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

Going ‘In Deep’ with The Beatles’ ’Twist and Shout’

I never realised until very recently that The Beatles recorded a lot of cover versions in their early discography.  Did you know for example that ‘Twist and Shout’ was a cover?  And did you know that they recorded that and the entire ‘Please Please Me’  album in one single day?! 

I was always aware that The Beatles were a very important band but I’d never taken the time to really dig in and appreciate their music.  I’ve really relished discovering The Beatles properly for the first time this last year and sharing it with my children.  My new-found passion for their music is something I’m looking to bring to my YouTube channel in the coming months.  

My newest video lesson is in a format which most closely reflects how I like to teach my live students.  I teach predominantly through learning songs.  But more than just simply walking a student through chord progressions and a strumming pattern I love to delve a little deeper and consider thinks like how the chords relate to one another, how they can be moved to different keys, how chords are constructed or which scale was being used for that specific solo.

‘Twist and Shout’ was my first choice as I’ve found myself teaching it to a lot of students recently.  It’s a great song for a better understanding of I-IV-V progressions, specifically when played with barre chords.  There’s a great little guitar solo too that uses a C-shape major scale harmonised in diatonic 3rds.

You can download the on-screen TAB that accompanies the video by clicking here.


How to change the 'feel' of a chord progression with a little theory and a capo

When we're just starting out at guitar, barre chords and awkward grips can be just a step too far.  Now, I would always encourage working on barre chords as soon as possible to develop fretting hand strength, but I'm going to show you how, with the use of a little theory and a guitar capo, you can move your favourite progressions into a more comfortable 'feel' i.e. open chords. 

This is a technique I use extensively with beginner students but it also has a lot of value when trying to come up with a second guitar part if you play with another guitarist.

You can get access to the FREE lesson notes, including the table I demonstrate in the video lesson by signing up to my newsletter.  Simply enter your details below and get my guide to transposing in your inbox in just a couple of minutes.

Until next time...practise well.

F#? Bb? Confused by key signatures? This lesson will help

After a long break I'm back filming videos (and posting on this blog!) and I thought it time to continue my 'Guitar Theory' course - practical music theory for guitarists to better understand the instrument and music more generally.

This week's lesson concerns key signatures.  This refers to whether the music we are playing contains any sharp or flat notes.  This will depend on the 'key' we are playing in, which in turn depends on which scale the music is using because chords in a key are derived from scales.  That's for an upcoming lesson but for now...

To date we have discussed the major scale and how it is played.  We had a major scale if we were to play one octave of the C major scale (CDEFGABC).  If we list the distance from one note to the next we had the major scale formula (Tone-Tone-Semitone-Tone-Tone-Tone-Semitone). 

The C Major Scale played horizontally on string 2.

The C Major Scale played horizontally on string 2.

If we move the first note (or 'tonic') away from C and play one octave of the musical alphabet starting from, for example, the note G (GABCDEFG) we no longer have the sound of the major scale.  Why? Well, because the major scale formula only works with the musical alphabet when we start on C. Starting on G gives us this:

One octave of the musical alphabet starting from G...NOT a major scale

One octave of the musical alphabet starting from G...NOT a major scale

The video lesson below will explain how we can resolve this problem to be able to play a G major scale or any other major scale.  Yep, you guessed it!  We need some sharp and flat notes.