What are your favorite guitar scales and chords? Web resources?
November 22, 2004 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Guitarists: What are some of your favorite scales and chords? How about guitar-related web resources? Finally, are there any other lefty guitarists in Metaland, or am I the only one?
posted by baphomet to Media & Arts (24 answers total)
I'm just a beginner, but I discovered DADABE tuning (aka "slacker" and/or "pavement" tuning) today, so I felt like it's worth a post. You can make power chords, just by barre-ing the bottom three strings! =P
posted by idontlikewords at 12:31 PM on November 22, 2004

As an extremely drunk man in a Toronto bar once told me, as he air-guitared G'n'R like an inferno in a denim jacket, "E is everything."

I'm a big fan of "D Modal" or "Neil Young tuning"...double Dropped D (both high E and low E dropped). It's lovely.
posted by Succa at 12:39 PM on November 22, 2004

Also, let's not forget D-minor... "The Saddest of all Chords"
posted by idontlikewords at 12:43 PM on November 22, 2004

Harmony Central is an excellent resource on the web. The message boards are great too, if you can look past the chaff.

I'm mixed about Whole Note, but occasionally, I'll find something worthwhile there.

Guitar war is fun if you're feeling 'wanky'.

As far as scales go, I've been messing around with the weird ones lately (like Hungarian Minor, and Hindu scales) - but I always end up back in pentatonic minor. It's like the PB&J of the guitar world.
posted by icey at 12:49 PM on November 22, 2004

My favorite chord, these days, is Cadd9. x32030. No particular reason, I just like to play it.

And, while I am left-handed, I play guitar right-handed because that's all the pawn shop had when I started playing. True story.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:00 PM on November 22, 2004

Octaves, baby. For all your adult contemporary needs.
posted by swift at 1:00 PM on November 22, 2004

(Oops, I left out the actual meat of the post, which is that I don't actually visit many guitar sites, though I still visit OLGA for most of my guitar-related needs.)
posted by uncleozzy at 1:05 PM on November 22, 2004

I've recently been trying to go back to basics and improve my single-note, scale work. To that end, I've been going through some of Richard Lloyd's lessons. He's a bit overly philosophlcal or spiritual or something for my tase, but I really like his focus on working diagonally across the fretboard rather than just up and down in boxes.
posted by leecifer at 1:16 PM on November 22, 2004

My personal favorite scale/mode is A Hungarian Minor, chord is E7sus4.

THE BEST resource I have found was given to me by a friend a year ago. The Guitar Grimoire is a compendium of scales, modes, and chord voicings. It's a bit theory-heavy, but most novices can still get a lot out of it. It beats anything I've seen on the internet, hands down.
posted by The White Hat at 1:18 PM on November 22, 2004

Dorian mode sounds cool over a m7 chord, like in Coltrane's Impressions. I like mixolydian if for no other reason than it's fun to say mixolydian. Right now, though, I'm working mostly on major scales but in position 2.

I seem to have developed a fondness for Maj7 chords, but I can't tell you why.
posted by tommasz at 1:30 PM on November 22, 2004

Cyberfret helped me out a bunch back in the day when I was first learning theory.

Chords need context to be appreciated, so here's my favorite cadence, voicings included:

F#m7b5: 0 9 10 9 10 x | E: 0 7 9 9 9 x
posted by ludwig_van at 1:51 PM on November 22, 2004

Classic blues progressions are my thing. With standard tuning, starting at the bottom E, play these notes:

E, G, A, A#, B, D, E

By the way, there are really only three chords structures in the major scale. E, A & D. C is just a D transposed (you'll notice it if you've ever tried a C barre chord. The bottom three strings will take on the familiar triangle shape. B is just A transposed. F is just E transposed. G is E transposed. Once you realize this, solo-ing becomes much easier. If you learn how to play the blues scale on E, A and D, you can solo till your fingers fall off. Just about any song will work.

I also like funkadelic chord changes like (545555), (x54555).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:54 PM on November 22, 2004

I play left handed but I am not left handed. I learned from my dad and his guitars. He's not left handed either, but when he was young, he injured his left hand and could not do fretwork with it, so he switched. Ironically I injured my RIGHT hand a few years back but I'm way too ingrained now to switch back. The only real problem I have is with A barre shapes, where I end up playing an A6 on accident most of the time. Because of this I don't play them much.
FYI I usually buy right handed guitars and have a luthier make whatever modifications are necessary, although my most recent baby is an actual left handed Epiphone Joe Pass.

What scales and chords? Well, to be honest, a chord that I feel is really missing from pop music is the major seventh. Crazy, huh? Lots of dom7 and just plain maj but not too many maj7.

As far as pentatonic goes, I really don't care for how it's used in rock and blues. It's a bit played out. However, there are lots of jazzy ways to play pentatonics over chords they're not usually played with. here's an example of what I mean. Look towards the bottom where it lays out which pentatonic scales you can use over each chord and how this relates to the chord. I learned this while learning to play piano actually. I was way too set in my ways with guitar and the process of learning an instrument from scratch really opened stuff up. Also, I find chord experimentation to be MUCH easier on piano than on guitar. You have 10 fingers to work with instead of functionally 4. It's REALLY easy to make chord modifcations, like, what if I move *this* note up one half step or step. Or, also, it's easier to move elements of the chord around, like reordering the notes, or even removing notes. I learned a lot about guitar comping from piano, like if there's a bass player around, you can get away playing the 3rd and 7th of most chords by themselves. These are MUCH easier to grab for a modest player such as myself if you aren't that good with the changes. On piano I find I can play chords and melody best this way, it takes a bit of the burden of finding full chords off my left hand. I'm not a good piano player AT ALL though, so, you know.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:16 PM on November 22, 2004

FYI I have written a set of programs for guitar. I wrote them pretty much for myself but some of you guys may find them useful. I'll try to post them some time soon. There are two main ones. One of them is a generic stringed instrument scale and chord machine. It takes a lot of potential options and helps you find chords and scale patterns. The other is an ear training program loosely based off another I'd seen. I stole an excellent concept which is, this program helps you learn RELATIVE pitch, instead of ABSOLUTE pitch. For example, it'll play you, say, a I-IV-V-I chord progression, and then play a note. You are asked to identify the note relative to the root, like a flat IV or something. As it gets harder, the potential notes grow. For example it starts off just giving you I IV and V notes, then adds 2, then 6, eventually it starts adding notes not in the key, etc. It randomly cycles through keys to prevent you from overtraining for C. I've found that after just a few weeks of this I could identify notes relative to keys like magic. A while longer and I could nail chords. It does not teach you perfect pitch or anything like that. I also started but never finished a program that would help you identify chord families, like what a dom7 sounds like, etc.
posted by RustyBrooks at 2:20 PM on November 22, 2004

Chordbook is great for finding chords and tuning.
posted by gramcracker at 2:39 PM on November 22, 2004

I learned a lot about guitar comping from piano, like if there's a bass player around, you can get away playing the 3rd and 7th of most chords by themselves.

You ever check out any of Joe Pass's solo jazz stuff? He does this thing where he plays a walking bassline on the bottom strings, and just hits little double-stop stabs to imply the chords & rhythm. Sounds hella cool, and it's surprisingly easy. Way easier than grabbing some of those finger-twisting 4- or 5-note jazz chords, anyway.

While I'm on the fake jazz tip, I love throwing this little dom7 thing in whenever I can:


You can move the root up to the D string or down to the E, as well, for maximum flexibility. It's great for throwing in chord stabs into a single-note part because you can keep your thumb in that over-the-top position that works for bends but not barre chords.
posted by arto at 2:43 PM on November 22, 2004

You may be interested to know that both Jimi Hendrix and Elizabeth Cotten were left-handed guitarists.
posted by key_of_z at 2:47 PM on November 22, 2004

Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame is also a lefty playing right-handed. Could explain the velvet touch.
posted by Oneirokritikos at 4:25 PM on November 22, 2004

arto, if you like Joe Pass's solo work, you'll love Tuck Andress (of Tuck and Patty). He plays fingerstyle on a L5CES.

And there's Charlie Hunter, who plays an 8-string guitar/bass combo, with fanned frets. It's not solo, but it's amazing to hear his groups play when you realize there's no bass player.

RustyBrooks, as I said, I love the Maj7 and I think one reason it's not in much pop music is it's not in blues or folk music (lots of dominant chords). Lots of jazz and standards use them, of course.
posted by tommasz at 5:17 PM on November 22, 2004

I forgot to mention, this is Charlie Hunter's guitar, if you're interested.
posted by tommasz at 5:24 PM on November 22, 2004

Best chord: X 3 4 0 3 0 ... Which according to ChordNamer is a Csus2b5add5addb11 .. Uh ..

Lots of good, free intermediate-level guitar lessons from Berklee College of Music

And AltCountryTab.com. Narrow focus, but LOADS of songs.
posted by deshead at 5:34 PM on November 22, 2004

I once asked an excellent guitar player to show me some cool chords. He looked at me sideways, and said, "There are no cool chords, only cool progressions." Then he showed me what he meant by playing a straight A major chord. Nice, but boring.

Then he played two other jazzy chords first, followed by the A major (I do not know the other chords, but it does not matter). Suddenly the A major came alive! Following those other chords it had a haunting clarity, an other-worldly, chilling finality.

And no, I was not high.
posted by SNACKeR at 5:07 AM on November 23, 2004

Best thing I ever did was take jazz lessons. We didn't end up playing a lot of jazz, per se, but we talked a lot about theory, fooled around on the piano, took turns coming up with chord progressions and soloing over them, etc. I feel a lot more confident stepping away from pentatonics after a year of that. Actually the way I discovered how cool pentatonics are over non-blues progressions was on accident in one of those sessions... I paniced and grabbed the "wrong" pentatonic scale and it was terrific.

tommasz: hadn't noticed your maj7 shoutout. It's such a sweet chord. Every time I hear one followed by something like a min7 I think of Gilberto. There is a definite relationship between maj7 and half-dim-7, uh, I think a half step higher? I like half dim chords too. Not on their lonesome though.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:33 AM on November 23, 2004

I've always been suspicious of the left-handed/right-handed designations when it comes to guitar. I write and throw a baseball with my left hand, I've been playing guitar since I was seven (and air guitar on a tennis racket for 2 years before that) and never once in my life did it ever feel comfortable to play a "left-handed" guitar. I play rock and Jazz primarily, where the role of the fretting hand is, in general, far more intricate and requires way more dexterity than the meat-headed strumming ;-). Classical music is a different matter - sometimes finger-picking can get quite intense, and I can understand why one would want his/her strong hand for that.

Also, re:scales - they're just tools for getting the music out in the air. Use them, but lose them as soon as possible. Faves: Phrygian, Altered Dominant, and the blues scale. Overplayed? Tell that to BB King. Do a lot of ear training so you can imagine what anyone given note sounds over any given chord, and then make music!
posted by fingers_of_fire at 8:48 AM on November 23, 2004

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