I just finished Volume 1 of A Modern Method For Guitar (the Berklee text book). Fifteen months and about 225 hours of practice and I can now sort of read music, I know a bunch of cool jazz chords (that I haven’t quite figured out how to work into bluegrass songs), and I possess a left hand pinky that is stronger than I ever imagined it could be.

I feel like I need a graduation ceremony, but I guess I’ll dig into Volume 2 instead.

One volume down, two to go!


You use your pinky when you play guitar? I ought to give it a try.

Seriously, congrats! Would you recommend the book?


Pinkie ??? :astonished:


He means the clean finger…


I thought the pinky was stinky :laughing:

The book probably wouldn’t interest everyone, but I found it a nice change of pace from learning songs by ear or even working with tabs. It required a lot of discipline to finish, because it’s all etudes and drills rather than cool songs and hot licks, but I’m figuring the effort will pay off in the long run.


Congrats on making it through the book!

Here lately I’ve been looking into finding alternate chords to spice up my playing. Not having much luck though. I guess I could figure it out on my own or read a book . :laughing:


Hey Shawn,
I haven’t seen a good reference for alternate chords. If you find one please post it.

Some alternate chords can be gleaned from a circle of fifths chart:
Ferinstance, If you are looking for an alternate for G, right under that is Em. You can then mix in the common notes (in that case like the third fret high E G note) as well as notes that work for the original (like the third fret B string D note which is the 7 of the Em chord). Once you get used to that sound, you can use the circle of fifths chart to find the right relative chord for whatever key you are in (like in C it would be right under it, which is Am then make it a 7). Those two are pretty common examples, but using that technique it’s easy to see for Eflat a good alternate would be Cm7. It’s not much, but it’s a start.


If I find anything I’ll post it. Thanks for the circle of fifths site!


Larry, congrats on your graduation! Haha, you need a certificate!

You have a lot more discipline than I do, no way I could do that!



— Begin quote from “mreisz”

Hey Shawn,
I haven’t seen a good reference for alternate chords. If you find one please post it.

Some alternate chords can be gleaned from a circle of fifths chart:
Ferinstance, If you are looking for an alternate for G, right under that is Em. You can then mix in the common notes (in that case like the third fret high E G note) as well as notes that work for the original (like the third fret B string D note which is the 7 of the Em chord). Once you get used to that sound, you can use the circle of fifths chart to find the right relative chord for whatever key you are in (like in C it would be right under it, which is Am then make it a 7). Those two are pretty common examples, but using that technique it’s easy to see for Eflat a good alternate would be Cm7. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

— End quote

What do you think about this site Mike? You can click on the chord and see all the different ways to play 'em. The bottom right hand corner are the inversions too. You can move the dots around on the fretboard and on the body of the guitar you can strum the chord.


That’s pretty nifty! There is a similar one I have used that isn’t as pretty (but it’s pretty powerful):

For alternate chords, I thought you were looking for different chords that could be substituted as opposed to a different voicing of a given chord. They are related, but a bit different (and I don’t know what the correct terminology is). Sorry for the information down the wrong trail. If you are looking for variations to a particular chord, let me know. I use a fair amount of drone chords when I am playing praise music at the church, and those are cool in that they can be worked into slide licks as well.
With that said, it is kind of interesting how some of the various threads have converged. For example, the alternate chord conversation (and the circle of 5ths angle) is closely related to Doc’s posting on fretboard memorization. In a nutshell, he was using block forms for scale memorization and then you just alter what you consider the root to get through the different modes. Looking at a G chord on the circle of 5ths, you see that Em is the relative minor (they share the same key signature), and so you could apply Doc’s block forms and play Em out of what would typically be a G position and just move your root down 3 frets to E. Interesting stuff. I got one of the block forms memorized… 3 to go (my pinky got tired).


Yeah that’s actually what I’m looking for. I thought chord substitutions were subing a D for a variation of a D somewhere else on the fretboard. Now that I think of it, those guys are subing in different chords aren’t they. :slight_smile:

Do they always do that or do they use variations of the same chord too? Then you’ve got to figure out where you can fit this stuff in. Oh, man. :slight_smile:

I’m probably making a mess of these threads. Wasn’t sure where to reply. The info is getting scattered all over the place though.


Well, not to sound wishy washy, but it all depends (and sometimes, it depends on what you want to call it). For instance sometimes, instead of going to a C chord, people will play an Am or some related variation. That’s changing the chord progression, but interestingly the notes you can normally play over Am or C are the same (that’s why it works so naturally). On the other hand, let’s say you go to an Am7 by making an Am, dropping the G string to open and then adding the third fret G on the high E string. Did we change the chord progression? I would say so, but as it works out that Am7 chord is also a C6 chord (A is the 6 of C), so some people would say it’s just a C over an A root. And they are right. It’s just a matter of choice in what you want to call it.
I would say two of the most common variations I hear of chords are 2 chords and 7chords. The 2 chord often substitutes in place of the “normal” chord, but the 7 is often used as a transition leading to a chord change. After that, a sus4 chord is very commonly heard. The prototypical one is a Dsus4 which resolves to a normal D. The start of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” just alternates between the 2 chords. Outside of bluegrass, I often play a C with the 3rd fret of the B and high E string fretted. Some would call that a Cadd9 and others a C2. Is that the kind of stuff you are looking for?


I’m sorry for hijacking this thread Larry. :slight_smile:

Mike, this is the type stuff I want to start doing. If you watch Tony at the 2:00 mark, he is just playing the D and G over the verse (I realize these are just chord shapes and not an actual D and G). Then when the mando break starts he starts throwing alternate chords in there. I don’t know if those are variations of a D and G or what. I think he throws an F or C shape in there at one point. It sounds so good. Watch Tony’s chords during the mando break.



Hey Shawn,
I see what you are looking for. Tony is playing some what I would call blues bars and related licks in there (i.e 5th fret from capo barre on G, B and high E string before transitioning to G chord). So for the beginning of the mando solo I got D then briefly G then D… then barre the top 3 strings with an open D and punch a few offbeats before transitioning to G… then G7 before pulling off the 7 to transition back to D. I know the description makes sense to me, but the odds of it making sense to anyone but me is small. Anyway, he is also inserting some tasty licks with the transitions. That’s some cool stuff. I’m not sure where to find that other than watching the vids of Tony and figuring it out or getting some good Tony sheet music.
If you want we can bump to a new topic.


What Tony is doing:

He is simply (well not simply…for him maybe) but he’s using those first 3 three strings as chords (triads) and hitting them for a beat or so. I’d say that 90% of the time when you see someone fret the 1st 3 stings all on the same fret then they are playing the lower half of a minor chord. Bottom half in sense that if you make say a barre chord of say “F# minor”…now notice that the 1st three strings are all fretted on the same fret but in essences is a triad of F# minor in itself.

You will like likewise see Tony bar the 2nd-3rd-4th all together and this is simple an “A position” chord. He uses this a lot out of G when going into C but plays the “A position” C which happens to fall on the 5th fret.

Realize when you play a “full chord” across all 6 strings that there are typically 2 triads there…this is one of the reasons that the guitar is so “rich” in sound as instead of just 3 strings making up a chord you can have 6 strings making up a chord and let’s say you are in G…welll you have the first three strings that make up a G chord and then last 3 strigns are making a G chord. Sometimes they are the same inversion and other times they are not…so when you think one is playing “pieces” of a chord it is really a chord in itself and shows itself as a triad of three notes.

And for the record, if you are learning this break on guitar/Tony’s parts then be prepared to work on that ending lick/phrasing a lot…treat it like it’s own part and forget about what you just played when you get there and you will get it…when you are learning it it really sounds out of time. Remember that was my favorite lick…favorite since it really kicked my butt getting everything to sound like his…mus tof played that break 1,000 times now and it still gets me from time to time.


Thanks guys. I guess I just need to watch and copy what these guys are doing and get a feel for when I can throw this stuff in.

I have more questions about it, but I think we should start a new thread in the theory section.



I think your chord substitution link is pretty cool. You should really learn how to play the same chord in three different positions for starters. It seems like the “E” shape, “A” shape, and “D” shape are the most popular 3 forms and easiest to play. For instance start with A typical G chord that we always play…well if you want to make an “E” shape G all you have to do is make an F chord and slide it up 2 more frets and you are now making the “E” shape G chord. Then go and make a D chord…slide it up 5 frets and you are making a G chord in the “D” shape. Now make an “A” chord…slide that dude up 10 frets and you are now making a G chord by using the “A” form. Now notice that you now know how to play a G chord in 4 different forms/positions!

This methodology is really referred to as the “CAGED” system where the C in “CAGED” means to learn the C chord shapes up the neck, the “A” in “CAGED” means the “A” shape chords up the neck, etc etc for the rest. Now what you can do with these is also learn the major scale around each of these. So for instance with your 4 G chords mentioned above…now find the major scale associated with these forms of G (find the major scale for each of these shapes they are right around it). The value of learning like this is that once you learn these scales around these positions then they will always be in the same spot no matter what chord you are playing. Scales are not that hard to learn, for instance if you learn the G major scale you know all of the major scales…so for instance if you remember the pattern of a G major scale then all you have to do to switch to the “A major” scale is start with an A note and play the identical pattern that you did for G and you are now doing an major scale.

The “CAGED” system teaches you 5 positions and is plenty enough learning in becoming a proficient musician - I have heard that some teach up to 11 different positions and that is just getting anal in my mind!



Good stuff Oldhat. I appreciate you and Mike trying to explain this stuff.

I believe I have played all those chords you describe in other types of music. I just didn’t know what they were.

It blows me away how much you guys know about theory. I’m not even on the same level enough to have a conversation about it with you guys. I’m not afraid to look like an idiot to try to learn something though. :slight_smile:

How did you guys learn this stuff? Reading on the internet, lessons or books? I think I may try to take some lessons on theory. I’m not sure I have the will power to try and read about it and figure it out on my own.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the “CAGED” system. I may read some on that and see if it makes a dent.


It’s late and I can’t sleep (should not have taken that nap today) so you will get an answer about “how we learned it”…or better yet “how and why I learned it”.

I was the typical guy that made most of my chords within the 1st 3 frets…you know those chords that we all learn to make when starting out. Well I seen this entire part of the fretboard not being used (well wait, I could make the “power chords” like rockers of the time did also). I seen other guys understanding the entire fretboard…what were those foreign chords? Why do my leads when I would attempt them sound like crap? What is the secret that these guys know and I don’t?

Me, I am a “If Joe Blow can do it then I can also” type of guy - determined and bull headed. So I put it in my head that I was gonna learn music theory. Now it was a rocky start but the only way my head could approach it was from a "mathematical perspective…I do love math! So I dabbled into the “math” behind the music and learned a lot of things about music - but math can’t teach you to play!

Then I got into “theory” of scales. I had already dabbled into the minor pentatonic scale but really didn’t understand why it was what it was so I researched more. Found out that probably 95% of “rockers and blues guys” relied only on those 5 notes to play lead with…damn I am really feeling stupid now as it’s only 5 notes adn I can’t do it like them…must be the under-developed “artist” in me!

So I just dive into Youtube videos. Learning Theory is just like learning to flat pick, it takes hours and hours of time to grasp then one day it just kind of “clicks”. Clicks in a sense that you can within about 2-3 seconds identify any note on the fretboard, see “chord shapes” when you look at the guitar. See scales (The major scale around a chord, the minor pentatonic around a chord, and the “blues scale” around a chord…they kind of just pop out at you after a lot of repetition…pop out in the same sense that you should be able to look at your guitar and visually see how to make a G chord…di you learn that over-night - No, it came from repetition try it, set your guitar in the corner and tell yourself to look at it across the room and fret the strings “in your head” that make our ol’ standard G chord…yep if you can see it then you can visually memorize about any pattern on the guitar - scales are “patterns” chords are “patterns” and it will start opening up the rest of the guitar for you!

Understand that there are only 12 notes on a guitar and that our pee-brains make it harder than it is to learn it! The “major” scale is probably the toughest to learn and it only consists of 7 of the 12 notes.

When one dumbs it down to that level and sees that it’s not that intimidating then the learning process can start.

Youtube videos are your friend when it comes to theory. I learned all of my music theory through Youtube and some reading “here and there” on the internet. Now since we have the “theory” here I feel I can learn what I don’t know from folks on here. For the record I have had one music lesson in my life and that was with Ben and I wanted to understand improv a bit better- basically we sat on his couch for 4 hrs and “told stories” not even music related and worked in some ideas between the bs’n. I can “teach” myself anything and youtube videos are so much more efficient then reading!

Where I am at now: I have a solid foundation on theory, a solid foundation on flat picking, a solid foundation on music in general…I tend to fall apart on improv! I can only keep it going for a few measures then it kind of falls flat on its face. So now I am all wrapped up in “ear training” in order to help me hear what notes I want to go to next or what phrase I want to make. But just like “theory” and on day one when you decide to start learning to “make a chord and strum” the guitar…it all takes baby steps.

Determination is why I learned everything I have about music - and don’t think for one moment that I was a “natural” - hell no! I have fought it every step of the way!

I have done what a lot of folks think are “pretty impressive things” in my life. Was in the 1st gulf War, have a nuke background, managed to go from a high-80’s golfer to a scratch golfer in 1 year and got a college scholarship -even won a college tourny! Started a business from ground up at 29 years of age - Delivered my 3rd kid on the bathroom floor - and was retired at 42 (until last week when I accepted a VP position)…but anyway what i am getting at is that “music” and learning to play an instrument and all the technique and theory that goes with it is the most difficult undertaking that I have ever attempted in my life - hell I even got my engineering degree in just over 3 years by taking 20+ credit hours each quarter in order to get it over with and even the calc, physics, chem classes didn’t kick my butt as bad as music did when I decided to “really start” learning it.