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Summary: Understanding Music Theory - the Major Scale is the most important point of reference if you want to understand music theory

The Importance of the Major Scale

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Most guitarists travel a different route through music theory than say, piano or violin students. This is because so much guitar music is evolved from blues and country styles that are based on the pentatonic scales.

For this reason many guitarists have little or no use for the major scale until they venture into Jazz.

But here is my second 'Golden Rule' about teaching guitar music theory:

You cannot teach your student theory without first laying in a very thorough knowledge of the Major Scale.

So having first ensured that they have learnt their notes, the next step is to see to it that they understand the terms Tone and Semitone (Whole Tone/Half Tone).

You can then get them to learn and apply the Major scale formula:

Tone, Tone, SemiTone, Tone, Tone, Tone, SemiTone,

Take lots of time over this; get them to work out major scales on paper by applying the formula straight to the chromatic scale. Then get them to find major scales up and down single strings, so they associate the formula with the layout of frets on the guitar. Next, get them to figure out fingering patterns across the strings - there are several of these that make sense in one context or another.

For now, you just want your student to apply the information hands-on so that the theory beds in. In the normal course of events I wouldn't dream of spending less than a whole lesson devoted to the subject of the major scale and I would follow up the next lesson to see how much of it had sunk in.

The point once again is that it is completely futile proceeding further with theory until the major scale is thoroughly understood as almost everything else we look at is going to be defined against it.

If, at this stage you are wondering whether you missed this vital point in your own musical development then now may be a good time to hop over to this section of the site.

Be sure to return here later though for more advice on how to teach music theory !

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Related Pages
 From the Bottom Up
 Don't believe a word your student says
 Correct Sequence
 Use it or Lose it
 Don't Waste Time Explaining
 The Importance of Repeated Use
 Defining Musical Terms
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 Examine, Revise, Consolidate
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