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Mandolin Lessons: Circle of 5ths

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What I'm
gonna attempt to do in this lesson is hip
you to a few different
places where you can play 2-5-1s on your
Comfortable zones that this,
this lovely little turnaround occurs on
the instrument.
And then attempt to take you around and
show you how to do it in all 12 keys.
Once you learn one of these sets of, of
chord progressions.
A simple three chords in a, in a closed
It's of course, moveable.
And the beauty of the mandolin or the
guitar or the banjo or
what have you is that everything looks the
No matter where we are on the instrument.
We're just moving up or down, one fret or
two frets or
twelve frets or what have you.
So, [COUGH] which makes our instrument
different than the piano.
When the piano player play A minor seven
to D7 to G7.
It's one set of black and white keys.
And when he plays say, F minor seven to B
flat to E-flat,
it's a whole different shape to the hands
to those chords.
So, in a way it's easier to learn this
stuff on a string instrument.
[COUGH] Because of that, the movable, the
movable fixed.
Closed position chords.
Anyway you're looking at the circle of
fifths here.
Now if this is completely new to you.
I'm gonna recommend that you take a look
at the Music Theory
lessons which are provided by
Beautifully articulated.
And, and display and, and that might help
you somewhat.
I'm not gonna go into super detail about
each and every aspect of this.
But just know that this is all twelve keys
a circle and going counterclockwise.
The chord preceding the next chord is the
five of that chord.
So if you look at the D chord for
instance, as the five of the G and
the G is the five of C and the C is the
five of F and the F is the five of B-flat.
So you're simply going the five of the
five of the five of the five and
it takes you around all twelve of them.
Another thing you can look at when looking
at this circle is that at the top is C.
To its left it's F.
To it's right G.
That happens to be the four and the five.
F is the fourth chord C.
G is the five chord C.
So this is a beautiful way to, to look at
the three principal chords for a key.
You simply put one in the center and,
you know, to either side of it is the, is
the 1-4-5.
So again, a great visual aid to have up,
maybe in your music room and just, just
look at it all the time.
And just say, okay.
I'm gonna play one, four,
five now in a couple of these odd keys
that I hardly ever play in.
You know, you might not have to it in key
of G everyday cuz
that's one you're super familiar with.
But you might look at E-flat or A-flat or
some of these keys that are odder.
And just play at you're own level,
whatever that is.
If you're just playing simple two and
three note chords.
See if you can find those chords and those
keys and just chunk a little rhythm out.
It will just open your mind up to to the
idea of the, of the, the mandolin being.
Once you get in to learning close position
how easy it really is.
The other thing that's cool about our
is because we're tuned in fifths.
If you go one direction, you're going in
If you go the other direction, you're
going in fifths.
So, for instance [NOISE] the C chord here
in the middle of the first
position in the middle two strings.
[SOUND] If you go over.
[SOUND] To the low strings that's the F.
That's the fourth chord.
[SOUND] Going back to the C now.
If you go the other direction to the
higher strings, that's the G chord.
So one.
[SOUND] Four.
[SOUND] One.
[SOUND] Five.
[SOUND] Pretty darn logical.
[LAUGH] If you move that whole concept up
to D.
You've got in spades.
Second fret.
Fourth fret.
Fifth fret.
Your D chord, simply move it over.
No, I'm just gonna play two new chords
You can of course, do that with a second,
third finger.
Moving up [NOISE] to E same thing happens.
as you learn chords you realize oh, okay.
That looks a lot like the Bluegrass E
chord you play.
[LAUGH] And this is your A chord.
[SOUND] Right?
[SOUND] Now the B is a little harder to
see maybe.
But if you look at it from a position of
say, the bar chord B.
[SOUND] There it is.
All right.
The other, the other way to, to think
about this is [NOISE] E.
A is over here.
[LAUGH] If B is here.
A is right behind it.
Two frets, right?
[SOUND] One.
And one.
Move up a half step and you're an F.
So that would be a great thing to
Say in the key of C.
Then the key F.
Then the key of B-flat and then the key of
This is where it starts getting scary, but
if you're in E-flat here.
[SOUND] Three.
[SOUND] Of course A-flat is gonna be
And B-flat is gonna be here.
It's gonna feel exactly the same as E.
And it's gonna feel the same as D.
Of course, D had had the open G chord
[SOUND] That's why we love that chord.
Anyway, brief brief little 1-4-5 lesson
I hope you take it and, and do what you
Have fun with that.
I recommend playing with friends on this
kinda thing is, is actually a gas.
You can alternate between one person.
Perhaps taking a solo and
improvising a little bit while somebody
else plays the rhythm and
then you switch roles and you become the
soloist and let him play rhythm.
So that's, that's a fun way to just
practice these, these kinda ethics.
once you've gotten to the point where
you're kind of hip to how the circle works
and you're kind of dealing with the 1-4-5
just fine.
Let's look at something like Salty Dog
Blues for a second.
So that.
Those chords are G,
E, A, D, and G.
If you look at the circle.
G, we simply jump up to E.
E is the five of A.
A is the five of D.
Here comes D, and D is the five of G.
And we go right back around.
So the whole song is built on this idea of
going around the circle.
Pop over here, E, A, D, G.
Probably doing it backwards for you as
you're looking at the chart.
But, many, many tunes have this, this
the five of the five of the five of the
So take a tune like, say.
Sweet Georgia Brown.
I'm on a D chord right now.
Now, I go to a G chord.
C chord.
F is actually the key.
We do a A chord real quick,
which is the five of D to get us back to
There's your D.
There's your G.
Now it's gonna change things.
D-minor, A7, D-minor to A7, F, A,
D7, G, C, F again, the whole tune just
paddling back from D to the G to the C to
the F.
It does that little D-minor, A, D-minor, A
business, but
then tops right back on the circle.
So, as you start delving into jazz,
you, you see patterns like this occurring
and reoccurring.
The most common one is two, five, one.
And in this chart you see now, you have
the two, five, one of each of these keys.
So, in the case, let's go down to say A.
The two of A is B, right?
The five of A is E, and A is the tonic.
So that is your two, five, one for the key
of A.
As you come up to D, E is now the two,
E-minor, and
A7 is the five, and D is the one.
Of course, for the A, B, is the minor.
The two is always a minor chord, okay?
Key of G, A-minor, D7, and G.
I actually have them listed as A-minor 7.
Commonly, we add the sevens to these.
Just to give another color of sound.
Let's do the G chord now.
I'll start with A-minor.
And A-minor, D7, G.
Okay, you can tell that, that kind of
progression occurs in many,
many tunes, right?
So, what I think is, is really.
Every mandolin player's sort of long term
project is to find
as many places to do that as, as they can
on their instrument.
What I was doing in the example at this
top of this lesson was exactly that.
A-minor, D7, G.
Then I went to this other A-minor.
And this other D7, and this other G.
So, I'm gonna show you three different
ways to play these
this simple chord progression now.
let's look at the most common way to play
an A-minor.
A-minor seven, actually.
Two, two, three, three.
And then D7.
I like to play chords which are as close
to the one I just played as possible.
So this is two, four, three.
That's a nice D7.
Leads us beautifully to open G.
I'm not playing the top string right now
on this, on this G.
I do on the A-minor seven.
And I don't on the G, on the D7.
And I don't on the G.
I just like the sound of that, that third
And, and I think it's really good practice
to learn
to play chords on just the bottom three
It provides plenty of brightness for most
Okay, so here's the next A-minor I wanna
look at.
It's up to the next.
Five, six, seven, seven.
And the D7 that goes with them comfortably
is this D7 here.
Five, four, five, and it leads to this
kinda G7, four, five, five.
Now if we wanted to make that A-minor
an A-minor seven instead of just an
We would do this.
It looks surprisingly like a C chord
because it has the same notes.
But your bass player would be playing an A
below this.
So this is five, five, seven.
This is five, four, five and G.
The next one I think we should all learn
is here, seven.
Nine, seven, and ten.
Moving to seven, ten, nine.
It simply gets inverted.
That's your D7.
And it leads beautifully to this G-major
seven, actually seven, nine, nine.
can make it a regular G chord if you like,
but I love the G-major seven.
In jazz we often use the major seven when
we hit the tonic chord or
the one chord, okay.
Here's one
more A-minor seven, way up here, and this
is nine, ten, ten.
And then it leads to
that same B7 and that same G-major seven.
Here's one more, going to this higher D7,
which is 11th and 12th.
I add results to what would look like a
bluegrass G.
Twelve, nine, ten.
So here's A.
I'm sorry, A-minor, seven.
Nine, ten, ten.
D7 is, is eleven.
Ten, twelve.
And G is twelve, nine, ten.
All right?
So there are I believe there's about four
different positions on the low strings
going up.
I encourage you to memorize those, and,
and really get comfortable.
Just have just have your, yourself, just
Each one say two times.
Here's the next set.
All right.
A-minor seven, D7, G.
Let's go up to the next one, nine, seven,
Seven, ten, nine, leads us to seven, nine,
A-minor seven.
D7, G-major seven.
Here's one more, A-minor seven here.
Leads to the same G7 or the same, G-major.
Do that again.
Now the other A-minor seven leading to
this other D7 and then [INAUDIBLE] a G.
Two of those, and we've completed the
whole exercise.
I'm going to now look at this same set of
only I'm gonna deal with the top three
strings this time.
A-minor seven we're gonna play out of this
And it's just like a C chord.
Three, five, five.
I'm sorry.
Two, three, three, and
D7 looks like this, 0, three, two.
And G-major 7 looks like this.
0, two, two.
Just the top three strings now.
Okay, the next set is gonna be here.
Okay, that is A-minor seven, five, three,
five, and we'll simply move one note and
it becomes a D7.
Fourth B-flat, and then it leads to sort
of the top part of a bluegrass G.
Five, two, three.
Okay, the next one I want,
I want you to learn is here.
A-minor seven is seven, seven, eight.
D7 is seven, five, eight.
And G is five, five, six.
Let's get that right.
A-minor seven, we're simply moving the E
note here down to D and it becomes a D7.
Which you achieve.
Here's another way to do it,
starting from that same A-minor seven,
we're gonna add the F-sharp to that and it
becomes seven nine, and eight.
That's a D7.
And this is gonna lead us back to that
same G.
Actually, it could lead to this G.
This is a really nice G.
Five, nine, seven.
That's a G-major seven.
Okay, here's one more.
Eight and
the same A-minor seven, and now it leads
to this D7 way up here.
Ten, nine, ten, and the G, it resolves to
these nine, ten, ten.
I'm gonna go for one more.
It's the, what looks like
the A-minor seven is ten, ten, twelve.
The D7 is ten, nine, ten.
Same as before.
Leads to then G up there.
So now you've got a whole set of them to
do on the upper three strings.
We did the lower three, now we did the
upper three,
that's quite a little pile of two fives in
the key of G, now isn't it?
Well you know,
in all practicality, what I think you
should do as a way of, of working this
stuff under your fingers is pick, say, two
or three of these maximum for starters.
And just, just try to get really
comfortable with,
say, you know, going from.
That one to, say, this one.
Okay, that's two sets.
And just really master that before you,
before you rock on into,
you know, all the other positions.
But at least now you've got them.
You can refer back.
You can say, gee, I'm getting bored.
What was that one I hit up the neck on the
twelfth fret.
That was a really cool way of doing it.
But more than likely what's gonna happen
is, especially after you start
looking at this circle, and we're gonna,
we're gonna go through that next,
is you're gonna start seeing relationships
of one set of chords to the other.
You're gonna say gee, I keep repeating
myself with these shapes.
All I need to really know is where's the
root, and I'm gonna be able to play
my little set of chords, of 2-5-1, to any,
any chord.
So it, it does come down to memorizing
where the notes are on the instrument.
I mean, unless you're super good ear, and
you can just hear, oh he went to B-flat.
I know where B-flat is.
[COUGH] Okay, so, let's go back to the
circle now and
just look at a series of, of, say, four of
the ones that are in keys that we're
pretty familiar with.
The right side of the, of the circle are
the, are the string man,
string person's friendly keys, E, A, D, G
and C, and F to a certain extent.
Of course, us bluegrass players need to
play in B-flat a lot and B.
So, gosh, we've almost, you know, we live
in, in three quarters of the wheel.
The, the stuff that's foreign to us is
E-flat, A-flat, D-flat,
all the stuff that lives in the bottom
left-hand corner of the wheel,
[LAUGH] E-flat, A-flat, D-flat, and G-flat
or F-sharp.
So, let's not look at those for now.
Let's just look at the, the home, the home
keys, the friendly keys, A, D, G, and C.
Where do we find two fives for A?
The key of A.
You wanna find a B-minor 7,
an E7, and then we're gonna resolve to an
A-major 7, let's make it.
Just for kicks, just for color.
So, gosh darn, you see that that's.
[SOUND] Almost identical to the G, key of
G I gave you.
We're just up two frets now, 4-4-5-5.
That's a B-minor 7.
We simply add the, the sixth fret there on
the third string, and it becomes an E7.
And it resolves to this A, 2-2-3, 2-2-4.
We can add the major seven if we wish, or
we could keep it tonic up high on the
fifth fret if we wish.
That's the most common 2-5, for the key of
Really, that's the one you wanna really
have under your fingers.
Let's go to the one, the next one up is
It's a D, key of D.
Here's the E-minor 7 that I like for, for
that key.
'Kay, and it resolves to this A7.
So you only need to move one finger.
7-5-7 becomes 6-5-7,
E-minor 7, A7, D, okay?
Now we're gonna go to G.
It's gonna look a lot like what we did for
A, only now it's down on the second fret,
Set 2-2-3-3.
2-3, 2-4-3, A, F-sharp, C.
That's a D7.
And the G is open.
Now we go to C, the C chord.
The 2-5 of that is D-minor 7, G7.
Gosh, it looks just like what we did for
D, only now we're doing it for C.
So what we have, what I'm trying to reveal
here are two sets of 2-5-1.
The ones which are starting with this
the B-minor to the E7, leads us to A.
That's, has the root on the bottom.
And resolves to the root on the bottom.
The next set is the one for D, E-minor,
A7, D.
And for
some people this is a little odd cuz it's
an E-minor 7, but the E is on the top.
Of that chord.
The A7 has no A in it at all, and
the D is also on the top, so, but
I'm gonna suggest that you really memorize
these two ways to play 2-5-1.
This one, leading us to an A.
And this one.
Leading us to the D.
Because what you see is,
the one that led us to the A is gonna lead
us to the G.
Basically, every other set of chords,
is first one, then the other, then back to
the one, then the other,
then back to the one, then the other on
our instrument, okay?
So, really learning two sets of 2-5-1 is
gonna get you all around the circle.
Shall we try it together [LAUGH]?
Here's your B-minor 7 leading to the E7.
A, B-minor, one, two,
three, four, B-minor 7, E7, A.
I like to do it twice just to really
solidify the sound in my, in my mind.
Now we're going to the key of D.
We need an E-minor 7, A7, D.
E-minor 7, A7, D.
Now we're in G.
We need an A-minor 7, D7, G.
A, A-minor 7, D7, and G.
Now we're going to C, so we need a D-minor
and a G.
That looks just like the one we were using
in the key of D,
right, only it's at the fifth and third
fret, to G7 to C.
Okay, here's where things start getting
F, how in the world do we play a 2-5-1 in
I'm gonna recommend this same shape,
up the neck, to a G-minor 7 up here,
and C7, which leads us to F.
That's 10-9, 10-8-10.
That's your G-minor 7, 9-8-10, to this F,
bluegrass F chord.
Now we're going to B-flat, so we need a
It's gonna look just like
the shape we were using for A.
But we're up a half step now,
C-minor7, F7, B-flat.
Now we go back to our other set of, of
For the E, key of E-flat, we're gonna go
here to F-minor at [COUGH] 8-6-8.
F-minor, B-flat, and we're gonna end on a
E-flat that looks like a bluegrass E-flat.
Do those again.
Okay, we're in the scary zone now.
We're in the dark zone heading to the key
of A-flat.
It's gonna look just like A, but down a
half step.
So instead of B-minor, we want B-flat
E-flat 7, and
we end on A-flat, 1-1-3-3,
B-flat minor 7, E-flat 7, A-major 7.
Okay, now, still in the dark side, going
to D-flat, we need an E-flat minor.
It's gonna look just like an E-minor, just
down a half step.
When in doubt, when you see those flats,
just go for the one you know and
back it up.
[LAUGH] E-flat minor 7, that's 6-4-6.
Move the lowest string down a half step,
and it becomes an A-flat 7.
And it leads us to D-flat right here.
One more time, E-flat minor, A-flat 7,
Okay, here comes a weird one too.
Do we wanna call this G-flat or F-sharp?
They're both the same.
Let's call it F-sharp.
And let's do it up here.
A high F-sharp chord.
We're gonna use the G-sharp minor that
looks like this.
11-9-11, that's G-sharp minor.
We know that for the dominant chord or the
five chord,
we simply move that chord back, and we end
on the bluegrass F-sharp.
G-sharp minor 7, C-sharp 7, F-sharp.
Now we're going to the key of B,
little bit easier than where we just were
cuz it's simply C-sharp minor 7.
Looks a heck of a lot like C-minor or
B-minor or B-flat or A.
They're all the same shape, right?
We know that's a C-sharp note, so we know
that's C-sharp minor 7.
We know how to find the five chord, and
we'll land it right there, two frets back
as major chord.
We're almost home, folks [LAUGH].
C-sharp minor, F-sharp 7, B.
Now we're going to the key of E.
We need an F-sharp up here.
Always look for it with the, with the
second string, all right.
F-sharp, B7, E.
we have [INAUDIBLE] made it all the way
around, key of E, back to the key of B.
Good work, folks.
right that was fun, but you know that's a
lot of stuff to take in.
I wouldn't necessarily say you should be
able to do this the first time you
encounter it.
So you're gonna have to really log the
hours, of course.
And really approach it in pieces that you
can manage.
Just deal with the, the couple of keys
that you know for a while.
You know, look at that, look at that D and
the G and the C, for instance.
Try to do the two, fives of those in one
or maybe two positions.
Get them really under your fingers.
Then go for two or three positions.
And then move, try to add the key of A to
Do A, D, G, C.
Then add the key of E to it.
F-sharp, you know, E, A, D, and G.
Another way to practice it is to say
I'm just gonna deal with the key of C for
a while.
And I'm gonna find all those different
places that might had shown me for
the key of G, I'm gonna find them all for
the key of C, okay.
How do we do that?
Let's go back to the original key of G.
Say this A-minor 7, D7, and G.
Another way to practice this is to, is to
do it chromatically.
Forget the circle for a minute, let's do
it with G.
Let's do it, let's go to G-sharp or, or
We need a B-flat minor,
into an E-flat 7, to a, to a A-flat.
So we're gonna take the same shape up
chromatically on our finger board.
Now we're going to the key A, so we start
with a B-minor.
That's an A chord,
second fret, fourth fret and second fret.
Let's do it at the fifth fret.
What chord is that?
What key is that?
That's B flat.
One way to do it, is just do it and then
figure out what it is later.
Fifth fret, lands us, sorry six fret lands
us on the fourth fret.
So what is this?
Let's see, what's the low note?
C-sharp, F-sharp, B.
Any one B.
Let's go up one more.
Seventh fret is a D to G to C.
Okay, let's go one more.
E-flat seven, A-flat seven, D-flat.
That sixth fret is D-flat.
So you can practice these things
chromatically and really train the hand,
because you're taking that same shape up a
half step every time,
boom, boom, boom, half step, half step,
half step.
So you basically just need name, know the
names of the notes on the lower string,
A, B-flat, B, C, C-sharp, D, D-sharp or
E-flat, E, F, F-sharp, G.
Memorize those, and it's gonna really help
you, cuz it's gonna tell you, oh,
where's a D-flat, oh, I know that's a D,
that must be a D-flat.
That's a kind of quick,
you know response things'll really help
you survive this kind of work.
All right.
You're gonna probably ask me, Mike, why do
I need to know these things?
Well, of course, good question.
But, what, the reason that this is, this
is a really good tool to have,
these 2-5-1s, is.
Once you start getting into jazz and
swing, you'll notice modulation happening.
You're in the key of C, and all of a
sudden the composer is in A flat and
you're saying to yourself, how did we get
Chances are, the way you got there was by
using one of these 2-5 turnarounds to get
into the new one.
So, if we're in the key of C.
And we're playing around, you know,
whatever the song is, but it goes to the
four chord, goes to the five chord.
And then all of a sudden there's this.
You probably heard that in music,
that's called modulation.
Where are we?
I just went to an A-flat.
And the way I got there was by using the
two of A-flat a D-minor 7,
flat five, B-flat minor 7.
To the E7, E-flat 7,
it led me to the A-flat.
The 2-5 got me there.
So I'm gonna do it another way.
I'm gonna be in the key of C,
and I'm gonna go to F, I'm gonna go to G,
and back to C.
Then I'm gonna go here.
I'm in E.
How did I get there?
I went F-sharp, B and ended up in E.
It's just a common compositional tool.
All the great composers used it tons.
Bach used it and really set
the framework for how to do this.
And his tricks get used by every great
composer to this day.
So it's just, when you learn a new tune,
whether it's choro,
or a jazz standard, or a tango tune or
You will, if you've studied this stuff,
you will then get to the point where you
look at a chart.
And you say to yourself, oh why is that
A-flat there?
Oh I see, there's the 2-5 and the A-flat
now we're going to E over here, now we're
coming back to C.
You'd be able to do a kind of general
analysis of the tune and, and
see you know, these relationships and
really understand this sort of.
This sort of architecture of, of the
piece, and
it'll really help you once you get these
things on your ha, hands.
You'll be able to just see.
An E-flat chord and see.
Notice the 2-5 of it.
It just gets me right, right there, and
it, it'll start to become second nature.
But of course, the odd keys will take a
I recommend a nice balanced diet of
studying these things sort of
And just going around this little chart
like this.
Or doing it chromatically, or however you
And try and do it in all 12 keys.
But also.
Learn too, you know, learn songs that have
modulation in them.
And, and that will also that'll certainly
a funner way to do it.
You might not get to all 12 keys until
you've learned 12 songs or 40 songs.
But find a way to balance those two things
Maybe go back to some of the tunes you,
you already kinda know.
And, and say to yourself, gee, what,
what's happening here.
And, you know, even those Christmas tunes
I gave you this year,
have a lot of this kind of modulation in
And you can kinda do an analysis of it for
And say, oh I see, that's the 2-5 of this
new key, that's how we got there.
Really cool.
So I hope this, this helps explain
something, it gives you a,
a new little lesson here to work with
So enjoy, and we hope to see you around
very soon.
way you might consider practicing this
stuff, once you've got to where
you're pretty comfortable with the chord's
shape that I've given you,
and you able to kind of work your way
through most of the keys.
Then the next goal would be to play the
arpeggios of,
of all of these as a tool for learning to
improvise in all of these keys.
And, and what I mean by that is.
In the key of C, that's C, E and G.
E, if you want to play the high C, great.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
There's your C, so where's your D-minor?
Open D or I'll play it fretted for now.
So that you could come up with a nice
movable position for it.
D, F, A, and C.
Or it's G7.
Find the G and then outline the arpeggio.
G, B, D, F.
And it leads us back to C or C-major 7.
I'm sorry.
C, E, G, B.
D-minor, G7, C.
Let's go to A-minor,
for the key of G.
Where's the A-minor 7?
I get there off the low A.
Where's the D7?
Off the open.
Where's the G.
1-3-5 major seven.
Let's try it up an octave.
A-minor 7,
D7 in the closed position.
There's the D.
D, F-sharp, A, C, where's the G?
Right across from it.
It's always gonna be right across.
A-minor is also up here, 7-10.
Nine, I'm sorry, 5-9-5-8, G is right
So there's the key of C and the key of G.
I want you to now find all the others.
[LAUGH] Giving you some of the basic
shapes that I work out of and
this is, is great.
I, of course, recommend.
You put the chords down and again don't
need to do all 12,
just say let's, let's just do four of
them: A, D, G and C.
2-5 of each of those keys.
And then arpeggiate the, you know,
play the arpeggios along with your rhythm
in whatever groove you wish.
And see if you can find the arpeggios then
all over your instrument.
Look for at least two places to play each
of them.
And that'll get your off to the races, let
me tell ya.
[LAUGH] You'll immediately start seeing
all kinds of relationships.
Shapes'll start looking the same, and then
this idea of heading into these other keys
won't be near as daunting once you get,
say, four of those really, really cozy.
With or without open strings, I, you know,
I, I play the open strings
if they're obvious, like the key of D in
first position, or the key of A, but
I also look for the closed position stuff.
So that you really have something that's
movable for
when you get to the flat keys.
All right?
There's your 2-5s in all 12 keys around
the circle lesson from Uncle Mikey.
See you guys and ladies around the bend.