Crazy Diamond - Easy Understandable Fretboard

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A lesson by GMC Member Crazy_Diamond



Hi there GMCers,

This is my first lesson ever, so I will really enjoy your feedback on this lesson. Today I am going to show you a new technique that has really improved my improvising and my writing skills. The essence of this lesson is to make the guitar fretboard readable and make the music theory understandable for anyone, even for those who think that music is complicated. I really hope that this lesson will open the eyes of a lot of GMCers. I am not a great guitar player but I read a lot and I think a lot so I came up with this lesson and I hope that I will be able to contribute to this website knowledge.

I would also like to precise that in this lesson I am not doing any critics about the theory and I am not saying that music theory is not important. Mastering the theory is better than mastering my lesson. But of course my lesson is easier than that. And it is probably the easiest lesson you will read about music theory.

Understanding Music with a guitar fretboard

Are you that type of person who is strugling with all the music terms? You don’t know how to play a whole bunch of weird chords? Or are you that kind of curious person who understands all this but want to learn the easier theory lesson on earth? Well this lesson is made for you guys.

All the elements that I'm going to explain today are about the first guitar chords you ever learned. That’s right, I am going to show you how to master theory + your guitar fretboard by knowing 3 chords. These chords are: E, A & D….. Not some difficult chords but the open chords you all know.

The magic formula

First of all, music is made out of notes. These notes were not created by humans but discovered. The notes are: A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#. Each of these notes is separated by a semitone. The distance between the notes is called an interval. In this lesson we are going to focus on tone and semitone.

The major scale is what makes music sound like a melody and not a whole bunch of notes. The major scale is the language of music. To understand how a major scale works, you have to understand the magic formula……..

T, T, S-T, T, T, T, S-T.
T= Tone= 2 notes apart from all the music notes
S-T= 1 note apart from all the music notes.

This formula is really really really really really really really really important.

The intervals

Let’s use the scale of C major as an example. By using the magic formula and starting on the C note you get. C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.

The distance between the notes is called an interval. And all these intervals have numeral numbers.
So in the C major scale, the notes are:
C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Uusually these numbers are written in roman numerals (I haven’t written them that way because it was harder to fit in the forum. So now if we are in a C major scale and someone tells you to play the 3rd (III), you know it’s a E. The 5th (V) is the G. How easy is that ?

The major scale will be our point of reference for all the lesson. Think of all the other scales like major scale but altered.

The Chords

All the major chords are made out of three notes. That’s right!!! I’ll use the C major chords to prove it to you. All the major chords are made out of the I, III, and V degrees of each scale.
Take the C major chord:

|--0---| 1st String
|--1---| 2nd String
|--0---| 3rd String
|--2---| 4th String
|--3---| 5th String
|--X---| 6th String

Ok so grab your guitar and play that C chord. What are the note starting from the A string and going up ?
C, E, G, C, E
The three notes are there, since the guitar has 6 strings, some of the note can be repeated. All the majord chord are made out of the I, III, and V degrees of there scale. If you don’t believe me, you can use the A major scale, to find your degrees, and you’ll see that it works with the A major, the D major, the E major and so on.

The magic chords

The three magic chords of this lesson are E, A and D. Take a close look at the fretted note for each chord.

E Chord:

A chord:

D Chord:

What are the intervals of each note compared to their scale? You have V, I and III. FOR THE 3 CHORDS YOUR FINGER ARE PLACE ON THE V, I AND III. THE ORDER IS ALWAYS THE SAME FOR THESE 3 CHORDS.

Now things are starting to get interesting. You have to look at these chords not like a bunch of notes, but like some shapes. The shapes of your fingers are really important to understand the intervals. By moving these shapes around the neck you are going to be able to improvise and mastering the neck. You are going to see all the intervals anywhere on the guitar neck. All the barre chords are made mostly out of the 3 chords we just mentioned.

What about minor chords ???

Easy…. Flat the III. I mean that if you want to make a minor chord, take your finger that is resting on the III degree and move your finger one fret lower. There you go! You can try this with the three magic chords we look at, it works.

The III degree can also play with the Suspended chord. Suspended chords are chords that are not major or minor. Suspended 2nd mean that you move your III degree two frets down. Now your III degree is a II degree (sus2). If you move your III degree one fret up, you get a IV (sus4).

I you want a 7major chord. You need to add a 7 degree to your primarily I, III, V chord. How ??? Flat the I degree. Remember the magic formula, if you want a major seven you have to go down 1 semitone. I you want a dominant 7 chord (usually name 7) you have to go a semitone lower than the 7 degree. I know it’s not in the scale but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. The major scale is only a reference.

The relation between the chords

If you want to relate the chords together just follow the first magic formula. Let’s go back to the C major. Loads of songs in C major use the chords C, F, G or I, IV and V. All these notes come from the scale and they relate to each other. Now if you want to improvise, you can move your shape on the appropriate chords that are in the scale and playing within your different shape. You can also move your finger on the fretboard by playing other notes that are in the scale, you just have to remember the magic formula to navigate on the fretboard.

Usually in a key the chords are going this way

Move these chords around and you will be able to improvise anywhere on your neck. Usually guitar players don’t play a diminished chords but play a 7 chord as it sounds better.


The same relations between the notes exist in all the major scale. The II is always minor and the IV is always major. You can move your shape around the neck pretty easily. The barre chords come directly from the shape of the E and A chords so it shoulnd’t be to hard for you to move the two shapes around. For the D shape, just remember that your I degree is on the b string or if you prefer, the 1st fret of that string is a C note. Play with the shapes, play with the chords, now the fretboard is much more easy to see.

I hope I have been able to explain my point of view about music theory. I also hope that this reflection is going to help a lot of people to understand the fretboard.

Enjoy !!!

Lesson by GMC Member Crazy_Diamond