Fretboard Harmony for Classical Guitarists


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The Real thing in Calgary with Scott Arnold

A work in progress...

This is a work in progress. What you will find here is a culmination of  Fretboard Harmony 101, 102, 201 and 301 which was designed for a guitarist of any genre and has since evolved into what you will see here - all the same material, but with a classical guitarist in mind. I have taught these classes for almost a decade now and have learned a lot about the material itself as well as how people are able to digest it, internalize it and put it to use. I imagine I will be working for a while to finish the materials, post it and ultimately have video tutorials and supplemental modules. It is currently free and I hope that it will remain free so everyone can refer to it. For this to happen, it has to survive on donations and sales of the hard copy of the material. The hard copy isn't yet ready, but parts of it will be this Spring. There are a lot of details in this course and surely I will overlook some background information I may assume you know and will undoubtedly make errors. Please provide feedback either in the comment form at the bottom of the page or by shooting me an email [email protected].


This course is organized in levels which follow the RCM curriculum. There is substantially more information here than is required for the exams, but they are skills which I feel are required to become a competent musician. The first section is the theory required to practice the skills for each level organized by subject rather than level. There will be links within each level to refer back to this part while practicing the skills. The second section consists of musical examples. These are classical guitar repertoire written out in 'Scottie's Notation' as well as standard notation. This format will explain the musicality of the piece, how it is constructed and give a framework which will allow you to understand, manipulate, transpose and otherwise be a better person. The third part is an overview of the syllabus which will outlin the skils and vocabulary required for each level. The rest of it is the material that you will need to be able to perform to complete each level divided into the various components. There will be links to the theory component and musical examples recommended for the section.

How can I use this with the curriculum from RCM...

The RCM curriculm is a brilliant collection of pieces, graded into 12 levels with technical, ear training and theory requirements for each level. It has become the most important graded curriculum. It was created in 1979 by Norbert Kraft in Toronto and has gone through many changes since then.

The guitar curriculum parrallels the RCM curriculum for other instruments. This is the first point of departure for this curriculum. The guitar is built to be played differently than any other instrument. Its physical limitations are really only limitations because of the notation that we have chosen to use and a resistance to the physicality of how scales and chords are realized on the fretboard. With a better understanding of standard notation - its limitations, strengths and versitility - how to realize it on the guitar and generally how both standard notation and the guitar fretboard works, we can overcome these limitations and have a greater understanding and more maleable ability on the instrument. By approaching the material in a more guitar oriented way, we will have a better understanding of both the instrument, standart notation and the music we play. RCM technical requirements ask for very specific fingering of scales. At the end of each level, there is a section explaining which permutations of the scale patterns you will be required to know.

We will have a much more comprehensive vocabulary, learn them in bite size pieces and practice them regularly in the exercises with practical applications. There has been an emphasis over the past few decades in classical music to explore different periods in musical history, traditional folk music and an expansion of the musical vocabulary in new music. Our practice of scales and other technical exercises hasn't kept up with this. Here, we will reset our curriculum and gradually introduce all the harmonic language in common (and often uncommon) practice. This will include a study of chords - as cadences and progressions to include stylistic variation with a foundation of bass lines; and expanded study of scales to include modes, symmetrical scales, ethnic scales and more; and most importantly - how it all works together.

We will expand our skills to include some important and practical aspects to guitar performance. Our new vocabluary will be practiced using melodic arpeggios, practical position transitions, expanded chord practice, pentatonic scales and more.

We will use our physical application of the theory onto the fretboard to have a better understanding of the skills we learn through our ear training practice and have a large component of structured improvisation - both as a valuable skill as well as a means to understand both the theory and the fretboard.

Each of the skills we practice will also have a component of my view of the ergonomics of making this all happen. Being a guitarist is a highly athletic endeavour and requires great precision and endurance to pull it off. There is a detailed explanation of this for each section

By working through the levels in this curriculum, we will have a greater vocabulary; understanding of scales, how to realize them on the fretboard and how melodies are formed from them; chord structure, common chord progressions, voice leading and how to realize them on the guitar; a more maleable understanding of the fretboard; a better understanding of keys and their relevance in music; an ability to improvise and otherwise create and mold music to your schemes; an expanded skill set; and a higher level of athleticism.

Not bad for a little webiste, eh?

Good luck and practice hard!

Course Information


Course Instructor

Scott Arnold Scott Arnold Author


This section does not have any lessons.

Musical Examples

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Preliminary Level

Level One

Level Two

This section does not have any lessons.

Level Three

This section does not have any lessons.

Level Four

This section does not have any lessons.
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