Reading Chord and Scale Charts

READING CHORD AND SCALE CHARTS

There are several ways to notate musical examples for the guitar. Standard Notation, Tablature (TAB) and Chord/Scale charts are the most common.

Chord and Scale charts are actually pretty simple once you understand the orientation.

5-fret-block-with-names-and-numbers

The 6 vertical lines represent each string. The horizontal lines represent each fret.

The example above shows five frets of the guitar neck,

but chord/scale charts can contain as many frets as needed.

12-blank-gauged-frets

***Always assume the 1st space is the 1st fret…

1st-fret

unless you see a fret number indicating a specific fret.

centered-7th-fret

*If a fret number is specified, use the pattern based on that fret!

 

Now that you understand the orientation of the neck graphic, we need to number our fretting fingers…

lh-numbered

(*it’s not uncommon to use your fretting thumb (T) to produce chords.)

Make sure you understand that:

  • 1st finger=index finger
  • 2nd finger=middle finger
  • 3rd finger=ring finger
  • 4th finger=pinky
  • T=thumb

CHORD CHARTS

*By putting finger numbers on the chord/scale charts, we can create pictorial diagrams of a given chord.

e-minor-chord

To play this example, you would simply put your index finger (1) on the 5th string/2nd fret and your middle finger (2) on the 4th string/2nd fret. This is a chord called E minor (Em).

But wait!!! We need to know what strings to strum

Strings are often omitted from a chord. Chord charts use a combination of X’s & O’s to tell us which strings to play or not (you always play the notes that you are fretting).

X=DON’T PLAY!!!

O=include this open string

e-minor-chord

Play the shape and strum all of the strings. Are we making music yet? If you are confused, reread the earlier sections of this article.

Let’s try a chord that omits 2 strings:

fmaj7open-newb

This chord (Fmaj7) can be made by putting your index on the 2nd string/1st fret, your middle on the 3rd string/2nd fret and your ring on the 4th string/3rd fret. Strum the 1st 4 strings.

REMEMBER NOT TO STRUM THE 5th & 6th STRINGS-THEY HAVE BEEN X’D OUT OF THE CHORD!!!

SCALE CHARTS

The orientation for chords and scale charts is the same:

5-fret-block-with-names-and-numbers

The main difference with scale charts is how they explain fingering. In scales, one finger plays several notes on different strings. You can usually find a logical pattern in a given shape to “assign” a given finger to a specific fret:

min-pent-colored-fingering-newb

 

This diagram reminds us that the index plays ALL the notes on the 2nd fret,the ring plays ALL the notes on the 4th fret and the pinky is stuck with ALL the notes on the 5th fret. (Notice we don’t use our middle in this example. If we had notes to play on the 3rd fret, it would be logical to use our middle finger to play it.

*Get REALLY used to this four finger grouping-

we’ll refer back to it often!!!

Now all we have to learn is the direction to play the scale.

If we want to play the scale ascending (Low to High), we would start on our root/tonic indicated by the circled dot. Now we continue up that string until we are out of notes. Now we move to the lowest note on the next string playing from Low to High. Continue this process until you are out of notes and/or strings…

min-pent-asc-direction-newb

Here is what it looks like in tab:

fmin-pent-tab-newb

*To play the scale descending (going from High to Low), we would just reverse the order.

fmin-pent-desc-newb

 

Here’s what it looks like in tab:

f-min-pent-desc-tab-newb

Let’s see if we can put it all together. This example wants us to play:

major_pentatonic_pattern-2

 

*REMEMBER THAT WE NEED TO START THIS SHAPE ON THE 7TH FRET!!!

Here is what it looks like in tab:

bm pent tab newb - page 1