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Chord Scales
 

Chord Scales

1. C Major
    In first position
2. E Major Linear
    Based on E form. We leave 6, 2, & 1 open.
3. D Major Linear
    Based on D form. Drop D.
4. A Major Linear
    Based on A form.

Chord scales are playing chords in 'alphabetical sequences' just as we can play single tone scales. This not only tunes our ears to a key center, but also provides the core set of chords for playing/figuring out songs and writing our own.

In our training system, these are a primary practice. There are two types: fixed position & linear. Both are interconnected with the CAGED system.

C Major Chord Scale

These should be known chords, yet you can use your voicings for the exercise. You can also descend.

c chord scale exercise, progression

These are mostly triads. Some are 7's to help with fingerings. We are playing a Dominant chord in place of the diminished chord for the viio chord [the diminished triad is inside the V7].

3 beat measures. It can be played in 4 or 6; put your own spin on it. We extend the V7 and final tonic chord [I = C] for 2 measures. This gives us a moment to consider the next position's fingerings. Use the space.

There are changing elements [adding melody, melodic tone toggling, which is lifting and landing/adding and subtracting fingers]. This can add color and melodic interest to our rhythm playing. Figure out what else can be added/toggled based on what you hear and fingerings.

Voicings

Guitar voicings are expressions of harmony, in fingerings, on the fretboard. We have a lot of options for how we express harmony, yet all chord architecture on the guitar can be based on the chord shapes C, A, C, E, and G.

Below the tab are the chord shapes which each of the fingerings are based on [can be viewed to be based on]. Notice that the cycle of shapes follows CAGED, but in reverse, with some repeats. When descending the alphabetical chord scale, the shapes will follow the CAGED sequence in order, with some repeats. For the V7 - it will be the same form as the V chord - so it is out of sequence for the chord form cycle. In my view, this is valuable information and pretty cool. It adds one more layer of understanding to how standard tuning works.

The big numbers are frets, the little numbers are fingers. When a chord has numbers on each side, these are alternate fingerings, or fingerings that are a part of a bar chord.

P = position of fretting hand. P1 = Position 1.

P1

c chord scale p1

These are pretty basic 'open string' first position chords. F has a lot of options, we've chosen the inside four strings from an E form. This makes it a slash chord [F/C - since C is in the bass], but it can work fine when F is written or desired.

E Major Chord Scale

e major chord scale video

The video shows the E Major chord scale in two fingerings, based on the E form. We play it as an exercise and then I-IV-I-V.

e major chord scale

All of the chords are in the key of E Major [I, IV, V are Major; ii iii vi are minor; viio is diminished]. We will leave the 6, 2, & 1 strings open for all of them. Yes, by leaving some strings open, we are adding non-chord tones to some of chords, but we won't be too concerned with exact naming. The chords work for the name [this is, of course, style dependent - these might fall under 'pretty-style'].

We first get the chords in our hands. We have options for fingerings. Both work well, and are demonstrated in the video.

  1. We could use the 2 and 3 fingers to fret the 'block' all the way up the board. In this case, the 1 finger [on the 3rd string] has to extend out for the minors.
  2. We could use the 3 and 4 fingers to fret the 'block' all the way up the board. In this case, the 2 finger [on the 3rd string] frets on the Major chords, and the 1 frets on the minors. For the diminished, the 2 finger is on the 3rd string, and the 'block' is 12-13 frets.

Once we have the chords in our hands, we play the chord scale. We suggest strumming it first. Ascend and descend. Always plan the next chord before moving. See it. Pre-feel it.

Strum It

strum the e major chord scale

Next, a couple of sweet sounding progressions.

e a e b chord progression

c sharp minor, b, g sharp minor, a chord progression

If either of these work for one of your songs, use them.

And, as always, make up your own. Write them down. Experiment.

Fingerpick It

In college, this chord scale was one of my main fretting palettes for fingerpicking training. I probably plant/muted and arpeggiated the chord scale more than playing any other piece of music, or even melodic scales. And, strangely enough, I received more compliments while practicing it than even playing my own fingerstyle music. 'Pretty-style' is an audience pleaser.

Here are a bunch of things that can happen on each chord. Also see the notes under each exercise.

p i m a on all string sets

Play this on each chord. I will often only ascend the chord scale for arpeggios exercises like this. I also won't use the higher version of E [0-14-14-13-0-0], but move to the basic E in first position following the D#o.

Also, leaving out the thumb, we have i, m, and a. 3 things have 6 combinations. So, try the same string pattern, but play all 6. The patterns are i-m-a as shown, i-a-m, m-i-a, m-a-i, a-i-m, and a-m-i.

A good practice idea is to change the pattern on every chord. Repeat any of the patterns for the last couple of chords. Maybe ones that were more challenging.

Keep the driver knuckles over the string set we are picking. The space between your thumb & index will open up, & our elbow will move our hand over the next string set.

mixing p i m a finger combinations on different string sets

Let's stick with the strings sets under Start, but mix up the patterns (again, we use all six combinations - i-m-a, i-a-m, m-i-a, m-a-i, a-i-m, a-m-i). Play this series on every chord of the E Major chord scale. Repeat each measure as many times as needed to get total control. Maybe 2 or 4 times each.

Again, keep the driver knuckles over the string set we are picking. The space between your thumb & index will open up, & our elbow will move our hand over the next string set.

finger flutters

When we train, we should strengthen the muscles of our arms & hands in both directions (extension/flexion). When we pluck or pick towards the hand, we are flexing the muscle. When strum outward, we are extending. Finger strumming is called rasgueado [to scratch or brush].

An up arrow is a down strum; a down arrow is an up strum [consistent with the tablature]. Explore your full range of motion for each finger individually.

blocks

And finally [or start with these - order of training is up to you], we get all the fingers moving together in blocks.

When we train, a good practice is to alternate between arpeggios, finger flutters, & blocks. This is cross-training. Study your motion. Get comfortable. Find your picking pocket.

D Major Chord Scale

d major chord scale video

The video player shows the D Major chord scale on the 3-2-1 strings, with a drop D.

a major chord scale

By dropping the low E to a D, we can let the string ring open. This is called Drop D tuning [D-A-D-G-B-E]. If you don't drop the E to a D, mute it out [I mute/control it in the first run in the video].

All of the chords are in the key of D Major [I, IV, V are Major; ii, iii, vi are minor; viio is diminished].

We first get the chords in our hands. Fingering options:

Majors: like a regular D chord.

minors: like a regular D minor chord - with 3 or 4 on the 2 string [in the video, we show both ].

diminished: like a regular D chord with the 3 finger [or 4] up one fret. Or, bar at 12 with the 1, 3 finger [or 4sa] on the 14 fret.

Strum It

Once we have the chords in our hands, we play the chord scale. We suggest strumming it. Ascend and descend. Always plan the next chord before moving. See it. Pre-feel it.

strum the a major chord scale

Next, a couple of cool sounding progressions.

d g d a chord progression

b minor, a, f sharp minor, g chord progression

If either of these work for one of your songs, use them.

And, as always, make up your own. Write them down. Experiment.

A Major Chord Scale

a major chord scale

I've shown the 6 string as muted [fretting hand thumb will mute]. If you are playing on a guitar where you can tune to low a, without it being a cooked noodle, try it. It messes with intonation a bit, but we can leave it open when tuned down...way down...and it sounds pretty cool. I use a low a on 5 fingerstyle tunes on 12 stone row. If the 6 string is left open tuned to E, it just creates mud [to me].

All of the chords are in the key of A Major [I, IV, V are Major; ii, iii, vi are minor; viio is diminished]. With the A ringing, all of the chords except A Major are slash chords [chord/A = a chord with A in the bass], but we aren't overly concerned about this technicality; we are looking for sweet sounds.

We first get the chords in our hands. We have choices on how to finger these chords. And, our choices will determine whether we can leave the 1 string open. This is why I've shown the 1 string blank [muted or open].

Majors

  1. We could bar the Majors. Typically, this is done with the 1 finger. The 2 works fine as well. And the 3 and 4 can, but why? When we bar, we naturally mute the 1 string. Some players can 'bar out' to leave the 1 string open. Do this if you can, but trying this hurts my barring finger, so I just mute it out [or see point 3 for the Majors].
  2. If we were to stack the fingers into the fret space for the Majors, we can easily leave the one string open. We could use the 1-2-3 for 4-3-2 strings. Or, 2-1-3 [questionable - opposes finger logic but works], or 2-3-4. I call all of these the subway fingerings [pack 'em in].
  3. We could also bar the 4 and 3 strings with the 1 finger and fret the 2 string with the 2 finger. I've seen this fingering mostly in classical guitar pieces, but it works.

minors

  1. 2-3-1 fingers on the 4-3-2 strings. This is a normal A minor shape.
  2. 3-4-1 fingers on the 4-3-2 strings. This is as we play these tones if we were playing an Am shape moving up the board as a 'bar' chord.
  3. Both of these fingerings allow for the 1 string to ring easily.

diminished

The diminished chord is like a normal D shape, but up a level and at the 12th fret.

Strum It

Once we have the chords in our hands, we play the chord scale. We suggest strumming it. Ascend and descend. Always plan the next chord before moving. See it. Pre-feel it.

strum the a major chord scale

Next, a couple of sweet sounding progressions.

a d a e chord progression

f sharp minor, e, c sharp minor, d chord progression

If either of these work for one of your songs, use them.

And, as always, make up your own. Write them down. Experiment.