Having some fun with the Mixolydian Mode

The latest scale chart on my Instagram feed was the D mixolydian mode (see below).

I’m often asked what chords work well together to really get the sound of the mode, so I wrote and recorded a little example for Instagram:

Keeping the tonic in the bass of a chord progression really helps to establish the sound of the mode so I wrote a basic progression of D-Am-G-D but played them as triads over the open D string. This then creates a series of slash chords. They were embellished a little with some sus chords and a little bonus C/D in the Am measure.

The improvised solo was trying to hit the chord tones, especially the C note over the Am chord to further establish us clearly in D mixolydian, the C note (the b7) being the characteristic colour tone of the mixolydian mode.

Chord of the Day - Eadd9 (and Aadd9)

I was playing through some progressions in preparation for the next module of TRIADS: Inside Out, and this chord just came out. Had to share!

There’s also the bonus Add9 that can be played by dropping the shape down one string set and adjusting for string 2(B).

Aadd9 Chord of the Day.png
Aadd9 Chord of the Day (LH).png

You can download all the chord shapes that I show in the breakdown here.

Defining the Key of G Major (and an introduction to modes)

Below is a summary of the key of G major. A key is defined when we create chords from a scale by stacking thirds on top of one another. A third spans three alphabet letters (e.g. G to B, or B to D).

The G major scale is diatonic, in that each of the seven letters of the musical alphabet appear in order, and the scale formula (the distances from one note to the next) will contain five whole steps (two frets) and two half steps (one fret). The F# in the scale is to ensure there is a whole step between the 6th and 7th scale degrees (the numbers written above the notes) and a half step from the 7th back to the tonic, G. The sound of the major scale is created by the whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half sequence.

We commonly use Roman numerals to define the triad chord qualities in a key. Upper case numerals representing major triads, lower case for minor triads and the degree symbol (°) is added to the lower case numeral to denote a diminished triad (found on the 7th scale degree of the major scale).

Triads contain three notes, and we add an additional third above the fifth of the triad for a seventh chord. Note how not all the major triads are major 7th chords. The seventh chord created from the fifth scale degree (which can be named the ‘dominant’) will be a dominant 7th (R-3-5-b7).

The modes at the bottom are also all diatonic scales in that they will contain the same notes as the G major scale, but the tonic is a note other than G. For example, the C lydian scale would be the notes:



The mode contains the same notes as the G major scale (which is often termed the ‘parent major scale’ of the mode) and so it will also contain the same chords, but the order will be different:



My theory course ‘Guitar Rut Busters: Essential Theory’ goes through major scale theory in detail and shows you how the chords (triads) in a key are defined. Seventh chords and modes will be coming in the next instalment!

G Major Key Chart.png

Amazing work (as always) from Mateus Asato

Mateus Asato always floors me with his ability on the instrument. Everything that comes out of his fingers is gold, so musical and full of emotion. He always reminds me that there is still a lot to learn and that I really do need to practise some more!

A recent post entitled ‘the breakup song’ had me reaching for Transcribe! to work it out and I shared the opening/closing progression with followers on Instagram.

Thanks Mateus for the inspiration.

Asato Chords RH@4x.png
Asato Chords LH@4x.png

TRIADS: Inside Out - Module 2 Sneak Peek - Using the major scale as a blueprint for Triads in a Major Key

In module 2 of ‘TRIADS: Inside Out’ we are taking the triad inversions that were learnt in the first module and applying them to the chords in a key to be able to play through any diatonic major chord progression.

Chords scales (playing up through the diatonic chords in the scale) is a super useful exercise to learn chord shapes and how they relate to one another. You can do this with triads, barre chords, seventh chords etc. We are, of course, focusing upon triads at the moment. Rather than climbing up the neck horizontally with the chord scale (which is the most common approach, keeping the triads in the same inversion) we are playing through the chord scale within one particular area of the fretboard. I like to call these ‘segments’, so here is an example playing through the first segment in the key of G major, keeping it all between the 2nd and 5th fret of the guitar.

Module 2 goes through these chord scales in all the different segments of the fretboard and demonstrates how you can use that to quickly add a guitar part to a chord progression. You can find out more about the course and sign up by hitting the button below:

Part 1 of TRIADS: Inside Out - Learning your Closed Voicing Triad Inversions

The first thing you need to learn about triads is the intervals that make up the four different types (major, minor, diminished and augmented) and how to play their different ‘inversions’ up the neck.

The graphic below summarises the content of the first module of my latest video course release ‘TRIADS: Inside Out’. You can sign up and join us inside right now if you want to find out more (which you really should. Triads are SO useful).

Closed voicings find the three notes of the triads as close as they possibly can be within one octave. With the triad containing three notes (a Root, third and fifth), there are three different combinations of these three intervals, known as the inversions.

We have (in order of pitch)

  • Root - Third - Fifth (a root position triad)

  • Third - Fifth - Root (a first inversion triad)

  • Fifth - Root - Third (a second inversion triad)

Closed Voicing Triads String Set 1.png

The examples shown are the four different triad shapes rooted in C on (what I call) string set 1 (the high E, B and G strings).

There are a couple of great exercises within the course to help you memorise the shapes so definitely check it out and I hope to see you inside!

New Slice: A great exercise from TRIADS: Inside Out to help master your Major Triad Inversions

Major Triad Inversions Exercise.png

Here is a sneak peek of an exercise from the first module of my latest video course release, ‘TRIADS: Inside Out’.

After taking you through the theory of the major triad and the different ways it can be played, this exercise will help you to memorise all the major triad inversions from all 12 possible root notes on (what I like to call) string set 1 (the high E, B and G strings).

As a little bonus, I uploaded this exercise to my Soundslice profile, so you can try and learn the exercise along to the interactive tab that syncs to the video. Very cool! I hope to be using Soundslice a lot more in the near future.

You can also download the tab for the exercise by clicking the links below:

Tab .pdf

Tab .gp (Guitar Pro 7)

Tab .gpx (Guitar Pro 6 and earlier)

I will be releasing a new module in the course every Friday until the curriculum is complete. I hope you’ll consider joining us inside.

Practise well

Chord of the Day - How to play a Dmaj7

I had requests on Instagram to add audio/video of me playing my ‘Chord of the Day’ so I thought it best to create a video when I post a new chord with some additional insight, and add it here on my blog.

Today’s chord is the open position D major seventh (Dmaj7). Adding the major seventh to a major triad instantly gives it that dreamy, jazzy quality and this is no exception.

It’s a great little workout for your barre finger 1 if you’re just getting started out with barre chords too.

When harmonising the major scale, the maj7 chord is found upon the 1st and 4th scale degrees, so you can safely replace a I or IV chord with a Imaj7 or IVmaj7 (as long as it sounds good!). In a minor key, it would be a b IIImaj7 and b VImaj7.

This Dmaj7 could then be used in the key of D major (or its relative minor, B minor) or A major (F# minor). Always use your ears though when trying different chords in a progression.

What’s particularly of interest is that any maj7 chord can be thought of as a Root note plus a minor triad formed upon the major 3rd (3) of the maj7 chord. In this example, the 3 is the note F#. Therefore, you can play a Dmaj7 chord by playing an F# minor triad over a D bass note (thinking in slash chords - F#m/D).

With that knowledge you can quickly play three different voicings of the Dmaj7 by playing up the three inversions of the F#m triad on string set 1 (EBG).

My newest course ‘TRIADS: Inside Out’ is now open for enrolment and will going into much more detail of triad substitution for seventh chords. The first module will teach you all the triad inversions on string set 1. You can get more details here or in the sidebar.

If this is a little over your head right now then definitely check out my other course 'Guitar Rut Busters: Essential Theory’.

Practise well.

P.S. Can you think of any other ways we can use triads to create seventh chords?

How to play 'Man Like You' as performed by Tom Misch

One of my followers over on Instagram recommended the music of Tom Misch. I duly had a listen to his 2018 release “Geography”, and then fell deep into a neo soul guitar hole!

Not one of the neo soul cuts on the album, I particularly liked his version of Patrick Watson’s ‘Man Like You’. I liked it so much, I felt compelled to bring a lesson on it to my YouTube channel.

Both the original and Misch’s version use tenths (essentially thirds raised an octave). A beautiful sound that really grabbed me.

You can find the song lesson and a live performance by Tom Misch below. My TABs are also available on my Patreon page.

Learning the fretboard is a cinch with the CAGED System

I'm often asked about how to learn the fretboard and what my approach is when it comes to soloing and improvising.  For me, the best approach is the CAGED system, in which we compartmentalise the fretboard according to a series of octave shapes around which we can form chord shapes, arpeggios, triads, pentatonics, and diatonic scales. 

I have a new series of posts on my Instagram feed named CAGED Clarity to explain this approach in more detail and how I like to progressively present it to my students.  All of the examples that you can find below take the 'C-shape' in the key of D major.

Octave Shape

The starting point for this 'C-shape' approach is the 5-2 octave shape.  Any note found on String 5(A) can be played an octave higher by going back (towards the nut) two frets on string 2(B).

Major Chord

Around the octave shape we can superimpose the shape of an open position C major chord.  Hence the ‘C-shape’ name.   When doing so there is a barre finger required to fret strings 1(E) and 3(G) which are open strings in the open position C major.  Finger two will grab the root note on string 2(B).  Finger 3 will fret the major 3rd on string 4(D) and finger 4 will fret the root note on string 5(A).  It is as if we are playing a C chord with a capo at the 2nd fret.  The root note is now a D at the 5th fret of string 5(A) so this is a D major chord (but in the C-shape). 

Major Arpeggio

The C-shape chord is one of the easiest when it comes to playing arpeggios because the intervals of the chord (Root - major 3rd - perfect 5th) are found in order across the strings when we start from string 5(A).  The arpeggio falls nicely inside a 4-fret radius and we can reach for the 5th on string 1(E) at the 5th fret with finger 3 or 4.  Whilst the tonic is on string 5(A) the arpeggio can continue in the lower octave on string 6(E).  Notice how the notes on string 6(E) will always be the same as string 1(E).  Seems obvious but often overlooked when learning patterns on the fretboard.  Also, I don’t like to use the term ‘Root’ when it refers to melodic playing.  The Root is the starting point for a chord.  When we think about melody, this note (is these examples D) is called the 'tonic' and I will use the abbreviation ‘1’ instead of ‘R’. 

Major Triad Shapes

One of the immediate benefits of the CAGED approach for rhythm playing is the ease at which we can visualise triad shapes. The major triad consists of three (hence tri- ) elements: The Root note (D), a major third above the Root (F#) and a perfect 5th above the Root (A). There are four possible grips for these three notes across the 6 strings. With our Root note on String 5(A) this first shape has the 5th as the lowest note in what is called a ‘second inversion’ of the triad (or D/A - D chord over an A bass note). These triad shapes are known as closed voicings in that the notes will appear in order (5-R-3, R-3-5, 3-5-R, 5-R-3) and are as close as they possible can be to one another. 

Raising the 5th an octave from string 6(E) to string 3(G) gives us a closed voicing of a Root position major triad (I.e. the Root is the lowest note played).

Raising the Root an octave from String 5(A) to string 2(B) creates a great voicing of a ‘first inversion’ triad (D/F#) in which the third of the chord is the lowest note played. Remember to try and visualise the full chord shape as you play this to know where the other chord tones are. 

Raising the 3rd an octave from String 4(D) to string 1(E) creates the much-loved D major chord, except that without playing the open string 4(D) this is a moveable second inversion major triad shape (D/A).

Major Pentatonic

This is where things get interesting.  Let’s take it back to the major arpeggio pattern.  We have three notes, the tonic (1) major 3rd (3) and perfect 5th (5). Playing those three notes together gives us the sound of the major chord (major triad).  BUT if we add an additional two notes we will have a total of five notes…’penta’-tonic.  Adding the major 2nd and major 6th will give the five notes of the major pentatonic.  At each stage we’re building upon the octave shape and chord.  Therein lies the power of CAGED approach and why you should learn this stuff!

Diatonic Scales

From the five notes of the major pentatonic we add an additional two to give us a seven note diatonic scale (with each letter of the musical alphabet being present within one octave). The two notes we add are the perfect 4th and major 7th to give us the sound of the major scale (also known as the ionian mode).  The other major modes (lydian, mixolydian) can be created in the same way.  For lydian we would add an augmented 4th and major 7th, mixolydian has the perfect 4th and minor 7th.

I'd love to take any questions in the comments of this post.  If you're desperate to get learning the fretboard I have a free eBook available to all email subscribers.  You can get your copy of 'Fretboard Mastery' here.

How to play 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' by The Beatles

My adventures into The Beatles' back catalogue has gotten me and my family up to 'The Beatles' (more commonly known as 'The White Album').

I asked on social media which song I should bring to my YouTube channel.  This one proved popular and it's one of my favourites from the album so I really enjoyed putting this one together.

In this song lesson I will take you through all the chord progressions and strumming patterns.  I did transcribe the solo and might bring that to the channel at some point.