacing / intervals?

Yes?

Fantastic.

These regular intervals taken from the scale are called ‘stacked 3rds’ because the chords are made up from a simple pattern thus: (for each given start note) use the 1st note, skip the next note – the 2nd – then use the 3rd note. The 3rd note becomes the new 1st, skip the 2nd, use the 3rd. Stacked 3rds. All built on notes taken from the same scale.
Does this make sense?

If so you are beginning to connect the C Major scale with chords in the key of C. And you are beginning to see something fundamental about chord construction itself.

I want to add in a little more on the chord progression in C that Chet uses for a moment. The progression (using roman numerals – more on that in a future post) is:

I  ii  V7  I  vi  ii  V7  I

Or, if you split it equally you can view it as two successive progressions:

I    ii    V7    I          C       Dm    G7    C

vi    ii    V7    I       Am    Dm    G7    C

There are some advantages to viewing it as a progression in two halves. Both sections are identical apart from the starting chord. Both sections conclude with a G7 chord moving to a C chord (a V7 to a I movement).
Small aside – do you hear how this ending of G7 to C just sounds right, complete, at peace with itself? This specific movement from V7 chord to I chord is called a closed cadence or authentic cadence. I’m not going to spend time on that theory just now, I only mention it to encourage you to listen to how wonderful that resolution sounds, how the progression just seems to sonically pull you in to a happy place as it moves from G7 to C.

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.

What Guitar Should I Buy – Acoustic or Electric?

Acoustic or Electric?

Image showing a collection of acoustic and electric guitars together on a stand
Acoustic & Electric Guitars

Deciding between buying an acoustic or an electric guitar is an important decision and is often down to personal preference. There really is no right or wrong answer. Opinion divides as to which is the better choice for a beginner. There are practical pros and cons to each too. Because we all love different types of music and get our inspiration from different musicians, each of us will have our own thoughts about a dream guitar too. So let’s briefly look at the options.

Electric Guitar

Image showing a Fender Stratocaster guitar (acoustic electric)
Fender Stratocaster

If rock music drives your desire to play then electric is probably for you. Electric guitar is also cool right! If emulating your guitar hero motivates you to play then go for it.

The Pros:

  • Because electric guitars have slimmer necks and thinner strings than acoustics they are less painful on the soft fingertips of beginners.
  • The improved quality of modern budget electrics is means that a decent electric need not cost a fortune.
  • Modern digital amplifiers and multi-effects pedals allow you to create a huge range of sounds.
  • You can practice electric guitar very quietly either unplugged or via a headphone amp – ideal if you need to keep the noise down at home.
  • String bending and upper-fret access is easier so lends itself to learning lead guitar.

The Cons:

  • Electric guitars are heavier than acoustics.
  • You do need to spend extra money on an amplifier and other accessories.
  • They are not ideal for playing folk and finger style.
  • Without amplification you will struggle to be heard above any singing or backing tracks.

Acoustic Guitar

Image showing an acoustic guitar (acoustic electric)
Acoustic guitar

Are you inspired by the great singer-songwriters and want to accompany your own singing? Perhaps you want to play melodic / percussive finger style. Is your passion for folk music? Maybe you would like to join in at your local open mic session. Then acoustic guitar could be the one for you.

The Pros:

  • Acoustic guitars are convenient and ready to play any time, any place with no other equipment needed.
  • They come in different shapes and sizes so you should easily find one that’s comfortable to hold.
  • They encourage good technique and start strengthening your fingers straightaway.

The Cons:

  • The thicker strings, larger neck and playing action can make it harder to form chords and be painful on beginner fingers.
  • Budget price acoustics are hit and miss in terms of playability and quality.

Summary

An electric guitar is generally easier to learn on for beginners albeit you will need an amp and accessories. An acoustic is ready to play anywhere if you can overcome the initial finger pain. As a general guide, buy an electric if you want to play rock, buy an acoustic if you want to play folk.

 

Where to buy?

There are some great guitar shops in and around Teesside where you will be able to try out some guitars and get some helpful advice. Here are just  a few suggestions to get you started.

Steven James Guitar and Amp Centre, Middlesbrough.

Bandland Music Store, Stockton.

Maddog Music Store, Stockton.

 

Contact me for any questions.

Guitar lessons page