5 Quick Reasons Why You Should Learn Scales

Here’s a guest post from playguitarscalesnow.com on why learning scales is an important part of learning guitar. Chords and scales are very closely related so consider splitting your time learning chords and scales for the best results.


1. You’ll know which groups of notes sound good together

When people first sit down and try and write a guitar solo they can get lost because of all the notes on the fretboard. Some of the notes on the fretboard work better together than others and learning scales will help you know which notes work well together and which don’t.

Not only that, some scales have a certain tone or feel to them. For example, a minor scale might have a sad or sombre tone to it. If you know what each scale sounds like you can choose the one you want to set the mood you are after.

2. You’ll know what notes to play over a piece of music

Chords are made from scales. So some scales will work with some chords and some won’t. If you know your guitar scales you’ll know which one to play over a certain chord progression.

This will help you make sure you are using the correct notes and will help you write better solos. This can also save you time and embarrassment if you are playing with other musicians and they ask you to solo over a chord progression. You’ll instantly know what notes to play that’ll work.

For more info on this check out my article “How to know what scale to play over a chord progression”.

3. Helps you learn the position of the notes

You can just learn the scale shapes and move it around the fretboard. But to really understand scales and to get the most out of them you need to know the notes in them. Learning the notes in any scale can be difficult but once you know these notes and can play it on your guitar it will help you learn the position of the notes on the fretboard.

Also if you know the position of your notes on your fretboard it will help you learn the notes in the scale. This can really help you when soloing because you can target certain notes to made you licks and phrases stand out.

4. Help improve your technique

Learning your scales can be a great opportunity to improve your technique at the same time. While you are playing up and down the scale shapes you can be focusing on other parts of your playing to improve them. For example making sure you use the correct fingering will help you with your co-ordination and dexterity and improve strength in your weaker fingers. Or practicing to a metronome will help you improve your rhythm and make you a much tighter guitarist in the long run.

5. Help you write better solos

The main reason people learn guitar scales is to write better guitar solos and they will definitely help you with that. In fact all of the other four reasons will greatly help you improvise and writer better guitar solos. If you are serious about doing this I recommend you start spending some of your practicing time learning guitar solos.

Check out playguitarscalesnow.com for more advice on scales then see how you can apply scales to chords and vice versa through our lessons.

Top 6 tips to help you memorize guitar chords

There are so many memory tricks and games you can use to help you memorize all those guitar chords. We will look at ten extremely effective ways to memorize those chords. As this is a site dedicated to using guitar flash cards to learn chords, some of the tips will require you to have the 50 Essential Chords Pack. If you don’t have the pack yet, there are other tips you can still use right now.


1. Using mnemonic devices

Mnemonic devices are little tricks you can use to help you remember chord names and shapes. This is similar to how people remember how many days are in a certain month, you probably learned a song at school. Mnemonic devices are effective because they are easy to memorize on their own. If you did learn the song to memorize the days in each month you probably still remember it now. In the same way it’s really easy to memorize guitar chords using similar tricks.

In this lesson on mnemonic devices you will learn an extremely easy way to memorize the shapes and names of guitar chords. The lesson gives you examples and diagrams to help you understand how to properly use the technique. By spending a few minutes each day thinking about this tip you can drastically improve your recall rate on all chords.


2. The 10 minute method

We have put together a comprehensive method to help you memorize all chord names, positions and to even help you change between the chords faster. As the name suggests, the method will only take 10 minutes every day. The reason for the very short practice session time is because it focuses your attention and helps you remember what you did. If on the other hand you tried to spend one to two hours following the same method, you would burn out and wouldn’t remember anything.

Read about the 10 minute method here. The 10 minute method is also incorporated in our 30 Day Guide which comes with our flash card packs.


3. Learn to work out chords in a key

When you understand keys and how to figure out the chords within a key, it actually makes it easier to memorize each chord because you will know which keys they fit into. For example, if you know which chords work with the key of C Major, then you will understand how each of those chords are related and you will be able to group those chords together. So as soon as somebody says, ‘what chords are in C Major?’ you will find it a lot easier to remember each individual chord.


This lesson will help you understand how chords fit into keys and if you don’t understand the Major Scale, it’s recommended you read this lesson first.


4. Carry one flash card around with you each day

This is a very easy way to memorize chords if you have our Guitar Flash Cards Pack. You simply pick one of the cards and carry it around with you everywhere you go. Keep it in your pocket and whenever you have a spare second simply pull the card out and look at it. Look at the shape of the chord, the chord name, the chord formula, the finger positions, the notes in the chords and imagine holding your hand in the correct position. This is a really easy way to improve your memory without having a guitar with you. The next day you simply pick a new card and take that with you all day. Over time by following this easy tip you will find that whenever you think of those chords your memory will be able to picture the chord shape, notes, name, etc.


5. Just practice strumming between chords

If you ask most guitarists how to memorize all the chords they will most likely respond with, ‘practice!’. There is a good reason for this. Practicing is the best method because when you actually use the chords in a practical way, your brain works harder to memorize them. Every time you place your fingers in the correct positions you brain will be trying to memorize that position. So this tip is simple: pick a few chords and practicing strumming each one four times then move on to the next chord. Repeat this over and over then pick another set of chords. The more often you follow this method the faster you will memorize them. Plus there is the other benefit of improving your strumming and chord changes.


Although the other tips listed here will definitely help you memorize the chords, unless you practice using them you will still have trouble playing. So use a combination of all of the above tips and you will find that you memorize all the chords in a very short time.


6. Use a metronome

This tip follows on from tip 5. Instead of just strumming the chords then changing to the next chord, try using a metronome to force you to play along with a certain tempo. Start the tempo very slow to begin with then gradually increase it until you find it hard to keep up. The reason this is so effective is because it forces you to push yourself to play faster. Every time you challenge yourself to play faster and better, you will improve.


This lesson will help you use the metronome if you have never used one before.



The reason all these tips work is because they each work you in different ways. Some of them get you to think about the chord shapes, some get you to think about the theory behind the chords and others get you to memorize them by simply playing them over and over. The best way to memorize all the chords in the shortest time is to use all the tips above. Using learning tools such as our Guitar Flash Cards and a metronome will enhance your learning. For more tips and hints check out our Tips and Games page.

How many open chords do you know right now?

From time to time it’s always worth checking your current level of knowledge related to guitar. Knowing how much (or how little) you know about a certain area helps you identify any strengths or weaknesses you can work on. So take five minutes now to work out how many chords you really know. Not how many you think you know, but how many you have memorized.

To do this properly you need to take a piece of paper (or open a program to type notes) and pick up your guitar.

  1. Without looking at any reference material start on A and play all the chords based on A you can think of.
  2. Once you play a chord, write down the chord name. If you don’t know the proper chord name, then you can’t write it down. Alternatively, if you know the chord name but can’t remember the finger positions, you can’t write it down because you haven’t properly memorized it.
  3. Once you have played all the chords you can think of based on A, move on to B.
  4. Continue this pattern all the way from A to G (don’t worry about any chords such as D# or F# as we are just focusing on standard open chords)

Once you have your list of chords, count the total for each note grouping. Add up the total open chords.

To give you an idea of the number of basic chords to compare your memory to, below is the total number of chords in the 50 Essential Chords Pack by note name.

Chords based on A: 8

Chords based on B: 4

Chords based on C: 7

Chords based on D: 9

Chords based on E: 9

Chords based on F: 5

Chords based on G: 8

Keep in mind that there are of course more possible chords than what is listed above. This will just give you an idea what areas you know well and which areas you need to work on.

For example: say you can think up of only 5 chords based on E and you know 6 chords based on B. Now you know you need to learn a few more chords on E and you also know you have a good understanding of chords based on B.

After you compare your results to the list above, make a note to learn a few more chords in the areas you fall short in.

Take five minutes to complete the steps above and you will gain insight to your current understanding of open chords. Repeat this simple test in a month and compare your results again.

How are you improving as a guitarist?

To be able to improve as a guitarist, it really helps to know exactly where you’re at right now. By spending a couple minutes working out where you’re at now you might find that most of the practice you have been working on isn’t what you need. Spend a couple minutes answering the questions below:

  • When you practice, do you ‘just play’ or do you really focus and push yourself to do better?
  • Do you fully understand the theory behind the chords and scales you use?
  • When you improvise, do you often repeat the same ideas and licks or do you push yourself to try something completely different each time?
  • How many different styles of music have you studied? When was the last time you tried to learn a completely different style?
  • Can you figure out the notes to any basic chord without using any reference material?
  • When was the last time you tried to figure out how to play a lick or riff by ear instead of simply looking up the TAB?


All of the above points make a big difference to your development over time. For example: players who ‘just play’ may think they are doing the right thing but unfortunately their development will plateau very early. A player who focuses on really making improvements will always end up a better player. When you push yourself to become a better player you will achieve it. Don’t overlook any of the above points as each one will make a huge difference to your abilities and understanding of music.

Another way you can figure out your current level of abilities is to record yourself playing and listen back to it. Record yourself improvising then ask yourself these questions:

  • How many notes didn’t fit with what you were playing?
  • How many notes were out of tune (eg: bends pushed too far)?
  • Does your playing sound musical or did it sound like randomly played notes and scale runs?
  • How much noise did you hear (eg: strings ringing out, fretting noise) that distracted from the actual playing?
  • What was your tone like?

Answering tough questions like these and really putting the microscope on your own playing is the best way to find out any problems and become a better player. If you honestly think you’re doing everything fine, then you won’t improve. It’s the player who criticizes his/her own playing that really makes the progress.

Don’t just gloss over these questions, really spend the time answering them and you will find it will be worth it. Check out our lessons here for ways to improve your understanding and read through our articles here to think about your practice and playing in different ways.

Teach guitar? Use flash cards to enhance your lessons

If you’re a guitar teacher, one of the most important aspects when teaching is looking at effective ways to reinforce your student’s knowledge. Every student learns differently and therefore you need different tools and resources to help your student learn. Using flash cards can be a great way to reinforce a student’s chord knowledge and can provide fresh ways to enhance your lessons.

As a tutor, you can use guitar flash cards in quite a few ways. For example, you can:

  • Give your student 3 new cards every week for them to study
  • Play memory games with your student (great with children)
  • Use them to explain chord progressions, keys and scales
  • Practice strumming between chords by changing chord combinations

The best reason why you should use flash cards in your lessons is simple: you can choose how to use them. Flash cards are extremely flexible and can be used in any way you want. You can still have full control over your lessons as well as providing a fresh way to teach your students. Not to mention students love it when they get to keep their own pack of flash cards.

You can read more on our flash cards here.

Have you used a metronome before?

Ask yourself that simple question and if you your answer is no, then stop whatever you’re doing and read this post. Seriously.

What’s the big deal?

Using a metronome to help develop your guitar skills will have a major impact on your progress. One of the main factors that separate a poor guitarist from a great one is the player’s sense of timing and rhythm. A metronome can help you develop your sense of timing and force you to improve your rhythm skills. It’s such a simple tool to use and the results are often amazing. Think of it a different way: if you don’t use a metronome to practice and hone your sense of rhythm, you may develop poor habits and continue to play with bad timing and not even realize it!

How to get started with a metronome

Fortunately, it’s quite simple to learn how to play along with a metronome and learn to use it to develop techniques and other skills. There is a lesson here to teach you the basics of practicing with a metronome to start you off right away.

Do I need to buy a metronome?

The great thing is you don’t need to have a physical metronome to get started. Although it’s not a bad idea to have one handy, there are alternatives. You can download apps to your phone that will do the job or to your PC/Mac. We even have a section on this site under the Backing Tracks Section that simulates a metronome at various tempos.

What’s the next step?

After you work through the lessons on this site, you will have a basic understanding of the metronome and how to use it. From here you can continue to use it to help you improve your abilities with techniques such as tapping, sweep-picking, alternate-picking etc. For now, just start with the basics and your abilities will definitely improve straight away.

A Guitar Player’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2012

It’s that time of year again when people often look at setting a couple overly ambitious New Year’s Resolutions that they know they won’t keep. Instead of setting a massive goal that will never happen, let’s look at a couple very simple goals you can set for yourself to improve your guitar playing in 2012.

Resolution 1: Practice 10 minutes everyday

If you don’t already practice every day, then set a goal to make it happen. Practicing every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes, will have a dramatic effect on your progress. It really isn’t hard to find 10 minutes out of every day to fit in some practice. Maybe as soon as you wake up you can pick up the guitar or right before dinner you can squeeze in some practice. Instead of coming up with excuses why you can’t do this, find out a way to practice 10 minutes a day.


Resolution 2: Learn a new chord every week

How many open chords do you know right now? Test yourself to find out. Without looking at any reference material try to play as many open chords as you can and keep count. How many can you play from memory? 10? 20? 50? This resolution is simple: memorize a new chord every week. If you think you can learn two chords a week then go for it, but set the minimum at one chord a week. Then by the end of 2012 you should at least know 52 brand new chords. You will be surprised how much this can affect your abilities on guitar. Learning new songs can be a breeze if you already know all the chords.

There are plenty of lessons and methods for you to learn the chords in the lessons section so there’s no reason why you can’t achieve this goal. If you don’t know what chords to learn, check out the 50 Essential Chords Pack as it contains 50 basic chords to start you off. This resolution is a breeze with the pack of cards as you can carry a card around with you for the week until you memorize it.


Resolution 3: Learn to practice with a metronome

Out of all the exercises and methods you can use, this will have the greatest affect on your playing ability. You can buy a physical metronome, download a software version or use the tracks on this website in the Backing Tracks section. If you don’t regularly use a metronome now to practice then this resolution is critical. A metronome can develop your sense of timing and improve your rhythm abilities. There’s a lesson here that covers the basics of practicing a metronome so check it out for more information on how to use one.

You can link this resolution to resolution 1 by setting a goal to practice with a metronome for five minutes every day. A small and simple goal like this is so easy you can’t help but succeed.


Resolution 4: Learn to write your own music

This resolution is a bit tougher than the other three but it’s a goal worth setting. Being able to write your own music is a fantastic skill. When you break the skill down it can be quite simple. For a simple song form like an acoustic ballad, you can break the skills down to three parts:

  • Write a chord progression
  • Write a melody
  • Write the lyrics

When you break a big ambitious goal down into the individual skills involved, it makes the whole job easier. Now you can focus on the three individual skills and will have a clear idea on what needs to be done. There are plenty of lessons available that will teach you these three skills. Check out our lesson section as it contains a couple lessons on chord progressions for songwriting.

With this resolution it’s a good idea to start out simple then look at more complicated forms later on. Set a goal to write an extremely basic acoustic ballad. Then once you write a couple of them you can move on to more interesting or complex styles of music.



None of these goals are outside of anybody’s reach. It doesn’t matter if you have just started to learn guitar, you can achieve these four goals. If you want to improve as a guitar player then these four resolutions are crucial. These resolutions are really very simple to start. When you take small steps in your progress you are more likely to succeed then the person who sets big ambitious goals. So even if you focus on the first resolution to practice 10 minutes every day, you will definitely see a jump in your progress. Make a promise to yourself to push your progress over the next year and you will be surprised how far you will go by the end of 2012.

My experience with music schools and group lessons

When I first started guitar at the age of about 8 I had a personal tutor who was fantastic. Unfortunately after a couple of years of lessons we moved towns and I couldn’t go to the same tutor. My parents decided to take me to a local music school. They expected top service as many people expect from music schools.

The first problem was obvious to me in the very first lesson. It was a group lesson of three students and there was an obvious skill difference between the other two students and myself. I was a full year worth of lessons ahead of the other two. This meant that whatever we would be learning would either be too hard for the other two or too easy for me. So most of the time I would learn something quickly then sit there waiting for the other two students to catch up. I estimate that I would have spent about 7-10 minutes every lesson (30 minutes long) sitting listening to the other players. That’s a huge waste of time.

The next problem was that we tuned the guitars up at the start of every lesson. The tutor explained that it’s a very important skill to be able to tune a guitar properly (which I agree with) so we would ‘practice’ tuning the guitar every lesson. Now I absolutely agree that every guitarist should be able to properly tune a guitar. What I don’t agree with is spending up to 10 minutes every lesson tuning all three guitars. That’s a massive waste of time and money. In a one-on-one lesson tuning up a guitar is quick and important. But tuning up three guitars (four considering sometimes the tutor would have to do his too) takes too much time out of a very short lesson.

The third problem I eventually noticed after a few months was that the tutor wasn’t an expert guitarist. It’s pretty bad when a 10 year old student can recognize the limitations of a tutor’s skill level. Now when I look back I can clearly see that he was not an accomplished player at all despite the certificates on his wall. I still remember to this day when we were learning ‘Beat it’ by Michael Jackson and the tutor making mistakes when demonstrating it. Not exactly the type of tutor you would expect in a music school.

After a couple months of lessons I became frustrated and wanted to quit. We had to wait until the end of the term because we were locked into a contract so I had to go to three more lessons and never went back. I was too scared to tell the tutor in person that I was leaving (explained why below) so my mother cancelled the lessons by phone.

The reason I was too scared to quit in person was because of what a friend had told me. I mentioned I was learning guitar from the school and he said he used to learn from the same person a year ago. My friend was also frustrated with the lessons so one day he told the tutor he was quitting. The tutor apparently tried to pressure my friend to stay with lines like ‘the chicks won’t be interested in a quitter’ and ‘if you quit these guys (the other group students) will become great guitarists and you will miss out’. Not exactly a professional response.

Why I share this story

I have put this story here not to lash out at music schools or discourage anyone from using them, but to give warning on potential problems you could face. Over the years I have had many students come to me after experiencing similar issues so unfortunately this is fairly common. I put my experience here because my parents sent me to a music school expecting quality lessons and ended up receiving garbage. The amount of time wasted in the lessons means that my parents wasted a lot of money for nothing. Hopefully by posting my story other people can avoid the same thing from happening from them.

What to learn from this story

To avoid the same situation I faced as a beginner, watch out for the following:

  • Don’t assume because it says ‘music school’ that it’s high quality
  • Group lessons can be extremely ineffective and waste time
  • Music schools can lock you into contracts
  • You may not get any refund for missed lessons or if you quit half way through
  • Group lessons often don’t work because everybody learns at different rates
  • Not all tutors are equal
  • Wasting as little as 5 minutes every lesson adds up to 6 full lessons wasted a year


This is based on my personal experience. Please note that everybody will have different experiences so I am not saying that all music schools and group lessons are worthless.


If you have had similar experiences, please post them in the comments so other beginners can take note.