Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Requests for music theory topics

Hey folks, Mr G here…

I am setting up to do some more videos. Which of the following topics interest you the most?

  1. Why do certain chord progressions sound better than others?
  2. What’s the big deal about the Pentatonic scale?
  3. The CAGED system for navigating up and down the neck of the guitar… what the what? What is THAT about?
  4. How does the Nashville number system work? Do we need it? SHOULD we need it? How does it help us?

These are on my stovetop right now… which one should I do first?

ready… set… GO!


also - if you have any questions about any topic NOT listed above… tell me about it. Let’s have some fun!
mr g

I would be interested in the first two. Honestly, any of them would be good though.

Hey mr G i look forward to your theory. i always was more of a theoretical person, so im like a spoonge in this. i welcome anything. Tho that dont help you in makeing your choice.
i have never played any instrument earlier and started 7 months ago with banjo. i wanted to learn some
aboute chords too. like if i fret 2:nd string 5fret, 3rd string 4th fret, 4th string 5th fret. i know after counting
3 min :slight_smile: it is G B E . it sounds ok. but what chord is that. is it even a chord. what type.
many people here maybe have that knowlege but im so fresh at music both playing and theory wise.
anyway keep up the good work, i love it

Great stuff! Don’t forget to check out my banjo theory lessons in the beginner learning track, like this one:

Hey Mr. G,
Watched the Theory videos and through you did a good job!

Are you planning to discuss the Circle of Fifths or Pentatonic Scales and use?

That would be helpful!


oooh!!! you have no idea how much a question like yours excites this music theory nerd. Yes and yes!!!

how about this video on drawing the circle of 5ths I did several years back?

Drawing the Circle of 5ths… part 1

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Would love to learn the CAGED system. Anything that shines a light on the dark pathway up and down the neck always fascinates me.

A local guy told me I really need to learn all of the major, minor, and 7th chords at every position on the neck. I’ve tried to do it by repetition, but I think I have musical ADD, because 10 minutes in to it, I’m off learning something more fun. :slight_smile:

we can do this!

What about Modes… What’s the big Phrygian deal?

Sorry, I couldn’t resist :smiley:

Dear Mr G

Over the years I have been studying banjo I found this Interactive Circle of Fifths a useful tool. Perhaps you might find it useful as a visual aid in your tutorials.

I have always found Mode’s and Scales a pretty boring topic to learn. It may just be the folks that tried to teach me it were boring and I found it difficult to grasp their message. I am an audio-visual learner and in my experience most (You Tube & Banjo Hangout) teachers I have come across teaching this topic failed to maintain my attention within the first few seconds of their tutorials.

I suppose it was down to the fact they are talking in a language I just didn’t understand, they threw a bunch of strange words at me that had no meaning in my vocabulary. They clearly knew what they were talking about and there seemed to be an assumption on their part that everyone listening knew exactly what they knew. I really do want to have a better understanding of Mode’s and Scales and I am hoping you are the person that can break the mould.

Ben and Mr. G may disagree with me here, but I know a LOT of professional musicians and every one of them I’ve asked say learning modes is a waste of time. They say they’re just not that applicable to everyday playing.

I’m like you, Archie. I had one guitar teacher that tried to teach me modes. After the second lesson I asked him if we could do something else. :slight_smile:

lets see what we can do about that! see my response to StPaul above - i linked a video I did a few years ago about drawing the circle of fifths… I have been a theory teacher for a number of years… the only scales I focus on are the major, and minor and pentatonic scales… modes haven’t been useful to me outside of my work as a composer… I feel your pain…
mr g

Sounds like some great lessons coming up ( I pick all of the above…sorry not much help ) Turn on all four burners and lets get cooking! Welcome aboard Mr.G!!!

thank you, Duffy1!!! Hooking up with Ben is a bucket list item for me. That guy is the best.
Let’s make this happen!!!
mr g

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see my response above… you and I are in pretty much agreement… modes have value in composing music - mostly classical… and maybe in jazz… but not much practical value anywhere else.
mr g

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My philosophy of teaching is to teach according to how the student learns. Every guitar/bass/ukulele student I have takes lessons because they want to play the songs they like. So I have learned to use songs as a vehicle to teach certain principles. For example - Amazing Grace is written using only the notes of the Pentatonic scale - so I use it extensively to teach about Pentatonic scales. One reason Ben is so appreciated by me is that he uses songs as vehicles to teach. Great, isn’t it?

When it comes to theory, the same thing applies. Music theory is the language of musicians. Now there are different subsets in any language - idioms, slang, regional differences… the same thing exists in the musical world. There is general core knowledge all practitioners of English need to know… the Alphabet, basic grammatical things etc. But go to Philadelphia and you will hear slang and accents that are different… but its still English.

Music is no different - there is a core knowledge every player needs to know - notes, rests, key signatures, for example. But within different musical communities there exists variations and more specific language for that instrument or community. The classical community, for example, might have more need to understand the modes… same with the jazz community. If you are a country or bluegrass player, modes not so much. Pentatonic scales. minor scales and major scales meet almost all of our needs. That doesn’t mean we or they are “less than” - its a matter of what meets OUR needs or THEIR needs. I will address my bluegrass or country students’ needs differently than I do the needs of my jazz students.

Having said all that… I believe knowledge is power. The more you know, the better you will become. I know modes, and it has added value to me as a player. And it can have value in our bluegrass and country world… but the truth is - that is probably one topic that will be WAY down the list of what I want to teach… unless anybody here wants to learn how to compose Gregorian Chants… what? nobody? :sunglasses:

This is going to be a great little forum. I am looking forward to our conversations.
mr g

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Watched the videos up through the Chordal scales, Great stuff! But want more though. How do Relative minor and Pentatonic Scales fit?


excellent question, Paul! I will be producing a set of videos on this very topic! Stand by!
mr g