Lesson #074, Building Basic Scales and Chords I

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lesson #074, Building Basic Scales and Chords I

Hi Everyone,

In these next series of lessons we are going to discuss scales and chords and their basic use in Bluegrass and in other types of music as well. Its important to understand the basic construction of scales and chords if we want to take our understanding of the fingerboard and our understanding of Improvisation as far as we can.

To review a little bit of past lessons, lets start with a chromatic scale and talk about the twelve notes we have to work with in music. If we start at the third string picked open and continue up twelve half steps we have played a chromatic scale. A chromatic scale is a scale that ascends or descends in half steps ( the distance between each fret is a half step). We can play a two note chromatic scale or an infinite number of notes and call them chromatic as long as it moves in half steps.

Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti is a seven note Major Scale. I think everyone is familiar with this scale. It is a very very very important scale. We can do tons with this basic major scale. If you look at the chart in the video you will see that the scale is numbered. We can get a lot of information from that chart and will explore it in future lessons.

The scale is numbered from 1 through 7 under the scale. When the scale comes back to Do..... the number goes to 8 and then upward from there. The numbering of the scale is going to be important in our understanding of the fingerboard and in chords and many other aspects of playing the Banjo.


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In 2009, at the age of 60, I decided to learn to play the 5-string banjo. I searched the internet for lessons and struck gold when I found David Cavage's free banjo lessons at Musicmoose.org. His video hosting site revver.com was having some serious problems at the time so I downloaded as many of the lessons as I could whenever they became available. Revver.com stopped operating shortly afterwards and, sadly, Musicmoose.org is no more. I contacted David early 2020 and he told me he no longer had the original master videos and feared they may have been lost forever. This amazing course of free banjo lessons, from absolute beginner to advanced player, is too good to be forgotten, so this is my attempt to get David's work back out there again so that he can teach, inspire and spread the joy of banjo pickin' to more generations of budding musicians, just like he did with me. I've rounded up all the Moose stuff I could find and put it here, so start pickin' and enjoy!-------MooseHerder.