Numbers and notes

I’m at lesson 3 of Chord Melody Guitar 1. I guess I can figure out what numbers make up a 5 chord as I go along here. I didn’t know 5 7 2 4 make up the 5 chord until now. Not sure why 5 7 24 make up the 5 chord. I know 1,3,5 make up the major chord and 1,3,5,flat 7 make up a 7th chord.

I am hoping this starts to me more sense as I go along.

Stilll not sure how the numbers of a chord are going to help me create a melody and chord arrangement for any given song. But I’ll trust this process will give me a better understanding.


For any given key signature, there are 7 scales that use only the notes of the major scale. Each of those scales begin with a different note, i.e.: Key of C: 1st scale starts with C, 2nd scale starts with D, the fifth scale starts with G. Now, with these scales ( also known as modes, or in IFR, harmonic environments), use only the notes in the major scale, making them ‘diatonic’ to that scale, meaning, they use just the notes of the major scale. So let’s look at the 5th scale, the one that starts with G. You know that the 5th chord is a G7, having a flatted 7th. Why is it flattened? Well, the 7th note of G major is F#, which is NOT diatonic to C major. To be diatonic, it must be flatted, hence your flatted 7th of a 7 chord. All the chords are built with the 1st, 3rd, 5th & 7th notes of their respective scales.

So, a 1 chord is 1, 3, 5, 7; a 2 chord is 2, 4, 6, 1–why? because it is made up of every other note, starting with harmonic environment’s root note. So the root note of the 5th mode, or harmonic environment, or mixolydian mode–many names for the same thing, is the 5th note of the major scale, in the case of C, it is G. G A B C D E F The next note is the 7th note of the scale, then the 2nd, because from the 7th, you skip the next note, which is 1. From 2, you skip a note and you have 4. Notice that F is F natural, because we are only using notes that are used in C major, which doesn’t have an F#, it has F natural, which is the flatted 7th of the 5 dominant chord.

I hope this clarifies it for you.

@PaulOWoods A way to summarise (& I hope say the same thing as) @woodyhaiken is that chords are typically made up of thirds. To get to the ‘third’ from any given note in a scale you skip the next & go for the one after (when you reach 7, the ‘next’ is 1).

A basic triad (3 note chord) is made up of two consecutive pairs of such such thirds, so for a triad starting at 5 that would be 5 7 2.

A 4 note chord is made up of 3 consecutive pairs so if the root of the chord is 5, the chord tones would be 5 7 2 4.

I hope that helps too.

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in other words. If as in the lesson 3 we use the key of G. Then take (for example) the 5 of the key of G as the root. We now do not get the whole whole half whole whole whole half sequence as we play.

whole whole half whole whole whole half. I get that part and how every key needs to have that sequence of half and whole step and that’s how we end up with sharps or flats in any given key.

In lesson 3 of Guitar Melody 1 he says 5 chord, but doesn’t mention or clarify if we are still in the key of G or not. Aren’t we still in the key of G here but using the 5th step in the key of G as root? Same with lesson 1 and lesson 2. We are using the G as the root and attributing numbers rather than notes in the key of G. BUT we are keeping the same numbers when we move on to say starting with the 4 or 5th.

We end up with a sharp F in the key of G as far as I can tell. Then we use the 4th as the root and still use the same numbers as we used in the key of G. In other words G is still note 1 and B is still number 3 when we use the 4th as the root in his exercise.

If my goal is to be able to take any given song and create a solo melody and chord guitar arrangement of that song I am not sure how this is getting me there BUT I trust it will. FUN process or I am enjoying the process. I’ve been playing guitar since I was in 6th grade and now 68 years old and I have so much to learn on guitar. I have always loved solo melody and chord guitar playing but have been playing rock and soloing using mostly the pentatonic scale and have just figured out by ear a few melody and chord arrangements.

Thank you for your response.

Welcome to the forum @PaulOWoods, I hope you are enjoying working with the IFR material.

I haven’t done the ChordMelody guitar course but I am familar with the method in general. I think you are on the right line here …

The numbers can be tricky to work with at the start, if you are already familiar with guitar chords, but my advice would be to stick with it and it will pay off.

In IFR thinking we don’t tend to switch around keys mid tune, so your 1 (& all the rest) stay as the same note throughout (as do all the other numbers). When you want a 5 chord, the root of that chord is on the 5, but the root of the key remains where it was. You build your 5 chord from the 5, hence 5 7 2 4.

I’d suggest that at least try thinking primarily in terms of the numbers.

Sure, if you’re playing in the key of G you need to know where that is on your fretboard to know where ‘home’ (i.e. the 1) is. Everything else is relative to that. So, if you know where 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 are relative to a 1 on your fretboard it doesn’t actually matter what names those notes have.

When I started I found it useful to sketch out the patterns. It was (& continues to be) useful to practice moving between numbers (i.e. playing interval) by the various routes possible. For example getting to know that the 3 above 1 is one string thinner & one fret towards the headstock, or 5 above 1 is one string thinner & two fret towards the bridge (& 5 below 1 is one string thicker on the same fret).

Also, consider practicing getting from, say, 1 to 3 via the different possible routes. e.g. all on one string, 1 & 2 on one string with 3 on another, or 1 on one string & the 2 & 3 on another. Similarly for 2 to 3, etc.,

Obvioulsy, if you use standard tuning there will be the usual variation due to the odd step between G & B to take into account.

I hope that helps.

David Reed ( @ImproviseForReal ) may wish to comment too?

The IFR book might also add some clarity and background/additional information, if you are working solely from the ChordMelody course.

Welcome @PaulOWoods and thank you @DavidW, @woodyhaiken and @mem for your excellent answers. I apologize for any confusion about what we’re doing in Chord Melody Guitar 1. You are right Paul that we are working in the key of G for that entire course. So in lesson 3 when I introduce the 5 chord, we’re still in the same key of G. This means that G is still our note 1. The notes of the key don’t change, so all of the tonal numbers 1 through 7 are in exactly the same places that they were in lessons 1 and 2. We’re just using those notes in a different way, now keeping note 5 in the bass and exploring the notes 5, 7, 2 and 4 in our melodies.

I hope that’s clear. I’m sorry there was ever any doubt about this. If you have any other doubts or questions about the course, please feel free to post more questions here. Thanks and welcome to our group! - David

I understand we are only working in the key of G in perhaps all lessons in this course.
DavidW and Woodyhaiken explained the every other note thing. I just didn’t figure that out and it seems obvious now. 1 chord=1 3 5 7 4 chord= 4 6 1 3 5 chord 5 7 2 4

I guess that changes when we are dealing with more complicated jazz chord voicings. It can’t be that every chord is every other note.

My question about the Key of G is IF I move the pattern and start say at the 5th fret 6th string the A … Will it be the same pattern? I guess I can try figure that out on the guitar.

@PaulOWoods . Yes, fancy chords get fancy. The fundamental structure of chords is a stack of major or minor 3rds. Depending on the sequence of majors & minors those might or might not all be ‘in the key’, and some chords go outside that pattern entirely (e.g. ‘sus chords’ ).

Once we’ve developed a good feel for the ‘normal’ chords, it becomes easier to understand the role of the ‘fancy’ ones. Leaping straight into the fancy stuff might get confusing & reduce longterm understanding?

I could answer that question, but I think that on this occasion the best option by far is to encourage you to do that experiment & work it out for yourself. You’ll learn far more from developing your own practical understanding of this than from reading any number of descriptions from other people.

Hi @PaulOWoods , the advice from @DavidW is spot on. One of the best lines is “fancy chords get fancy”. That’s the core of the idea right there. OF COURSE you can create chords that use much more abstract combinations of notes! And of course we’re not saying that “every chord is every other note”. But here’s the real question. What is your strategy for developing the ability to improvise with that complex material? There is literally no limit to the complexity or abstraction that you’re allowed to use in your chords. So how do you study infinity? Where do you start?

You start in the center. You start with the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th. What you’re learning from this discipline is the ability to express the chords in the clearest possible way. Don’t underestimate this ability. Anybody can browse some jazz blog and learn some complicated chord voicing with a bunch of dissonant notes. But just spitting out that chord in your music isn’t going to do anything for you. What we’re after is not just a huge inventory of random chord voicings. We’re after an ABILITY, the ability to actually make MUSIC with these sounds.

So the whole question is about how to organize your learning path so that you develop this ability. The way to do that is to first master consonance. Before learning to speak ironically, first learn to speak clearly. Learn to just say the thing you want to say. You can add irony and sarcasm and complexity later. But first learn the basic grammar so that you have a base with which to work. This is what we do in music when we master the seven notes and seven chords of the major scale. (And in my Chord Melody Guitar course, you’re also mastering the fretboard of the guitar which is no small accomplishment.)

So you’re exactly right that we’re going to do much more with chords than just play the simple chord forms that you’re learning in Chord Melody Guitar 1. (In fact, in Chord Melody Guitar 2 you’ll already move beyond these simple chord definitions.) But don’t underestimate the abilities that you’re developing from learning to picture the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th of each chord. These notes are not just for beginners. These notes are the very center of the harmony, and they are your reference point for being able to see everything else.

I also agree with David Wright’s observation that you’ll learn more valuable lessons from your own exploration than you can learn from other people’s explanations sometimes. And with the skills you’re learning in Chord Melody Guitar 1, you’ll be able to do all of the rest of this exploration on your own. But let me at least give you a little head start on understanding the guitar fretboard, because sometimes just seeing a single principle clearly can greatly accelerate your learning. So the answer to your question is YES. On the guitar, as we move up the strings fret by fret, everything moves up exactly in parallel. This means that everything you’re learning in the key of G can be played in the key of Ab by simply shifting your left hand up one fret. Shift up another fret and you recreate the entire system in the key of A. And so on…

Where the shapes become different is when you want to place your root note (1) on a different string. And this is exactly what we do in Chord Melody Guitar 2. In order to make the best use of our time together, I taught the entire second level of the course in a different key where note 1 is on the A string. Between these two courses, you will have seen essentially every possible configuration of the major scale on the fretboard, so you’ll be able to play in all 12 keys across the entire fretboard.

I hope that helps you understand the method and believe in your mission. I encourage you to trust in the process and really take your time with Chord Melody Guitar 1. Don’t worry that it doesn’t contain everything that can possibly be learned about music. No course could ever contain everything, so that’s not what you’re looking for. What you’re looking for is a course that contains the most empowering FIRST things that you can learn, so that you can build the proper foundation for a lifetime of musical enjoyment and learning.


I am about half way through Chord Melody 1.
One of the reasons I signed up for this was to get a better handle on putting together melody and chord arrangements for some classic and even newer songs.

What I don’t understand so far is what we are doing and why we are doing this 1 chord 4 chord 5 chord 6 chord. I have asked before and it seems just like I need to commit to memory 1 3 5 is a major chord and I guess that is the 1 chord. I need to memorize that the 4 chord is 1 3 4 6. I guess? Same with the 5 chord and the 6 chord.

What I don’t understand is what exactly this 4, 5 and 6 chord is. I mean since we know a major chord is 1 3 5 and a major seventh adds the the 7 and the minor seventh flats the 3 and the 7. A dominant 7th i the 1 3 5 b7 etc. So how does this relate to chord formulas? And I am not sure how this is going to help me in putting together melody and chord arrangements for solo melody and chord playing.

For any given song figuring out the notes of the song on the 1 and 2 string is of course the easy part. But figuring out the chord voicing the works for the song is another story. The chord needs to leave the melody note on top or the last note one hears in the chord bit its gotta be the chord for the song. Now has to go by the existing chords or at least the chords for the song is any key you want to play it in.

I am not sure of a couple things here. How the 1 chord 4 chord 5 chord and 6 chord relate to existing chord formulas. And confirming I need to memorize what notes or numbers make up the 1 chord 4 chord 5 chord and 6 chord and how the relates to melody and chord playing.

I think I need to go back and start from lesson 1 again and take it slower. Unless someone can help me understand.


@PaulOWoods That seems like a great idea.

Chords 1 4 5 & 6 are just examples that go together nicely and that appear is an emormous percentage of Western music. That makes them a great starting point. When you get to Chord Melody 2 you’ll find chords 2, 7 & 3,

Knowing the tonal numbers for each chord allows you the power & freedom to choose your notes knowing which will be in harmony with the current chord. It means you are not restricted to playing based on some fixed idea of ‘shapes’ or ‘boxes’. If you’re in the 1 chord and have come to know the pattern of notes on your instrument then any 1 3 5 (&7) you can reach will give a form of classic harmony, Which one(s) you choose to reach for becomes a matter of personal taste, rather than some pre-determined formula.

I hope that makes sense?

Hi @PaulOWoods, I understand your questions. @DavidW’s response is exactly right and a good starting point. Let me try to also put it another way. One of the things that I think you’re asking is how these concepts like the 1 chord, 4 chord, etc. relate to the songs you want to play. The answer is that the songs you want to play are made from the 1 chord, 4 chord, etc. In IFR we study the seven notes and seven chords of the major scale because popular songs are made from these notes and chords.

This is not to say that the four chords that we study in Chord Melody Guitar 1 are the only chords in popular songs. Obviously that’s not the case. But we have to start somewhere. And chord melody itself is such a complex ability that it takes time to learn to manage both melody and chords in your music. So this puts a limit on how quickly you can add new chords to your repertoire. But it’s important to understand that these are two separate issues. Learning to combine melodies and chords on the guitar is a skill in itself. And this is the skill that you’re learning in Chord Melody Guitar 1. You’re also gaining experience with the four most important chords in all popular music, so this gives you a great head start on your project to learn all of the chords you need to play all of the songs you want to play. But the more important goal in Chord Melody Guitar 1 is to learn a way of practicing that allows you to control melody and chords simultaneously. And as I say, this is an ability in itself.

But another question you’re asking raises an interesting issue. You asked “how the 1 chord, 4 chord, 5 chord, and 6 chord relate to existing chord formulas”. This is a totally separate question. We’re not trying to teach you anything at all about “existing chord formulas”. The more important question is how these four chord concepts relate to the music you want to play. This is our main responsibility in IFR. We can also engage in side conversations to help you understand how the IFR concepts relate to other teaching concepts in other methods. But that’s not really our mission. Our mission isn’t to explain all of the different ways that other people teach chords. If we thought that their teaching were the right framework for understanding harmony, we wouldn’t have created IFR in the first place. So the mission of IFR isn’t to explain music teaching. The mission of IFR is to explain music.

And there is a methodology that you’re practicing in Chord Melody Guitar 1 that (we believe) will lead you to a very simple and clear understanding of harmony, which is something you’ll enjoy for the rest of your life. But if you are troubled by the fact that we study harmony differently than other guitar literature that you may have seen, and if it’s important for you to understand exactly how other people’s notation might translate to our vision of harmony in IFR, then we can also have those conversations. But I would need you to give me a more specific question. If your question is about the chord shapes major, minor, dominant, etc., then that’s a very easy thing to observe about the chords themselves. It’s as simple as the following list:

1 chord = major
2 chord = minor
3 chord = minor
4 chord = major
5 chord = dominant
6 chord = minor
7 chord = minor b5

But if you’re asking about specific chord shapes on the guitar that are commonly taught, most of these chord shapes have no theoretical basis whatsoever. They are just random groupings of notes that happen to be easy to play on the guitar, so they have become part of the folk tradition of teaching people how to make some nice chords on the guitar. And to be sure, many popular songs use exactly these standard chord forms. But none of that confers any understanding of harmony, nor the ability to create your own original music.

So just taking a step back, I think it’s important to understand that IFR is a method designed for people who want to understand harmony, recognize melodies and chords by ear, play from our imagination and express our own original music. So this is the context in which you find yourself with Chord Melody Guitar 1. So if all of these abilities are also appealing to you, then I’m confident that Chord Melody Guitar 1 will give you a fantastic foundation for a lifetime of musical creativity.

But it’s also totally okay if most of these abilities aren’t really relevant to you. If your main interest is just playing arrangements of popular songs, then you have to decide whether the IFR method is the best tool for that. I think that if you want to create your OWN arrangements, and if you want to be able to use improvising as part of your process for creating those arrangements, then my video course is still very relevant and useful to you. But if you’re not attracted to improvising and you don’t enjoy exploring sounds the way we do in IFR, then it’s also totally fine to just request a refund for that video course and search online for other approaches that might be easier for you to apply to just the problems you want to solve. So I just wanted to put that on the table, and it’s really fine if IFR isn’t exactly what you need right now.

We believe that IFR is absolutely the fastest path to truly understanding harmony and to being able to enjoy creating your own music. But it’s certainly not the fastest path to just memorizing a bunch of chord formulas which is something you could do on your own. So I think that this is really the biggest question of all. Chord Melody Guitar 1 only makes sense if you are attracted to improvising and composing as your main goals. If your goal is something else, then we might be sending you down a path that you don’t really need.

I don’t know if that sheds any light on your current difficulties. But please let me know what other thoughts you have after thinking about all of this.

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