Tom Serb

Tom Serb is a Chicago area guitarist who has been making music professionally since 1978. Over the course of the past twenty-five years he has managed to amuse himself by teaching, writing, performing, producing and composing. He is the author of Music Theory for Guitarists (NoteBoat, Inc., 2003), and a frequent contributor to the Guitar Noise forums.

Featured on Guitar Noise


  1. Sam
    April 9th, 2012 @ 7:06 am

    Tom, this is great-great info, great explanation, everything man! It’s great to see some of the history and the deeper explanation with tuning and everything.

    I’m interested in hearing how to incorporate some of this stuff into my playing and how you’ve made some of it your own. Thanks for the great article!

  2. sunny whaley
    May 20th, 2012 @ 5:34 am

    Excellent article! I will have to study it over the next few weeks. It is a gift to be able to explain scales so well. Thank you.

  3. Tom
    May 20th, 2012 @ 8:17 am

    Thank you for the comments, Sam & Sunny!

    I just spotted a typo in the article (probably my fault) in the explanation of the Pythagorean comma. It should read “if you take a starting frequency and multiply it by 150% twelve times, you don’t get the same result as doubling it seven times.”

    And to answer your question, Sam, I practice all sorts of scales and rotate through them as part of my warm-up routine. But when I’m improvising, I try to forget about them. If I’m doing a blues tune, I may start out with a riff built from a blues scale, but then I follow what I hear in my head… so I can depart from it significantly as I go along.

    Scales, like intervals and chords, are really just a way to categorize sounds so we’ll be able to find them when we want them. So they’re kind of like a dictionary of sounds. In the long run, you should combine theory study with ear training; if you can hear what you want in your head, you can then associate it with the fingerings you need to achieve it – any other approach ends up with a mechanical result on at least some level. A mechanical approach can sound good, and even sound consistently good… but it’s rarely going to sound inspired.

    • David Hodge
      May 20th, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

      Hi Tom!

      Don’t be so quick with the fault – it could verily easily be mine! Anyway, I think I fixed it, so take another look to be sure and let me know if I need to change it again.


Are you on the list? Join for free

Never miss another Guitar Noise lesson again.