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Located at Iron Mountain Ranch (NW Side near Aliante & Centennial Hills). Lessons take place in a 450sf, 48-track Recording Studio!

  • Download PDF
    Circle of Fifths

    This lesson will print as two pages: 1) Instructions; 2) Worksheet
    Purpose: The Circle of Fifths is a tool used to memorize which notes are in every Major key. Some versions include the minor keys as well, however, we will study them as "Relative Keys"

    Step-by-step instructions:

    1. Complete the alphabet (write in all the letters, from left to right, of the musical alphabet e.g. A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A
      note: when you get to "G" the next letter is "A")
    2. Find Key-Note (also called the Tonic) on the Circle of Fifths.
    3. How many Sharps (#) or Flats (b) does the key get? The number near it tells you how many sharps or flats the key gets. Example: E has four sharps (#), while Eb has three flats (b).
    4. Which Notes are Sharps (#) or Flats (b)? Go to the "Order of Sharps" or the "Order of Flats" below. ALWAYS start from the beginning of the order and take the appropriate number. Example: E has four sharps (F#, C#, G#, and D#) while Eb has three flats (Bb, Eb, Ab).
    5. Write them in! Simply write the sharp (#) or flat (b) symbols in immediately after each letter name.

    Memorize this sentence:   Funny Clown Goes Down And Eats Bread

    Order of Sharps (#): F C G D A E B

    Order of Flats (b): B E A D G C F

    Copyright 2005 gplessons. Intended for student use. All rights reserved.

    Circle of Fifths Worksheet

  • A Lesson on Picking Technique

    Flat-Picking may be the single most difficult aspect of playing the guitar. That being said, there is one -- and only one -- right way to do it... read on:

    Holding the pick:

    1. The pick should be held between the thumb and the side of the index finger as near the tip as possible... it IS the tip of the pick that you ultimately need to control.
    2. While picking, the fleshy part of the side of your hand and the part of your thumb that is the palm of your hand should be on the strings lower in pitch than the one you are playing. Your fingers -- middle, ring, and little -- should NOT be anchored to the guitar. It is okay if they touch the guitar, but should move freely with the rest of the hand. Any other technique is at best, second best and will make your playing less precise.

      Good examples of near perfect technique: Al DiMeola, Paul Gilbert

    3. There is one optimal picking angle -- it may be slightly different for each player... you may have have found it already... Be sure when you are changing strings that you are not pivoting your hand, but you are instead moving your arm so that the picking angle is the same on every string. The picking motion itself should come from the wrist -- not the elbow, or the fingers. "Elbow" pickers, while they can play fast, will never be able to play the intricate rhythmic figures that a "wrist" picker can unless they correct their technique.

    Tip:Picking is very much like writing with a pen. If you hold the pen near the tip, your writing will be clear.

    Try this:

    Write your name on a piece of paper as you normally do.

    Now write it again without touching the page with your writing hand -- much more difficult to do, isn't it? The point is, you become the best you can be by doing things the easiest way possible, and then mastering that easiest way.

    Now try this:

    Write your name at the top of the page... Now write it again at the bottom of the page... you relocated your hand, didn't you? This is an exaggeration of changing strings...

    Now write your name again at the top of the page... Now, without relocating your hand, try to "pivot" down and write your name at the bottom of the page -- this is much more difficult and is a common pitfall that guitar players stumble into when they are developing their technique.

    Now that you are aware of how you use a pen, position your picking hand on the guitar as if you were going to sign your name on the first string... but be sure your wrist, not your fingers, is what is controlling the movement of the pick.

  • 16th Note Exercises
  • 8th Note Triplet Exercise
  • 6-Note Shapes in C Major
  • ii7 V7 I7 Progression in C Major
  • Setting Up Your Guitar


    Setting up and maintaining your guitar is a very easy process. This guide is designed for my students to enable them to keep their guitars playing their best, while saving the time, hassle, and money involved for a "professional" setup. Though setting up your guitar is extremely easy, if you choose to follow this advice, you do so at your own risk and you agree that I will not be held liable if you damage your instrument.

    To move forward, you are choosing to agree to the following:

    • I agree that the host of this page, webmaster, its affiliates, representatives, officers, employees, and anyone else involved can in no way be held liable if I damage my instrument, injure myself or anyone else, or for anything else, for any reason.
    • I agree that I am eighteen or older. If I am under 18 years old, I have my parent's or guardian's permission to access information on how to set up my guitar.

    If you agree and wish to continue, please click here to get to the step-by-step process.

    Guitar Set-Up Made Easy

    A Step-by-Step Guide

    Fret Leveling = Destroying Your Frets

    • If your guitar is very old and has been used a lot, it may be time for new frets, but the good techs I've worked with pride themselves on properly preparing the fretboard before the new frets go on. When this is done properly, no "fret-leveling" is needed. I do not recommend that you try to refret your guitar yourself unless you are a pro, or unless you are willing to ruin at least 10 guitar necks while learning how to do it.
    • Usually, I've seen this on set-up service lists as a means of making the job seem complicated. If you do take your guitar to someone for a set-up, get a second opinion before letting anyone file or level your frets. My experience is that I've only seen guitars ruined from this having been done and I've never seen one that was better-off afterward.
    1. Remove Old Strings
    2. Cleaning the Fretboard
      • For unfinished fretboards (usually rosewood or ebony): Remove dirt, oil build-up from fretboard with the finest available grade steel wool by rubbing gently with the grain.
      • Maple fretboards have a finish on them, so cleaning them with a soft cloth and guitar polish is the easiest way.
    3. Polishing the Frets
      • You will want to mask the fretboard so you do not scratch the finish or grain in the next step. I use a steel fret-masking tool available from Stew-Mac, but a business card with a fret-wide slot cut into it will work as well.
      • With the finest available grade steel wool, polish the frets. I find that back and forth, the length of the fret, ten times or so is sufficient. You will immediately notice how much better the polished frets look than the ones you have not gotten to yet. Your strings will last longer and your guitar will sound better as a result.
      • Remove any masking material.
    4. For unfinished fretboards (rosewood or ebony)
      • With a soft, lint-free cloth, evenly rub in a generous amount of Lemon Oil and let it sit for 10 minutes or so.
      • After sitting, wipe away excess.
      • You can buy lemon oil at Walmart for a few dollars and it will last for years. Likewise, you can buy it from a music store in a very small bottle called "Fretboard Conditioner" for a much greater sum of money. Either way, its just lemon oil.
    5. Restring the guitar with your favorite strings
      • I have had good results with strings from Dean Markley, Ernie Ball, Gibson, and GHS, but I do not currently endorse any of those products. If you have a favorite brand, I'm sure they are great!
      • This page assumes that you know how to change strings.
    6. Adjust the Truss-Rod if needed
      • Sight the guitar's neck by looking down the first-string side of the fretboard from the headstock (by the tuning machines) to the body. Repeat this process on the sixth-string side. Be careful not to poke your eyes with the ends of the strings!
      • When adjusted properly, a guitar's neck should be as straight as possible while having a slight concave shape.
      • If the neck is convex, the truss-rod is too tight and will need to be loosened. If the neck is concave, but looks like it could be straighter, the truss-rod is too loose and will need to be tightened.
      • On many guitars, the truss-rod adjustment bolt is located under a plastic cover on the headstock (by the tuning machines). You will need to remove the plastic cover to access the truss-rod in this case. Some guitars use a "bullet" truss rod and it is not covered and it looks like a... bullet. Some guitars have a truss-rod adjustment bolt that sits on the heel of the neck and require the neck to be removed to make an adjustment -- a very bad design in my opinion.
      • You will need the proper tool to adjust the truss-rod. It is usually a hex wrench and the tool should have come with your guitar if you bought it new. If you do not have the tool, you can likely acquire it from a hardware store. A music store will be happy to sell you one as well, but it will be extremely marked up.
      • When adjusting the truss-rod: DO NOT OVER-TIGHTEN THE TRUSS ROD. If you over-tighten, you can strip the truss-rod or split the neck wood. On many guitars this can be a fatal mistake for the guitar, since the cost of repairing can be higher than the cost of the guitar itself. That being said, it is quite difficult to over-tighten the truss-rod. If in doubt, bring your guitar to a shop and have them adjust the truss-rod in your presence so you can see how it's done and ask questions.
      • Small adjustments go a long way. Try adjusting by a quarter-turn and the re-sight the neck. The change should happen immediately. Readjust if needed.

        Note: Steps 7 & 8 usually only need to be done once every several years. If the guitar starts sounding out of tune in some spots of the neck, the intonation should be checked.

    7. Setting the Bridge Height (Action)
      • A guitar's action is a matter of taste. Some players like higher action, some like lower action. Slide guitar requires a higher action, for example. This process assumes that the lowest possible action is what is desired. The action may be adjusted by lowering or raising the entire bridge, or by lowering or raising the individual string saddles.
      • Lower the saddle or bridge until the strings buzz when playing. The raise it back up little-by-little until it no longer buzzes. That's it -- it's that easy!
      • Next, if adjusting the saddles individually, be sure that they are a match for the radius of the fretboard -- most fretboards are curved from the sixth string to the first string. Some more-so than others. Thus the third and fourth strings should be on the highest plain, the second and fifth on the next highest, and the first and sixth on the lowest.
    8. Intonation
      • This adjustment is usually a screw and allows the string length to be adjusted or "tuned."
      • The harmonic at the 12th fret should match the fretted note at the 12th fret.
      • Tighten or loosen the screw that controls that adjustment and compare again.
      • You can do this by ear if you have an extremely keen sense of pitch, or you can use an electronic tuner or a strobe tuner.

    This page is intended for use by my students and may not be reproduced without permission.