Why The Guitar is a MINOR Instrument

I’ve often said that guitar is a minor instrument; however the other day someone called me on that and asked me to explain it.

You see, that’s why the minor guitar scales sound best (in my humble opinion) on the guitar.

Not that other scales don’t sound good, but the minor ones sound great, and they have the added benefit of just lining up great, fingering-wise.

Have you ever noticed how the minor pentatonic or diatonic scale pattern has that row where all the notes on the one fret are used?

That’s not by accident folks!

So, WHY is the guitar minor?

Well, look at the notes of the standard E tuning: E-A-D-G-B-E

What chord do those notes form? (Didn’t think that was a chord? Gotcha.)

Well, the E, G and B form an E minor chord. The second E is a repeat, so we don’t worry about that. The D is a 7 in relation to the E, which means that so far we have an Em7 chord.

That just leaves us with that pesky A…

Well, A is a perfect fourth of E, and as such it can still work in the chord. The only weird part is that given its low octave, it muddies the sound a bit. (Try an Em7 with a higher A over top, and it will sound great).

So that leaves us with an Em7+4

Hence why the guitar is a minor instrument.

To learn more about the number system that governs all this stuff on the guitar, checkout my Unlocking I IV V course – that’s the kind of stuff you can have a handle on in no time flat.

You can find it here.

Leave a Reply 4 comments

Barry JamMan Beaulieu - October 13, 2011 Reply

In music whether major or minor you must remember , If you dont C-Sharp you gonna be flat… yours augmentively , The JamMan BJB…

Lee Callaghan - July 4, 2012 Reply

great article, had to share this one with all my friends. Hopefully, they will all see this site as a valuable resource as well

Bluesman_NY - September 21, 2012 Reply

Seems that the “tuning” might be considered a Minor configuration, not the instrument.  Change it to g or a Drop D tuning then what…  more discussion.  but the 12 frets are an octave and these intervals are fixed and equal ( equal temperment ) .  Now take a fretless and dial in an unequal temperment …  a minor “instrument” ..  no longer….  

    Jonathan Boettcher - September 21, 2012 Reply

     Yeah, good point and thanks for the clarification.

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