Category Archives: Music Theory

Improve your chord knowledge with Inversions

Hi There,

Thank you for reading my blogs so far.

This blog will provide you with insight into learning the basic essentials of chord inversions. With it you’ll be able to

1. Add lots more variety to your playing by introducing more inverted chords

2. Understand when you see something like D/F# in tab as to what it means!

3. Integrate your musical theory in more practical ways

So let’s keep it simple by just referring to Major triads/ chords

Major chords are built up of a Root note, Major 3rd (2 tones in size) + a perfect 5th (3 1/2 tones in size)

So for example D major would be D, F# and A (D – E – F# is 2 tones) ( D – E – F# – G – A is 3 1/2 tones)

A First Inversion is one where the 3rd note is played as the root note. So for example (F#, D and A would be a first inversion of D major, or C#, E and A a first inversion of A major)

Here are examples of these chords:












These are really nice chords to play and can often be used as substitutes for your standard A and D chords. AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ uses the D/F# chord.

A Second Inversion is where the Perfect 5th is played as the root note.

So for example (B, E, G#) for E major or (G, C and E) for C major.

Here are some examples of these chords:












So have a play around with your triads and see what you come up with! It’s always worth seeking out new ideas and ways of playing to add to your guitar skills.

Many thanks for reading.

You can find other great free tips via my Twitter account @jsmusicschool.



Posted by on April 1, 2013 in Music Theory


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7th chord construction – Major7, Minor7 and Dominant 7

Hi There,

In previous blogs I’ve stated how major, minor and suspended (sus2 + sus4) chords are constructed.

Now we’ll look at the 3 main types of 7th chords that tend to be used the most. (There are others but these tend to be the most used)

Major7 chords

Are built up of a Root (1,) Major Third (3) Perfect 5th (5) and Major 7 (7)

Major 3rd is 2 tones from the root

Perfect 5th is 3 1/2 tones from the root

Major 7 is 5 1/2 tones from the root (or a semitone back from the root as a shortcut)

So a few examples would be:

A major7 (A,C#,E and G#) and Cmajor 7 (C,E,G and B)








Minor 7 chords

Are built up of a root (1) Minor 3rd (b3), Perfect 5th (5) and Minor 7 (b7)

Minor 3rd is 1 1/2 tones from the root

Perfect 5th is 3 1/2 tones from the root

Minor 7 is 5 tones from the root (or back a tone from the root as a shortcut)

So a few examples would be:

Gm7 (G, Bb, D and F) and Bm7 (B,D,F# and A)









Dominant 7 chords:

Are built up of a Root (1), Major 3rd (3), Perfect 5th and Minor 7th)

Major 3rd is 2 tones from the root

Perfect 5th is 3 1/2 tones from the root

Minor 7 is 5 tones from the root (or a tone back from the root as a shortcut)

Some examples would be E7 (E, G#, B and D) and D7 (D, F#, A and C)









As you can see from the formulas there’s very slight differences between the make up of the chords but these differences produce completely different sounding chords

Understanding when to use each type of chord depends on what key your in and the:


It can also have many other benefits:

  • Knowledge of these are essential for thorough learning of arpeggios as you are using the individual intervals within the chord to highlight all the aspects of a particular chord
  • In terms of fretboard knowledge it’s very useful to know where all these different intervals are that make up the chords so you fully understand what you’re playing
  • If you’re in a band or want to play an instrument like a piano, learning this sort of stuff will give you massive head starts
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Posted by on June 5, 2012 in Music Theory


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The musical alphabet

Hi there,

Thanks for reading my blogs so far and hope you’ve found them useful – feel free to ask questions in the comment section

In today’s blog the musical alphabet will be explained and why sometimes it’s important that a Bb is called a Bb and not an A#

The musical alphabet is made up of the first 7 letters of our alphabet :


these are the only letters for chords or notes that you’ll come across

Now in-between these notes you have either sharps or flats:

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

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

As you can see there are no sharps or flats in-between B and C and E and F

There are 5 sets of notes that sound the same but have different names:

1.A#, Bb,

2.C#, Db,

3.D#, Eb

4.F#, Gb

5.G#, Ab

These are called ‘Enharmonic notes’

Now depending on what ‘key’ you’re in depends on what enharmonic note to use

Let’s have a few examples:

Using your TTSTTTS rule for the major scale (T= Tone which is 2 notes i.e. B to C# or G to A, S=Semitone which is 1 note i.e. E to F or G to G#)

F major contains the notes:

F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E

The reason we call it Bb in this key and not A# is that you always have one of every letter in the musical alphabet for a major or minor scale.

So the F major key can easily remembered as just having one ‘flat’ note

Let’s look at B major:

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

It makes more sense to call the 7th note in the scale A# and not Bb as otherwise you’d not only have 2 types of B note in the scale, but also be mixing up flats (b) and sharp (#) notes in the same key

This is one of the reasons we have both sharps and flats in music as it keeps things organised

Many thanks for reading

You can find other music tips via my twitter feed @jsmusicschool



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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Music Theory


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Intervals and the differences between your 7th chords

Hi there,

Thanks for taking an interest in my blogs so far.

Most guitarists will look at sheet music or tab at some point during their playing lives and will come across chords like Cmaj7, C7 and Cminor7 but not actually understand why they are called these and why they work with other chords

I’ll just cover 3 types of 7 chords in this blog as they tend to be the most popular and the ones that you’ll see

As you know your chords are built up of various intervals, the intervals used to make these 3 7th chords are:

(b3) Minor 3rd – Is 1 1/2 tones in size

(3) Major 3rd – is 2 tones in size

(5) Perfect 5th – is 3 1/2 tones in size

(b7) Minor 7th – is 5 tones in size

(7) Major 7th – is 5 1/2 tones in size

A Tone is 2 notes i.e. G to A or E to F#

A Semitone is 1 note i.e. G to G# or B to C

The numbers on the left in brackets are what these intervals are often abbreviated to for ease of writing and saying them out loud. Just like when you say Lol in a text message instead of laughing out loud!

Your Major 7 chords comprise of a root (1), 3, 5 and 7

Your Minor 7 chords are made up from 1, b3, 5 and b7 intervals

Your Dominant 7 (7) chords are made up from 1, 3, 5 and b7 intervals

The reason these chords sound like they do and differ from the others is due to the intervals within them. It’s also why you have to be careful in your songs which ones to use as the wrong type of 7th chord could clash with notes in that key.

Let’s take a few examples of 7th chords:

Cmaj7 would contain the notes C, E, G and B

C –> E       C –>G                 C –>B

2tones (3)   3 1/2tones (5)     5 1/2 tones (7)

B7 would contain the notes B, D#, F# and A

B –> D#      B –> F#             B –>A

2tones (3)   3 1/2tones (5)    5 tones (b7)

So as you can see there are slight differences in the make up of all these 3 types of chords, and the differences in the intervals produces their signature sound

Learning these will really help you to carefully pick which chords to use in a song and you’ll be able to look at a piece of music with a particular 7th chord in it, and if it doesn’t sound right, then you can check the correct notes with the above formulas.

Also knowledge of these are essential for learning arpeggios as you’ll be using all these various intervals in different positions to improvise over these chords to highlight their features.

Plus if you’re in a band, or want to play other instruments like the piano, a Gmaj7 chord is going to be the same on any instrument so you’ll give yourself a big advantage.

Many thanks for reading



You can also find other useful tips @jsmusicschool


Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Music Theory


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Practice schedules

Hi there,

Previous blogs have been much of a technical nature so now I can share thoughts on how you should practice.

Say if you have a 30 minute/ hour lesson every week, you should be spending about 3/4 hours on top of that to really get on top of all the content as there is so much to do if you want to become good.

Now at Js music school I actually stress quite clearly that if you don’t practice enough of the right things every week there is no point in coming to the lessons as I will have to go over the same stuff every time.

This makes lessons rather boring for all parties concerned and a waste of time/ money and energy.

Plus the school gets a big kick out of people progressing and becoming good players.

Your practice schedule should balance between the following 5 cornerstones:

  1. Performance
  2. Improvisation
  3. Theory
  4. Technical
  5. Aural Perception

The idea is that all the aspects help each other out in some way and will make you progress faster.


Practice writing out the G major scale (Theory)

Practice the G major scale using the 7 3 note per string patterns (Technical)

Learn how to recognize by ear the intervals that make up the major scale (Aural Perception)

Play the scales using various slurs and exercises over backing tracks to develop riffs (Improvisation)

Get your rhythm guitarist in your band some chords from the key of G major e.g. G major, E minor , D major and C major, and create some riffs / solos over the top (Performance)

So as you can see everything links together and learning one thing reinforces others.

So a weeks schedule may look like:

Monday: warm up exercises (i.e. A chromatic scale), Pentatonic scales in 2 keys ascending in groups of 3, quaver strumming patterns and play over backing tracks in those 2 keys

Tuesday: On the train to work write out a few major scales and harmonize them to produce chord progressions, and listen to some intervals / chord progressions on the train to train your ears.

Practice strumming patterns in the evening

Wednesday: Practice with mates, come up with a few riffs using major, minor scales, pentatonics – swap between rhythm and lead playing, practice arpeggios

Thursday: CAGED chord system, sixteenth note strumming patterns, practice improvisation using major scales and the blues scale

Friday: Learn some songs that utilize all of the above techniques, ask your teacher for suggestions

Again in between this learn some fun riffs and songs to break up your schedule

Many thanks for reading


James Schofield

You can find me on twitter @jsmusicschool

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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in Music Theory


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Major and Minor chord construction

Hi there,

To give yourself a big advantage as a musician, learning how all your chords are constructed can be very beneficial.

You’ll often see Bm7, B7, B major 7 (sometimes written as B triangle 7), all over guitar books and tabs across the internet.

The majority of guitarists don’t understand what all these 7,9’s 6’s, 4s and 2’s mean when seeing it in a chord progression.

These all relate to intervals – an interval is the distance between 2 notes.

All your chords are built up of intervals – they are called different things depending on the distances of pitch between each interval.


The most common chords used tend to be Major and Minor chords – ‘G’ generally means G major on a piece of sheet music and ‘Gm’ would be G minor.

These are often referred to as triads also – this is because they only contain 3 notes. You’ll be able to come up with an enourmous amount of different voicings for these triads if you know how they are constructed.

A Major chord is built up of a ROOT , MAJOR 3RD AND A PERFECT 5TH, often shortened to 1,3,5.

The ROOT note will be the first note you play and also the letter of the Chord – so in B major the root is B

The MAJOR 3RD is 2 TONES IN SIZE from the Root note. (a Tone is 2 notes, say G to A or E to F#)

The PERFECT 5TH is 3 AND A HALF TONES IN SIZE from the Root note (so this would be 3 tones and 1 semitone – D to A for example)

Let’s take some chords and work out the 3 notes without having to look at the guitar.

E Major – the Root is E

E -> F# -> G# is 2 tones so the MAJOR 3RD

E -> F# -> G# ->A# ->B is 3 1/2 tones so the PERFECT 5TH

So regardless of what CAGED shape you play E major will always contain E, G# and B

This can be very useful in composing and in bands – say if you wanted your piano player to play the notes of E major over the top of your guitar chord – you know all he has to do is play those 3 notes.

There is a popular misconception that as a guitarist, if you are playing 6 strings for a chord, you must be playing 6 notes.

If you play the common open E major chord you’ll see that there are 3 E notes, 2B notes and 1 G#

Say if your rhythm guitarist is playing an open E major chord – have a go at picking random E, G# and B notes over the top – they’ll all work nicely over the chord.

The only different between a MAJOR chord and a MINOR chord is the 3rd.

What happens is instead of a MAJOR 3RD (2 TONES) you have a MINOR 3RD (1 1/2 TONES)

The distances in pitches between the ROOT, MINOR 3RD AND PERFECT 5TH makes it MINOR sounding.

Lets take Em as an example

E is the ROOT note

E -> F# ->G is the MINOR 3RD (often abbreviated to b3 for ease of writing – 1 1/2 tones)

E ->F# -> G# ->A# ->B is the PERFECT 5TH – 3 1/2 TONES)

As you can see the only difference between a major or minor chord is the 3rd

To make a minor chord major – raise the minor 3rd by a semitone

To make a major chord minor – lower the major 3rd by a semitone

It’s really good practice to start writing different major and minor triads out on a piece of paper, then see how many different ways you can play them on the fretboard.

If you were to start taking up an instrument like the Piano you’ll give yourself a hige headstart as an E major chord will always contain E, G#, B on any instrument.

Thanks for reading




Posted by on February 17, 2012 in Music Theory


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Understanding how scales and chords link together

From my experience as a player and teacher, there are many guitarists out there who can play bits of scales and can play lots of chords.

But to really elevate your playing to the next level, learning how everything fits together in a theoretical sense will help massively.

You’ll be able to introduce different chords to your songs using the harmonized major scale, then come up with cool riffs using the relevant pentatonic scales over the top.

Major and Minor Scales:

  • Your Major scale is build up of 8 notes from the TTSTTTS rule (T=Tone and S=Semitone)
  • So G Major is G,A,B,C,D,E,F# and G
    These notes are then stacked on top of each other to produce chords/harmony:
  • G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F#dim and:
  • Gmaj7, Am7, Bm7, Cmaj7, D7, Emin7, F#min7b5 when harmonized to the 7th degree of the scale
  • Every Minor scale derives from the Major scale by starting from the 6th note:
  • So is E, F#,G,A,B,C,D and E and the same harmonies are produced:
  • Em,F#dim,G,Am,Bm,C,D and Em7,F#min7b5,Gmaj7,Am7,Bm7,Cmaj7,D7

Major and Minor Pentatonic Scales:

  • Your 5 notes of the Major pentatonic are built up from the 1,2,3,5,6 notes of the Major scale
  • So the G Major Pentatonic contains the notes: G,A,B,D,E
  • Your 5 notes of the Minor pentatonic are built up from the 1,3,4,5,7 notes of the Minor scale
  • So the E Minor Pentatonic contains the notes: E,G,A,B,D,

Linking chords and scales together

  • A song in the key of G major could contain the following chords:
  • G, Bmin7, Cmaj7, D

If you wanted to improvise over it you can use Gmaj/Emin Major/Minor scales and pentatonics. GO PRACTICE!!!!!!

Thanks for reading!

You can find me on Twitter at @jsmusicschool

Rock n roll


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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Music Theory


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