Saturday, August 10, 2013

C Minor Bar Chords and Inversions

This post is for a former student of mine, Steve, whom I told I would write up this special post for him a few weeks after our last lesson together at JC's Guitars in Saint Charles, IL. (More on my leaving coming in an upcoming post over here.)

This lesson is not for beginners.

The worksheet reads left to right, then down a row, etc.

There are ten minor bar/inversion shapes which follow the pattern for the major ones. Simply locate the thirds within the Major shapes and lower them 1/2 step in order to get the minors. However, shapes 1, 4, and 9 are unique to minors, with 1 and 9 essentially being the same, just one octave apart.

By this point in your training, you understand how to check each chord to make sure each note is ringing properly. You also know how to practice increasing your speed between shapes over time. And, of course, you always use a metronome. My favorite basic metronome app for iOS? Bitcount's Clockwork. But if you're looking for one that will gradually increase in tempo as you rehearse difficult passages, you may want to check out Metronome+ (though I very much dislike apps with in-app purchases) or go with the ridiculously robust Dr. Betotte by S'SWorks and pay $10 up front instead of through in-app purchases, like M+.

One more thing to remember: You have to practice these chords ascending and descending as well as in every position, with different roots.

There are two ways you can practice these (other than the simple straight up and down):

1. Pick a position first. Randomly name a minor chord root. Find the shape that fits your root note and position, plus or minus one fret. Then, play all of the shapes you can with that root note, ascending in order, then descending past your original shape, if possible.

2. Pick a shape first. Randomly name a minor chord root. Find the position which matches the chord and root note which you randomly selected. Then, play all the shapes you can. Maybe this time play the shapes below your starting shape first, then ascend past the original, as high as you can go.

Questions? Comment below.

Happy minor chord playing!

Disclaimer: All resources on this blog are intended for personal use only. If you are a music instructor - public or private - and would like to use some of the resource materials I have created, please contact me to get permission before using them with your own students.

Donate Today to My Kickstarter Campaign!

Yesterday, on Friday, August 9, 2013, my friends and I in Restoration Project launched our first-ever Kickstarter campaign. We're trying to raise $10,000 in 30 days to pay for the recording and production costs for a new EP series we're calling Firm Foundation.

Watch our campaign video and view our Kickstarter page here:

Our Firm Foundation recordings will feature Sunday School songs with new arrangements and lyrics—bringing greater theological depth and clarity to the originals you may already know. Just read about it, watch the video, and donate on our campaign page! It's better watched than described.

Learn more about Restoration Project's mission and history and listen to our two, previously released albums on our website:

You can also share our fundraiser on social:

Share to Twitter
Share to Facebook

Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sight-Reading for Guitarists

One of the most important skills a guitarist can possess is the ability to read music.

I've said it. I mean it.

Great guitarists don't need to know how to read music, but well-rounded ones do - especially when it comes to comparing musicians of other instruments. Guitarists are the target of a lot of snobbish derision when it comes to their abilities to sight-read. But if we can read music, then we get the best of both worlds: playing from the heart (without music) and playing with precise calculation and technique (reading music).

I owe a big apology to one of my former guitar students, for whom I was supposed to write this special blog post a few days ago. This one is for Joe.

The attached image can be used for sight-reading in any position. Don't memorize it. When you feel like you're starting to get familiar with the order of the notes, flip the sheet upside down. Voila! It's a new page to practice. Here are the most important positions and keys to start with:
  • I - Keys: C, G, D, A, E, F
  • II - Keys: C, G, D, A
  • IV - Keys: D, A, E, B, F
  • VI - Keys: E, B, F
  • X - Keys: G, D, A, E
As you begin, start by reading a single note at a fairly slow pace. Consider each note head to be the same duration.

You're reading whole notes. When you feel comfortable with single notes, move on to reading two notes at a time. Now you're reading twice the information at one time, and you're reading half notes. I think you get the point. Increase the number of notes you read at a time. Some key benchmarks are as follows:
  • 3-note groupings - reading in 3/4
  • 6-note groupings - reading in 6/8
  • 8-note groupings - reading in 4/4
  • 12-note groupings - reading 4 measures of 3/4 at one time
  • 16-note groupings - reading 4 measures of 4/4 at one time
If you're hungry for more, and you're serious, you can write out your own pages, following mine as an example. In my page, I've limited my notes to C3 up to A4. However, the reading range for guitars goes down to E2 and all the way up to E6, approximately, so if you make your own practice sheets, be sure to utilize all of the pitches in your given fret position. (You won't be able to flip the sheet over when the notes become too familiar to "make" a new sheet, but it will give you the full range for guitarists.)

I have based my sheet on David Hickman's book, Music Speed Reading, which is out of print as of this post. Original copies of Hickman's book are currently fetching $150+ on

Have any questions or comments? Please use the form below. And good luck!

Disclaimer: All resources on this blog are intended for personal use only. If you are a music instructor - public or private - and would like to use some of the resource materials I have created, please contact me to get permission before using them with your own students.