Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Music Theory - A different language

In this video by Kyle Tuttle I am having a hard time understanding what he is talking about.

Its like a different language when he uses terms and phrases like

“The minor third degree of the minor blues scale or the second note of the minor blues scale”

“Starting with C the first the second degree the third degree the fifth degree and the sixth degree of the scale”

“Each one of them involves an extension above the octave em above the one octave reach above the scale”

“So that’s going to be the root position version of this shape starting from the first degree of the scale”

“The second shape for this exercise would be, was referred to as the first inversion, shape which means starting from the third degree of the scale”

Pentatonic Shapes with Extensions

Diatonic 7th Chords

I was thinking @BanjoBen maybe you could do a series of lessons on these topics but in a language the uneducated folk among us could understand. It’s quite clear from the video’s that Kyle is a brilliant banjo player and knows what he is talking about but he is struggling to get his message across to this somewhat dumb student.

I’m not much of a theory buff, but I thought it was explained quite well.

A couple things: since he’s teaching pentatonics there are notes missing from the full scale of that key so he calls them degrees instead of notes. The degree is the number you’d use in the number system.
example: In Gm, and A = II, but it isn’t included in a minor pentatonic scale (only 5 notes) so the second note in the pentatonic (Bb) is the third note of the full G minor scale. The use of “degree” helps distinguish which note he is talking about.

extension is simply going beyond the the octave note …example: g,a,b,c,d,e,f#, g,A,B…A & B are extensions.

You can make a chord different ways…different shapes of the same chord are called
“inversions”…as in inverting the order of the notes.
example: G chord = G (I), B (III), and D (V)
The root = I

The first inversion of a G chord would be a shape that starts with the B (III) as the lowest note.

Hope my ramblings are clear enough to help some.


Hi Dave, you must be educated in music because this is all double Dutch to me. You’ll have to forgive me I get lost in these kind of conversations. I tried to learn Pentatonic’s from Pat Clouds book Key to the Five String Banjo and I have watched a ton of videos by Doub Pearce but none of this stuff sinks in. I seem to connect better with @BanjoBen 's teaching approach because he talks in a language I understand. No disrespect intended to those other great teachers but everything the say is way over my head. I’d love to be able to do the things they do but I can’t understand what they are talking about.

Doub Pearce

ha…no I’ve no music education other than what I’ve picked up from playing.

Guess I’m just lucky enough to understand him.

There’s lots I don’t know…for instance what order the notes go in for a first inversion,… or even that starting on the III was called the first inversion (I just now know that because the guy said it was).

I’ve never used “degree” to explain the number of a note, but I like how he used it…made it easier for me to understand in the context he used it in.

The language is like learning to play…patience and practice. If you practice using and trying to understand it, it gets easier with time.

Got to head off to work now…have a great day.


Thanks Dave

Great post Dave. You explain stuff well!

I don’t think it typically matters much to guitar players which inversion we are playing, we think more of chord over root notation (i.e. G, G/B, G/D). However, if you think like a piano player, the “first” or “second” inversion makes perfect sense. Also, the order of the notes make perfect sense when looking at a keyboard.

A couple examples:
For a keyboard player… start with a normal G chord… G B D. First inversion, move the thumb up to the third and stack the root over the 5, now it is B, D, G. From a keyboard point of view, it is an efficient way to communicate the chord… “first inversion.”

Now for a guitar chick: She is playing a G chord. She wants to create some movement in the sound but stay in G (perhaps she wants create a bit of tension or alternately signal an upcoming change to C)… she drops the G root and starts on the B. Which inversion is it? Uhmmm, well it’s kind of a mishmash, but an easier way to communicate this to other guitar players is “G/B”

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I agree with what @Mike_R said, but for a banjo picker the F chord shape is first inversion D shape is second and bar shape is third hope that is helpful