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Music theory workbook for guitar vol 1


Anyone else have this book in the title written by Bruce Arnold? I bought it several years ago and today decided to actually read it and try to work my way through it.

I understood the very basics like intervals, octaves etc. before. Fromt the start he incorporates notation into the learning process. I can't read music and always thought notation doesn't make any sense for guitar (call me ignorant if you want). But okay, it can be useful to learn so I continued to read and think I understand the first part. Then he suggests turning to page 16 and start with the exercises and I'm lost from the start.

The first example is written as perfect fifth which is noted as a C played at the A string at the 3rd fret, and a G played at the D string at the 5th fret.

Then one is supposed to mark out the major 7. I don't get it so I look in the answer section. There it's marked as D note on 5th fret on A string, and C# note on B string at 2nd fret.

Major 7 of which key? C?

Am I stupid and should sell all my gear and give up or should I throw away this book and buy another?


Right. Key is not relevant. Intervals are just a matter of counting note letters (DEFGABC = 7), and then counting half-steps to determine what size the interval is: major or minor in the case of 2nd, 3rds, 6ths and 7ths; perfect, augmented or diminished in the case of 4ths and 5ths, unisons and octaves.

Augmented can also refer to a major interval enlarged by a half-step; and diminished to a minor interval reduced by a half-step.
But you begin by counting the letters (or lines and spaces in notation).
Eg, from D to C is always a 7th of some kind.
D - C, D#-C#, Db-Cb = minor 7th (10 half-steps)
D - C#, Db-C = major 7th (11 half-steps)
D - Cb = diminished 7th (9 half-steps - rare, but occurs in the Eb harmonic minor scale)
Db-C# = augmented 7th (highly unlikely in practice ;))


intervals are a fun part of the guitar

learn them in one spot and you can move them any spot with the same results

like this:
C>Db = minor 2nd
C>D = major 2nd
C>Eb = minor 3rd
C>E = major 3rd
C>F = perfect 4th
C>F#= augmented 4th
C>G = perfect 5th
C>Ab = minor 6th
C>A = major 6th
C>Bb = minor 7th
C>B = major 7th

a fine mental exercise, but you must map out these intervals with you hands to see the way they flow from a 6th string C, 5th string, 4th string, 3rd string, like allover the neck

but you can begin this again on any note, for D

D>Eb= m2
D>E= M2
D>F = m3
D>F#= M4
D>G = P4
D>G#= A4
D>A= P5
D>Bb = m6
D>B= M6
D>C = m7
D>C# = M7

or even on a flat or sharp, the same thing, Ab for instance

Ab>Bbb(A) = m2
Ab>Bb= M2
Ab>Cb(B) = m3
Ab>C = M3
Ab>Db = P4
Ab>D = A4
Ab>Eb = P5
Ab>Fb(E) = m6
Ab>F = M6
Ab>Gb = m7
Ab>G = M7

sometime the enharmonic names can look strange, like the double flats that pop up in Ab, but I really don't think Fb, I think m6 interval, and it works well on gtr because the patterns just move intact from one place to another


Thanks for all answers, really helpful!

I went and downloaded additional answers from Arnolds web site. It was noted that all answers are within the range of 5 frets which makes sense I guess.


Yes the piano layout is more logical.
Except that the difference between white and black is arbitrary ;).
It certainly lines up with staff notation perfectly - so is useful in that respect - but IMO the guitar fretboard is better for understanding intervals and scale structure, because it displays all half-steps as equal.

IOW, piano and notation are fine for working from the key of C major - its "logic" is based on that ancient history of 7 natural notes and 5 alterations - but other keys look different when in fact they aren't (in terms of structure). Guitar preserves the shapes (interval patterns) across all keys.

Not a big deal. I like piano for plenty of things myself - in fact it's probably better for most other aspects of theory. It's better for showing chord structure, because you can hold down all the notes in a row (1-3-5-7- etc), whereas guitar requires these arbitrary shapes across the strings, which is a result of the tuning.


Yes the piano layout is more logical.
This is true (for me). After learning guitar for about 2 years, I started taking piano lessons about one month ago. My teacher is a senior aged German woman who is extremely strict. I really understand certain things better now on the guitar as a result.

I've been really trying to get the fretboard notes down, but what a nightmare. I've found certain patterns and distances that have moved me along, but when I started the piano - it became easier (on guitar), and I felt myself improving.

The coolest and most unexpected thing that I've learned from piano was that there is a bass line (yes. I'm that new). Learning how to read that bass clef notation put bass playing right there in my fingertips, and as a bonus - the fretboard continues to become more familiar.

I think that my knowledge of the piano is really going to help to eventually understand intervals, and other tricky theory subjects that are often discussed here. This stuff is rewarding, but it's like a little rabbit - you have to really chase it to catch it.


Silver Supporting Member
Bruce Arnold has some great instructional material. I like his ear training series.

The coolest and most unexpected thing that I've learned from piano was that there is a bass line (yes. I'm that new). Learning how to read that bass clef notation put bass playing right there in my fingertips, and as a bonus - the fretboard continues to become more familiar.
one interesting thing...bass clef is also called "F-clef" because the two dots enclose the F stave line.

Treble clef is also called "G-clef" because the bottom curl of the clef encircles the G stave line.

There is also a "C-clef"



Continuing to work in the Bruce Arnold book. At first I was puzzled why he switches between keys but I now understand he wan't to avoid open strings in between the two notes (basic interval exercises). At least for now.

I prefer to stay in the key of C for consistency. Open strings sometimes but smaller stretches. I like this better. Don't know if it's better or worse for learning though.


Damnit, realized now one is supposed to follow the notation and change key and not stay in one key as I did. I have to start over again...

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