Intermediate Acoustic Guitar Course Week 10

Mad World + 3 pentatonic scale shapes!

Today we start learning a new song in Tears For Fears ‘Mad World’. The arrangement this is based on is actually Gary Jules 2003 Xmas #1, piano only version.

The basic pattern is that of 123 – 123 – 12 which you learned a few weeks ago when we applied a second guitar part to ‘Hey There Delilah’.

Today the pattern is more subtle but still the foundation of the Verse groove.

We also learn three pentatonic scale shapes.

Let’s get right to it!

Week 10 – Step 1 – 15-30 min

Let’s start by learning the the chord progression and picking pattern for ‘Mad World’.

The progression is different to any previous songs in the way that the home chord is not chord I or chord VI. Instead the home chord is chord II.

Having chord II as a home chord gives us a the sound of Dorian, you will find out more about this when you take to the Advanced Course.

Here’s the progression:

SWS D Major


| II | IV | Isus2 | V |
| Em | G | Dsus2 | A |


| II | V | II | V |
| Em | A | Em | A |

That’s it, very simple. As you can see there is no VI chord (that would have been a Bm). The I chord has a sus2 and is placed on bar three of the Verse. Neither VI or I can be home.

The best way to tell what the home chord is is to simply work out what chord feels most natural to end on. In the video I end on the A but this leaves loads of tension. If you follow this with an Em that would feel like home.

As all chords are from the key of D major this means the song has to be in E Dorian.

Here’s the basic picking pattern in TAB for the Verse:Mad World verse
The pattern of 123 – 123 – 12 is pretty subtle, but it is there, count along:1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. Accent the 1, the & and the 4 by saying these louder and it should become more clear.

Here’s the Chorus pattern for ‘Mad World’ in TAB:
Mad World Chorus
Now the pattern is more straight, leaving a clear middle of the bar. This calms the pattern down, it doesn’t feel as if it drives along in the same way as the Verse did.

Here’s the video lesson to play along with. Leave the Intro/Instrumental section out for now, we will deal with that section in step 3, after we’ve learned our scales.

Week 10 – Step 2 – 15-30 min

Let’s look at what scales are used for that Intro.

This is very important as you always want to know what scale you are playing before you learn a melody.

You want to do this to give the melody a meaning, something to anchor the melody in. Without this you are simply memorising fret numbers.

To simply memorise fret numbers is even worse than memorising chord names of a progression.

I would like to go as far as saying that reading TAB as numbers, without any knowledge of what it means is the #1 reason guitar players stop developing.

TAB, if used the lazy way, is your worst enemy. If used the right way, it’s your best friend.

Because I feel so strongly about this I’m not going to TAB the Intro out for you today, instead we are going to learn the scale shapes only.

In three days time, when you’ve practiced your scale shapes; then I will give you the TAB.

Am shaped Minor Pentatonic

When you played ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ in Week 4, you learned the Am shaped Minor Pentatonic using open strings. Here’s what it looked like:
Today we play it in Em so we need to move that shape up the neck to fret seven, just like we did with open position and barred chords.

Here’s the same scale shape, starting at fret seven. This means it is now an E Minor Pentatonic, still in an Am shape, looks like this:
You can still see that Am shaped chord in there (in red). The scale is outlined in blue.

To really nail this scale shape you need to play it all over the neck using the concept of the cycle of 4ths, again just like you did when you learned your barred chords!

Here’s a video of me playing the scale in Am at fret 12. Practice this with all 12 starting points:

Am (fret 12) – Dm (fret 5) – Gm (fret 10) – Cm (fret 3) – Fm (fret 8) – Bbm (fret 1) and so on, just like you did with the chords.

Very few pentatonic scales are possible to play using open strings. Neither of the next two shapes we’re gonna learn can do it so let’s just learn them up the fretboard straight away.

E shaped Major Pentatonic

The E shaped major pentatonic follow the E shaped chord, let’s learn it in A, looks like this:
Again, to really learn this shape, move it around the fretboard like this: A (fret 5) – D (fret 10) – G (fret 3) – C (fret 8) – F (fret 13) – Bb (fret 6) and so on, just like you did with the chords.

Here’s a video of me playing it in A, at fret 5:

As you saw in the video, I play the chord first, this is a very important connection you need to make before you play every scale.

When you play scales you always see the chord shape and play the scale around it, just like the chordacus pictures outline the chord in a different colours, so should you see the chord and the scale.

D shaped Major Pentatonic

The final scale we need to learn today is the D shaped Major Pentatonic. The scale shape looks like this:
Again, play the chord followed by the scale in all 12 keys, like this:

A (fret 7) – D (fret 12) – G (fret 5) – C (fret 10) – F (fret 3) – Bb (fret 8) and so on, just like you did with the chords.

As the D shape start on string four you need to start the scale here, play up, play down below the root and then back to string four.

Finish off with the chord again to reinforce the relationship between chord and scale.

Here’s the video in which I play the pattern twice before I hit the chord again.


Today you learned the chord progression and the basic picking pattern for ‘Mad World’. We left the Intro for next week.

Following this you learned three pentatonic scale shapes in the Am shape, the E shape and the D shape.

In three days time we’re going to learn the Intro to ‘Mad World’ using these new scale shapes.

See you then!

Dan (your guitar guru)