Guitar Insights - Howard Black Music



Guitar Insights - Howard Black Music
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This book is dedicated to
the hundreds of students that I have
taught over the years, without you guys
this book would not be possible.
1. Chords
2. Chords Within Chords
3. Minor Chord Extensions
4. Dominant Chords
5. Altered Dominants
6. Scales
7. Linear Scales
8. Note Reference Scales
9. Modes
11. Practicing
12. Improvisation
13. Composing
14. Technique
15. Teaching
About the author
Many guitar books that I have studied from or read over the years have either covered
a specific area in which the student can learn from, or has focused on a more general
approach. This book does not focus on one particular area; instead I have tried to
tackle it from a broader perspective. Some areas will still be covered in depth and the
aim is to portray the idea in theory, and then to apply some of it practically.
Personally I have had over 30 teachers that I have studied from, many of which I
learnt a great deal and many a little less. My aim has been to try and condense from
my own experience all the information that I have gathered over the years down into a
three book series, this book being the first. A bit of advice to all aspiring guitarists is to get
your hands on as much material as possible and learn from it and then make up your own
mind as to how you can apply it to your own playing.
Some passages in Guitar Insights refer to some of my own experiences, and my hope
is that you can take some of this information and apply it to your own playing.
Try to jam with as many people as possible and bounce ideas and creativity with each
other. Music is a universal language and expresses emotions of love, anger, joy, laughter
and many other colours in which to paint your picture.
So in conclusion play with your heart, mind, body and soul and contribute all you can
to the wonderful world of music.
Yours in music,
Khan Manuel
To get the most out of this book I have left a few things out in order for you to fill in
as exercises.
One exercise is to fill in the note formulas of the chord -
This chord should be filled in as-
c e g ce
The things that we have filled in are - The name of the chord and which position its
- We have also numbered the note formulas –
R=root note, 3 = 3rd degree of the scale, 5 = 5th degree of the scale etc.
* Indicates not to play that string.
I recommend printing the book out and filling them in with pencil.
In addition, on the manuscript sections-
There are no rhythmic values, which open up the possibility to practice the
chords, scales and arpeggios at different time values. Try using whole, half, quarter,
eighth, sixteenth and triplet note values.
Included on some manuscript sections are – Chords, Scale and Arpeggio. In some
cases I have only done the chords or the chords and scale. This lets you form the
arpeggio and or scale for yourself.
Chord 2 above, is virtually impossible to fret. When coming across these difficult
fingerings, invert the notes to make it possible to play the chord. This exercise allows
you to study the chord more in depth.
When coming to the scales section, be sure to fill in the formulas of the scale and
arpeggio. You can extend the arpeggio as far a you like.
10th fret 1 4
C Major7th
2 5 1
Above you can see that each note has been numbered in accordance to its degree of
the scale.
The arpeggio has been circled and named. Example above C E G B = C major 7th .
Note: There are many chords in the manuscript sections that are not in first position.
Explore the entire fretboard and experiment with different fingerings.
Chord Construction
A scale is a series of notes. In some ways building a chord is the same as creating a
word from the English language, in that by taking letters out of the alphabet we can
create words. It’s the same in music, we take out letters to create chords.
C Major Scale- C D E F G A B (C
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (1
By taking out 1 3 5
C E G we can create the first chord in the key of C
Chord 1 Key of C = C E G = C Major – Formula = 1 3 5
Then, we use the same theory and simply apply it to the next note 2 4 6 or D F A.
Basically all you do is skip a note.
Chord 2 Key of C = D F A = D minor – Formula = 1 b3 5 (in comparison to D
So now we use the same process with all notes
Chord 3 Key of C = E G B = E minor chord – Formula = 1 b3 5
Chord 4 Key of C = F A C = F major chord, Try playing the corresponding
scale with it (below in the manuscript)
Chord 5 Key of C = G B D = G major chord. Formula = 1 3 5
Chord 6 Key of C = A C E = A minor chord
Chord 7 Key of C = B D F (A) Chord = B 1/2 diminished. Formula 1 b3 5 (b7)
These seven chords are referred to as the diatonic chords of C Major.
So now that we know what chords belong to the key when we come across a
progression that contains some of these chords we will know that we can play a C
major scale over it and it will fit.
Ex 1a
Cmajor/// Fmajor/// Gmajor///
Because these 3 chords are from the key of C Major we can play a C Major Scale
over it.( Refer to scales page)
So the idea of soloing over a series of chords is to recognize what the chords are that
you want to solo over and try and find out what key they belong to.
Here is another example of a progression in C Major
These chords are all from the key of C Major as well; therefore we can use the C
Major scale over this progression as well.
The same theory can be applied to any key to derive the chords out. What we have to
watch out for are the Key Signatures. (Go to page x to learn about key signatures).
The Key of G major contains an F#.
Gmajor scale = G A B C D E F# G
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1
Now lets apply the same concept to the key of G major
Key of G Major
Chord 1 = G B D = G Major
In the G major chord above, I have incorporated triad inversions. These inversions
can be done on 3 string sets.
Chord 2 = A C E = A minor
Chord 3 = B D F# = B minor
Chord 4 = C E G = C Major
Chord 5 = D F# A = D Major
Chord 6 = E G B = E minor
Chord 7 = F# A C E= F# ½ diminished (Extension)
Here is a progression in G Major:
G Major///
Chord 1
B minor///
chord 3
C Major/// D Major///
chord 4
chord 5
Of course there can be many different combinations, so have a go at creating some
interesting progressions.
Something that you should concentrate on doing is to recognize and memorise the
notes in the chord: the more you do this the easier it becomes. There is only ever
going to be one way to spell out a G Major chord, and it’s always going to be G B D.
A constant reminder of this will ensure a good grasp when it comes to improvising.
Chord extensions are a great way to add color to a progression and/or variety to a
Chord extension theory is as follows
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1112 13 14 15
All we do now is apply the same concept as before but we can add more notes
Chord 1 = C E G B = C Major7 – Formula = 1 3 5 7
Chord 2 = D F A C = D minor 7th Formula = 1 b3 5 b7
Chord 3 = E G B D = E minor 7th Formula = 1 b3 5 b7
Chord 4 = F A C E = F Major 7th 1 3 5 7
Chord 5 = G B D F = G Dominant 7th Formula = 1 3 5 b7 (More on dominant
chords later, please refer to chapter on dominant chords)
Chord 6 = A C E G = A minor 7th Formula = 1 b3 5 b7
Chord 7 = B D F A = B ½ diminished (m7b5) Formula = 1 b3 b5 b7
The thing to remember is that when coming across these chords in songs, we now
have some options with respect to which scale to use. For example we now know that
when we come across a G dominant 7th chord that it belongs to the key of C Major.
Or we see a B ½ diminished chord we know it is derived from the key of C, so we
can play a C Major scale and it will sound correct.
This is all basic theory that should be understood fully before progressing onto more
complicated chord voicings. For example a G Dominant 7th chord can have many
possible scales that it can work with but its home key should be recognized as C
Major for the time being.
This theory can be applied with all chord voicings
Chord 1 key of C Major =C Major 9th = C E G B D Formula = 1 3 5 7 9
Chord 1 key of C Major = C Major 11th = C E G B D F
Formula = 1 3 5 7 9 11
Chord 1 key of C Major = C Major 13th = C E G B D F A
Formula = 1 3 5 7 9 11 13
Now obviously we run into a problem when we come to the upper extentions in that
we havnt got enough fingers to play all the notes, so we have to omit certain notes.
For Major 7ths and its extensions- Major 7 - 1 3 7
Major 9 - 1 3 7 9
Major 11- 1 3 7 11
Major 13- 1 3 7 13
The other notes can be added but we need the 3rd, the major 7th, and the extention note.
We don’t necessarily need the root note and sometimes a chord will state no 5th. Or 3rd
For Dominant and minor extentions please refer to their chapters.
As stated earlier these are the basics of chord construction and should be understood
For suspended type chords we substitute the 3rd for the suspended note. For example
a Csus2 chord is spelt- C D G, the E(3rd) is ommited for the 2nd. For a sus4 chord the
same rule applies. C F G= Csus4. There are some exceptions but these rules will
give you a solid understanding as to how the main chord types are built.
Add chords don’t need to contain the 7th. If a 7th is present then it cant be an add
C E G D = C add9 Formula = 1 3 5 9
C E G B D = Cmajor9 = 1 3 5 7 9
C E G Bb D = C9
Chords within chords
Another device to consider is the idea of chords within chords. Lets take a basic chord
to start with- C Major 7th C E G B, now if we look closely at the notes in the chord
we can actually derive other chords from it. Lets take the 3rd, 5th and 7th degrees; they
are E G B respectively and are also the notes of an E minor chord. Now with
extended chords there is going to be many more options. There are many other chord
types that we could have taken from the C Major 7th also.
If we take a close look at a C Major 13 chord C E G B D F A it actually contains
all notes of the major scale, therefore any diatonic triad can be played over this chord.
So an idea for improvising over a chord like this could be to play say a B half
diminished arpeggio over it or a G9 arpeggio and it would fit, these may not be the
best option but I’m just trying to show different ways of approaching it.
This idea can be applied to any chord and its extensions, let's take a look at an F ½
diminished chord – F Ab Cb Eb (another name for ½ diminished is minor 7th flat 5)
One option for this chord is that we can play it instead of playing a G7 chord. Of
course it will add some new colours or altered tones but can sound tasty when applied
in the right place. In a 2 5 1 progression it can be played as a substitute chord for
the 5 or the G7 and becomes a G7#5b9 chord. F being the b7 of G7, Ab the b9 Cb the
major 3rd and Eb the #5. This is only scraping the surface of the numerous
possibilities that can be explored and I encourage you to study this concept as it opens
up many doors to make different colours.
Lets do one more but this time we will do a scale chord exercise. Lets use a trusty old
G7 chord again. Scale wise, over this chord there are many options and one of my
favourites is using the diminished arpeggio, a semi tone up from the root note.
This concept is derived from the harmonic minor scale where chord V in the key
when extended to the 9th is actually a flat 9. A diminished arpeggio from Ab contains
the notes Ab B D F which all belong to a G7b9 chord. Try it and maybe you will
like the sound and apply it when improvising over a Dominant chord. Just remember
the rule of going up a semitone from the root note the applying the diminished
Before we take a look at minor chord extensions we need to understand the 3 different
ways of finding the notes of the minor chord or any chord for that matter.
Lets take the A minor chord. One way we can find out what the notes are is to look at
what major key it is derived from. It can belong to any number of keys but the first
one that springs to mind is chord 6 in the key of C Major
12 34 5 67
Then pull the notes out
A C E = A minor
Another way is to compare it to the major key, in this case A Major- A B C# D E F# G# A
Then apply the minor formula 1 b3 5
A C# E = A major
A C E = A minor
The last way we can create a minor chord is by looking at intervals from the root note.
Perfect 5th
A good understanding of intervals will help in this area
We will be using formulas.
The way we use the formula is by comparing it to the major key.
Lets revert back to the key of C Major
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Minor 7th formula = 1 b3 5 b7
Using the minor 7th formula it now changes to C Eb G Bb
1 b3 5 b7
Remember to invert the notes to make the chord easy to play.
To extent further just remember that for m7, m9, m11, m13 chords we need the b3 b7
notes respectively For the guitar we don’t necessarily need the 5th and for upper
extensions (9,11) depending on the chord type.
Cm11 = C Eb G Bb D F
Minor 7th flat 5 chord or ½ diminished
m7b5 = 1 b3 (b5) b7 = C Eb Gb Bb
Dominant chords are great in that there are so many options to improvise with. When
looking at the dominant chord, for starters try to visualize it as the V chord in any
given key. G7 is derived from the key of C Major C D E F G A B C
b7 1
The reason the b7 is there, is because in the key of G Major there is an F#, but in the
G7 chord it is neutralized, therefore the formula contains a b7.
There are many other options to play over the 7th chord some are Phrygian dominant,
Lydian dominant, Hindu, ½ whole diminished, Altered (superlocrian).
And Mixolydian.
Dominant 7th
Dominant formula (7th type chord) = 1 3 5 b7
G7 = G B D F
Some chordal inversions and one appropriate scale
Dominant 9th
Formula = 1 3 5 b7 9
Dominant 11th
Formula = 1 3 5 b7 9 11
* If we look at the notes in the chord, lets say from G11, G B D F A C, there are a few
different chords within it. Some musicians look at a G11 as an Fmaj/G, which is also
correct as it contains the same notes except, no 3rd and 5th
Dominant 13th
Formula = 1 3 5 b7 9 11 13
Extended dominants all contain the b7 all the way to the 13th; if this note is not
present it can’t be deemed as a dominant chord. Its more likely to be an add
chord of some kind.
Altered dominants are very simple if you follow the theory of the dominant (b7) and
then change the altered notes.
C7#5b9 = 1 3 #5 b7 b9
The Superlocrian mode or scale is used extensively for Jazz improvisation over
altered dominant chords. Some musicians have a preference for either the superlocrian
mode or the Phrygian dominant mode for the 7b9 chord; I don’t mind either of them.
C7b5b9 = 1 3 b5 b7 b9
With a good knowledge of keys and their signatures this concept can be applied to
any key.
A7#5 = 1 3 #5 b7
E7b9 = 1 3 5 b7 b9
D7#5 = 1 3 #5 b7
A Hindu mode can be played over this chord, or mixolydian b6 is another name.
Just remember the rule of the flat 7 note.
Because we haven’t got enough fingers to play all the notes in the chord when we get
to the upper extensions we can omit certain notes. With a 7th we need the 3rd and b7
respectively as they tell us whether the chord is major or minor with the third and
Major or Dominant with the b7. Depending on the situation we don’t need the root
note if a bass player is present or another instrument playing the root note. In some
cases the chord sounds better or more ‘full’ with the root note present. Just use your
ear and decide if you need it or not. The rule applies to the dominant 9th chord also.
With the dominant 11th chord we don’t need the 9th so this formula would cover the
chord- 1 3 b7 11. The 13th is similar and doesn’t need to contain the 11. As stated
earlier I would recommend using your ear for different chord voicings, and then
experiment with them. There are many possibilities so try adding different colours in
different inversions to hear what they sound like and continue to experiment.
One of the aims of playing a scale is to be able to play it all over the neck starting
from any of the notes and then being able to play it in any direction. There are many
ways of achieving this. Some methods we will cover are Position scales, Pattern
scales, Linier scales, Reference scales and note relation scales.
Probably the easiest way of practicing scales is by memorizing patterns. In reference
to the 7 diatonic notes of a major key each note will be the starting point for its own
pattern. Even though this is the easiest way of practicing scales its probably the most
ineffective especially to the beginner or intermediate guitarist. The reason this is, is
because the student normally visualizes the pattern and recalls it as a pattern without
learning the actual notes. One way of eliminating this problem is by saying the notes
out load.
(In Comparison)
* This section will cover formulas in relation to the major scale, (all scales will start
from the 10th fret)
C Major 7th
1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
C minor 7th
1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
C minor 7th
1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
C major 7th
1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
C minor 7th
1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
C minor 7th b5
Harmonic minor
In relation to A minor(Key modes)
Key modes means all scales/chords are derived from the key stated.
Harmonic minor
1 2 3 4 5 6 #7
A minor major 7th
6 B minor 7th b5 - in relation to A minor, starting from B
* The Locrian natural 6th name comes from comparing it to the Major. In this case B
Major which contains 5 #s. The locrian mode contains a b2, b3 b5 b6 b7. So when
we apply this formula against the B Major scale it restores most of the notes except
for the natural 6th. Then we come up with the notes below. There are a few different
ways of looking at this, probably the easiest is just starting from the 2nd degree of the
Harmonic minor scale and playing the notes from there.
Ionian #5
1 2 3 4 #5 6 7
C major 7th #5
Dorian #4
1 2 b3 #4 5 6 b7
D minor 7th
Phrygian dominant
1 b2 #3 4 5 b6 b7
Lydian #2
1 #2 3 #4 5 6 7
F Major 7th
Mixolydian # root
#1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
G# Diminished 7th
Melodic minor (Jazz)
In Relation to C (Comparison modes)
A comparison mode means all scales are compared to the note stated, which is C in
this case.
Melodic minor
1 2 b3 4 5 6 7
C minor major 7th
In classical theory the melodic minor is looked at as the natural minor scale with a #6
#7 degrees ascending and when descending the 6th and 7th degrees are restored. It was
said that this was used to create melodies that were more melodic, hence ‘melodic
minor’ scale. In Jazz however the melodic minor scale is looked at from a different
angle and is compared to a Major scale –
C Major scale- C D E F G A B C
C Melodic Minor Scale – C D Eb F G A B C
So the only difference is the b3. It must also be understood that in Jazz Melodic
minor, when descending the scale it still remains the same.
Dorian b2
1 b2 b3 4 5 6 b7
C minor 7th
Lydian Augmented
1 2 3 #4 #5 6 7
C major 7th #5 (#11)
Lydian dominant
1 2 3 #4 5 6 b7
C7 (#11)
Mixolydian b6
1 2 3 4 5 b6 b7
C7 b13 (#5)
Aeolian b5
1 2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
C minor 7th b5
1 b2 b3 b4 b5 b6 b7
C7 Alt C minor 7th b5
* The blues scale is just the minor pentatonic with an added b5 note.
Minor Pentatonic (5 note scale)
1 b3 4 5 b7
Major pentatonic
*Whole step = Tone
Half step = semitone
Diminished type scales are normally divided into two groups, Whole half and half
whole. The whole half is commonly used with diminished type chords and the half
whole with dominant type chords and creates added tension with its altered tones.
The Augmented scale is used on augmented type chords. Its formula has been
described in some instances as ‘minor 3rds inside major 3rds’.
C – Eb
G# - B – C
Above is a one octave Whole Tone Scale – T T T T T T
The Whole Tone scale has a flowing effect and can be applied over many chord types.
Two favourites are - Dominant and Augmented type chords.
Mastering these scales will allow you to look at the use of the modes. Remember that
a mode is not a scale but in fact it’s own Key.
A great method for learning scales is called Linear or Horizontal scales. This
approach forces you to learn the key, scale and notes on the fret board.
Lets take the scale of D major and apply this method.
This can be started on any open string; we will begin with open D.
Play the open D string, then because we are in the key of D major (DEF#GABC#D)
We place our index finger on the next note of the scale in this case the F#
Then keep playing the scale across the neck until you reach the E at the 12th fret. Then
go backwards. Apply this to all strings.
D major scale on the G string
Remember to say the notes as you play them.
Once you have covered all strings with that scale try different ones. Remember that
any scale can be used with this method
Ex2 A harmonic minor scale, starting from the open A string
*Note: Apply to all strings.
Ex4 C melodic Jazz minor, starting from F (Lydian Dominant mode)
In example 4 when the open string that you strike does not belong in the scale (E
natural;) just begin with the next note. In this case F.
Note reference scales refer to recognizing where each note is in relation to each string.
Hit the note on the high C then time your self to find where the C is on the next string
and then the C on the next string until you have covered all Cs on all strings.
Do this with all notes including sharps and flats.
Ex2. F#
You want to get to the point where you can place your finger on any fret and any note
and automatically know what the name of the note is.
Ex3. Bb
Try and see how fast you can get from one to the next.
Modes in my experience have been one of the most widely misunderstood areas in
modern music. Many people I think have a very different concept of what a mode
actually is. They are a very easy concept to grasp if you 1. Get the idea from the start
right and 2. Have good knowledge of the chords in each key.
Some people that I have discussed this with have got the idea correct but have failed
to accept a mode as an actual key center. Remember that this is only the way that I
look at it so I can’t say that im correct I can just give it to you from my point of view.
Try to see a mode as not a scale but a series of chords that belong to it.
Ex 1. What key is this progression in?
Aminor ///
G Major///
F Major///
G Major///
It’s obvious that all of these chords belong to the key of A minor yes?
Or is it in the key of C Major?
Well its related to C Major but its character is A minor therefore we are in the key of
A minor
Ex2 What about this progression?
G Major///
F Major///
C Major///
Now here is where things can get a little messy. Many people would say that it is in C
Major. Now although all of these chords belong to the key of C we have to determine
what chord is home just as we did with the A minor progression. To me the G Major
chord sounds home so this means that we are in G Mixolydian. Mixolydian is the 5th
mode and if we count from C-G its 5.
Here are the names and order of the modesIonian
Ex3 Have a go at working out firstly what key these chords belong to and then work
out the mode
C Major///
G minor///
C major///
First of all we have to work out what key these two chords belong to and if you have
studied chord key relationships you will know that these two chords are both in the
key of F Major. They are chords 2 and 5 respectively.
All we have to do now is work out which chord is home. For me it’s the G minor, this
means it’s the 2nd mode Dorian.
Because the 5 other modes have not been experimented with as much as Ionian and
Aeolian, they tend to only have a few progressions that are used quite a lot. A few
modal progressions that I have come across areDorianDm7- G. This is a typical Carlos Santana progression. When a lot of
guitarists or musicians for that matter are asked what scale is used over this
progression many would say D minor. Theoretically unfortunately this is incorrect for
the simple fact that the G chord does not belong in the key. D minor is related to the
key of F major, F major contains a Bb note in it which when it is played over the G
major chord clashes because a major third played against a minor 3rd just doesn’t
sound good in most cases. However there are exceptions but in general they won’t
sound harmonious. Another way to look at it would be to know the chords in the key.
In F G minor is the 2nd diatonic chord belonging to that key therefore it doesn’t fit.
Many would play a D minor pentatonic scale over this and it would sound great but
knowing that it is actually related to the key of C major will give you many more
options in which to solo.
There have been many times where someone has said ‘ but that’s just chords 2 and 5
from the key of C (Dm7-G). And then they ask what the Dorian mode is. They will
always say that its D-D D E F G A B C D. Then I would say ok then use it. Then
they would say well I know how to play it but I don’t know when or where to play it
over. The reason this maybe because is that they still see it as a scale. But the reason
that a scale is there is to derive chords. So the chords that are in D Dorian are the
same chords as C major but chord 1 is now D minor not C major.
That’s why when asked what key these chords are in- A minor- G – F – G, most would
say A minor, but then when asked D minor-G the reason most say C major is because
they havnt treated it as its own key center and are not used to using it because major
and minor have been used more. So if you are having a little trouble with the modes just
try to look at them as there own keys.
Once again modes are very easy if you have good diatonic chord theory. All in all I
really believe that they aren’t an issue, reason being is that when composing very
rarely will one deliberately think to write in a certain mode (well in my experience at
least). The bass note follows the melody note in most cases therefore sometimes you
can slip in and out of modes without initially knowing. Afterwards when looking at
what’s written is when its handy to know what’s going on. This is coming from a
compositional point of view.
A common Lydian mode movement if we were in C Lydian would be C major – D
major with a C in the bass. Now even though C-D/C is an easy progression the true
name for the D/C is a C 69 #11, a real Lydian flavored chord with the #11. Many
progressive rock instrumentalists use this idea for a different mood in the
composition. To outline the mode even more the bass player will pedal on the C
aswell. The Lydian mode is a personal favourite and has an almost airy sound to it.
All modes have their own flavors and when practicing them you should be sure to
really take the time to listen and recognize each one. To me Ionian is the happy mode.
Dorian is the smooth minor major mode or jazz mode. Phrygian is the middle eastern
or even spanishy sounding mode. The Lydian like I said before is the happy but airy
sounding mode. Mixolydian is the old 80s rock sound with progressins like E- D –A.
Aeolian is the sad and gloomy mode and the Locrian sounds very odd and is not a real
favourite but like the others has its own mood.
Some ways to practice modes and to get familiar with their moods is to record a
pedal bass note, lets take an E and then run each mode and its notes starting from the
Ionian- E F# G# A B C# D# E
Dorian- E F# G A B C# D E
Phrygian- E F G A B C D E
Lydian- E F# G# A# B C# D# E
Mixolydian- E F# G# A B C# D E
Aeolian- E F# G A B C D E
Locrian- E F G A Bb C D E
This is also a great way to learn the notes on the fingerboard.
Another way is to record modal progressions and then practice playing and
improvising over them. This is by far the best way because how many tunes out there
sit on one chord? Not that many, if any.
The more you do exercises like this the more it will help you understand the
connection between Keys, scales, chords and modes.
Modes are quite a grey area to explain because many still have a traditional approach
and get mixed up with a different angle to use them.
A previous teacher of mine would always use the opening line from George Bensons
Breezin(A true classic if you havnt heard it) as an example of the Mixolydian mode.
This however was incorrect. Lets transpose the opening line to the key of C major to
make things a little easier. In the key of C the opening line is the notes G A B C D E F
G as a moderately fast run up the scale. Now the opening chord is C Major 7th. The
chord progression is as follows- C Major7/ Aminor7/ D minor7/G7. All of these
chords belong to the key of C major and the C Major 7th chord is defiantly home
therefore the song is just in C major or C Ionian. Now because in thousands of books
written about modes it explains a G Mixolyian mode as G A B C D E F G you have to
assume that the opening line of Breezin is the Mixolydian mode being exactly the
same notes. Chord progressions determine the mode and in advanced cases you can
superimpose a mode over a chord but with a simple progression like Breezin it
wouldn’t matter which notes you played over it it would still just be in the plain old
major key.
One could write about the modes extensively but the point that must be stressed is that
it is in the progression most of the time. Sometimes you will get a song like Steve
Vais ‘ The Riddle’ and have a stagnant bass note through most of it. By doing this he
could have chosen any mode but chose Lydian as his main colour.
Theory has been very important personally. If you study theory it can give you a good
understanding of what’s going on in the song and can give you different ideas and
concepts so that you can apply it into your own playing. There are many great books
on theory and some things you should consider focusing on are keys, chords, scales
and modes. A solid understanding of these will allow you to look at concepts.
By concepts I mean why a player has played a certain scale over a chord or
understanding where chords are coming from. An example would be what to play
over these changes- D Major7-A#Diminished. Now there are many ways you can
look at these chords but the first that springs to mind for me is D major for the D
Major 7th chord and then the 7th mode of the B harmonic minor mode. The reason I
see it like that is because B natural minor is D majors relative minor, and if we raise
the 7th degree of the B minor scale we derive a Diminished chord from it at the 7th
degree, hence A# Diminished.
Modal theory may take a while to get a hold of but once you’ve got it, it can help
immensely in soloing, improvising and composition.
Four-part harmony writing in Grade 6 Royal School of Music is really good for
learning about voice leading or even for guitar harmonies. Even though I use my ear
most of the time for harmonies or counterpoint I do use basic concepts in classical
harmony to start me off.
I would recommend finding someone that has a good knowledge of theory and
learning from them as it can save a lot of time.
When learning theory, whether it is from grade books or at a school, be sure to apply
it to your instrument because there’s nothing worse than knowing how to do it, but not
knowing how to do it practically.
The Royal school of music curriculum is very good as it covers things very
thoroughly, before progressing. The Trinity College of music is similar with only
minor differences. Try to digest the information and how to apply it before moving
forward, as some of it is quite hard to apply practically.
Try different workbooks too, as although they often contain the same concepts, the
slight differences in their explanations can in many instances give the student subtle
Like the practical side of music there are eight grades in theory as well. Grades 6, 7
and 8 may be quite a challenge and may take a little longer to understand and digest
than the other grades.
Try to balance theory and practical and bring them up evenly beside each other, this
way you will understand everything that you are playing and different concepts.
One method that is taught at most music schools is practicing scales through the cycle
of 5ths and 4ths. The cycle of 5ths is usually in reference to the sharp keys and the
cycle of 4ths descending, the flat keys. A Jazz practice routine is to improvise over a
ii-v-I progression in the cycle.
Ex. Dm-G7-Cmajor7 then Am-D7-Gmajor 7 then Em-A7-Dmajor7 etc
Intervals in music are best described as the distance between notes.
Here is a table of intervals within one octave. An interval past the octave is known as
a compound interval.
C – Db = minor 2nd – b9
C – D = major 2nd – 9th
C – Eb = minor 3rd - #9
C – E = major 3rd - major 1oth
C – F = perfect 4th - 11th
C – F# = Augmented 4th or tritone - #11 or b5
C – G = perfect 5th - perfect 12th
C – G# = Augmented 5th b13
C – A = major 6th –13th
C – A#(Bb) = minor 7th
C – B = major 7th
C – C = octave
Practicing on the guitar can be a very boring and monotonous experience if you let it.
Of course you have to do the hard yards just like anything to be proficient but I think
it’s in the way you do it. If you are just starting out be sure that your technique is
good and that you are seated correctly. It is a good idea to get your hands on as much
material as possible and learn different styles. Practice scales and chords but try to
find ways that that dosnt make you feel like you are slaving over the fret board.
If you can, record a chord or even some chord changes in a key and practice them
this way. It is very easy to get caught up practicing scales up and down over and over
again, so try inventing new ways of practicing them. Play a chord and then jamming
in the correct scale. Remember to try and make it not sound like a scale, try creating
melodies and lines so that you are learning a few things at the one time.
The amount of time to practice varies and can range any where from 1hr to 5hrs a day
or more if you are really committed. There was a period where I practiced 16 hrs a
day a while back and from memory it didn’t last long as I ran myself into the ground.
Never do this, as it really is a waste of time. Instead try to get quality information and
do 4 lots of 1hr during the course of the day with at least a 30min break between
them. I found this to be more rewarding as I could soak up the information a lot
There are many methods of practicing. All can work but I think you should just work
out the best way that you learn and design it around that.
Once you get in the rhythm of practicing it is so much easier and you start seeing
results a lot quicker. Try not to overload yourself with information and try to
understand a concept or idea before moving ahead. Whether it is a chordal idea or a
left hand exercise try to ‘get it down’ before proceeding.
Things to concentrate on are:
Harmony (relationships between scales and chords)
Song repertoire
These are the main areas to study. Each of them has sub headings, for instanceScales – Major – Minor – Dominant – Melodic – Harmonic – Blues etc...
Here is a list of some personal favorites to consider studying or learning on the guitar.
Jimi Hendrix- Hey Joe, Angel, The Wind cries Mary, All along the Watch Tower,
Red House, Voodoo Chile, and Little Wing.
Joe Satriani- Always with me Always with You, Crushing Day, Echo, Satch Boogie,
Midnight, and The Enigmatic.
Steve Vai- The Riddle, I Would Love to, Blue Powder, For the Love of God, Tender
Surrender, and The Attitude Song.
Yngwie Malmsteen- Rising Force, Black Star and Far Beyond the Sun.
Eric Johnson- Emerald Eyes, Manhattan, SRV, and Cliffs of Dover.
Stevie Ray Vaughn- Mary had a Little Lamb, Texas Flood, Testify, Pride and Joy,
Lenny, Tell Me and Cold Shot.
Gary Moore- Still got the Blues, Pretty Woman, Walking by Myself, Parisian
Walkways and Empty Rooms.
George Benson- Breezin’, Affirmation, Masquerade, and Broadway,
Eric Clapton- Layla, Tears in Heaven, Wonderful Tonight, Signe, and Crossroads,
Autumn Leaves
Blue Bossa
All the things You Are
All of me
Blue Moon
Stella by Starlight
My funny Valentine
Autumn Leaves
Fly me to the Moon
The Girl from Ipanema.
Here is a small list of influential guitarists that one should consider studying.
Jimi Hendrix
BB King
Joe Walsh
Joe Satriani
Tommy Emmanuel
Steve Vai
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Eric Johnson
Ritchie Kotzen
Richie Blakmore
Marty Friedman
Michael Lee Firkins
Shawn Lane
Brett Garsed
Mark Knofler
Eric Clapton
Jennifer Batten
Albert Collins
Albert King
Gary Moore
John Scofield
Alan Holdsworth
Carlos Santana
Frank Zappa
George Lynch
Jeff Beck
Frank Gambale
George Benson
Leo Kottke
Larry Carlton
Scott Henderson
Jason Becker
John Lee Hooker
Eddie Van Halen
Kirk Hammett
Paul Gilbert
Jeff Healy
John Willams
Pat Metheny
Brian May
Improvisation in the dictionary means to compose or perform according to
spontaneous fancy without preparation.
One of the coolest things you can do when you are a musician is to jam with others
and have turns at improvising. In Jazz, improvising is used all the time and everyone
normally gets his or her chance at expressing themselves. A solid understanding of
scales is not essential when improvising but can sure give you many more options if
your ear hasn’t yet developed. If there are many chord changes and the musician
hasn’t been playing for a long time it is likely he will get lost. For a relative novice,
imagine how daunting it is to suddenly come across an F#7b9#9b5 chord if he doesn’t
know where it’s coming from.
Just like anything it takes time to learn to improvise and the more you do it the more
you will stumble upon things that can help you in the future.
If you are just starting out try to jam with friends and bounce ideas as you can learn a
lot more than just jamming with yourself in the bedroom to a backing track and its
more fun. Try improvising on I – VI – II - V progressions in different keys, as this is a
great starting point.
Some say that there are 2 ways of improvising, one by knowledge of chords and one
by using your ear. I think a good thing to try to achieve is both of them together along
with feeling. There’s nothing worse than hearing scales running up and down in the
correct key but with no conviction, motive or reason. It’s often referred to as cold
playing or Robot playing. A friend a while back said to me that he didn’t want to go
to a Conservatorium because he didn’t want to walk out playing like a robot. Even
though this is nonsense I can see the point that he was trying to get across.
It’s not always necessary to change into different positions when chord changes are
coming up. I have seen many guitarists who think that a different scale has to used
over every chord change, but such an approach can sound a bit strange, almost like its
done in blocks. There are no rules when improvising but you do want it to sound
smooth, connected and well, good. If you haven’t developed your ear a good thing to
focus on is scale to chord theory.
Overall the main thing to focus on is having fun as soon as its not fun then it just isn’t
worth doing. Yes learn the scales but be sure to use your ear as well because it’ll tell
you if it’s right or not.
Personally I have so much to learn in respects to improvisation, there is just so many
ways to approach a progression that one can never stop learning, in fact I believe I
have only scraped the surface and will continue to study all the possibilities I can in
helping me to understand it more.
Jazz is a great genre in covering improvisation and its roots are derived from blues so
if you are a beginner start with the blues.
Here are some progressions to improvise over. Try recording the changes, then
finding the correct scale have a jam over it.
Cadd9-G/B-A minor-Fmaj7-G11
Try inventing some of your own progressions and when you do this remember to to
apply the same progression into a different key. The more you come up with different
changes and ideas, the more it will help with the development of songwriting and
harmony for composition.
You will start to see how chords interact with one and other and how you can change
in and out of keys or (modes).
Also look at your favorite songs and their progressions. Maybe you can apply some
changes from them and rearrange them to suit a melody that you have been working
C minor9 – F minor9 – D m7b5 – G7 C minor9
Eadd9 – A major9 – Eadd9 – A major9
G minor 7 – C7 – G minor 7 – D7
Bm7b5 – E7b9 – A minor7
Remember it is important to understand where the chords are coming from so that you
can play the appropriate scale over it. If your ear is well developed then listen for the
extensions and added colours as well.
Composing opens up a whole new world. Its considered to be at the top of the music
chain where by the artist/composer is free to express his inner light, feelings and
emotions. The art of composing can be spontaneous or gradual, meaning an idea can
spring to mind in a flash or small ideas may come over time and then piece together
as a whole.
As a composer I have found that the state of mind at that point in time determines the
style and outcome of the piece. Sometimes a piece just doesn’t sound right or isn’t
working but with the change of one note can create the composition as a whole.
In my own experience there is usually a special point where it makes the song.
Sometimes a chill or quick insight has flashed at a sudden point. When you’re onto
something you know it within yourself.
Being such a magical process composing can be exciting and creative yet very
frustrating. Because it’s an expression of yourself, you want to do the very best job
possible so often you become a perfectionist. Sometimes you have to give yourself a
break and just go with the flow and then you may stumble across a melody or an idea.
There are often times of just giving up and throwing in the towel, but you just have to
keep going. With persistence sometimes you may just get a little reward.
If you play or compose from the heart nothing can stop you. I've seen 15yr olds
giving it their all on the minor pentatonic scale and wow does it sound great. The
main point is that even though its good to have a good base of theory and technique
nothing can beat the expression of you.
All art is subjective; there have been times where I have played my tunes to people
and some have said that its absolute rubbish while others have thought it to be a like able
song. One shouldn’t be discouraged, as long as you are happy with it then that’s
what counts. A tip is to put ideas and unfinished works in the composition vault and
they may come in handy later on. Its ok to be critical of your own work but music
should be shared, so let the world listen to it.
Some tips on writing would be to allow yourself to just let your mind wander. Maybe
think of a precious time that you have had or shared with another and try to capture
the feeling. The thing to try to achieve is the emotion in that moment in time. First of
all try not to think of the guitar as an instrument but music itself. What I mean to say
is that the guitar is great but the actual music is what we need to focus on. This means
that the idea of playing great licks and fast runs is put to one side. Don’t get me wrong
there is a time and a place for licks to blow peoples heads off but without good music
in support, it’s worthless.
The first and hardest thing is just getting started. What chords or notes do I play?
Well just play anything, try playing a bass note and then hunt for a melody. It lets you
hear the melody in comparison to the bass note.
Remember there are no rules in music; so don’t limit yourself to trying new ideas. If
it sounds good then hey it must be good.
Try putting your fingers on the fingerboard anywhere and making a chord. Play it and
then close your eyes and listen and try to picture something. If it’s a smooth sounding
chord then you may relate it to a wave in the ocean or something. One great thing about
being human is that we are all different and we relate to things like smell and touch in
different ways. So have a go and it may just open up a door or idea for a composition.
In composition there can be many ways to transition to get into the next section.
Because I have always used my ear I cant really give a good explanation as to how to
do it. There are techniques using secondary dominants, which can give you some
ideas for transitions into other keys or modes.
This is just one basic example of a transition from one key to another.
C major – C7 – F major.
Now this is very basic, all that is happening is we are using the C7 as a pivot chord. It
can be used to add tension in the original key of C meaning the piece is still in the key
of C. Or we can use it as a chord to change to the key of F major.
One good way to write (as stated above) is to find the melody note that you like and
then find the bass note. After that try filling in the rest of the harmony whether it has
altered notes or not just use your ear. Some times you come across a chord that
you’ve never played before and that’s quite a cool feeling.
This approach is quite difficult for the beginner, so if you are just starting out try
making up your own chord progressions and jamming behind it and coming up with a
melody. This approach is also effective and is also lots of fun.
From my own experience as with most things, the more you do it, the better you get.
So just start now if you haven’t already and create. There is nothing greater in music
than creating something from thin air then sitting back and having a listen, as
sometimes it actually sounds ok.
So have lots of fun, experiment like a scientist and remember to express yourself..
Left Hand Exercises
There are many great exercises for the left hand. The first one that I teach a beginner
student is a one string at a time chromatic type exercise.
With eg.1 you place the index finger in the first fret on the low E string, pluck the
note(F) then with the next finger(middle) on the F#
The next exercise is ascending in 3rds. Remember to try these exercises in as many
keys as you can.
Also try different rhythmic values like quavers, triplets, semi quavers etc.
This exercise can be applied to any scale.
A good instructional DVD for the left hand is John Petruccis Rock Disipline DVD.
I could write out a thousand more exercises for you to learn but I wont bother doing
that, instead I will give an insight as to how to approach it. First of all try to divide it
up into sections- Legato, Picked, Hammer on, pull off, string skipping, tapped and
Try then to concentrate on one at a time by working just on bending and bending
licks for 30min or so. Bending really strengthens the left hand and the more you do
this the more you will realise how many different ways a string can actually be bent.
Try treating the guitar like a singing voice. Bends can be very expressive also. If a
lick requires a soulful touch it might need a smooth caressed bend or if it needs an
angry approach it may need some real heated emotion. It’s all about imagination.
Try visualising legato playing like a smooth snake running up and down the neck, (if
something else works for you, use that) coming in and out of different rhythmic
pulses. It can be really effective when coming to a build up and into a bend.
Picked runs are great for building synchronicity between the left and right hands. It
must be stressed that if you are just starting out remember to go slow and make sure it
is even and rhythmically in time. It takes a certain amount of practice to become
proficient so be patient.
A string skipping master to study is Paul Gilbert. He done a great string skipping
version of Purcabels Cannon in D, check it out.
All of these techniques are effective in their own way and require a lot of control to
express them freely, so keep at it until you know that you have good control.
Tapping has been around for centuries in many different forms . One of the first
pioneers of the technique was Pagganini on the violin. In recent years the tapping
technique has developed into something of a more profound nature. Emment
Chapman in the late 60s introduced a tapping technique that would inspire players
like Eddie Van Halen, Jennifer Batten , Joe Satriani and Steve Vai to name a few. A
song that popularized the technique and shifted the guitar in another direction would
be Eruption by Van Halen. At the time when it was released, it set the guitar world on
fire and many guitarists followed in his footsteps with a different approach but it was
still the same idea.
Tapping is mainly used on the electric guitar, as it is much easier to hear the after
effects when you have struck the note by the powered pickups. The tapping style can
add some interest and can also be played at a blistering pace.
A good exercise is to hold down the A on the high E string with your index finger on
your left hand, then with your right hand index finger tap the E at the 12th fret also on
the high E string. Then alternate by using your Pinky finger on you left hand and play
the C at the 8th fret on the high E string. This is just a very basic exercise to get you
started. Because we are playing the notes A C E it forms the Aminor chord.
The best way to practice and learn the tapping technique is to learn songs by artists
that have already done it and then apply it into your own playing. Some cool songs to
consider learning to help you with tapping are- Always with me always with you by
Joe Satriani, Eruption by Eddie Van Halen, Bad Horsie by Steve Vai and Jennifer
Battens version of flight of the bumblebee
These are just a couple of songs from a list of thousands that you can look at.
A master of the tapping technique is the wonderful Jennifer Batten. Have a listen to
her version of as stated above ‘Flight of the bumblebee’ its just phenomenal.
As with practicing anything remember to start off slow and with a metronome and
gradually increase your speed. Tapping initially is quite a difficult technique but once
you have the basics its not that much harder to move on to more serious applications.
The sweeping technique on the guitar has always been a favorite of mine. It can be
executed at a slow pace or at a blazingly fast speed. For me the king of sweep picking
is our Australian guitar legend Frank Gambale. Frank moved to the U.S.A when he
was 24 to study at the Guitar Institute in Los Angeles California. The speed and
clarity at which Frank can play an arpeggiated sweep or any sweep for that matter is
blindingly fast and done with feeling. The rake is slightly different to the sweep in
that you slightly mute the strings to get a more percussive effect; George Benson is
one that uses this to his advantage.
A good exercise for the sweeping technique is to use arpeggios.
In Ex1 above this is a fingering for an A minor arpeggio in the 12th position.
Now when trying this for the first time, be sure to go really slow and let the pick fall
on to the next string, and note too, that the right and left hands should be in sync with
each other. When the fingers on the left hand move to the next string the right hand
should strike the string at the same time.
Ex2. Major arpeggio from the 5th string.
A great idea for playing and sweeping arpeggios is to sweep up the diatonic
arpeggios in a key.
C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, B diminished
Try sweeping all these arpeggios up the neck.
Remember to go slow and keep in tempo. Use a metronome if you have one as this
can help tremendously with timing.
Any arpeggio can be swept, so try going to the chords section and having a look at
their related arpeggios and apply the sweeping technique. If the fingering is not
right to execute the sweep don’t be lazy, try coming up with your own ideas and
rearrange the notes so that it is easier to sweep. I think coming up with some creative
alternatives is a great help in developing your own style and voice. It makes you start
to think for yourself.
Finger picking is a great technique for arpeggiating chords and is also useful when
there are two guitarists. The widely used legend of P I M A, the P stands for pugular
(thumb) Indice (fore finger) medio (middle finger) and Annular or ring finger.
Two different strokes are the rest stroke and the free stroke.
The rest stroke is when you strike a note with a finger and then rest it on the string
above it.
The free stroke is when you strike a string and then bring it back towards you all in
one motion.
A good exercise for finger picking is taking a chord progression and playing the bass
note followed by the note on the g string B string and high E string. So for an A minor
chord it would be
Then try this with the remainder of chords in the piece.
Lets take the progression from the Verse of Hotel California in A minorAm
A great finger-picking guitarist to consider studying is Tommy Emmanuel. I think
finger picking is a fantastic style because it allows you to play bass, melody and
chords all at the same time. It’s also great to do arrangements of songs using this
style. You can put in extensions that are not normally there to make it a bit more
In Classical guitar playing the pinky on the right hand is usually stressed as not being
used. However, I use it where I can if it makes my life a bit easier, as I really don’t
see the relevance in not using it. I suppose it all comes down to the way you have
Classical Etudes are great for developing the finger picking style also. There are
literally thousands of studies to practice.
Some earlier fingerpickers like Chet Atkins and Merle Travis are a great source to get
the idea from. There are plenty of instructional books and DVDs by these guys to
study and master.
I think that finger picking is a very important style to study, as you can incorporate it
into your playing with just a little application.
Having my first student at 13 I have been privileged to have many students under my
belt. To teach you need to have good communication skills and be able to develop
good rapport. One of the aims is to be able to awaken the student so that he can
express himself and not hold anything back.
Personally with all my students I have never really had a set curriculum to work by, I
have assessed where they’re at and tried to fill in any gaps and then helped them
progress from there. One method of teaching is to try to cover a broad range of topics
in order to give the student a solid platform to work from.
Teaching is an art form also and requires experience just like anything to be good at
it. I’ve had hundreds of students over the years and have also learnt something from
most of them.
Here are some areas to focus on developing:
Song study
Song writing/composing
Practicing methods
There are thousands of books, dvds, papers, ebooks, magazines, cds, clinics out there
for you to learn from. Most are good and can cut the studying time in half if its
quality. Some resources that ive found helpful areGuitar player magazines
Mel bays guitar series
Chord dictionaries
Jazz real books
Theory books
Guitar handbook
Instructional DVDs
Star licks instructional library
Guitar clinics at your local guitar store
Learning from your friends
One good thing about teaching is that it reinforces the concepts that you have learnt
over the years. There has been many times where a student has asked me if I am sick
of teaching the C Major scale and I say no because it cements it in my subconscious
even more. You can never stop learning and even though it is pointless repeating the
same thing over and over again, sometimes you stumble across something that you
missed on the 46th time you went over it. PRACTIC MAKES PERFECT.
World-renowned guitarist Khan Manuel shares the knowledge contained
in these pages from experience. From performing and recording with other
world class guitar heroes like Frank Gambale and Nunno Bettencourt,
to gaining the #1 position on the Guitar9 best seller charts for his critically
acclaimed debut album 'The Knight' 'Guitar Insights' contains valuable
knowledge condensed down from around 20 yrs of study.
Khan Manuel endorses global guitar makers Ibanez alongside some of his
heroes Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and George Benson.
A message from Khan:
Thank you for reading this book Guitar Insights. I sincerely hope that you
learn something from it, even if it is just a little piece of knowledge.
My objective and goal is to help you achieve your goals on the guitar,
whatever they may be.
Please feel free to share this eBook with anyone you think may find it beneficial,
a friend, relative or someone you know that is learning.
Yours in music,
Khan Manuel