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

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two stellar teachers – one focused on the technical, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully. Click here for a sample formula.

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