Free Jazz Guitar Lessons with Chris Standring

Key Signatures Explained

There are 12 keys. The following chart represents all the keys and I have endeavored to explain what is commonly known as the "circle of fifths". Let's look at the top of the circle first of all. You will see "C". C major has no sharps or flats in its key signature. Look to the right in the diagram and you will see "G". G has one sharp in its key signature and is a perfect 5th away from "C", the previous key. (G is the 5th note in the C major scale). Look to the right again and you will see "D". D major has two sharps and again, is a perfect 5th away from the previous key of G. (D is the 5th note in the G major scale). Continue around the circle again and you will come to A major, which has three sharps and is a perfect 5th away from the previous key of D and so on.

Keep continuing around the circle until it starts over at C major again, back at the top of the circle. You will notice that there are three keys in the circle that have two different names. B is the same as Cb. F# is the same as Gb and C# is the same as Db. These are known as enharmonic keys (they sound the same, but are notated differently). In a practical situation you would use B instead of Cb as it is easier to think of 5 sharps rather than 7 flats. Also you would use Db instead of C#, because it is better to think of 5 flats instead of 7 sharps. Since F# and Gb have an equal number of sharps and flats, either can be used. C# and Cb are considered more "theoretical" keys than actual usable keys, so you will rarely see them.

Here are all the key signatures with their respective accidentals:

It is a good idea to memorize these keys and to know exactly what accidentals each contains. There is a really easy little rhyme to help you remember this. First, remember that C major has no sharps or flats. Easy. Then:

For sharp keys:
ather Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle

For flat keys:
attle Ends And Down Goes Charles Father

It might take a while to really know these keys inside out so don't drive yourself nuts if this doesn't sink in for a while. Know the theory behind the keys as I have explained above and the more you actually play in a key, the more each will really hit home with you and become comfortable.

Relative Minor Keys
For every major key there is a relative minor key. Our relative minor key chord is chord 6 in our major chord scale sequence. Just to remind you:

So the relative minor of C major is therefore A minor. Makes sense? All the key chords pertaining to the key of A minor are (for our present purposes) the same as C major except that in order for us to really establish our new key center of A minor, it is necessary for us to include the chord of E7 because if we were to play a perfect cadence in A minor, we would need to go v - i (chord 5 going to chord 1), just like we would in a major key. Our v chord is always dominant remember? or dominant 7th. (in the key of C major, our v dominant chord is G7). So in the key of A minor, our v dominant chord would be E7 (not E minor as the key of C major would suggest).

In any major key, simply count up six steps to find out what the relative minor key is:

Major Relative Minor
C major A minor
G major E minor
D major B minor
A major F# minor
E major C# minor
B major G# minor
F# major D# minor
C# major A# minor
F major D minor
Bb major G minor
Eb major C minor
Ab major F minor
Db major Bb minor
Gb major Eb minor
Cb major Ab minor

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The Long Awaited Play What You Hear Volume Two Is Now Here!

It has been many years since the first edition of Play What You Hear (originally released in 2000). Now volume two is here with new ideas and concepts, complete with audio, video, traditional notation and TAB throughout. High resolution pdf available for printing the entire program. For intermediate and advanced players.

  • Part One: Melody

    Focuses on single note soloing. Learn how to effortlessly solo through complex chord changes.

  • Part Two: Harmony

    Focuses on chord melody. Learn new harmonic devices and understand chords in a whole new way.

  • Performances

    Study Chris Standring's six recorded solos, transcribed with audio and high def video.