A question about learning the guitar --- patterns, numbers, notes

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Eskimo_Joe, Dec 27, 2009.

  1. Eskimo_Joe

    Eskimo_Joe Rocker, roller, way out of controller Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2007
    St. Louis

    When I first learned guitar, it was taught to me in the form of patterns (i.e. chord shapes, scale patterns /boxes). Recently, I learned the major scale numbering system (root = 1, etc). This has provided definition and reasoning behind the shapes and patterns - hugely helpful.

    Now I'm wondering if the next step is to be able to know the exact notes behind those numbers in each key (i.e. the sixth in the key of C is A)?

    Is this a worthwhile endeavor in terms of what it will add to my understanding of the guitar and ultimately my ability to play it?

  2. A-Bone

    A-Bone Montonero, MOY, Multitudes Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2007
    I would especially encourage anyone to learn the positions of all the notes on the fretboard (for example, where all the Cs are or all the Gs, etc.). Learning this goes a long way to opening up the fretboard and getting a player out of "box-itis".

    This does not mean that staying in the same position is necessarily a bad thing. It is just beneficial to expand the knowledge and horizons.

    Also, once this knowledge is laid on top of patterned scales, a good many things will likely start to make sense, theory-wise.
  3. JonR

    JonR Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    "Understanding" is the key. Patterns alone will enable you to play the guitar pretty well - provided you can remember them all and apply the right ones!
    The note names (ABC etc) are only labels - but labels are useful.
    What a little theory does is make things (ultimately) simpler. As you've already discovered, it leads to "definition and reasoning", as you say.
    The trick is to always follow that path: do the concepts and jargon make things clearer? If they don't, leave them alone (for now).
    Quite often, you hit theoretical ideas that don't make a lot of sense - because you haven't yet encountered the musical situation that they deal with (or, if you have, you haven't felt any need to ask questions about it).
    Learning songs (and analysing them as you go) is the best way to make sense of it all. What chords does the song use? Do they all fit a particular scale? What's the keynote and key chord? How do the other chords relate? The theoretical patterns are all there.

    The problem with guitar is that the fret patterns (chord shapes, scale patterns) are arbitrary - they depend on the tuning of the guitar, which can be changed. The theoretical patterns (scale formula, chord structure) are fixed, and are where the musical meaning is. Of course the two (guitar patterns, theory formulae) are related, and it's all about being able to relate - and apply - one to the other.

    Theoretical understanding may not make you a better player (technical practice and listening does that) - but it will make you feel more in control, more able to make sensible choices. And of course more able to converse with fellow musicians!
  4. arthur rotfeld

    arthur rotfeld Member

    Aug 26, 2008
    white plains, ny
    When I'm playing, I'm aware of how the notes are working/functioning mostly. I think about how a given note applies to what I'm playing over. I don't think an "A over a C chord," I think of a 6th. I know it's an A, but I don't think like that in the heat of the moment.
  5. vhollund

    vhollund Member

    May 30, 2004
    It doesnt hurt knowing it and I remember learning all the note-relations 12 years ago myself. that was a abit crazy.
    but for the practical use i found that just knowing 1 m3 M3 and 5 (notenames) was pretty usefull and then just know the where the intervals are situated on each string around one note(pattern). And then knowing the notes(name) placements on the fretboard. really well and using the four points and six strings as "map" or "locators"

    That should keep you working for a year or two ;)

    The problem with trying to have too much theoretical information under control in your head is that your music sounds stiff and your head explodes. :D
    It took some time before i actually found out how to simplify the theory into something physically usefull

    I think pretty much like Arthur has depicted in the post prior to this btw.
    Everything evolves around the keynotes. Chordforms-, scales/intervals etc.

    Its the relative perspective. There is a more absolute perspective that i do not use theoretically so much.
    Where the notes relate to eachother but does not evlove around tonecenters conciusly. Knowing/Playing scales by alterations to C-major will take you out of the tonecenter/relative-perspective and that changes the musical outfall alot.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2009

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