Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Chord Wheel by Jim Fleser

Write songs, transpose key, understand chord theory!

If you're like me you decided to learn guitar for two primary reasons: to improve yourself, and to play the songs you love.

You begin by learning string names, some open chords, and a few easy songs.

Somewhere along the way you discover that there's a lot more to playing than learning chords, figuring our strum patterns, or learning a favorite riff or two.

You spend hours learning moveable chord forms, scales, techniques like muting, pull-offs, hammer-ons, more strumming, etc.

Finally, you take the big leap and start to play with others. Almost immediately you're faced with the fact that you need to play chords and notes other than those you practiced. You need to play chords and notes other than those your find written down in TAB or the song books.

Why? The people who sing the songs have a different vocal range than the version you've been learning.

Now what?

You need to transpose the song to a new key.

Once, not long ago, this would have meant sitting down, working through the song with pencil, paper, and your guitar to methodically determine each new chord.

To do it properly, you would need to study basic music theory, learn about the Circle of Fifths, modes, and more. That could take months of study.

Lucky for us, Jim Fleser created The Chord Wheel.

The Chord Wheel:

  • Shows you all the chords you can use for a particular key.
  • Makes key changes as simple as rotating a dial.
  • Helps map out chord changes for your own song-writing.
  • Can be used for chord substitutions, progressions, scales, and more!

The Chord Wheel, published by Hal Leonard, is a short 12 pages containing great explanations for using the wheel. The wheel that makes it all possibly is on the front cover of the book. Keys, and their associated chords, are layed out clearly. Changing keys is as simple as turning the sturdy dial.

There's even a web-site with additional explanations and tutorials.

You can pick up The Chord Wheel: The Ultimate Tool for All Musicians at for about $11.

Still learning...
Helping others do the same at: http://www.Start-Playing-Guitar.Com

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Custom Guitar Picks...

My Experience with Clayton Custom Picks

One problem at Christmastime is trying to find a gift that will mean something to the recipient and be useful. Cost can also be a factor, of course.

What could I get for my guitar instructor that would be useful, that he'd enjoy, and wouldn't cost an arm and a leg? He gave me the answer one day as our lesson was about to begin. I forgot to grab a pick as I unpacked. Thinking nothing of it, when he and I settled in to the lesson room, I looked around for a pick, knowing there must be several lying around.

Finding none, I asked my teacher if he had a pick handy. "Not really. I never seem to have one around!"

Just what he needs for Christmas! But could I do more than hand him a package of picks?

From working on my website,, I knew that custom guitar picks were available, so I decided to see what's involved. I checked a few sites and settled on Clayton offers a number of custom picks in a variety of materials, widths, colors, and they can imprint custom graphics. Most surprising to me, they produce and deliver your picks in under two weeks, even during the holiday season.

Their web-site walks you through the selection of material, color, and thickness. You can upload graphics, even resizing or rotating the graphic for just the right fit. Select the number of picks you want, provide billing information, and less than two weeks later they appear in your mailbox!

I am very satisfied with the quality and cost of the picks I gave. I'll probably order a set for myself.

If you decide to order custom picks from, here are a few tips:

1. Read the pop-up help, but then turn it off. The process is straight forward and the pop-ups really get in the way.

2. Click on each material type (across the top of the page) first to read about and decide upon the material you want.

3. Some pick materials/colors allow printing color graphics, others are black only. Some allow graphics on both sides, some do not.

4. Create your graphic off-line before starting the actual order process. They don't tell you, but I found that using a graphic sized at about 120 pixels wide by 140 pixels high was just about perfect. You can only upload JPEG files.

5. The web-site lets you create a lettering, if you want only text.

6. You can save your design for later, but I found this required that I close the web-page and open a new window to work properly.

7. Make sure you select the right count and options before you press the "Order" button.

Here's the pick I ordered:

Custom Pick Image

Still learning...
Helping others do the same at: