A Guitar Lesson.

Here is a long and involved lesson. It isn’t the complete answer. There is no complete answer to how to play over this kind of thing, just as there is no complete answer on how to use the English language.

So to the scenario.

This is a 12 bar blues in A

The progression is thus.

A7       | D7       | A7    | A7     |

D7        | D7       | A7    | A7     |

E7        | D7       | A7    |E7       :||

Lets first discover which notes make these chords.

A7  is A C# E G

D7 is D F# A C

E7 is E G# B D.

How do I know this? I’m a freaking Jedi!  OK maybe not.  Here is how I did that.

You can either play those chords and discover which notes you are playing when you do so, or  you can take the chord formula and lay them against the major scale.  (HUH???)

Here’s how . The dominant chord is constructed of  the first scale degree 1, the major 3rd the 5th and the flat 7th. 1, 3,5,b7.  Now I took the major scale of A and worked out those notes. 1 =A, 3= C#, 5=E. b7 = G.

Follow this process for the other 2 chords. I’m not doing everything for you, you won’t learn anything if I give you all the answers.

Now on 2 strings JUST 2 Strings, find as many of those notes as you can in a 4 fret area.

Lets use the D & G strings, from 4th fret to 7th fret.

How many of these notes can we find?

** insert diagram here.

Now lets play these against the chords.

1     2      3     4      | 1      2       3      4     |  1    2      3      4     |   1    2    3     4    |

C#           G             |F#             C              |C#           G             |  C#         G           |

1     2       3     4     | 1       2        3       4    |1      2      3      4    |1     2        3      4     |

F#            C            | F#               C             |C#            G            |C#             G#        |

1      2        3     4     | 1        2       3       4    |1      2      3      4    |1      2       3      4   |

G#              D           | F#               C             |C#            G           | G#            D           |

Now play these notes on beats 1 and 3 as shown above for each bar.  Why? Because I said so.

You will hear how this outlines the chord progression. Watch the video below to see it demonstrated.

Can you see that on the last 4 bars  we  have

G#              D           | F#               C             |C#            G           | G#            D           |

There is plenty of chromaticism available as you can see.  Bar 9 the C to Bar 10 the C# , then we can move   G to G# or we could use the D giving us C C# D as a move.  The choices are yours and feel free to experiment.

It is helpful to know the scale degrees and relationships of the chord tones. This will allow you to make smooth lines from chord to chord using either chord common tones or adjacent notes.  If a singer was singing over these chords they would be unlikely to be singing large intervals multi octave arpeggios ( unless they were on The Voice and showing off).  This is why we rarely notice singers outlining  chord changes.  They do, they just don’t do it obviously. This is not to say that large interval multi octave lines aren’t good. I love them, however are they always the most musical option?

What is important as an improvising guitarist is that you have options, different approaches, otherwise you will find yourself repeating the same ideas and bore yourself,  the listener or both. So a little playing through the changes is good, some blues licks, some arpeggios, some repeating licks, something in a position, something in another. Mix it up.

The important thing is to know the note relationship. If you understand this you can keep the right notes and a common thread running through your ideas.

How do you achieve this? Here comes the magic word. PRACTICE.

How do you practice?  Buckle up, here comes the fun.

Practicing :

Organisation is the key. Have a goal.

What are you practising for? What is the end product? Know this first the  you can orgainse your routine to accomodate the outcome.

So for this example of playing fluidly through a  12 bar in A.

Six Sections.

1. Learn Progression. Structure. Chords

2. Learn Arpeggios of progression

3. Find specific chord tones.

4. Play those chord tones in the context of the progression

5. Construct some lines between chord tones.

6. Implement over backing track.

This I would do over an hour.  Divide the hour into 6 sections.  10 mins each, lets trim these down to 8 mins and give ourselves a 2 minute break between each one.

Practice with this kind of idea and you will find your goal getting nearer day by day.

So lets expand each of these sections.

1) Learn the progression.

Do you know the 3 chords in this progression?

A7 D7 E7?

In every position?

In every inversion?

Can you play the progression in many position and inversions?

Well here is the first 8 mins worth of practice that can be dealt with for quite some time.  As you might be able to tell this section might take some time to master.  Once you have mastered it, Change the key  Change the progression it never ends.

2) Do you know the arpeggios for the above chords?

Having played the above chords you are most of the way there already but it is useful to play through these.

A good exercise to begin with would be to take just one shape and move it about.  Then learn another shape and alternate these across all 3 chords. Finally add a third and use one for each chord.  Then you can do 5 shapes and pick and choose as and how you feel free to.

Can you play them on one string? 2 Strings? 3 strings.

Can you play them smoothly and fluently?

Can you join shapes together across the neck?

Again as you can tell this exercise keeps growing.


Depending on how you are going to play through the progression, for example, in position or using 1 shape transposed or on one string, you will need to identify the chord tones 3 & 7  for each of the chords.  Find these for the 3 chords all over.

4) Now try playing the 3 and 7th degrees on beats 1 and 3 of a 4/4 bar.  This can be done all over the neck or just in position. Again the decision is entirely yours.  This is starting to introduce the ideal of applying the ideas to a playing scenario. Placing notes in time as required to help outline a progression.

5) Now with the 3 and 7th degrees fixed in your mind lets see if you can create some lines connecting these as they would flow between chords.  These lines are to articulate the chord changes. They can consists of arpeggios, scales, chromatics, you name it. If you can imagine it you can make it up.  Bends, slides, sweeps, the world is your oyster.  This is being creative, you find lines you like. Lines you understand.  Design these lines for purpose. Are they going to be for a static chord or for a moving from one chord to another?

So you can design lines that would work for a static A7.

Then a line for an A7 moving to a D7

Then a line for D7 going back to A7.

While these are the same chords the line will need to resolve differently from chord to chord. You don’t really want to be playing the C ( 7th of the D ) as you resolve to the A7 chord as it is a C# for the 3rd of the A7.

You would be well advised to create an armoury of these lines. You can NEVER have too many lines.


Put all these elements together over a backing track.

Application is the key. You need to work on these lines, see how they fit rhythmically. Do they need some modifying? Would the sound better with bends?  Slides?  Putting these ideas into practice and playing them allows you to explore and progress in ordered and effective manner.  Will it be prefect everytime? Possibly not, but you will be exploring. There is never ever any time wasted if you are learning.  Listen to what you play and assess yourself.

So now you can adapt this idea to suit your needs or do it as I have outlined above.

Get to it!!


~ by Geoff Lea Guitar on June 4, 2013.

One Response to “A Guitar Lesson.”

  1. […] A Guitar Lesson. Here is a long an involved lesson. It isn’t the complete answer. There is no complete answer to how to play over this kind of thing, just as there is no complete answer on how to use the English language. So to the scenario. This is a 12 bar blues in A The progression is thus. A7 | D7 | A7 | A7 | D7 … Tue, 4 Jun 2013 09:13:00 CDT more info… […]

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