Gibson vs Fender best guitar brand

Gibson vs. Fender: Which Brand Do Pro Guitar Players Prefer?

Gibson vs Fender best guitar brand

In the Gibson vs. Fender debate, where do you stand? Here, professional musician Michael L. shares his thoughts on the two brands…  


There’s nothing like being a guitar player, am I right?

You’ve got your pick of genres to explore, from jazz to country to metal. You have amazing guitarists to look up to and learn from. And when it comes to gear, you have your pick of some of the coolest innovations to make your sound rock.

If you’re like most guitarists,  you like to talk about your gear, too. You’ll find heated debates online about the best guitar amps, strings, pedals, and more. And if you’re in the market for your first guitar, you’ll likely get a lot of (unsolicited) advice about the best guitar brands and models.

One of the biggest rivalries in the world of electric guitars is Gibson vs. Fender. Many guitar players have allegiances to their favorite company, although both produce professional-grade guitars.

So, which brand is better? To start, let’s review the history of both companies, as well as a general breakdown of the types of guitars offered. Then, I’ll share my personal preference between the guitar manufacturers.

All About Gibson Guitars

Gibson dates back to the late 1800s, when Orville Gibson patented a mandolin design that was much more durable than other instruments at that time. He sold these instruments out of a one-room workshop in Kalamazoo, MI, until his death in 1918. The designs lived on, however, as the company hired designer Lloyd Lear to continue creating new instruments.

In 1936, the company invented the first commercially successful Spanish-style electric guitar, the ES 150 (ES stands for Electric Spanish). Next came the P-90 pickup in 1946 and the Les Paul in 1952.

The Les Paul, perhaps the most iconic model from the company, was Gibson’s first solid body electric guitar. In 1958 Gibson also introduced semi-hollow body guitars with the ES-335. Afterward came the Gibson SG and Firebird in the 1960s.

Since then Gibson has stayed on top of the list of premier instrument manufacturers.

All About Fender Guitars

Leo Fender started Fender Guitars in 1946, and his first innovation was the production of solid body guitars. Up until then, electric guitars were made with hollow bodies, meaning that they were somewhat fragile and somewhat complicated in design. Leo Fender’s guitars offered a more straightforward design; the were bodies made from one solid block of wood and the bridges were simply attached to the body, removing the need for extra calibration of elevated bridges.

The first commercially available guitar from Fender was the Telecaster, originally called the Tele, in 1951. That same year Leo Fender also invented the electric bass. Until then, bassists had to use an upright bass, making it difficult to hear the bass while electric guitars and drums were being played.

Next, the Stratocaster hit the market in 1954, introducing a tremolo bridge (or whammy bar) to the world. Fender kept the amazing innovations coming, introducing the Jaguar, Jazzmaster, Jazz Bass, and Twin Reverb amp over the next decade.

Gibson vs. Fender: Style & Adaptability

When choosing between Fender or Gibson, there are many factors to consider. The main factor for me is style adaptability. Both Fender and Gibson have different models for different musical styles and tastes.

Gibson vs Fender

The Gibson Style

Gibson’s electric guitars generally sport humbucker pickups, known for their thicker, rounder tone. You also get less feedback, which limits the types of delay and overdrive tones you can experiment with, but ensures a cleaner and more consistent sound. Gibson mainly uses mahogany for their guitar bodies, which is what gives it that slightly darker sound.

Another feature that affects a Gibson guitar’s sound is the scale length. Gibson typically uses a 24.75″ scale length, producing warmer, muddy overtones.

Outside of the sound created, Gibson guitars also feel different to players. Gibsons typically have a longer fingerboard radius, at 12″, which means a fatter neck. With a fatter neck, the strings are at a more even height, which may help you play faster.

Gibson Guitars

Gibson Les Paul

Les Paul guitars in particular boast a full tone that can serve as an entire rhythm section if need be. With a switch of pickups, you can also find a lead tone that cuts through, while still maintaining low-end frequencies. Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, and Zakk Wylde are known for playing Les Pauls.

A Gibson SG, another example, is a straight rock-n-roll or punk rocker guitar. It’s shrill with big low frequencies, which is great for blues. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Angus Young, and Tony Iommi favor the SG.

The Fender Style

Fender guitars have a bit of a different sound, again because of the way they’re made. Fenders are usually made with alder and ash, producing a brighter tone and offering a lighter feel.

Fender typically uses a 25.5″ scale length, which provides a rich, almost bell-like tone.

And for its fingerboard, Fender typically uses a shorter radius (7.25-9.5″), offering a thinner, curved neck. Beginners and players with small hands might find these thinner necks more comfortable.

Fender Guitars

Fender Stratocaster

The single coil pickups of a Stratocaster, in particular, may be your preference if you like lots of treble in your tone and want to make lead lines pop.

Some famous Stratocaster players are Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Frusciante, and Jeff Beck.

Telecaster tone, on the other hand, has a bit of a flat thud to it. The notes generally don’t have a full sustain and the lipstick pickup promotes more mid to low frequencies.

Players like Joe Strummer, Keith Richards, and Prince favor telecasters.

Who Wins?

For me, it’s difficult to take a personal side in the Fender vs. Gibson debate. Both companies have produced legendary instruments that have shaped music around the world. Both have helped define electric guitar tone.

However, I will have to side with Fender in this arena. I love the feel of Fender instruments, particularly Jazzmaster and Telecasters. Both have broad, flat necks that fit my fingers and a tone that sounds divine. The Telecaster has an honest thud to its sound and the Jazzmaster gives you a full range of tonal experimental possibilities.

What Other Opinions Are Out There?

Search through any guitar forum or blog, and you’ll find tons of information about Fender, Gibson, and other guitar brands. If you’d like to research some more before casting your vote, here are some articles and posts to check out:

Your Turn

Which guitar brand is best? Cast your vote here:


Which guitar brand is better?

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Don’t have an opinion yet? If you’re trying to decide which guitar to buy, don’t just trust the poll results. Try out different guitar brands, models, and styles, and you’ll find what you like best.

And once you have that perfect guitar, it’s time to improve your skills! Search for guitar teachers in your area and get help with playing chords, songs, and much more. Good luck!

Photo by Larry Ziffle

Willy MPost Author: Michael L.
Michael teaches ukulele, guitar, drums, and music theory in Austin, TX. In addition to private lessons, Michael teaches music to special education students and foster children with Kids in a New GrooveLearn more about Michael here!

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alternate guitar tunings

Step Up Your Game: 4 Alternate Guitar Tunings for Beginners

alternate guitar tunings

Whether you just started guitar lessons or you’ve been playing for a while, you may be itching to learn some new songs and take on some new challenges. You might be wondering: where can I go from here? That’s where alternate guitar tunings come in! With this guide from Michael L., you’ll learn how alternate guitar tunings can take your playing to the next level…

One of the amazing things about the guitar is its versatility. Not only can you play rhythm and/or melody in different genres, but you can also change the tuning (or the key) to create different atmospheres.

Here’s the deal:

Not all songs are written to be played in standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning, so if you want to expand your range as a guitarist, you need to learn play some alternate guitar tunings.

Alternate guitar tunings, or open tunings, allow you to play new songs and explore new music styles. Essentially, alternate guitar tunings will expand your range and skill set.

If the only alternate tuning you know is Drop D tuning, then this tutorial will introduce you to some new concepts. We will focus on three open tunings: Open G, DADGAD, and Open D.

Alternate Guitar Tunings for Beginners

Drop D Tuning

You may already be familiar with drop D tuning: Take your low E string and tune it down a whole step to D. In this tuning, you can play power chords by barring the low three strings.

Drop D tuning is usually associated with metal music, but you can also play other songs like the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong” and “I Might Be Wrong” by Radiohead.

Open G Tuning

Open G tuning requires three strings to change notes. Tune the E strings down a whole step to D, and the A string down a whole step to G.

Now when you strum the guitar, you’ll play a G chord. This tuning makes the guitar resemble a banjo, except with a banjo, the low G string is a high G string and the low D is not there. You can play some banjo songs in this tuning, substituting the high G with the low G offers a new sound on some traditional banjo songs.

I primarily use this tuning for blues, folk, bluegrass, and rock, but I’m sure you can find other genres to play in this tuning. A couple of songs that use this tuning are “Poor Black Mattie” by R.L Burnside and “Death Letter” by Son House (or covered by White Stripes).

The beauty of open G tuning is that you can strum the bottom five strings together and play a melody with any of the strings as long as the note is in the key G. You can also get any major chord you like if you barre the fretboard on the corresponding right fret (the chord is based off the notes on the G strings).

If you want a minor chord, barre the fret but play a half-step lower, on the B string. Alternating between the low G and D strings gives you fun bass lines, too.

If you would like to learn more chord shapes simply look online for “banjo chord chart” and apply those shapes to the guitar in this tuning.

DAGAD Tuning

DADGAD is very similar to open G. For this tuning, just tune the fifth string back up to A and the B string to A. This tuning opens the door for some really neat sounding modal music.

You can play folk music, like Paul Simon’s version of “Scarborough Fair” and “Armistice Day”, some rock music like Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir“, or even nu-metal like Slipknot’s “Circle“.

Open D Tuning

Open D tuning requires four strings to change notes. Tune the E strings down to D, the G string to F#, and the B string to A.

Now, when you strum the guitar, you’ll get a D chord. Again, I mostly use this tuning for rural music (blues, country, bluegrass, ragtime, etc.) This tuning is also my favorite to play the slide guitar.

Go ahead and strum steadily on the low D string while playing melody notes on the high D and A strings, and tell me that’s not one of the most sultry sounds you’ve heard! A couple of my favorite songs in open D are “Blind Willie McTell” by Statesboro Blues and Bob Dylan’s “Corina, Corina“.

As with open G, you can find any major chord by barring the corresponding fret (the chord is based off the note on the D strings). If you want a minor chord, play a half-step down on the F# string.

Here are a couple of open D chords, besides barre chords, to get you started.

G7 A7
—3— —2—
—2— —0—
—1— —1—
—0— —2—
—2— —0—
—0— —2—

I hope this gives you some new ideas on how to approach the guitar. Have fun with these alternate guitar tunings. They changed the way I think of guitar and I hope they do the same for you, especially if you’re a fan of delta blues and folk music!

If you need help with any of these alternate guitar tunings, ask your guitar teacher to go over them during your next lesson!

Want to ramp up your guitar skills at home? Try one of our free online group classes

Willy MPost Author: Michael L.
Michael teaches ukulele, guitar, drums, and music theory in Austin, TX. He studied music theory and vocal performance at the Florence University of the Arts in Italy. In addition to private lessons, Michael teaches music to special education students in Austin public schools and foster children with Kids in a New GrooveLearn more about Michael here!

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online guitar class

I Tried an Online Guitar Class and Here’s What Happened…

online guitar class

Have you ever wondered if you can really learn guitar online? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to try an online class but weren’t sure if it was right for you. Check out this video testimonial and find out how you can try a free online group class!

If you didn’t already know, you can take live, online guitar classes right here at TakeLessons! In the new TakeLessons Classroom, you can connect with a teacher and take a lesson on your computer or mobile device. The best part? You don’t even need to leave your house to boost your guitar skills!

If you’ve never taken an online class, you may have some questions about how it works. In this video testimonial, learn all about the new TakeLessons Classroom and find out if online classes are right for you!

Desi M. enjoyed her class on easy guitar chords for beginners. As a mom, she loved that the TakeLessons Classroom was easy to set up and convenient to use at home.

Desi: The best thing about the online course was that it was first offered for free to try it out. Setup was easy, I just needed to find a quiet spot, and in a full house with kids, that’s hard to do! Which also leads to the convenience part of taking an online course: You can’t really bring your children with you on lessons, depending on the instructor and/or classroom setting, so being able to take a free lesson while watching your kids in the next room is amazing. 

If you’re unsure about online classes, I recommend trying a class for yourself. You never know where it may lead you, and even if you decide you prefer in-person lessons, you’re still going to learn from the experience.

Check out the video for Desi’s full recap of her online class experience.

Have you taken an online class? We’d love to hear about your experience. Let us know in the comments below!

Are you interested in trying a live, online class? In addition to guitar, we also offer classes in singing, piano, language, photography, crafts, and more. For a limited time, you can try a class for free. Check out the class schedule, here

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guitar news

The 5 Best Websites for Guitar News and Gear Reviews

guitar news

Part of learning to play guitar is staying up to date on current events, gear, and industry news. To help you stay in the loop, guitar instructor Matt K. has put together a list of his go-to websites for guitar news…

Once you’ve taken a few guitar lessons, you may feel the urge to learn more about the instrument, and the gear that goes with it.

The guitar can become an addiction, and once you’ve mastered the chords, scales, and licks, you’re going to want to learn about all the gear and equipment.

A guitar isn’t just a six-stringed instrument anymore. The addition of an amplifier, pedals, and other fun gear can help produce a number of different sounds.

There are several guitar news websites for up-to-date info on guitars and gear, along with in-depth music news, and sometimes even tablature to learn new songs.

Maybe you want to learn more about the guitar players that play your favorite songs, or learn when they have a new album coming out.

From electric guitar news, acoustic guitar news, and gear reviews, here are my favorite sites to stay  in the loop with all things guitar.

Music Radar

guitar news

I’ll start with my favorite website for any type of gear news, from guitars to DJ equipment, Music Radar.

Any time I’m looking at a new piece of gear or a new instrument, I go to Music Radar and read one of their reviews.

Music Radar also complies lists which make it easier to decide what to buy. For example, before buying a new travel acoustic guitar I checked out their list “32 of the best budget acoustic guitars in the world today“.

Guitar World

guitar news

Guitar World is less “techy,” and instead  features lots of artist news and guitar videos.

You can still learn about the latest gear and even get a quick video tutorial on how to tune the guitar in different keys, but I go to this website to see “Dude Plays Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ on Banjo”.



guitar news

I remember being in the grocery store with my mom and picking up the latest issue of Guitar Player Magazine when magazines were still a big thing. Now, the magazine is online and very easy to navigate.

GuitarPlayer always has very informative, interesting articles. For example “U.S. Made PRS vs. Korean Made PRS: What is the difference” (PRS stands for Paul Reed Smith and is an excellent guitar).

GuitarPlayer also has excellent product spotlights that I recommend checking out.

Ultimate Guitar

guitar news

Where Music Radar is all about the gear, Guitar World and Guitar Player are about the news. Ultimate Guitar, however, is all about the TABS.

When I want to learn a new song, this is my go-to website. They have a great ranking system, so you know which guitar tabs are accurate and which ones were created by an internet troll.

Premier Guitar

music news


Last, but definitely not least, Premier Guitar keeps you up to date on guitar news, gear, and artists.

There are also some great how-to videos, and my favorite feature, the “Rig Rundown“. This section features a new artist or band every week and shows the guitars and gear they use on a nightly basis.

If you want to see how your favorite bands get their sound, check out Premier Guitar.

Check out these sites and let me know which ones you like. If you have any other go-to sites for gear and guitar news, let us know in the comments below! 

Matthew KPost Author: Matt K.
Matthew K. teaches guitar, piano, and music theory lessons in Brooklyn, NY. He studied music composition at Mercyhurst University, and he has been teaching lessons for four years. Matthew is available to teach in-person lessons as well as online via Skype. Learn more about Matt here!

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guitar practice routine

The Interleaving Method: A New and Improved Way to Practice Guitar

guitar practice routine

When you’re learning guitar, it’s essential to practice between lessons. But a long guitar practice can be overwhelming and exhausting, and sometimes, it can even be counterproductive! We’re not telling you to ditch practice altogether, but we want to help you make the most of your time. Here, guitar teacher Andy W. shares his method for an efficient, effective guitar practice routine… 

Has this ever happened to you? You feel frustrated and exhausted after a long guitar practice. After an hour of playing the same song, it just doesn’t sound much better. Sure, you’re more comfortable with the notes, but they don’t seem to fall naturally into place.

We’re all familiar with the phrase “practice makes perfect,” and with that in mind, you reluctantly buckle down for yet another hour of guitar practice.

This is a common experience for most musicians, including myself. However, I’ve recently discovered a guitar practice routine that not only improves my performance but also makes guitar practice more spontaneous and fun.

Guitar Practice Routine: Three Sets of Three

I propose that you experiment using three sets of three in your daily guitar practice routine. This method is called interleaved practice (or random practice). I learned about it from a video with performance psychologist, Dr. Noa Kageyama.

The first step  is to pick three things to focus on. For a beginner, this might look like this:

  1. Verse Chords to “Brown Eyed Girl”
  2. C Major Scale
  3. Alternate Picking

Now, start with the first item, the chords for the verse of “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison. You only need to practice that for as little as two to five minutes.

Next, practice the C major scale for another two to five minutes. Then, practice alternate picking for two to five minutes. This completes one set.

For the second set, practice each item in the same order for the same amount of time.

Lastly, repeat the process to complete the third set. Simple enough, right?

Why This Method Works

Here’s why this guitar practice routine works: As you move from one task to another, you force yourself to quickly forget what you just did. Then, because you forgot a task, you’re forced to remember it when you return to it.

According to Dr. Noa Kageyama, this act of remembering is called effortful recall . Studies show that this helps you develop long-term improvement in a subject.

With three sets of tasks, you can experience effortful recall twice to solidify the neural connections that will make the memory last.

Tennis as an Example

While this method is great for guitarists and musicians, interleaved practice has worked wonders for athletes as well.

Dr. Kageyama gives this example in his video: A tennis player could practice their back-hand swing, forehand swing, and then volley shot – each for 15 minutes. Unfortunately, this method requires a much slower rate of effortful recall than a player would actually experience in a real game.

Instead, if they reduce the time they practice each swing to two to five minutes, they will experience a much more rapid rate of effortful recall. This will simulate the fast-paced demands of an actual game, and the player will retain more of their practice.

The Effects of Interleaved Practice vs. Traditional Practice

It’s important to understand the effects of interleaved practice vs. your old guitar practice routine, where you focus on a single task for an extended period of time. In a traditional guitar practice, you become really comfortable with the tempo, the notes, the feel. You get really good at one song for one day. This can be very helpful at certain times, but not always.

When you practice a song one day and then sleep on it, you forget a little about how you played it. The next day, you begin your practice from a much lower level of performance than if you had used interleaved practice.

But, there’s also a downside to interleaved practice. With this method, you don’t allow yourself adequate time to become comfortable with a song. This can be discouraging in the moment because you probably won’t become great at that song in just one day.

While this might seem less than ideal, you will notice the benefits of interleaved practice the next day, when you retain much more from your songs, and start from a greater level of performance than if you had just focused on one song the entire time.

With traditional practice, you have to sleep and wake up in order to forget and remember, which is what helps to strengthen your memory. But with interleaved practice, you’re forgetting and remembering in a matter of minutes!

Take Action!

I know it can be difficult to give up your old guitar practice routine, especially when that’s what you’re used to. I recommend trying just one interleaved practice; if you like it, then make a habit of it.

You can do multiple interleaved practices a day, or you could try just one. Follow that with a regular practice, and then go back to interleaved practice. Customize this method to make it work for you.

After trying interleaved practice, I noticed a significant improvement in my performance. My hands just seemed to know where they were going on their own. In my students, I’ve seen big improvements in their retention of songs. For some of them, it’s been the key to learning songs quickly and effectively.

I encourage you to incorporate the interleaving method in your guitar practice routine; you’ll be amazed what it can do for your playing. Happy Practicing!

Looking for more guitar practice tips? Check out these guitar resources:

Have you tried interleaving practice? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!

Post Author: Andy W.
Andy teaches guitar, bass, piano, music theory, and more in Englewood, CO. He is a guitarist, bassist, pianist, singer, composer, and educator with a Bachelor’s of Music from the University of Northern Colorado. Learn more about Andy here!

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Mother’s Day Music: 5 Guitar Songs to Play for Mom

MO - Mother's Day Music - 5 Guitar Songs to Play for Mom

Mother’s Day is a day to show appreciation to the special woman who raised you. But flowers and traditional gifts aren’t the only way to show your mom you love her. Here, guitar instructor Matt. K has put together five guitar songs that are perfect to sing for your mom…

When it comes to Mother’s Day and certain holidays, sometimes us musicians can’t afford the traditional gifts, like a bouquet of flowers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give our mothers something special.

What better way to show appreciation for mom than playing her a song? She will love it more than anything else you can give her. If you don’t end up writing your own Mother’s Day song, there are plenty of songs to choose from.

I’ve put together a list of five guitar songs. I selected from different genres, so no matter what type of music your mom is into, you’re sure to find a song that that she will love!

“Mama I’m Comin’ Home” – Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne is known for his heavy metal and his rock star antics (just search “Ozzy bat incident” on Google), but on his album “No More Tears,” Ozzy decided to slow it down and write a brilliant ballad.

Although this song is not about his actual mother, it’s still one of the best Mother’s Day songs.

Here is the tab of the intro on guitar:





If you want to learn to play the rest of the song, you can find the tabs here.

“Mama Liked the Roses” – Elvis Presley

In 1970, the king of rock “n” roll released “Mama Liked the Roses.” It was originally released as a B-side, but charted in the top 100, and became an Elvis stand by. It’s a sad, beautiful song about his late mother.

Here are the chords for the chorus:

C Dm G7 C A7
Oh mama liked the roses she grew them in the yard
Dm E7 A7
But winter always came around and made the growing way too hard
Dm G7 C A7
Oh mama liked the roses and when she had the time
Dm E7 A7
She’d decorate the living room for all us kids to see

Click here for the rest of the chords.

“Dear Mama” – 2Pac

Tupac released “Dear Mama” as a single in 1995. The song climbed the charts quickly and is still considered one of his best songs.

It’s about his mother and his appreciation for everything she did for him, and lucky for us, it features a guitar in the hook.

The riff is below, play this along with the video.

E |————————————————–15h17-15-|
B |——————————-14————————–|
G |———–13—-x—————————————–|
D |–15h16————(16)———————————– |
A |———————————————————–|
E |———————————————————–|

“Mother” – Danzig

“Mother” by Danzig does not fit the mold of the other songs. It’s not about how much he appreciates his mom, but rather a warning to mothers about himself.

Definitely not your traditional Mother’s Day song, but it rocks, and it might be funny to play for mom!

Note: I only suggest this one if your mom likes to rock, and has a sense of humor.



Get the rest of the chords here.

 “Dear Prudence” – The Beatles

This is not a Mother’s Day song, but it’s my mother’s favorite song, so I had to add it to the list.

It’s a beautiful song off of the White album, and if you perform it for your mother, you can’t go wrong. Almost everyone loves this song.

I’ve included the tab for the verse and you can find the rest of the song here.

e|2—— ——- ——- ——-|2—— ——- ——- ——-|

e|0—— ——- ——- ——-|3—— ——- ——- ——-|

Whether you’re an experienced guitarist or you just started lessons, you can take your pick from these five guitar songs and give your mom a mother’s day concert she’ll never forget!

Which guitar songs do you like to play for your family and friends? Let us know in the comments below!

Matthew KPost Author: Matt K.
Matthew K. teaches guitar, piano, and music theory lessons in Brooklyn, NY. He studied music composition at Mercyhurst University, and he has been teaching lessons for four years. Matthew is available to teach in-person lessons as well as online via Skype. Learn more about Matt here!

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jazz guitar scales

How to Play Jazz Guitar Scales | 10 Scales Every Guitarist Should Know

jazz guitar scales

You don’t have to be a big jazz fan to boost your guitar skills with some jazz techniques. In this guest post, Matt Warnock from teaches you 10 must-know jazz guitar scales. 

Even if you’ve never played jazz guitar before, you’ve probably come across numerous articles and lessons exploring jazz guitar scales.

There seems like an endless mountain of scales to learn when exploring jazz on the fretboard, and they all come with strange names and sound even stranger.

If you’ve ever wanted to explore jazz guitar soloing, but were overwhelmed by the amount of scales to learn, or even where to start, then this lesson is for you!

In this lesson, you’ll learn 10 essential jazz guitar scales, how they’re built, how to play them on guitar, and how to use them in your guitar solos.

There are more scales to learn if you go further with your jazz guitar studies, but these 10 scales are more than enough to get a jazz sound in your solos.

To help you learn these jazz guitar scales from a theory perspective, each scale will have a three-point breakdown of its construction and application.

This breakdown works like this:

  1. Interval Pattern: How to build the scale.
  2. Used Over: What chord to use this scale over.
  3. Sounds Like: What the scale sounds like over that chord.

Once you’ve learned the theory behind any of these 10 jazz guitar scales, you’ll be ready to take them to the fretboard and add them into your jazz guitar solos.

Now it’s time to begin learning these 10 jazz scales, working them from a technical perspective, and using them to jazz up your guitar solos in any genre of music.

Dominant Bebop Scale

The first jazz scale that you’ll explore is one of the most jazz sounding scales out there, the dominant bebop scale.

This scale is built by adding a major 7th passing tone to a Mixolydian scale, creating an 8-note scale that’s used to solo over dominant 7th chords.

Here’s the interval pattern for the dominant bebop scale.

  1. Interval Pattern: R 2 3 4 5 6 b7 7
  2. Used Over: 7th Chords
  3. Sounds Like: 7th Chord

With that knowledge under your belt, it’s time to take this scale to the guitar. The first step is to listen to the scale in a one-octave shape.

You can also play this one-octave scale in order to begin taking the dominant bebop scale onto the guitar fretboard.


jazz guitar scales

To help you take this scale further on the fretboard, here are several two-octave shapes that you can practice in the woodshed.

Be sure to work these dominant bebop scale shapes with a metronome as well as solo with them over backing tracks in your studies.

jazz guitar scales

One of the best ways to work scales is to learn jazz guitar licks that use those scales in their construction.

Here’s a sample dominant bebop lick that you can learn, work with a metronome, and add to your soloing practice routine over backing tracks.


jazz guitar scales


Make sure to practice using this lick in your soloing, rather than only working it with a metronome. Jazz soloing is a learned skill, so practice just like you practice learning scales in your guitar practice routine.

Minor Bebop Scale

You can also explore a minor key bebop scale, which is used to solo over M7 chords in a jazz context.

Here’s the interval pattern for this eight-note scale, which is built in a similar way to the dominant bebop scale.

Here, you’re adding a passing note to the Dorian scale, which ends up being a Dorian with an added major 7th interval.

  1.  Interval Pattern: R 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 7
  2. Used Over: m7 Chords
  3. Sounds Like: m7 Chord

Now that you know how to build the minor bebop scale, here’s how it sounds and looks on paper.

Give this scale a try to see how it sits on the fretboard and how it sounds when you play it on your instrument.


jazz guitar scales

After exploring this scale in a one-octave shape, you’re ready to take it around the fretboard using these two, two-octave scale shapes.

Make sure to practice these shapes with your metronome and use them to solo over chord changes in your improvisational practice routine.

jazz guitar scales

This sample phrase uses a Pat Metheny inspired run over the m7 chord at the start of the progression, built from the minor bebop scale.


jazz guitar scales


Once you have this lick under your fingers, practicing personalizing this line as you begin to change the rhythm, add notes, take notes away, etc.

ii V Bebop Scale

You can play the minor and dominant bebop scales separately, and you can also combine them to form a nine-note scale that’s used over both m7 and 7th chords.

When doing so, combine the iim7 and V7 chords in a key, Dm7-G7 in C major, for example, and use the extra notes in those bebop scales together.

After combining the two scales, you produce the following interval pattern:

  1. Interval Pattern: R 2 b3 3 4 5 6 b7 7
  2. Used Over: m7 and 7th Chords
  3. Sounds Like: m7 and 7th Chord

Here is the nine-note ii V bebop scale on paper, so you can get your fingers and ears around this chromatic sounding jazz guitar scale.



jazz guitar scales

To take things further, here are two different ii V bebop scale fingerings that you can work with a metronome and solo in your improv practice routine.


jazz guitar scales

To finish off your intro to the ii V bebop scale, here’s a ii V I lick that uses this scale to solo over the first two chords in the progression.


jazz guitar scales

When you’re ready, make sure to take this lick to other keys, which will allow you to apply this phrase to your solos in any key that you’re playing in on a tune.

Melodic Minor Scale

The melodic minor scale is used in many styles of music, though in jazz it differs from its classical music cousin.

In classical music, you play one version of the scale ascending and one version descending.

But in jazz, you only play the ascending version of the scale, which you can see in the interval pattern below.

You can then use this version of melodic minor, often called jazz minor, to color m7 chords in your solos, giving them a mMaj7 sound along the way.

  1. Interval Pattern: R 2 b3 4 5 6 7
  2. Used Over: m7 Chords
  3. Sounds Like: mMaj7 Chord

Here’s how the melodic minor scale looks and sounds on the staff. Give this scale a try to see how it sounds compared to the other minor modes you know.


jazz guitar scales

To help you take this scale to the guitar, here are two, two-octave melodic minor scale shapes that you can practice in 12 keys on the guitar.

*Make sure to put on a backing track and work on soloing with this scale in the improvisational section of your routine.

jazz guitar scales

Lastly, here’s a common application of the melodic minor scale in a jazz context, used to solo over a iim7 chord in a ii V I chord progression.

The phrase in bar one of the line is a common melodic minor lick, one that you can extract from this longer line and use in other musical contexts.


jazz guitar scales
Once you have this lick under your fingers, make sure to practice soloing with it over various m7 chords, keys, and tempos.

Lydian Dominant Scale

The next scale is one of the most popular scales in jazz, the 4th mode of melodic minor, otherwise known as the Lydian dominant scale.

This scale is used to color your 7th chord lines by bringing out the 7#11 sound over those chords.

Here’s the interval structure of Lydian dominant so you can get your fingers and ears around the theory behind this popular jazz scale.

  1. Interval Pattern: R 2 3 #4 5 6 b7
  2. Used Over: 7th Chords
  3. Sounds Like: 7#11 Chord

Here is that interval breakdown on paper,so you can see and hear this scale as you introduce your fingers and ears to the Lydian dominant scale.


jazz guitar scalesNow that you know how to build the Lydian dominant scale, you can take it to the fretboard with these two-octave scale shapes.

jazz guitar scales

Here is a sample lick that uses a classic Lydian dominant sound over the V7 chord in a ii V I in F major.

If you dig the phrase over C7, feel free to extract that and use it over other chords and in other musical situations in your solos.


jazz guitar scales

Make sure you work this lick with a metronome, in various keys, as well as add it into your solos.

Learning how to improvise, in jazz or any genre, is easier when you practice improvising in the woodshed.

Altered Scale

You’re now going to explore one of the most famous jazz guitar scales, the altered scale, so named because it outlines the 7alt chord in your solos.

This scale, the 7th mode of melodic minor, produces the chord 7(b9,#9,b5,#5), which is shortened to 7alt in lead sheets and chord charts.

Here’s how the altered scale looks on paper.

  1. Interval Pattern: R b2 b3 3 b5 b6 b7
  2. Used Over: 7th and 7alt Chords
  3. Sounds Like: 7alt Chord

Now that you can build an altered scale, get your fingers and ears around this new scale with the following one-octave fingering.


jazz guitar scales

To take this scale around the fretboard, here are two altered scale shapes that you can work with a metronome and add to your solos over backing tracks.


jazz guitar scales

The sample lick for this scale uses a classic altered scale pattern over the second bar, C7alt, of the ii V I lick in F minor.

If you enjoy that part of the phrase, you can pull it out of this lick and apply it to other contexts in your soloing, just the second bar.


jazz guitar scales

When working on this, or any lick, make sure to personalize it by changing the rhythms, adding notes, and taking notes away.

Phrygian Dominant Scale

You’ll now look at the 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale, otherwise known as the Phrygian dominant scale.

Harmonic minor modes are rarely used in jazz soloing, with the exception of the 5th mode, which is used all the time to bring a 7b9,b13 sound over 7th chords.

Here’s how the interval pattern lays out for the Phrygian dominant scale.

  1. Interval Pattern: R b2 3 4 5 b6 b7
  2. Used Over: 7th and 7alt Chords
  3. Sounds Like: 7b9,b13 Chord

To introduce your ears and fingers to this jazz guitar scale, here’s how the Phrygian dominant scale sounds and looks on paper.


jazz guitar scales

Now that you know how to build this scale, here are two Phrygian dominant scale fingerings that you can use in your technical and soloing workout.

Once you have both of these shapes under your fingers, work on moving between the two shapes in your solos to cover more of the fretboard in your improvisations.

jazz guitar scales

To finish your introduction to this scale, here’s a lick with the Phrygian dominant scale outlining the C7 chord in the second bar of the phrase.


jazz guitar scales

Make sure to practice this lick in different keys and at various tempos, as well as adding it into your solos to work it into your improvisations.

Mixolydian b9 Scale

Moving on, you’re now going to learn the 5th mode of the harmonic major scale (1 2 3 4 5 b6 7), which is referred to as the Mixolydian b9 scale.

This scale gets its name because if you take a Mixolydian scale and lower the 2nd (9th), you produce the 5th mode of harmonic major.

You can use this scale to color 7th chords, as you bring a 7b9 sound to your dominant chord soloing in a jazz (or other genre) solo.

Here’s how the Mixolydian b9 scale looks on paper.

  1. Interval Pattern: R b2 3 4 5 6 b7
  2. Used Over: 7th Chords
  3. Sounds Like: 7b9 Chord

Now that you know how to build this scale, here’s the Mixolydian b9 on paper so you can see and hear the interval structure.

Don’t forget to play through this scale in the one-octave fingering below, to give your ears and fingers a chance to explore this sound before moving on.


jazz guitar scales

To help you take the Mixolydian b9 scale around the fretboard, here are two, two-octave shapes that you can learn and apply to your guitar solos.

jazz guitar scales

Taking this scale into the improvisational realm, here is a ii V I lick in F major where the Mixolydian b9 scale is used to color the C7 in bar 2 of the lick.


jazz guitar scales


Once you have this lick under your fingers, work it in 12 keys, at various tempos, and apply it to your soloing practice to get the most out of this lick study.

Tritone Scale

You’re now going to step outside of the usual melodic minor, bebop, and harmonic minor modes, and explore a symmetrical scale.

The tritone scale is built by combining two major triads a tritone apart, like C and F#, on the fretboard.

When you line up those six notes in alphabetical order, you get the following interval pattern and construction.

  1. Interval Pattern: R b2 3 #4 5 b7
  2. Used Over: 7th and 7alt Chords
  3. Sounds Like: 7b9,#11 Chord

Here’s how the tritone scale looks on the fretboard, and sounds, so you can introduce your fingers and ears to this cool, but rare, jazz scale.


jazz guitar scales

Now that you know how to build the tritone scale, and what it sounds like, you’re ready to take this scale to the fretboard.

Here are two, two-octave tritone scale shapes that you can learn, practice in all 12 keys, and apply to your soloing over 7th chords when working with backing tracks.

jazz guitar scales

To finish your intro to the tritone scale, here is a lick that uses the C tritone scale over the C7 chord V7, in a ii V I progression.

Notice the tension this scale creates in the second bar of the lick that’s then resolved to the Fmaj7 chord in the final measure.

Using outside sounding scales, like the tritone scale, can be effective in your solos, but if you don’t resolve them properly they might sound like a mistake.

To paraphrase Stevie Ray Vaughan:

“It’s easy to go outside, it’s really hard to get back inside.”

So make sure to always have a plan to get back to a more stable sound when applying the tritone scale to your solos, to avoid sounding out of place.


jazz guitar scales

Once you have this lick under your fingers with a metronome, practice applying it to your solos over a backing track.

Start by playing the lick as is, then begin to adapt the lick by changing the rhythm, adding notes, taking notes away, etc.

This will allow you to keep the vibe of the lick in your playing, but also personalize the lick along the way.

Augmented Scale

The final scale is an outside sounding scale that you can use to add flavor to your maj7 chords when soloing in the jazz style.

The augmented scale isn’t for everyone, but with the right touch, it can be used to increase the intensity over Imaj7 and IVmaj7 chords in your jazz guitar solos.

To build an augmented scale, you can play two augmented triads a minor 3rd apart, such as C and Eb.

Then, when you lay out those six notes in order, you get the following interval pattern.

  1. Interval Pattern: R b3 3 5 #5 7
  2. Used Over: Maj7 Chords
  3. Sounds Like: Maj7#5 Chord

Here is how the augmented scale looks on paper and how it sounds in a one-octave scale shape.

After listening to the example, play this scale on the guitar to begin to see how it sits on the fretboard.


jazz guitar scales

To help you take the augmented scale around the fretboard, here are two, two-octave augmented scale shapes that you can run through in your practice routine.

Don’t forget to practice these scales with a metronome, as well as over backing tracks, as you work these shapes from a technical and musical standpoint.

jazz guitar scales

Lastly, here is a sample augmented scale lick that you can learn and use in your solos when improvising with this cool sounding scale.

Learn the lick in one key first, then, when you’re ready, bring it to all 12 keys as you work this line across the entire guitar fretboard.

jazz guitar scales

There you have it, 10 jazz scales every guitarist should know and work on in their practice routines.

If you’re looking to add a bit of jazz flavor to your solos, or just step outside the box in your playing, then these 10 scales are just what you need to expand your playing.

If you have any questions about these scales, please post it in the comments section below; I’ll be glad to help you out.

And, if you want to take your jazz guitar playing further, check out my free Beginner’s Guide to Jazz Guitar eBook.

Looking for more jazz guitar lessons? Check out these articles and tutorials! 


mattwarnockGuest Post Author: Matt Warnock
Matt Warnock is the owner of, where over 1 million guitarists have learned to play jazz guitar. As well, he helps music teachers build, develop, and grow their online teaching businesses through his website

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Guitar Theory

Guitar Theory: Your Secret Weapon

guitar theoryWhen you’re learning guitar, make sure you don’t shy away from learning music theory. While it may seem complex to a beginner, it will help you take your playing to a whole new level. Here, Chicago, IL. guitar instructor Morgan S. shows you how you can use guitar theory to boost your playing… 

This article will show you how you can apply guitar theory to your creative style, to what you already know about guitar, and to your ear to hear common patterns and themes in music from your favorite artists and bands.

Overall, this article will show you how to use guitar theory to solidify what you already know about guitar, with a new learning method that uses theory as a linguistic tool and as a foundation to help you achieve your music goals.

How Guitar Theory Boosts Your Playing

While I’ve been playing guitar for 10 years, I have only applied what I know about guitar theory for the last five years. I found that I could apply what I know about guitar to learn more about theory and in turn, use theory to learn more about the guitar.

I learned scales and the names of the notes on the guitar, but I never saw the connection. Learning guitar theory has taught me to know the key I’m using to play. When you know the key, you know the appropriate notes. If you know the appropriate notes, you can avoid the sour notes! This is incredibly useful to improvise a guitar solo.

Theory is important for guitarists for many reasons. I’m sure you’ve had moments where you’ve thought “wow that riff sounds great, what’s a good bass line to play over that instead of the root notes?” Guitar theory can help you in these situations. Knowing the key tells you what type of notes to play, what type of chords to create, and how you can manipulate chords to tailor your style.

How to Use Guitar Theory

Take a look at a G major barre chord. Your first, third, and fourth finger play a G power chord, playing the notes of G, D, and an octave G. Continuing with the rest of the chord, your second finger plays a B note. Your first finger then barres the rest of the third fret, covering another set of notes: D and G.

So collectively, playing a G major chord is simply playing a combination of octaves between the notes of G, B, and D.

G,B, and D are the first, major third, and fifth of a G major scale, otherwise known as a major triad. So if G,B, and D are taken care of in a G major scale, we’re left with A, C, E, and F#. So, G-1, A-2, B-3, C-4, D-5,E-6, and F#-7th.

Not only do we have seven notes to choose from if we want to solo in G major, we can also use these seven notes to see what kind of chords we can make in G major.

Every chord we play in G major HAS to have those exact notes. Not Eb, not C#.. the only sharp note is the sharp F (start looking at the circle of fifths linked with the article).

Here’s a video to help you understand how to play a G major barre chord:


As we go along the G major scale, let’s list the types of chords for each note:

G is obviously major, A is minor, A major would have C# as the third, but we need to keep our C natural since we’re in the key of G major.

Next is B minor, again Eb would be the third of B major, but we need to flat that major third to D to stay within G major. Keep applying the rules to each note; eventually, you can list your chords for G major like this:

  • G – Major
  • A – Minor
  • B – Minor
  • C – Major
  • D – Major
  • E – Minor
  • F# – Can be diminished, augmented (a lesson for another time).

Now, within any of these chords, you can manipulate single notes to create different versions of a chord. For example, the G major. G, B, and D. How about we throw in an F# to give it a sweet, major seventh sound?

More: Guitar Theory Basics: Understanding Keys

 Use Guitar Theory to Learn New Songs

Another reason I like guitar theory is because you can use it to learn a song by another artist. When you know the key, you can

When you know the key the artist is using, you can see when he or she might step out of a key, or change a melody to activate the rules of theory.

I love this because it gives you an opportunity to learn from your favorite guitarists and recognize when they challenge the art of writing music.

This is the most valuable part of guitar theory (in my opinion); it’s such a great tool to use to learn from others.

Guitar Theory: Your Secret Weapon

Theory is almost like the language of music, and when you know theory while listening to your favorite songs, you can understand the artist  and see what he or she is telling you through melodies and chords.

Work with your teacher and ask about guitar theory. Then, it’s up to you to listen and learn technique, styles, and methods from your favorite songs and artists!

Morgan S.Post Author:
 Morgan S.
Morgan teaches bass guitar, drums, guitar, and music theory in Chicago, IL. He is working towards his Associates Degree in fine arts at the College of DuPage and studying music business at Columbia College Chicago.  Learn more about Morgan here!

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guitar history

A Look Back: 6 Major Milestones in Guitar History [Infographic]

guitar history

When you’re learning guitar it’s important to learn a little bit about the instrument’s origins. From the early designs to amplification and the story of rock “n” roll, here’s a look back at guitar history from Denver, CO instructor Kirk R

Guitar History: The First Guitar

The old origins of the guitar are rarely talked about. Many people believe that it’s a newly-invented instrument for folk and pop music, however, there were guitars and similar instruments long before familiar instruments like the piano or violin.

Most people believe the guitar evolved from the lute, which was used by troubadours during the renaissance. The lute had four strings which you had to pluck.  Though there were fretted and plucked instruments like the lute around much earlier, it’s safe to say that the guitar, in some fashion, was popular by 1500.

The big difference is that all of the strings were paired, much like on a modern 12-string guitar. Here’s an engraving from 1510 that shows us the existence of these instruments.

guitar history

It probably sounded something like this:

Single-String Guitars

The first major development in the guitar was moving from double-strung (and sometimes even triple- strung) instruments to guitars with only one string per note. It took hundreds of years of playing the double- and triple-strung guitars before the single strings caught on.

Even then, it was only the highest string that was a single at first. The previous tunings for multi-strung guitars were wildly inconsistent and wouldn’t always work for different pieces.

Imagine having to re-string your guitar mid-set! Because of this, the single-string trend caught on and quickly took over after the early 1800s.

A New Design and Steel Strings

Sometime in the 1840s, now famous guitar maker Christian Martin (does Martin Guitars sound familiar?) invented a new way of bracing guitars. The X-brace was stronger and easier to produce than previous designs.

Some found the stiffly-braced tops overly quiet, which resulted in the first production of guitars with metal strings. This was previously next to impossible, as the older designs couldn’t stand up to the tension of metal strings.

Guitar History: Electricity and Amplification

Despite the common misconception, Les Paul did not invent the first electric guitar. George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker (whose company still bears his name) invented what they called the “Frying Pan” in 1931, about a decade before Les Paul’s prototype.

While there were previous attempts to electrically amplify the guitar, it was not until Beauchamp and Rickenbacker created their magnetic pickup that it became a reality. Beauchamp was a Hawaiian Steel guitarist, which is the genre that truly prompted the creation of the electric guitar. The guitar was a more prominent melodic instrument in Hawaiian style guitar than in many other genres, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to hear over the growing bands.

Here’s how we might have heard it played for the very first time:

The First Rock

In 1951, Jackie Brenston, Ike Turner, and the Delta Cats were on their way to record when the guitarist’s amp fell from the roof of the car. (Tip for you future touring band members: rent a big van!)

The speaker cone inside the amp tore from the impact, completely destroying the loud, clean sound. Not willing to give up, and not having money to get a new amp, the band rolled with the new sound and created the first guitar distortion.

The result is this history-making recording of “Rocket 88”.

About five years later, the band Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio made a similar discovery that they could achieve the same tone through loosening electronic components in their amps.

Computers, Internet, and the Guitar Network

I debated including a number things in this section. In the last 60 years, so many things have changed the guitar and the way that it’s played. There are all sorts of computerized effects that began popping up shortly after distortion.

Jimmy Page popularized the idea of bowing an electric guitar. Players like Yngwie Malmsteen took electric guitar virtuosity to a whole new level. But all of these seemed like small steps to me. If I had to pick one thing that has had the biggest impact on guitar playing in the last 60 years, I would bet that you’re using it right now as you read this post!

Most of you reading this have probably not seen Led Zeppelin perform live. You probably weren’t around when the first effects processors were invented. How is it that you get to see videos of Led Zeppelin concerts or hear the first commercial electric guitar model? I think that the internet has helped more guitarists to learn from masters (and less-than-masters) from all over the world than ever before.

Sites like make it easy to see transcriptions from other guitarists of almost any song you might want to learn (not to mention see various versions, transpose, and a host of other tools). YouTube allows us to watch performances or up-close lessons that we would never otherwise have a chance to see, and right here at TakeLessons, you can sign up for live, one-on-one lessons (plus free live online classes for a limited time).

The internet continues to rewrite guitar history, and creates endless opportunities for new players to learn and grow. You can search for artists who inspire you, learn new techniques, connect with other guitarists, and so much more!

guitar history

So now that you know some important aspects of guitar history, it’s time to write your own story. Get started today with a guitar teacher near you

Kirk RPost Author:
 Kirk R.
Kirk is a classical, bass, and acoustic guitar instructor in Denver, CO. He earned a bachelor’s of music in Guitar performance at The College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and he is currently pursuing a masters degree in performance.  Learn more about Kirk here!

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guitar arpeggios

Mastering Lead Guitar: Arpeggios for Beginners

guitar arpeggios

When you’re learning guitar, you will come across different tricks you can add to your playing to add some flavor to your music. Here, Philadelphia, PA guitar instructor Bernard M. teaches you how to spice up your songs with guitar arpeggios…

For many guitar players, learning how to play a memorable solo is a constant journey. A big part of this is knowing what notes to play and when to play them. The first step is to learn how to play a scale over the key of the song (if you’re not familiar with basic scales, check out this article: Guitar Scales 101). The journey does not end there, however, once you’re comfortable playing in key, it’s time to follow each of the chord changes using guitar arpeggios.

Arpeggios are chords played one note at a time, instead of simultaneously. You can think of them as three- to four-note scales made up of chord tones (the tones used to make up any given chord). These types of note collections allow players to imply the chord changes, even when playing alone.

Each passing chord becomes a new opportunity to harness the melodic power of following the chords with their corresponding arpeggios.

What is an Arpeggio?

When we think about the notes in an arpeggio, we’re essentially thinking about chords. Like chords, the two most basic types we must learn are major and minor.

guitar arpeggiosHere are two very basic examples of major and minor arpeggios, mostly for demonstration. These movable shapes are illustrated with each note identified by its interval number, with the root note circled in red.

As you can see, each contains three notes: the root, the third, and the fifth, just like a triad chord. You can also see that the only difference between these two is the major third in the major chord and the minor third a half-step (fret) below in the minor chord.

While arpeggios, like chords, can get much more exotic, these two patterns are the building blocks for all arpeggios.

Guitar Arpeggios on the Fretboard

Now the challenge begins: how to find the right arpeggio to play over the right chord at the right time. The best way to address the mountains of memorization required to do anything on a musical instrument is to master one piece at a time. This means learning one good major and one good minor arpeggio shape.

Here are two shapes I personally love using:

guitar arpeggios

The major C-shape arpeggio looks like an open C chord that we can start with any root note on the A and B strings. Likewise, the minor A-shape follows the pattern of an Am chord, but can be moved and used with any root note on the A and D strings.

As you may have noticed, these two contain almost the same set of notes. You may also have noticed that both fit very nicely with the 4th position of the pentatonic scale.

guitar arpeggiosHalf the battle of playing these notes is learning how they relate to the scales and chords you already know. Practice changing between the 4th position pentatonic scale to these arpeggio shapes to get comfortable with how they fit over each other.

Following the Changes

The chord chart below shows one of the most common chord progressions used by jazz musicians, the ii V progression. Using the arpeggio shapes you just learned, you can easily take your first steps into the world of following the changes.

guitar arpeggios
We start off as usual with our Dm pentatonic (4th position 5th fret) over the Dm chord of the first bar. Once we reach the G in the next measure, we need to play a G arpeggio.

Using the C-shape rooted at the eighth fret of the A string, we get a whole new pallet of colors with which we can paint over the new chord. Due to the relationship between these chords, moving between them feels just like you’re moving your pentatonic scale up a whole step (two frets) every time the chord changes.

When you shift back to the Dm, make sure to emphasize the chord tones contained in the arpeggio (Am shape 5th fret A string).

Play over this backing track and get accustomed to listening for the changes and using guitar arpeggios to shift playing positions. As Obi-wan Kenobi would say, “you’ve taken your first step into a larger world”.

Major and Minor Shapes

Now that we’ve seen the power of this new approach, it’s a good time to present all of our major and minor arpeggio shapes. Again, don’t worry about memorizing all of these patterns at once. Instead, find the ones that you find most useful and work them into your playing.

guitar arpeggios


guitar arpeggios


Each chord type has five different shapes (all named after open chords they resemble according to the CAGED system). If you’re familiar with barre chords, these shapes should look very familiar. Practice playing these patterns; make sure only one note sounds at a time.

Practice playing these patterns; make sure only one note sounds at a time.

Recognizing Intervals

Let’s take a step back from the large-scale patterns and break guitar arpeggios down to their smallest parts; intervals. Knowing the spatial relationship between chord tones on the fretboard (i.e. where the fifth is in relation to the root) is crucial to understanding arpeggios patterns, as opposed to simply memorizing them.

guitar arpeggios

By examining our chord shapes, we notice certain patterns. Each interval (relationship between chord or scale tones) can be thought of as a certain spatial relationship. A fifth is one string below and two frets up the neck. An octave (root note to root note) is two strings below and two frets up.

Minor thirds can be found three frets up on the same string, or one string below and two frets down the neck. Major thirds are located one fret up from minor thirds, four frets up on the same string, or one string below and one fret down.

While these relationships change slightly when the B and high-E strings are involved due to the guitar’s tuning, you will soon get used to the different variations of intervals all over the fret board.

7th Chord Guitar Arpeggios

For every chord, there’s an arpeggio. So what do we play when we encounter an E7 or (god forbid) a Bm7b5? There are different shapes for each of these chords that we can discover by adding and or altering notes in the major or minor patterns.

guitar arpeggios

Above, we see five different types of 7th chords. Perhaps the most common of these is the dominant seven arpeggio that we’d play over chords like E7. Think of it as a major arpeggio with the addition of the minor 7th (b7) chord tone two frets behind the root.

These chords come up constantly, often as alterations to the original key (secondary dominants for those familiar with theory). These arpeggios will allow you to follow alterations from the key without having to over think things.

Next, we see the major 7th and minor 7th arpeggios. To get a major 7th arpeggio, add the natural 7th, one fret behind the root to a typical major arpeggio. Likewise, the minor 7th arpeggio adds a minor 7th (b7) two frets behind the root to a typical minor arpeggio.

Our last two arpeggios show both types of diminished chords: half-diminished (often called m7b5) and fully-diminished (often just called diminished). A half-diminished arpeggio is created when you lower the fifth of any minor 7th arpeggio. This chord is most commonly found as a ii7b5 in minor keys leading to the dominant V chord that in turn leads back to the minor root.

A fully-diminished arpeggio alters the half-diminished by lowering the b7 to a double flat 7 (bb7), which can also be thought of as a natural 6th.

You will likely find these being used as transition chords that take advantage of leading tones to create tension when bridging the gap between more typical chords.

Begin exploring each type of 7th chord arpeggio by learning the single shapes presented above. Once you feel comfortable, you can practice their other four shapes.

Following the Changes with 7th Chords

For our final exercise, we will play over the ‘minor turnaround,’ a common jazz progression that contains both the dissonant half-diminished chord and a minor key dominant V chord borrowed from the harmonic minor scale. This last chord alters one of the tones from the natural minor scale to add tension that pulls the listener back to the minor root.

[Dm Em7b5 A7 Chord Progression]

guitar arpeggios

Begin with a Dm pentatonic scale (try 4th position 5th fret A string), emphasizing the chord tones of the arpeggio. In the next bar, we encounter an Em7b5 chord. Try using the half-diminished C shape rooted on the 7th fret of the A string. This position fits very nicely with our previous pattern, allowing an easy transition.

Finally, we encounter our A7 chord on the last two beats of the second bar. The major 3rd in this chord is an alteration from the original key that acts as a ‘leading tone’ that resolves up a half-step to the root note of the Dm. This creates tension, giving character to the chord progression.

Make sure you emphasize this chord tone and try resolving up when switching back to the Dm. The dominant 7 E shape fits nicely with our other two arpeggios.

Final Thoughts

Guitar arpeggios are complex and challenging, and take a lot of time and energy to master. Don’t get discouraged if you have trouble memorizing arpeggios or following fast changes.

Remember, this is just another tool in your toolbox as a lead guitarist. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to the scale; it’s your foundation and your safety net. Think of guitar arpeggios as an extra special ingredient you can use to spice things up.

Look at chord changes to your favorite songs and try to work arpeggios and the strategy of chord following into your playing. Though this may be a daunting chapter in your journey, I guarantee it will take your playing to the next level!

Need some help with arpeggios or guitar techniques? Sign up for lessons with a private guitar instructor!

Bernard M Teacher Post Author: Bernard M.
Bernard M. is a guitar and songwriting instructor in Philadelphia, PA. He teaches lessons online and will travel to his students. Learn more about Bernard here!


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