Rock N Blues Guitar Academy Making Guitar Instruction and Music Theory Easy since 2005 Fri, 02 Oct 2015 05:58:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rock N Blues Academy Founder wins “Texan of the Week” award. Wed, 15 Sep 2010 00:01:02 +0000

Sean Christiansen, founder of the Rock N Blues Guitar Academy, has recently been named Texan of The Week, by Texas State Radio Networks, for his successful teaching program, helping guitarists both in Texas over the  last decade, and now in 14 countries around the world, via the Guitar School website.  The statewide salute went out 3 times a day for the entire week on over 100 radio stations within the Texas State Radio Network.

“It was a complete surprise”, Christiansen said.  “When I was asked to interview a few weeks back, I was told at the time, that it would be a feature that would air about the impact of or program on guitarists, and that it would be airing for one day.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Texan of the Week recognition, and certainly never expected anyone to see me as being deserving of it.”

“I view this as just another sign that we are truly helping people and this system changes lives.  But it’s my students all over the state, country and world, that made it possible.  If they didn’t believe in me, I wouldn’t have been able to help them.  I dedicate this award to all all my students.  They make me look good”, he added.

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On Musical Crutches Tue, 10 Aug 2010 13:13:48 +0000 Crutches.

A Crutch is something you use when you cannot do it yourself.

Notable crutches are:

The Fretlight Guitar

Guitar Pro, which lets you type the notes of a chord in and names it for you

Charts that show you every scale that you can carry around in your gig bag

This ad that I ran across today:

This handy tool shows and explains the patterns on which all music is based. When you understand how music is put together, your can take your musical creativity to new heights. I promise.

The Harmonizer breaks it down for you. Dial the Harmonizer to a key you’re interested in and see modes, scales, chords, intervals, and chord progressions in a way books can’t show.

What are the notes of Bmaj7#5? The Harmonizer shows you. What is the interval distance from F# to C? It shows you that too and much more. Unless you’re already a theory wiz, you’ll want a tool like this.

They call it a “tool” and while I agree in principle, ultimately unless you are using it to check your work, most people will use it instead of having to learn it.

My question is, why NOT become a Theory whiz? It doesn’t have to be NEAR as difficult as it’s been made out to be.

We’ve taught hundreds of people, to be theory whizzes. You don’t need tools or crutches or fretlight guitars or stickers on the fretboard, or some java program to do the thinking for you.  You don’t need a tome of scales and grimoires to play scales and play them dead letter perfect. You don’t need a spinning circle of 5ths. You don’t need a chord book…ever.

I get it, I get why the picture for Learning Music Theory that can be Instantly Applied to the Guitar is so grim…because it can be very hard to find such a course or a book that truly teaches it all, and is at the same time, easy and logical without boring someone to tears.

This is where I think we honestly differ. We teach this stuff every day, and we truly free guitarists to go out and play, no crutches needed. If everyone took this we’d put all these guys out of business, and while I’m not suggesting thats a good thing  (I support peoples needs to make a living)  I also support musical growth, and the ability to stand for ones self and be self sufficient musicians without needing a Jazz Degree to do so.

So without that product or any crutches, I will answer the Harmonizer Ad – A “B major 7 #5″  is essentially a B Augmented which is a B D# and F## and the Major 7 is an A#, there’s your chord. The interval Distance of F# to a C is b5. (My one question to the creator of this, would be, without using this gimmick, would you even know the answer to that?)

While I understand the need for immediate access to information, I’m here to tell you, that you don’t need a Harmonizer, or your chord computers or fretlights.

Our Theory Classes Applied to Guitar will help you answer these and other questions faster than it would take you to type them in Google.

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An Interview with the Founder of Rock N Blues Guitar Academy Thu, 05 Aug 2010 17:19:15 +0000 Disclaimer. This is a long interview. Only read it if you’d like to know more about Sean, as his answers tend to be on the detailed and introspective side of things. Sean is a thoughtful, deep thinking and very opinionated man who is truly passionate about what he does. This series of Interviews was conducted to give visitors more insight into the man behind the method.

So Sean here we are, how did all this get started?

Yep, here we are (looks around) I never saw any of this coming. I mean I didn’t set out to do any of this, it sort of just happened. Where do I begin? I guess it all comes from my own attempts to finally arrive at understanding the guitar in a way that I could make use of it. Over the years through books, videos, anything out there that claimed to be able to make me a better guitar player, I tried them all! (Laughs) I swear I’ve spent thousands on magazines, books, etc.

For example, just off hand some of the things I remember, was that I enrolled for Dick Grove’s School of Music,which was a well developed (and expensive…over 1000 dollars at the time for one course) and I ended up frustrated, because, while it seemed to have some real merits, the sheer time required to begin to make use of it, and ultimately, to pay for it all, was just overwhelming. Back in the 80s there was a system called RPM – Or Rapid Play Music, and I tried that, got a lot of books, and cassettes , (laughs) see I told you it was the 80s! Ultimately I knew there was so much more to the guitar that I wasn’t getting, and when Id see a knowledgeable musician/teacher like Wolf Marshall, who used terms like “ostinanto”, or explained the why behind the what, I knew that was what I wanted. I didn’t necessarily want licks or tricks, or scales, but rather to just play anything I wanted because I could understand what I was doing.

I didn’t have the time to invest into a full time music education, nor the money, even though I was accepted to GIT, this is also showing my age, I was accepted at both GIT in Hollywood long before it was called Musicians Institute, and later in 88 I was accepted to Music Tech, in Minneapolis, which at the the time I think was called “Guitar Tech” or something like that. I wanted to go, but it all came down to money, and I had none when it was time to pay. So I was left on my own. For the next several years I sort of figured it out my myself. I didnt set out to discover a unique system, it was more the byproduct of observing the whole thing once I understood it, you know? Like I could step back and say “Oh wait this works because of this…why didn’t anyone else teach this in their books? It makes total sense!”

So what did you do then?

Well the question sort of made its own answer. If others had known about this, wouldn’t they have been teaching it for the last few decades? I mean think about it, no one ever expects to find a new system of learning guitar, right? There have been people teaching for 100’s of years. Its a little bold to presume that I’m the only one that’s ever stumbled upon these ideas and concepts, I get it, but if others have, where are they?   I guess at that point, I reasoned that apparently no one else knew about this. So I did nothing, I just applied it to my own playing. I didn’t even think about teaching it, it was more like a personal set of observances that helped me to understand things, it wasn’t until I’d been applying these strange things for a couple of years that people started asking questions…


Yeah, I’d play a gig and race all over the fretboard, without batting an eye, and you know people who play scales and patterns, were noticing this, and they asked me how I was doing it, what was I going to say?  “Um it took 12 years to understand”? So I basically used the old stand by, “I dunno, Ive been playing for years and just sort of picked it all up”. I’d basically been self taught. Then when I started applying theory to a band situation, correcting the other guitarist, or explaining where to play notes, that’s when I got the nickname “Professor”. I remember it,  because we were playing a D Augmented for Stormy Monday, and the guitarist didn’t know what it was. Well, we had a sax player that knew theory also and he was trying to blow the notes, and I said, Oh play a “D F# and and A#” and every head in the room turned and looked at me like I was some sort of Alien. The other guy didn’t even know where those notes were, but when the sax player realized I knew theory he started checking my facts, throwing me questions, and they all panned out. So, turns out, this self taught guy knew theory like the college trained sax jazz player. Then the drummer looked at me and called me the “Professor”, that was the first of my nicknames in the band.

There were others?

Yeah but I dunno if it was due to my theory or just how I confused other guitar players. One gig I played there was this local hotshot who literally came up and before we played, shook my hand and introduced himself as “I’m so-and-so…Master Guitarist”. I shook hands with him and the drummer gave me a knowing smile. I guess the guy was pretty good good, and I don’t want to take anything away from him, but I just took it for what it was, and got ready to play. But as the set started, I was launching into Steeley Dan arrangements with like 28 chords all of which were not Major or Minor, and playing solos all over the place at will. I am not a competitive guy when it comes to playing the guitar, I just let people do their thing, nor do I care to have the spotlight.

I didn’t see this happen, but a few in my band did, and said to me that the guy left looking kind of mad about halfway through our second set, and afterwards the others told me “That guy had his eyes glued to your hands the entire time and you could see it on his face how confused he was, as to what you were doing”. So, I got my other nickname that night: The “Anti-Guitar Hero”. I didn’t set out to make anyone feel bad, I was just there to play a show.

When did you start teaching?

Around early part of 2000, I started getting requests from friends to teach their kids. I didnt want to teach anyone. I mean, how am I going to teach others what took 12 years to figure out myself? I hadn’t the first idea. So I politely declined, but they kept pushing. So finally I agreed to teach, but when they asked me how much I’d charge, I told them an amount that I knew they’d never agree to pay! That backfired, they said “OK” and that was that. I was teaching a little kid like 12 years old, you know, a few chords etc, and trying to figure how I got in this mess and how to get out of it.

Before I knew it, through word of mouth that I was teaching, and the progress this kid had made, I had 8 students. I didn’t even advertise. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was a fish out of water. I call these first students my “Guinea Pigs” (laughs). I mean, I knew my stuff, but how to break it down so others could understand it? That was a real challenge.

So you started with a few students and just tested the material on them?

Yeah, I mean at the time I didn’t even know I had material (laughs) it was just sort of just teaching off the top of my head, the best I could. I knew the stuff was solid, but I had doubts whether anyone else would see the logic inside my twisted mind! (laughs)

And at some point you have a guitar shop right? Did this happen before the teaching?

No, well, let me back up a bit to get to that question. One day I was walking into what was this little hole in the wall music store, I’d never been there before and a friend of mine was walking out of it, and we bumped into one another, and he got all excited, because he was a teacher at that shop, and the owner had just finished telling him they need more teachers. So literally seconds later he’s bumped into me and walks me right into the shop and says “This guy is awesome…he’d be perfect here”. I didn’t know what to say at that moment but, the next thing I knew, I had agreed to be a teacher in this little hole in the wall place. I brought my 8 students there and within a couple of months word really spread where I had 36 students! I had more than the other teachers there put together! I was making a windfall for that shop, because student need picks, strings, guitars…


So I don’t know, about 9 months after that, I had an opportunity to open my own guitar shop – the owners retired, they were in their 70’s and I didnt want any of their inventory, but I decided to at least buy their credit card machines and a couple display cabinets and their string inventory, and I opened up a shop in a new building, and came up with the name and logo and signage etc.

So that’s how you got started. Were there any problems teaching at that point?

Well when I announced to my students that I had decided to dig into my savings and start a guitar store they were happy, and then also concerned that I wouldn’t teach, so I told them I would find a way to do both, and that’s what I did, for a couple years, till I finally had my first student basically learn everything I had to teach.

Yeah, I understand at some point you got a building for lessons?

Yeah, well that was because I had finally enough kids, basically teens that were getting to the point where they had either graduated, or were very far advanced, and I had all these people wanting to take lessons, and here I was thinking if only I could clone myself. Id come in and have 21 messages a day from people who wanted lessons! All because of word of mouth. I’d be helping someone at the counter, the phone would ring, Id explain the program to the person on the phone, they’d sign up, the person standing at the counter would ask questions, they’d sign up, and then the person standing in line right after them upon overhearing me, and the first customer, would sign up! It was insane…insane. One year I bought little stockings to represent each student that I had, and I ended up buying 54 of them! This and running a full time guitar shop, in that year I didn’t have a single vacancy. Not one student quit that whole year!

Anyways the day came when I knew I had to replicate myself somehow, but who was gonna teach what I know if they didn’t know it. You have to understand, these guys, didn’t want lessons, they wanted what I taught. Anyone can go to a music store for lessons. Other teachers were sending their advanced students, that they’d taken as far as they could, and saying, “go to Sean, I only teach the basics”. And that was real cool because we all got along together. It wasn’t even competitive like you might think, because these other guys really couldn’t teach what I was teaching even if they wanted to. They kind of knew it, and Id send them really beginning students their way and get them business in return. One guy it was like trading baseball cards. “I have an advanced student” “Cool well I have a beginner, lets trade” (laugh) It was really cool.

So the time came, when I realized I had to find a way to meet the demand, and I started taking some of my students that were getting ready to graduate from what I taught, and I figured, “hey let these guys have their first job as teachers instead of cooking burgers somewhere. Get paid to play guitar!”  So I started to talk to a few of them, and they were really excited at the idea, and I spent about 6 months teaching them how to teach, and making lesson plans for each week, and when the time was right, just before summer started, I leased a 7 room building right down the street from my shop, it was literally a minutes walk. And I outfitted each classroom with amps, stands posters and CD Players, and there were were, the Rock N Blues Guitar Academy. Each Teacher got a notebook with all the lesson plans and at first, it was a hard sell, because they were young, but when I assured clients that the content was still the same and that I had taught these instructors how to teach the material over a 6 month training period, boom THAT filled right up.

I have heard a few people around here refer to you as the Guitar Guru.

Yeah, its really funny..and I don’t know if I can quite explain this right, but its not that I’m anything special, Im just a guy, its the system that works…but the thing is, that those that do well are those who actually do what I instruct them to do. It’s really because they worked on what I told them to do, that they have what they have achieved. The best teacher in the world, cannot make a student successful. All he can do is give the student the tools and knowledge. I mean if a legend like Chet Atkins himself were to teach me how to play, but I never practiced or did what he gave me to do, I wouldn’t be able to play. It’s very simple. The method works, and when people use it and do the stuff I give them, the result is almost guaranteed. So it’s weird, because its the students that make me look good, but if not for them believing in me, what good would it have done? So I don’t know, I’m just a guy. The stuff I teach is what works, but its not because I’m better than anyone else. This notion that I’m a guru, really is more like, “do this, and you can be a guru too! There can be 1000 guitar gurus running around, I don’t mind!” (laughs)

And now you are online, what is the best thing and the hardest thing about being on the Internet?

Honestly, its just getting the word out. I find it a struggle to equate myself on the same level as just another “guy that has a guitar website out there”, method, because that’s not us at all. But on the internet, people don’t know me from Adam. How do you tell people that you are different, and that you are unique without coming across as just another hype guy? Out there on the internet, you’re just a grain of sand among a million other grains. There are some good sites out there, and some of our students have told me that guys like Justin Sandercoe, and Desi Cerna are good teachers, and I believe that. I’ve seen some of Justin’s work and I respect the guy, he has the true heart of a teacher. But what I do is different, but how do you get others to understand that? I don’t know, you just do what you can to let others know, and believe in what you do. I truly feel that when it comes to understanding the guitar, say in terms of lead guitar, we win hands down, over all of them. I mean, I honestly believe that everything we teach is either different, or better than the way anyone else has even attempted to break it down.

That’s not to say that others aren’t doing a sincere job teaching what they know, its just that, that’s all they have, and what we do, this curricula, I think far surpasses all those others. I’ve always wished I could do a head to head challenge with anyone out there.  “Give me 6 weeks….you take a total beginner, I take a total beginner and lets check back in 6 weeks”. Do it live over the internet, somehow. I don’t know how logistically it could be done. But 6 weeks and winner take all. In 6 weeks time, show me what you’ve done with that student, and I’ll show you the knowledge and skill sets of mine!  I’d take that challenge on any day.  I hope one day someone does.   That’s like the ultimate right there. There’s not a doubt in my mind, that this system changes lives, Ive seen it so many times. I’ve even asked students to testify on camera, but I don’t really do that anymore…they are people, and people sometimes get shy and self conscious in front of the camera, and I get that. Once, we had a reporter from local TV doing a two day story at our school, and she asked if I could get a certain kid to talk on camera, and so I called him, and he didn’t want to be on TV….so I understood that. You’d be surprised the number of people that don’t want the camera trained on them. These are all good kids, and another thing I appreciate about them is they aren’t cocky or conceited, they are just good kids and I’ve taught them to not put others on the spot just because they don’t know things, and rather to encourage and inspire them, so maybe they’ll want to learn how to do it as well.

The best part of being on the internet are the students. Hands down, when someone who has never met us says, “here’s my trust, and for some reason I believe you can help me” well that sets things in motion, it’s my job to live up to those hopes, and I do everything I can. The other good thing about it has been the results and seeing the testimonies and how all of it is working. You know a lot of sites do the lesson thing, they have style studies and basics, we don’t really start there, so a site like that is good in addition to ours, say if you’re a total beginner. A lot of people raised their eyebrows, when I gave the seal of approval to other sites. I’m not insecure nor jealous. If there’s a site out there that’s doing what they say, even if it’s different than ours, then I am going to give them due credit. But there are a lot of sites that aren’t doing what they say, and that’s a shame.


And see, the thing about it is, that even though these guys are learning styles and licks and maybe even a few ideas like the scale boxes, and caged systems, they aren’t really learning to understand how it all fits together, and so, that just leaves these tremendous gaps. I was on one site watching a guy do a breakdown of a song, and I’m pointing out how the song modulates, and there were oh I don’t know, 30 guitar players in the room and you could hear a pin drop. They had NO idea what I was talking about. The guy teaching it, was very good at Jazz so I knew he understood, but this gap between saying, “Oh that goes to the vi chord and then uses a iii and a sub for the I, but yes you’re right, that’s how it works, but I think you really only need to know that kind of stuff if you were interested in writing or composing yourself?”

Really? That’s all? So theory and understanding how things go together are only important if you want to write? That’s horribly condescending. I asked “are there lessons that teach the student how to name any chord they come across, or how to analyze any progression so they understand what’s going on?” They said, no, that’s the kind of stuff they may want to find a local teacher for or take it in college. You might be wondering if I spoke up right then and said “Well that’s what we teach, come on down to our site” but no, I didn’t do that.

One person said topics on music theory tend to be pretty dry, and I agree…as far as the way it’s traditionally taught…no kidding. And that’s been part of the problem with why guys aren’t going out and even learning it. If it’s as stale as week old bread don’t expect them to come crashing down your door. That’s what sets us apart. The last people you’d ever have thought would be learning theory and enjoying it, are some of our students. A death metal guy that shreds like nobody’s business, and couldn’t even tell you how the strings are tuned, and one month later, they know every note on the neck of the guitar, and they are smiling! They love it. They’re hooked.

Give someone a legitimate chance if they really want this, and it’s on.  They’ll never be the same. I’ve taught people from guys that have toured around the world to little girls all of 8 years old. I’ve had 3 of my kids all in the same band recently getting interest from John Mayer, and Brad Paisley and Sony for their songs and album and video, and they aren’t even out of high school! That will be the second kid band composed of all students that I’ve taught, that got a lot of attention and press, for what we teach! The same thing happened to a lesser degree 3 years back, with 3 kids that went to our Academy.

So what about you, what do you play like? When you play, what is your style?

I don’t know, I really just play what’s in my head, I can hear a lot of Slash in my playing, in terms of melodic and bluesy. I’m not really the shredder type, but that’s because I don’t practice to be that. I spend so much time teaching and developing my system, but when it comes to playing, I just improvise, I have some speed no doubt, but I’m not all about that. The speed comes from familiarity with being able to play anywhere with anyone in any style. Most of the time, music’s in one key. The second I know your key and see your chords, I can shadow you, even if we’ve never played together. I love melody and phrasing over speed. To me speed is a tool, but there are other tools and whatever you do, whatever you use, make it say something. I love to just step in an unplanned situation, and tell the guitarist to just start playing. I watch him for 2 seconds and I know what he’s doing and I can fall right in. That’s impressive I guess, but its also fun. Its fun to not have to worry about what to do or where to play, and just play, and make music. That’s what inspires me to teach others.

When a person can take our course and walk out into the world and just play, for the rest of their lives….that’s what I love. That’s why I have come to believe that what I do is my calling in life. One thing about a calling, is, its confirmed by the results, and with the ways that I’ve seen this change others lives so profoundly, I believe it’s my calling to share what I’ve learned, and I’m just trying to do the best I can with it, because its a big world out there and people do need this stuff.  At the end of the day I don’t care for riches or fame,  I’m a very content person.   I’m just very grateful to be able to make a living doing two things I’m passionate about – guitar and helping others.

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Think the “Blue” Note is all there is to playing Blues Lead Guitar? Mon, 26 Jul 2010 21:59:48 +0000 Before I discovered the system of understanding the guitar, not only in music theory, but in a practical way to apply it to the guitar, I learned from the box scales how to solo. Then came my first blues scale, you know the one that we all learn, starting at the 5th position and involving the flat 5 or “Blues note”! I recall thinking to myself, “Man if I could just learn to play some mean blues I’ll be set”.

A great many years went by and I discovered that while I was playing pretty well, and managing to express myself, there were times when I’d hear others playing the blues and they seemed to have more notes, and smarter note choices. Because I didn’t understand much of what I was doing, it was beginning to wear on me.

I managed a little more soloing mileage with the famous BB King Blues box. Particularly in Bends, that Money Note (The last note in the box) when bent, felt like I was connecting to the “mojo” of all the other guitar gods before me.

That did it for a while, but still I started hearing these other notes that simply weren’t in the Blues shapes or BB’s box, and I began to wonder what they were, were they from Mixolydian? Were they some obscure Jazz idea that no one was copping to? You do know that many guitar players have a bag of tricks they pick up over the years, and they keep these close to their chest. After all its their Ace in the Hole, its what makes them stand out when they need to kick it into high gear. I have them, we all do, and we don’t reveal them easily. Why should we? No one revealed it to us. It’s sort of one of those things you have to be hungry enough to want it for yourself, to go out and discover, like a diamond in music.

When I was in my hunt for those elusive notes, I really had no idea where to begin. I had no foundation in theory or understanding the musical fretboard beyond a few tired patterns. That didn’t come till years later, but today I’m going to share with you what I ultimately discovered, what it was, how it worked and why it worked.

You don’t need to know music theory for guitar, but if you do it will make sense. If you don’t, and want to learn an easy systematic and progressive approach to not only unlocking the mysteries of the fretboard to the guitar, but also giving you the music theory understanding of a guru, then consider enrolling as an online student at the Rock N Blues Guitar Academy. Note that I said it was easy. Easy is the key word here, because most methods are anything but. No method out there is easier or more thorough than ours. But, lets get back to our lesson.

In music, there are two kinds of notes, and neither of them are “bad” notes. In fact, there are no wrong notes on the guitar. There are notes which create tension and notes that resolve or have no tension. If you play a note in a scale that relates to chords in a given key, you have note harmony, and relatively little tension. Our Academy students sometimes call these “safe” notes, because when you play them you are “safe” from sounding off, or bad. Nothing wrong with that, but if nothing is ever given tension, nothing really interesting can be sustained either.

Tension notes that “throw” the ear, that say “Watch out, what was that?” and then sound “good” again are the notes that we want to hear, to make things sound good, even for a second. Otherwise after a while, nothing will sound remarkable. You can string skip, sweep arpeggio you way through, and whatever you like, but after a while, nothing’s going to sound all that interesting.

This dissatisfaction and resulting void led to my search and self-study of the guitar that spanned over a decade, and what I discovered became the very things that we teach everyday, concerning advanced guitar knowledge and applied music theory. But back to the lesson, concerning those elusive notes that I’d hear, I’d discovered them years before my journey had concluded, and these notes are shown below in white.

These were the notes, but it wasn’t until I had come out of my own journey of learning music theory that I understood what was going on with the guitar. First of all, let’s look at the elusive notes:

Finally I had discovered them, but what are they? At the time I didn’t know, but for those of you who are interested in music theory on the guitar, here it is. I wasted a good many years climbing up that mountain, before I understood theory. Its a sad moment when a guitar player realizes that for the several years they’ve been playing they really haven’t moved much at all.

As I said before, when you have music notes outside a scale, you create “tension” Tension can be good, in fact it can be very good! The outside notes in question were Major 3rds over a Minor Chord. Inside the scale, the Minor 3rd of A, is a C. A minor consists of only 3 notes: A C and E. All of these notes were found in the A Pentatonic Minor scale, so guess what? No Tension. Nothing overly interesting going on.

The A Major Chord has the 3rd raised a half step making the notes A C# and E. This C# Played in the A Minor scale created a dissonance (temporarily) of Major versus Minor, which….added interest and shine to the lead licks I was hearing. Instantly this little trick of playing Major 3rds mixed in against my usual Minor Pent licks worked perfectly. Now you can use them too. A couple of notes about them though:

If you land and stay on the note, be prepared for a jolt. It will sound off and wrong, and create and maintain a lot of TENSION.

The best way to use them, is to consider them specific “Passing” notes that you can use to add a little zing to your playing. Use them on the way to a note that you’re ultimately going to resolve to. This very quick tension and release, is very effective, and has a “What was that? Oh now it’s gone approach” that the ear LIKES.

If you too would like to unleash your own applied knowledge of the fretboard, or perhaps learn to instantly name the notes of any chord like a computer, or analyze what you are playing to gain further insight and development from theory as its applied to the guitar, like I have demonstrated in this little lesson, consider enrolling as a student in our Academy – the first course is absolutely risk free. You can learn guitar theory easy online at your own pace. Have a look at our site at, and let us know if we can help. We are a real school that operates every single day in South Texas, and has been helping area guitarists since 2004. We are absolutely passionate about helping guitarists totally master their understanding of their instrument.

In the meantime, have fun and happy jamming!

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Quick and Easy Theory Lesson – Playing with 9ths Sun, 25 Jul 2010 06:37:23 +0000 Article By Sean Christiansen – Founder of the Rock N Blues Guitar Academy

Easy Theory for Guitar Applications – Playing with Ninth Intervals

When most guitarists solo they start on the root, or the same note as the Key the song is in. It’s a nice compact way of looking at things, and starting your guitar solo. But after a while, we can begin to dumb down sonically, from always beginning on the same note.

Today I want to share a very easy idea to open up your ears a little bit, using theory, but in a way that isn’t boring or complicated. Starting your lead playing on the 9th interval.

The origin of this probably has its roots in Jazz where guitarists have learned to exploit their understanding of music and shape it any way they wish. In the end, its about creating harmonic tension and release and in doing so, adding interest to the guitar, both in what a particular note leads to for the guitar player, and also, in what the listener hears that bends the ear a bit.

It is not the purpose or scope of this article to explain the whole musical theory behind what an interval is, or how they are derived, those things along with an entire series of effortless mastery of tension and release ideas and approaches can be found on my site, where I have created an entire system designed to create self-sufficient guitarists, that I’ve been teaching for years.

Rather, this is a fast and “dirty” idea to supercharge your playing, with no background needed.

For our purposes, lets assume that you know you are soloing in A minor, and as usual you start the solo on the A note. How do we find the 9th? And why is the 9th such a good idea.

For one, the 9th is universal regardless of the chord type. A 9th is the same note every time whether its a Major 9, Minor 9, add9 or Dominant 9th chord. You can even play a 9th when there isn’t a 9th in the chord itself.

For another, the note adds a certain…beauty in its tension. It doesn’t quite fit, but somehow it also feels like a note that has a certain melodic quality that feels right. Jazz greats like Larry Carlton and Robben Ford use this note and use it a lot to exploit this inner beauty.

So without the theory part of this bogging things down, and now that we agree that the 9th is a pretty cool note, how do we use it? Where is this sweet interval found when I want to conjure up that sweet sound that may lead the ear to some interesting melodic ideas as I solo?

The answer – Its one step (2 frets away) from the root!

Now I hear you, you’re already convinced that something’s off here, and ready to throw in the towel and say, “wait a minute, that doesn’t sound all that awesome.” But that’s just the beginning step to locate the 9th. To really hear the sound of the ninth, move that note up an octave and start your lead there!

See the below illustration in G – G is the Key, and I want to start my lead on the 9th. A Is a whole step up from G and moved an octave away, A becomes my 9th.

music theory lesson fretboard diagram of playing in 9th intervals

A 9th interval as found on a guitar fretboard

Note that you can really start the 9th a step away from the root note, but its pitch to the root will be more effective, if it’s an octave or more higher than the root.

For theory buffs (those who have a bit of their music theory basics down, read ahead, and those who don’t, may wish to skip this part and check out our lessons site, or simply stop here and go play and start using your 9ths):

A 9th is basically a 2nd moved up an octave, this is known as a compound interval. Anything father than an octave (8) from the root (1) becomes a compound interval, thus 9ths are compound. So are 11ths and 13ths.

The ninth wants to pull two places to feel centered or resolved in the melody: the root, which is its most stable note, creating zero tension, or else the 3rd (depending on whether its a major type or minor type progression, this may be a different note). The little bit of musical tension and interest that the 9th can create musically can be an effective idea spawner and rut buster, and while no music theory is needed to start to use this idea in your own playing, a sold musical theory based in guitar application program, like we teach, can reap huge dividends for guitarists wanting to go to the next level. For more information, check out our courses at

In a future article, we will look at how 11th intervals can be used, and understood, (as well as explore ways they are often misused) to create additional harmonic interest!

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Absolutely Unsolicited Student Testimonials Sun, 25 Jul 2010 06:24:03 +0000 UNSOLICITED Testimonial Comments:

“I look upon the Academy the same way a thirsty nomad looks at an Oasis!!  The information download so far has been beyond great and definitely beyond my expectations.  Its amazing to see everything starting to mesh together perfectly and bringing me ever closer to achieving my goals in the process.”

“Your simple yet effective approach to the lessons is making all the difference. For this, I would like to thank you once again.”

“Gotta say this seems to be a much more efficient and manageable way of learning scales than the usual box patterns you would normally learn elsewhere. I’m rather excited to try applying these concepts to my playing.”

“I’m absolutely stunned.  This is the FUTURE of guitar learning!  I mean it, sir.  I believe that you have created the best way EVER for understanding the guitar, and I’ve been playing for almost 29 years!”

“Learned more than I ever knew about playing a guitar in two lessons!”

“I like the simple, straight forward teaching / learning style. You do a good job of explaining in a fun, memorable way.”

“I’m a teacher and I’m always curious on other peoples teaching techniques. I’m always looking for ways to improve my teaching methods. I saw your site and I liked what I read so I figured since it wasn’t hundreds of dollars I’ll check it all out to see if there is any good tips I can pick up.

The first lesson I already picked up something pretty cool. I never really taught just the (content omitted to protect the method) . I always just went strait down the line. I like this quick memory recall method. It seems so obvious now but I never explained that (comment omitted to protect the method). Very cool! I hope I’ll pick up some more good tips like this through the course. Maybe even learn a couple things for myself in the more advanced courses!”

Don Parkhurst Jr – Online Guitar Instructor (, and Contributing Writer to Troy Stetina’s Online Digital Guitar Magazine (we don’t mind, we are completely in favor of teachers who learn new things, so that they in turn, can teach others better!) – Name used with Permission

“This system is definitely the easiest and most efficient way to learn the fretboard, it is one of those times where you think “Man, why didn’t I see this before!”

“These last few lessons have been a breakthrough in terms of being able to play in any key, not only vertically but horizontally in any direction at will, and when I use what you teach here I am only limited by my imagination!  It’s awesome!   I have seen nothing but progress since I enrolled here!”

“These lessons have definitely changed the way I look at the neck when it comes to playing. It’s like I finally understand the way it works and I can easily visualize where to go with endless possibilities. It’s satisfying.”

“I see myself improving with every lesson and it makes practice fun. I enjoy the challenge and the discipline involved. I always look forward to the next lesson.”

“The lessons are really helping me to get to where I want to be at as a guitar player. I’m always eager to learn, and your online course is providing me with a lot of material that I never really sat down and focused on.”

“You are hellaciously good at teaching this stuff.  I can’t begin to tell you how quickly I am picking this up and how well absorbed it is”

“I must say I am really enjoying the way that you teach. I am 23 and have been playing off and on since I was 8 years old. I finally decided that I wanted to really know my instrument and I know that I need discipline to do so.”

“I have taken a few lessons with private instructors but I couldn’t really afford what they were asking for hourly prices. When I came across your program and saw everything that it had to offer I was stoked. It has in depth material and requires me to do homework and take tests to pass which I like because it requires me to do the work and understand everything before moving on and possibly getting ahead of myself.”

“I just completed the Notes Module and would like to continue on using your online program. It seems very promising. How could I go about doing that and moving on to Lead Guitar Phase 1? I AM EAGER TO LEARN!! lol”

“I feel like for the first time I have actually learned something about the guitar that will help me to move forward. Before I take the final exam I am going to go back and review all lessons and make sure I have this down without thinking then take the final.  I will be continuing on with you.”

“I really enjoyed the story that was used to create a memory for the  notes. Very clever. This is positively the easiest set up for memorizing the notes on the neck I have ever seen. You have done an excellent job honing these lessons. Your work is greatly appreciated.”

“I spent a lot of years trying to understand this and you’ve shown me more in the short amount of time that I’ve been doing this than in all my many years combined! Where were you years ago? I could have been a pro!”

“This is awesome, I’m learning things I didn’t know!”

“The simplicity of what I am learning and understanding is madness! My Brain hurts, not because of the lessons, but because I can’t figure out how NOBODY else ever came up with this! I love it!”

“The Drills are nice and they Work! I never saw myself as someone that could learn all the notes on the neck, but this course and site stands out, because it actually delivers what it claims. I was skeptical because sites promise you anything to get you to join or sign up. What a pleasant surprise!”

“Man I’m learning a lot, I can’t believe how easy it is!”

“I wrote you before, but I wanted to tell you, this just keeps getting better and better, better than a dream!”

“I passed the last lesson yesterday. I’m practicing all the lessons now and I see a lot of progress. I can already do most notes on the neck in 1-2 sec.”

“I’m ready for the final exam! Your course delivers, sign me up for more. I can’t wait!”

“I’ve been playing guitar for little less then a year now, and I’ve been struggling to find a good way to learn all the notes on the neck, so I decided to give your lessons a chance. The first lesson was pretty easy for me, because I already know most of the notes on the E and A strings, but your approach to this was new to me and I really liked it. By the way, I’m from Holland so my English is not perfect. I hope you are properly able to understand my mails :)”

“Nice, clear and easy! I want more! Learning like this is fun, it doesn’t even feel like work or anything difficult”

“Good lesson I liked this idea! I learned the strings quick using this method.”

“They are getting more challenging, and still loving it! I’m ready to move on. I so love the fact that I can go back and review. You’re a great teacher!”

“Thank you for being so supportive in me learning”

“The classes are fantastic and it is so awesome to work at my own pace. Great job on the site!“

“Done with lesson three and having a blast. Learning some really great stuff and being able to view the video often is a huge plus. Looking forward to lesson four.

Great program, very well taught, I’m surprised, but I haven’t been lost once!”

“Awesome! I really like it and having a great time. The dog was funny – you have a great way of putting things”

“I’ve played and toured around the world, and have celeb guitar friends and even studied with some of the best names in the business, I learned more in these lessons than with any of my good friends.

“I know how to play, but understanding it all and how it fits together, not just learning and copping my buddies like Greg Howe, or Ron Jarzombek or Steve Vai Licks, or whatever, but knowing what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and creating all these options, especially in the Modes, I’ve already learned more in two lessons with you than I have in all the pro’s I’ve played with and jammed with over the years.”

Clint – Guitarist for the Progressive Metal Band, All Too Human (Name used with permission).

“I am basically done with the notes on the neck and am comfortable with finding them easily now great lessons best approach i seen to teach it and so fast i just been fiddling with playing in key every where on the neck to backing tracks with the pertaining scales trying to improvise a little.”

“The lessons have been great so far! Thanks for not being a scam!”

“No wonder your Academy filled up! If your other courses teach like the Notes on The Neck one, consider me a student for life! I’ve never seen anything like this! I understand completely now why you had to take this online. I am telling everyone I know about this!”

“If you lived in my city, all the guitar teachers would be out of work in a month!”

“I’ll be straight with you, when I heard that what you teach makes books like Fretboard Logic obsolete,  I didn’t believe it.  I do now.  Why isn’t this in print?  You could retire!”

“No way (would I) I share (this) with anyone, you are (a) great secret to (the)  guitar (as)  I learn, sorry” – Student studying in China

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Lost Guitarists and Their Cry For Help Sun, 25 Jul 2010 06:15:38 +0000 These are actual quotes, used with permission, from real guitarists who have posted on popular forums looking for help.  This is the reason that we do what it is we do, because we know how difficult it can be for many people to find the answers by themselves and finally put the pieces of guitar and theory together, freeing them to just PLAY.    Do any of their comments resonate with you?

All I’ve done really is learn how to play songs already written, and I’ve learned different styles of songs. So i am reasonable in the techniques field.

However I feel something big is holding me back as a musician, I dont understand the theory.

Ive been studying it for months but i can’t grasp it.

I have always wanted to be able to improvise some awesome solo, or maybe a chord progression, but I don’t understand the theory.

Any help or directions would be appreciated, but dont tell me to buy a book.  Been there, Done that.

There are thousands of guitarists out there that are just not learning through the traditional channels, and they are falling unseen through the cracks every day.

Because we teach students how to solo all over the neck on any strings in any desired direction, this guitarist’s letter really struck a chord with us:

I realized that every time I improvise, my solo sounds very stale and predictable. What can I do to make it sound more creative? I do use different techniques but I find it a lil ‘scaley’. I can’t seem to break the connection between the boxes.

Again and again, we find guitar players like this one below.   Our goal is to reach as many like this person as possible.

So I know what both of them are, but I find identifying/naming the notes in a particular interval or triad… not difficult, but slow. Intervals are easier since they’re just two notes but with triads, it’s a bit more thinking and I can’t name them off as fast as I want to.

Are there any tricks to help with these? Or is it simply just repetition? I was going to memorize all of the scale degrees for all 15 major/minor keys because I feel like that would help (with this and a lot of other things). I want to be able to figure out triads in five seconds max.

Here’s another that really spoke to us:

I need a solid foundation of sorts, so that I can start writing my own stuff within a few years’ time. What should I be learning so I can play, say, Opeth and Between the Buried and Me? I don’t like tabs because they don’t teach me anything and using them is pain in the backside because it’s even more annoying than parroting Biology notes!

I will use them once I know what it is I’m doing. I like to know what’s going on. I have to know how things work. So, what I’m looking for is a tutorial. Any of you could suggest some stuff?

I would like to play metal mostly but I also listen to a fair bit of rock. I am asking this because …just using tutorials here and there won’t be fast enough for my liking and chances are I’ll just put my guitar away and end up lazying about..oh wait, thats happened already. I will put in as much effort as should be and do my very best because becoming an actual musician is something I want to achieve. All I ask for is directions. Please help me out. :]

If that matters, I’ve been playing for a little over a year now.

They want to learn, they just have no idea how to go about it in a way that’s not confusing or that takes forever.

Getting “there” takes an intelligent, applied approach that builds upon a foundation, systematically, one level at a time.   The Rock N Blues Guitar Academy is the only program of it’s kind that can move students through the steps in an easy to understand, progressive way.

If you’re thinking about taking  the next step, consider our no risk offer below.

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Why Is It Important To Learn The Notes on The Neck of the Guitar? Sat, 24 Jul 2010 23:58:42 +0000 The neck of the guitar is the central component by which we, as musicians derive our musical vocabulary.  The better we understand that, the better we can be at communication, or expressing ideas, or applying things that we learn.

A natural progression, for example, in our Academy, we see with students, is:

They learn the notes on the neck.

They learn how to solo in any direction on the guitar, and using that knowledge they can tell the notes in that scale, as well as choose where on the neck they want to solo from, and to.

They learn about intervals and can sight and identify them in their playing.

They learn all the notes which make up a chord or triad and they can then go straight to those notes and play them in many ways, none of which need to be memorized

With every advanced scale they can relate it to the way a note changes here or there, and that allows them to make more immediate use of the scale and their options for playing chords with that scale.

In short, knowing the notes on the neck is really the most logical step that can and should be taken if anyone wants to learn their guitar and study music theory as applied to the guitar.

There are proponents of theory that say, learn from a piano, learn from a book, and while they are right that both approaches can work, they miss the other side of the coin, and that is we are learning theory, because ultimately we want to use it to better understand and apply it to our own guitar playing.  Filling your head with the information from a book may teach you all you need to know about music theory, but if it takes you a while to find those notes on different strings of the guitar, then as a guitarist, you haven’t really achieved what you set out to do.

This is why we believe in a straightforward honest look at learning the notes.  We honestly could not envision any serious claims to helping a guitarist to learn music theory in a way that would make it immediately applicable to their guitar, without encouraging them to learn their notes on the neck first.

If you are contemplating taking your playing to the next level, whether you enroll with us or not, we believe that all roads should begin with learning the notes on the neck.

If you’d like to start that journey, we can have you there in a few short weeks, using our acclaimed teaching approach.

Our Notes on the Neck Course has a 100% Money Back Guarantee.  If you are not happy with the course content and instruction, simply let us know and we’ll refund your investment, no questions asked.

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Why Most Guitarists Don’t Know Theory Sat, 24 Jul 2010 23:48:42 +0000

Every day I run across those who want to know what they should play in a given musical situation (What scales work with these chords?).  Or,  what chords can I play with this riff I worked out?

Lets be frank, the average guitar player already knows what it takes to be able to answer these questions.

  • 1.  Study, and a lot of it.  Lots and lots of time, memorizing huge amounts of information, cracking your brain to understand it, no matter how poorly its explained.
  • 2. Practice, and a lot of it.  Once you study to internalize and memorize everything, you have to put it into play, you have to spend time jamming, or creating situations, almost like a lab, where you can experiment with things.

The other truth is, that most guitarists feel that spending that much time learning something so traditionally dry and confusing  is second only to recieving  a root canal.

It is generally agreed upon that learning the notes on the neck is a Good Idea, but what the people preaching these ideas, don’t do, is tell you HOW to do this! It’s left to you, the searching guitar player to figure out, and it is already assumed that its going to take a long time, because chances are, it took a long time for the person extolling their virtues.   How to do it,  is up to you.

Learning all the possible ways a scale can be played on the neck of the guitar also is presumed to be a nice skill to have, but again, its assumed to take a LONG time, years even.  But does anyone tell you how to do this, in such a way that lets you learn quickly and get back to playing? No, it’s left for the user to figure it out.

No wonder guitar players would rather just get the answers, than commit to the amount of study it apparently would take to fully understand it so they can do it themselves.

They want shortcuts, and templates so that they can address the situation they are in now, and in the future.

This is what I find is lacking with theory and the way it is taught, and this isn’t a rub against those who are trying to help others.  They are doing the best they can with a very complicated system.

To better illustrate the conundrum, Let’s use an analogy.

Imagine that we (as people) were dropped off and left there to fend for our existence somewhere way up in the hills, and one of the tenets of humans is that we all need homes.

So along comes a truck, and deposits everything on the ground to be used to construct a home.  Stacks and stacks of lumber, boxes of nails, lots of pipes, bags of concrete, all on brand new pallets.

But, there are no blueprints, no instructions.  Nothing to tell you how to do it.  Oh there’s the obvious, you need a foundation.  You need walls of course to fix into the foundation, you need plumbing, you need windows and a roof, you are fairly certain that they need to be completed in that order, even.

But how many of us would get a home created the way that we were supposed to?  Only those with enough exposure to homebuilding (Maybe you once helped out in construction somewhere?) would manage to get the home built right.

This is how I see it goes when it comes to answering one’s  questions about theory, or what to play, how to play, when and where to play, and mostly just how to make sense of it all.  It’s like having a blueprint to it, that,” if you follow this step and then this one, and do this thing and then that thing, you will accomplish the thing you set out to do”.

Throwing handfulls of theory at someone in answer to these questions points the answer out, but doesn’t lead them to understanding.  They need a guide, someone thats been there and so they know what to do, and what not to do, and so they can come alongside us and show us how, tell us whats important and the best way to do it.  Sure, work on their part is required, but there’s a sense that there’s a big picture to it all and the person helping us, has constructed a sure blueprint to reach that objective.

Today the way guitarists are expected to learn music theory to the extent where they can apply it all with understanding, all on their own, especially self taught, can be daunting.

It would be similar to telling a writer that if he wants to get better, he should simply memorize the entire dictionary.

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RnB Academy in the News Fri, 16 Jul 2010 13:04:29 +0000

Our Academy has been featured in several articles and interview features lately.  It’s great to see the impact our program is having around the world!

Click Below to listen to an MP3  Interview which was recently aired on National Public Radio (NPR)

Click to listen to the NPR Radio Interview with the Founder of

Another recent newspaper story about the global and local impact of Rock N Blues Guitar Academy

A two day Regional ABC TV News Feature that aired recently.

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