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    Mr. Nick

    Greetings to all, especially the older ones. I have a question: On the 5 patterns of the “”E minor pentatonic scale, on pattern #2 the “Root” note doesn’t show up until the Third string. I was taught to always start playing a scale on the root note. What do I do with the notes on the low “E: and 5th strings. Does starting on the “G” @ the 3rd fret on low E have anything to do with the “E” note on the 4th(D) string since it is the “relative” low of “G” (pattern 2). Thanks for your help.
    Mr. Nick (74 yrs. young and a beginner since Jan. 2014)



    Mr. Nick,

    I know just enough theory to be dangerous 🙂

    The Em pentatonic scale is the same thing as the G major pentatonic scale. They have the exact same notes in them, i.e.

    G major = G A B D E (the 1,2,3,5 and 6 from the major scale)
    E minor = E G A B D (the 1,b3,4,5,b7 from the major scale)

    I don’t think it matters where you start playing the two scales if you are noodling over a tune in the key of G or the key of Em. Just like the G major and Em pentatonic have the same notes, the keys of G and Em have the same chords. The major scale starts with the 1 chord (G) while the minor scale starts with the 6th chord (Em).

    I keep various cheat sheets on my wall in my music room to remind me of how the scales and the musical keys work. It’s a straight forward math puzzle (at least to me, a retired CPA).

    Start with the chromatic scale (all 12 notes in the musical alphabet).
    Next are the major scales, the seven notes following the whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole half step rule.
    The minor harmonic scales take the major scales and flat the 3 and 6 notes.
    The blues scales are made up of 6 of the notes from the major scales; 1, b3, 4, b5, 5 and b7
    The pentatonic scales includes the 5 notes of the major scales using the formula i mentioned above.

    Learn your basic chord triads, which are the 1, 3 and 5 for a major chord, and the 1, b3 and 5 for a minor chord.
    There are formulas for major and dominant 7s, diminished chords, augmented chords if you want to get more advanced.

    Lastly, learn the Number System Chart, also known as the Nashville Number System. You will see common chord patterns in many tunes, especially the country tunes you mentioned on another post.

    The number system chord pattern is:
    7=Diminished (don’t worry about this one!)

    Key of A; take the 7 notes from the major scale and make them major or minor per the formula above.

    A, Bm, C#m, D, E F#m, G#Dim

    Follow the same pattern for each key (each major scale).

    You will see that a lot of songs use the 1, 4 and 5 chords, with a minor often added. The minor in 2 or 6.

    The keys of C D and G are very common (or songs in a different key that can be played with a capo using the shapes from those 3 keys).

    Many country songs seem to be in keys C and G, using the 1, 4 and 5 chord pattern.

    So the song chords are C, F and G or G, C and D.

    Sorry, I probably got carried away answering your question!



    Mr. Nick

    I appreciate the “Long” answer. I think it may clear up some confusion I’ve had. I/ll just have to set down and go over it all until I have it straight. Thanks again.


    Mr. Nick

    Hey Bill,
    Thanks for the help. I think I have it sorted out now.

    <<. The major scale starts with the 1 chord (G) while the minor scale starts with the 6th chord (Em).>>

    This was what I was looking for, I just didn’t know it. I do have some confusion about the TRIADS 1-3-6 and the Nashville numbering 1-4-5. I understand the 1-3-6 is Major, minor, minor and the 1-4-5 is Major, major & major. Why the naming difference?

    Thanks again.



    The major chord triad is 1-3-5, not 1-3-6. We’re referring to the notes in the scale. You use the triads to build chords (not songs).

    The minor chord triad is the same as the major, except you flat the 3. Again to build a minor chord, not to build a song.

    So a C chord is made up of the first, third and fifth notes of the C major scale, i.e. the C, E and G notes.

    The Cm chord would be the C, Eb and G notes. The same formula works for every major scale.

    So for the following major chords (the first letter), the triads are:

    A C# E
    B D# F#
    C E G
    D F# A
    E G# B
    F A C
    G B D

    Using a piano, you can play the C, F and G chords using only white keys (every other white key starting with the C and F and G notes).

    The Nashville Number charts refers to whether a chord is a major or minor chord. It is not the same as building chords with Triads based on major scales. It is used to build songs (the song structure).

    So the Nashville Number system has 7 “positions”, just as the major scale has 7 notes. But the system refers to chords, not notes.

    In the Nashville system, the 1, 4 and 5 chords are major chords while the 2, 3, and 6 chords are minor chords. The 7th is a diminished chord.

    So if one where to play a song using the Nashville Number system, and the chord sequence is 1, 4 and 5, that means all three chords are going top be major chords. If the song structure was 1, 4, 5, 6, then you would have three major chords and one minor chord (the sixth).

    So using the Key of G major, the chords in the song above would be a G, C, D and Em, the 1, 4, 5 and 6 positions.

    Here are the chords in the key of G major, starting with 1 and going to 7:

    G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em and F#dim

    Knowing the chords used in the major keys of C D and G are the most useful (common). And remen]mber, using a capo allows one to change the “feel” of a song while staying in the actual key the song was written in.

    If you send my your e-mail address, I’ll be happy to mail you my “cheat sheets”. Maybe seeing the info will clear up the theory. It did for me!




    Mr. Nick

    ok Bill, What is the 1-4-5?



    Mr. Nick,

    Send me your e-mail address, and I’ll show you by sending you my “cheat sheets”. I’m at wbufe@bellsouth.net

    The 1-4-5 can mean the first, fourth and fifth notes of the diatonic scale, but more likely it is referring to chords using the Nashville Number System, or simply the number system.

    The 1, 4, 5 chord progression is very typical in the construct of a song. Each of the 3 numbers happen to represent the 3 major chords in each key.

    Here are the order of the chords in major keys, ignoring the keys that are sharped or flatted, starting with the key of A and going through the key of G. These are NOT the full chord names. I’ll tell you how to figure that out in a moment.

    CDEFGAB (no sharps or flats!)

    Each letter above is in a position. So in every key, the chord positions are 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

    In the key of A, A=1, B=2, C#=3, D=4, E=5, F#=6 and G#=7

    Apply the same to every key above, and you know which chord is in which position for every key. Very straight forward and easy to remember with my cheat sheets (easy to remember if you know your scales).

    The other thing to memorize is what kind of chord is found in each position. Is it a major chord, a minor chord or a diminished chord?

    So for each major key (not for each minor key), the rule is as follows:

    1=major, 2=minor, 3=minor, 4=major, 5=major, 6=minor and 7=diminished.

    So if someone said to play the 1, 4, and 5 chords in the key of A, you would play A, D and E

    But if the person said, that’s the wrong key for my voice, let’s play the 1, 4 and 5 chords in C.

    The same song would then be played with the C F and G chords.

    Or let’s play it in G: then the G C and D chords. All 1, 4, and 5 chords.

    The number system is an easy way to play songs in different keys.

    Obviously there are more than the 1, 4 and 5 chords in many songs (likewise there are MANY songs that are made up of just the 1, 4 and 5 chords (sometimes in that order, sometimes mixed up like 1, 5, 1, 4).

    So what do you do if the pattern you’re told to play is 1, 5, 6, 4, 1, 5, 4, 4 and the key is G?

    You play G, D, Em, C, G, D, C and C. The sixth position in the key of G is an E, and the rule says that the chord in the 6th position is a minor, thus the 6 above is an Em. All easy open chords.

    But what if you had to play it in the key of A to match the original song?

    Then the chords are A E F#m D A E D D.

    The F#m is a barre chord, so use a capo on the second fret and play the chords from the G scale and you avoid the barre chord while still playing in the original key (A) of this particular song.

    Make sense?

    Bonus points for anyone who recognizes the song. There’s probably way more than one answer.


    A E
    Heading down south to the land of the pines
    F#m D
    I’m thumbing my way into North Caroline
    A E D
    Staring up the road and pray to God I see headlights

    Or with Capo on the 2nd fret:

    G D
    Heading down south to the land of the pines
    Em C
    I’m thumbing my way into North Caroline
    G D C
    Staring up the road and pray to God I see headlights

    Instead of writing the chord letters as they are above, one could write the numbers. Once you know the key, then you know the chords! Especially if you have my cheat sheets (listing the scales, the major keys and the minor keys).

    Free to anyone that e-mails me and asks for them.




    Note: The formatting for the song above was lost when I posted the note. The chords are correct, but not in the right places for the chord changes. Ultimate-Guitar.Com is where you can get the full song and the correct chords (free web site but with ads. Pay a few bucks and the ads go away).

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