classical guitar chords and scales

How Chords and Scales are Related (How the Guitar Works!)

The guitar can be a fairly confusing instrument at times.  We have chords, melodies, overlapping notes on the strings, and more.  Isn’t guitar supposed to be easy?

  • Why is a “G chord” made of these notes?
  • Why is a “D chord” different?
  • How are scales made?
  • What’s the deal with bar chords?
  • Why should I care about any of this?

These are deep questions, and the answer to each is intertwined with the rest.

If you’re just starting out, learning chords is perhaps your highest leverage practice.  Learn your basic chords first, and everything else will follow.

But as you focus in on your technique, you’ll likely start practicing scales.  While these may seem like just a technical exercise with little rhythm or reason, they are in fact integrally connected with chords.  The five basic scales shapes actually gave birth to the most common guitar chords!

And as you play more and more advanced music, and develop your skills at memorizing music, it will help greatly to know how chords and scales are related.  By understanding this, you’ll be able to make connections and recognize patterns that you’d otherwise miss.


allen mathews classical guitar

About Allen Mathews

Allen Mathews learned guitar as an adult, and has been a full-time guitar teacher for almost two decades to students age 4 to 96.  He has taught classical guitar at Reed College and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and has been a guest lecturer and clinician at schools and universities throughout the U.S.  Allen is often praised for his creative teaching abilities, and his dedication to helping adults learn classical guitar.  He has a popular Youtube Channel offering regular classical guitar tutorials, and has gained fans worldwide for his weekly emails and articles at

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