Music Help

At one time I taught classical guitar. Here are some instructional materials for music that you may find useful. I’ll add to this section at my leisure. If you need blank sheet music follow this link.

Here is a chart for the placement of the notes on the neck of the guitar and the playing positions.

embsguitarchartHere are the Major Chords. Remember that the sharp of one note is the flat of the following note so C# is also Db and Eb is also D#.

simplemajorchordsHere are the Minor Chords.

simpleminorchordsHere are 7th Chords.



C Major corresponds with A Minor, F Major to D Minor, Bb Major to G Minor, Eb Major to C Minor, Ab Major to F Minor, Db Major to Bb Minor, Gb Major to Eb Minor, Cb Major to Ab Minor.

C Major has no flats or sharps. D has a F# and C#.  has a Bb. Bb has a Bb and Eb. Eb has Bb, Eb, and Ab. Ab has a Eb, Eb, Ab, and Db. Db has a Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, and Gb. Gb has a Bc, Eb, Ab, Db Gb, and Cb. Cb has a Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, and Fb.

Major Scales with their relative Minor following…

Scale of A Major, F#/Gb minor : A B C# D E F# G#, F# G# A B C# D E

Scale of B Major, G#/Ab Minor : B C# D# E F# G# A#, G# A# B C# D# E F#

Scale of C Major, A Minor : C D E F G A B, A B C D E F G

Scale of D Major, B Minor : D E F# G A B C#, B C# D E F# G A

Scale of E Major, C#/Db Minor : E F# G# A B C# D#, C# D# E F# G# A B

Scale of F Major, D Minor : F G A Bb C D E, D E F G A Bb C D

Scale of G Major, E Minor : G A B C D E F#, E F# G A B C D

Scale of F#/Gb Major, D#/Eb Minor : F# G# A# B C# D# E#, D# E# F# G# A# B C#

Scale of Db/C# Major, Bb/A# Minor : Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C, Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab

Scale of Ab/G# Major, F Minor : Ab Bb C Db Eb F G, F G Ab Bb C Db Eb

Scale of Eb/D# Major, C Minor : Eb F G Ab Bb C D, C D Eb F G Ab Bb

Scale of Bb/A# Major, G Minor : Bb C D Eb F G A, G A Bb C D Eb F

Scale Degrees

A seven note scale has a Tonic, Supertonic, Mediant, Subdominant, Dominant, Submediant, and a Leading Tone, (after the Leading Tone the pattern repeats starting again with a Tonic or sometimes called an Octave at that point since it is the eighth note), listed as Roman numerals for easy notion as I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII. In this common system the Tonic Note (also called the Keynote), which is the first in the scale, is considered the central note in the scheme or the “overall tone” around which the piece is likely to be designed.

Interval or Skip-Step System

The distance between the notes on the scale in relation to the division of a string into twelve parts gives up a skip-step or “interval” system to make a scale more easily described. We could say for instance that in the C Major scale we play the first note (which is a C) and then skip the next note which is a semi-tone (C#) so that we play the next whole tone note (which is D), and we skip the next semi-tone (which is D#) so that we play the next whole tone note (which is E), but we do not skip the next semi-tone (which is F) but instead play it. These intervals are usually described with T and S letters with the “T” meaning a whole tone (so that we must skip the semi-tone), and “S” being a semi-tone which is not skipped, but rather played.

So then the interval sequence of the notes in any Major scale appear to be in this sequence: T T S T T T S meaning Tone, Tone, Semi-Tone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semi-Tone.

But the interval sequence of the notes in any Minor scale will appear in this sequence: T S T T S T T.

So then if we know the starting note (also called the Tonic note or I (Roman numeral one) note) for any particular key we know the entire scale.

For example; for the key of C Major it is C which is the starting note and THEN the sequence is T T S T T T S, so that C is followed by the first whole tone which is D (since we needed to skip over the semi-tone (C#) to arrive at the next whole tone), and the next note is also a semi-tone away which is F.

The full sequence for C major then would start at C and then it would be D E F G A B C or T T S T T T S.

The minor scale for C would start a C and then be TSTTSTT or D Eb F G Ab Bb.

In this manner any major or minor scale can be discovered.

Scales which have seven pitches which are divided into five whole note steps with two semi-tone steps are called “Diatonic.”

Major Scales

(see section above to learn about intervals which make a major scale)


C# D# E# F# G# A# B#

Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C

D E F# G A B C#

Eb F G Ab Bb C D

E F# G# A B C# D#

F G A A# C D E

F# G# A# B C# D# E#

Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F

G A B C D E F#

Ab Bb C Db Eb F G

A B C# D E F# G#

Bb C D Eb F G A

B C# D# E F# G# A#

Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb

The natural Minor Scales are based upon the T-S-T-T-S-T-T pattern. Below are the natural minor scales.

C D Eb F G Ab Bb C
C# D# E F# G# A B C#
D E F G A Bb C D
Eb F Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb
E F# G A B C D E
F G Ab Bb C Db Eb F
F# G# A B C# D E F#
G A Bb C D Eb F G
G# A# B C# D# E F# G#
Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb
B C# D E F# G A B

Using What is Above for Transposing Chords for Songs

Most songs will use the first, fourth, and fifth chords within the key that the song is written. Sometimes the seventh chord or a minor or minor seventh will also be used. But most songs only use three that I pointed out. The order in which the chords are played vary from song to song. For example a simple song in the key of C may begin with the C chord which is the first note in the scale of C and therefore the first Chord within the Key of C. Then the song may use the fifth chord in the key of C which is G. Then it may use the fourth which is F. And then it may conclude with the first chord which is C. The order of the songs chord progression then will appear as… I, V, IV, I or we could say C, G, F, C. The numerals however help us to transpose the piece into another key easily. For all we need to do is to look at another scale for the key we would like to transpose the song into and find the first, fourth, and fifth notes within the scale and that will give us the corresponding chords for transposing the song into that key. For instance because the chord progression for our song is I, V, IV, I in the key of C the chord progression would be C, G, F, C. But we can easily transpose the song into the Key of F by using the I, V, IV, and I chords within the Key of F which would make our chord progression F, C, A#, F. And for the Key of Ab our chord progression would be Ab, Eb, Db, Ab. This is very helpful for singers who play strumming instruments because they will be able to transpose any song into the Key they sing most easily in as long as they know what Key the song was written in and the chord progression of that song.

For example the song amazing grace uses the chord progression of C, F, C, C, G, G7, C, C7, F, C, C, G, C. That is I, IV, I, I, V, IV-7th, I, I-7th, IV, I, I, V, I. So in the key of F the same songs chord progression would be F, A#, F, F, C, A#-7th, F, F-7th, F, F, C, F.

Understanding Chord Creation

Chords are made up any three notes, but some combinations of notes within any particular scale are more common than others for making chords as they have a more pleasing sound than others. The most common notes chosen for making a chord (within a twelve note scale – that is seven natural notes and the eight being the new octave with the flats and sharps added) are the first note within the scale (acting as a root), with the fifth (counting the flats and sharps), and the eighth (also counting the flats and sharps). These notes played together would make a “major chord.” In the key of C a major chord would be the root note of C with E and G. That would be the first note, with the fifth (counting in this manner-C,C#,D,D#,E), with the eighth (counting in this manner starting from E as the fifth-F,F#). Normally however we call this combination the First, with the Major Third, and the Perfect Fifth. This is because the distance between the notes is not counted as their actual distance on the keyboard, but rather on the musical notation staff. This makes the chords a bit easier to figure out. The term here the “major” and “perfect” are related to types of tuning, and its meaning can be largely ignored in chord creation for most musical purposes and will be covered elsewhere as it is outside the scope of this section. However once you know that a Major chord is made up of the First, Third, and Fifth notes on the musical staff from the starting point which is the root or else we could say the first, fifth, and eighth notes on a twelve note scale or keyboard if flats and sharps are included it becomes rather easy to construct on major chords as long as you know your musical scales or have a keyboard or a keyboard diagram available.

The first letter being the root, the second the Major Third (or seventh note on the keyboard), and the Perfect Fifth (or the eight note on the Keyboard) the chart for Major Chords would appear as…

Chord     Root     Major third     Perfect fifth
C     C     E     G
C♯     C♯     E♯     G♯
D♭     D♭     F     A♭
D     D     F♯     A
D♯     D♯     Fdouble sharp     A♯
E♭     E♭     G     B♭
E     E     G♯     B
F     F     A     C
F♯     F♯     A♯     C♯
G♭     G♭     B♭     D♭
G     G     B     D
G♯     G♯     B♯     D♯
A♭     A♭     C     E♭
A     A     C♯     E
A♯     A♯     Cdouble sharp     E♯
B♭     B♭     D     F
B     B     D♯     F♯

Now similarly the minor chords would be the same concept but different notes from the scale or staff being chosen. Minor use the First, the Minor Third, and the Perfect Fifth so that the only difference in the second note which is the same as in the Major Chord construct but flattened so for the chord of C which was made from the notes of C, E, and G the Minor version would be C, Eb, G. Pretty easy. The chart for the Minor chords would appear as…

Cm     C     E♭     G
C♯m     C♯     E     G♯
D♭m     D♭     F♭ (E)     A♭
Dm     D     F     A
D♯m     D♯     F♯     A♯
E♭m     E♭     G♭     B♭
Em     E     G     B
E♯m     E♯     G♯     B♯ (C)
Fm     F     A♭     C
F♯m     F♯     A     C♯
G♭m     G♭     Bdouble flat (A)     D♭
Gm     G     B♭     D
G♯m     G♯     B     D♯
A♭m     A♭     C♭ (B)     E♭
Am     A     C     E
A♯m     A♯     C♯     E♯ (F)
B♭m     B♭     D♭     F
Bm     B     D     F♯


Strumming is a highly personalized skill but the rule that must be followed is that you must follow the time signature of the song so that you have four beats in each measure for common time, 3 for 3/4 time, 6 for 6/8 time, etc. You do not need to strum on each of these beats however as a silent beat (a rest) still keeps proper time, but you must not skip over the silent time, but you must consider the silence (the rest) to have been like a silent strum which you played. You can strum in any pleasing pattern as long as you remain in time with the song. For example you could strum twice for every beat or four times or you could strum every other beat, but you must remain in time with the song in any case. You may strum downward or upward in any pattern you desire. For example if a measure has four beats as in standard for most songs you may strum downward on each beat or upward on each beat or downward on the first and upward on the second repeating that pattern throughout the song or measure. You may strum downward on the first beat and hold until the third beat and strum upward holding again until the first beat of the next measure and repeat that pattern throughout. You may strum downward and then upward between the beats so that you may strum downward again on the second beat. Because that pattern would result in eight strums to the measure (silent strums including if you use any) it is called strumming in double-time. You may also simply strum once per measure and not strum again unless a chord change is called for. As you can see the strumming pattern can be as complex or simple as you desire. Instead of simply resting you may also muffle the strings for an extra effect.

I like to denote strum patterns with a d,u,r,m notation for down/up/rest/muffled and lower case for strums of the half note or double timed duration and dashes to indicate a held strum of the duration of a full note. For example if I were to strum down for one beat, and up the next, then down again, and then hold that last strum for one beat I would denote this with the pattern D,U,D,-. If I were to strum down one beat, up the next, then rest, then strum but muffle the strings the notation would look like D,U,R,M. If I were to strum downward for four beats and then downward and upward quickly so that I am playing two notes at double time speed between each measure the notation would appear at D,D,D,D,du.

Common patterns for common timing (4 beats in a measure) could include…





There are seven different “modes” of diatonic scales. Since all major scales use the interval interval sequence of T T S T T T S the starting note, not the interval sequence (which never changes) determines the mode.

In this way the mode of the song can be shifted and the key raised. If you start on the standard first note of the scale that makes the mode “Ionian” but if you start on the next whole note it is called “Dorian” and after that it is called “Phrygian.” After those if you start on the next semi-tone the mode is called “Lydian” and starting on the next whole note would put the song into the “Mixolydian” mode. Starting on the next whole note would put the mode into “Aeolian” mode and the next semi-tone would make use of the “Locrian” mode. You can see then that the modes follow the same interval sequence since you could not begin by playing a note outside of the scale in which the song was written. If you were to do that you would not be shifting merely “modes”, but rather entire “keys” although the effect is rather similar in that the song can sound at a different pitch in either case.

For example if the scale was C major which normally starts with C (the Tonic note – Roman numberal I) the mode of the song is Ionian, as usual, so that the scale appears as CDEFGAB. But the scale (and therefore the song) could be shirted into Dorian mode by rewriting the scale to begin on the next whole note (the Supertonic – Roman numberal II), which is D, so that the scale appears to be D E F G A B C D. For Phrygian mode the scale would be E F G A B C D E and so on.

All the modes are: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian.

Modes are useful for raising key without using any flats or sharps that differ from the original song.


A common way to list the notes within a scale (especially singers) is to list the notes with solfeggio (also called “solfa” or “solfeo”, etc.). The system is as follows:

For the first note (the Tonic or Roman numeral I) the word “Do” (pronounced with a long “O”) is used. For the next note (the SuperTonic, Roman numeral II) “Re” (pronounced “ray”) is used and so on for this sequence: Do (pronounced “doe”), Re (“ray”), Mi (“me”), Fa (“fah”), So (“so”), La (“lah”), Ti (“tee” or “tea”) and Do again if necessary.

There are many variations of solfeggio and no real standard. It is used as a practice for singers and is not standardized enough to be an adequate form of notation today, although it was used in times past extensively.


A capo is a device which can allow for shifting keys in essentially the same way more effortlessly on the guitar than adjusting the key or the mode manually so that the chords used to play the song do not need to be rediscovered and the song can be played in the same manner as already learned although the pitch will sound higher. Capos are seldom used in the playing of classical guitar, but are common in folk and country guitar, especially for the guitar accompanying soprano singers.


Volume is the loudness of the music. In technical terms it can be thought of as the amplitude of a wave.


Note is the particular sound which differs from the others in the song expressed in relation to the scale. A note can be thought of as the frequency within a wave which relates to the height or depth of the sound, rather than the amplitude which relates to the volume or loudness or quietness of a sound.


A scale is a selected set of notes which may be used to compose a particular song regardless of the order they will be played in while reciting the final composition. They are arranged in a particular order for study, but the order is not directly related to the final song. While the most common scale (the chromatic scale) incorporates notes that are essentially evenly spaced apart as they would be if a string were divided into 12 portions this is just a matter of modern convention for a scale can include notes of any frequency selected at random; however a song composed from such a scale would most likely be unpleasant to our sensibilities. For this reason scales are usually designed with mathematical relationships between the notes based upon the divisions of a string which allows for a pleasant composition with less effort.

Scales are arranged in an ascending or descending order in relation to the frequencies involved and the frequencies can differ on ascension and descension. The chromatic scale has twelve notes. The diatonic scale only uses use the white notes of the piano keyboard without the flats and sharps (so that you only use C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C). The whole tone scale has six notes. The pentatonic scale has only five notes. The octatonic or diminished scales have eight notes. Minor and melodic scales have seven notes. And there are many other kinds of scales.

It may be helpful to understand that the concept of scale is closely related to a similar concept called “mode” which indicated not only the scale, but also the mood or general character of the composition. The “Aeolian mode” for instance is what we call the A Minor scale today and the term may have indicated a somewhat sad sounding song as songs composed with that scale seem to produce that effect.


Tempo is the general speed of the music usually denoted in beats per minute. The common names for common tempos are: Larghissimo 24 and less (beats per minute), Grave 25-45, Largo 40-60, Lento 45-60, Larghetto 60-66, Adagio 66-76, Adagietto 72-76, Andante 76-108, Andantino 80-108 (sometimes the word means a bit slower than andante, sometimes a bit faster, depending on usage), Marcia Moderato 83-85,  Andante Moderato 92-112, Moderato 108-120, Allegretto 112-120, Allegro Moderato 116-120, Allegro 120-168, Vivace 168-176, Allegrissimo (or Allego vivace) 172-176, Presto 168-200, Prestissimo 200-208, Prestissimo 200 and above.


Rhythm is the general pattern of the song set by the difference between when noise is heard and when it is not. Most people incorrectly assume the rhythm is set by a particular instrument such as the drum or rhythm guitar, but the rhythm is set by all of the instruments simultaneously so that any single instrument or all of the instruments when combined make up the time in which noise is heard and when it is not. Together they make up the rhythm of the song. Rhythm guitars and drums are generally used to maintain the rhythm of the song even when the other instruments are silent and that is why there is some confusion.


The melody is the pattern of differing notes set by a primary instrument. While two or more instruments can carry their own unique melodies simultaneously and while one instrument may carry more than one melody simultaneously the word “melody” stands in contrast to harmony and indicates a singular voice which has prevalence over all others.


Harmony is a secondary melody written specifically to compliment the primary melody. It can be thought of as a secondary voice either played on another instrument or the same instrument. A harmony is present when two or more notes are heard simultaneously. The concept of harmony is different than counter-melody. In a counter-melody the two melodies being played simultaneously are considered of equal value in the importance of the song. But a harmony is considered of a lesser value than the melody and can be removed altogether without affecting the character of the song. When two instruments are played together it is called a duet.


A chord is present whenever notes are played three-fold so that there are three distinct sounds being heard simultaneously. Because a chord is meant to compliment the melody a chord can be absent without affecting the character of a song. Chords may have more than three notes, but chords are based upon the idea of a triad; that is a three-note combination. Because chords on some stringed instruments like the guitar are often strummed the notes of the chord are sounded in a sequence rather than simultaneously, but because of the duration of the sound of each of the notes the sound of three notes will be heard at some point nonetheless. However as a purely technical matter strumming a guitar does not produce a chord. A trio is what it is called when three instruments are played together.

When four instruments are played together it is called a quartet.

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