Super Scale Trainer Update

May 18th, 2010

A few updates on Super Scale Trainer worth mentioning:

  1. A counter showing where you are within a song was added.

    Measure Counter For Songs

    Measure Counter For Songs

  2. Also a “Restart” button was added to start songs over. Previously the only option was to keep hitting next, which was not convenient for longer songs.

    Restart Button Added

    Restart Button Added

  3. An “Equal Tuning” option was added to the guitar view. This changes the guitar’s tuning to all fourths (E A D G C F). More on why anyone would want to do such a thing soon.

    Equal Tuning Option

    Equal Tuning Option

  4. Doubled notes were removed in “Position” mode. Previously notes would show double for some scales when they appeared on both the second and third string.

    Doubled Notes Removed

    Doubled Notes Removed

Another Way to Remember Key Signatures

March 15th, 2010

There are many ways to remember key signatures. One of which I describe in the introduction to Key Hunt. Another is the famous circle of fifths, which is a great way to do it, but somewhat challenging for the beginner. Well here is another one!

First off, a reminder of what a key signature is. Basically a key signature shows the accidentals (sharps and flats) within a key. To build a major scale using a key signature start with one note of every letter name. For example the key of “A”, start with A B C D E F G. Adjust the notes to fit the key signature. The key signature for  ”A” has F# C# G#, so adjust all those notes and you get A B  C# D E F# G# A, which is the “A” major scale.

Now on to memorizing key signatures. Let’s take a look at the key signatures for sharp keys:

G: F#
D: F# C#
A: F# C# G#
E: F# C# G# D#
B: F# C# G# D# A#
F#: F# C# G# D# A# E#

Notice that all keys follow the same pattern. They all start with F#, then move to C#, etc. They differ in the number of sharps, but not in the order of their appearance. If you can memorize the order, and the number each key has, then you would know is signature! To remember the order sharps appear in (called the order of the sharps) use the sentence: Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Bananas. (F C G D A E B).

To remember the number of sharps a key has, I put together the following music theory number lines. (Sounds fun, eh?) On a music theory number line sharps are positive and flats are negatives. Any time you move in the positive direction you add sharps, in the negative direction you take away sharps/or add flats when you go below 0. The number lines show the name of a key and the number of sharps or flats in its signature. Notice the following, any time you move up 2 whole steps (2 frets) a signature adds 2 sharps, or if you move back you take a way 2 sharps (or add flats). That is pretty convenient. Move up 2 add 2, move down 2 take away 2. Notice there are two number lines, since if you move by 2s you only get odds or evens. A good place to start on the number lines are the keys of “G” and “C”. Remember that “C” has 0 sharps or flats, and “G” has 1 sharp. Then move up or down the number lines and you can easily find key signatures. Let’s try the key of “B”. “B” is four half-steps higher than “G”, so it will have 4 more sharps for a total of 5. That means it’s signature is: F# C# G# D# A#. Try it out with a few and see for yourself.

Key Signature Number Lines

Key Signature Number Lines

For flat keys the number lines work equally well, except they follow a different order. The order flats appear in is: Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb. Which is the sharp order in reverse. I remember that it starts with the word BEAD, and adds “GCF.” Lets try using the number lines and the order of flats to find the key signature for Ab. Ab has a -4 (4 flats) on the number line, so it’s key signature is Bb Eb Ab Db.

Each method for memorizing key signatures has its advantages and disadvantages. The benefit of using number lines is that they are relatively easy to build and use. I like that they follow a predictable pattern, move up 2 frets get 2 more sharps, move down 2 frets take 2 away. Musical number lines also have other uses (they are helpful in finding parallel minor keys and modes). By thinking of sharps as positives and flats as negatives much of music theory can be simplified to basic arithmetic.

Music Theory Calculator App

February 26th, 2010

I am pleased to announce an iPhone version of our Music Theory Calculator tool. It contains more than 1500 scales, chords, and intervals. The calculator displays note names and plays examples of all of them.

Much like an ordinary calculator speeds up math, Music Theory Calculator speeds up the process of making music. From “C major” to “G9” to “F whole-tone” to “C# Altered Dominant”, Music Theory Calculator will give you the note names and an audio example in an instant.

Link to App Store

Woody Cartoon – Reading Music

February 16th, 2010

Our first educational cartoon is now available on our YouTube channel. It stars Woody, the mascot, and covers how to name the notes on the staff. Follow it with a game of Note Squish or Note Fish. The next part of the cartoon will cover rhythm. Let me know what you think! Thanks.

Got Trivia?

February 8th, 2010

Our guitar trivia game, Trivia Race, is in need of some new guitar trivia. As a classical guitarist, I tend to know mostly classical guitar trivia. So, I thought I’d open it up to all members. Anything guitar-related would be great. If you have some trivia you want to share, send it to me via the contact page and I will include it.

Plans for this Year

January 31st, 2010

It’s been too long now since I’ve updated the blog! Last I wrote, my iPhone app had just come out. Guitar Workout has had some success, but the reviews haven’t been great. I was half-way finished with a second app, when I reconnected with a publisher wanting to put out a Guitar Games Book. The last several months I’ve been working on nothing but the book. It should come out later this year and I’m very happy with how it came out. It’s fun, of course, but has some good info on theory and ear training which grew out of the courses on this site.

That brings me to the reason for my post: plans for this year. Here goes-

I’ve been learning Blender (an open-source 3D graphics and game creation tool) and I’m hoping to incorporate some 3D style graphics into a game. Also I’ve put together a prototype of a game that could be played with a real guitar that I think has potential. While writing the book I updated some of the games and I’d like to port those changes over to the site. Including an easier first level on Key Hunt, and rebirth within a level (rather than always having to start at the beginning).  One area that seems lacking in the games is rhythm. A few games for studying rhythm might be nice. Blogging more often and finishing our first movie (a seven minute intro to reading music and rhythm) would be good. I’m half-way finished and it would be a pity to leave it at that.

Lastly, I’ve decided a change in tone around here would be nice. What I mean is, I’d like to let people in to the development process. A little behind-the-scenes view, and community involvement I think would improve the site. My exposure to the open-source community has inspired me that great things can be accomplished when talent is pooled together. Its my hope that the games and resources on the site will benefit from this new tone. I welcome feedback on this, but my plan is to chart work in progress so ideas and user input can be incorporated into the final product.

iPhone App Released

September 22nd, 2009 creator William Wilson released a new Guitar Game iPhone App titled Guitar Workout. Based on traditional classical guitar exercises, Guitar Workout is a collection of twelve simple games that will improve left hand speed, accuracy, and independence. The games are played with a simulated guitar neck, and red targets that guide you through each exercise. Whether you are a classical, steel-string, or electric guitarist these games will improve your playing.  Guitar Workout is available at the iTunes App Store for $1.99.

Guitar Workout

-Improve your ability to switch chords quickly.
-Increase your speed for lead and solo playing.
-Current and top speed displayed.
-Realistic guitar response to develop good playing habits.


The Next Step in Reading Music

September 3rd, 2009

I’m better at the games than on the guitar. What should I do next?

Sheet Music Cover

Learning the guitar is both a physical and mental activity. Our motto at has always been, “It’s time for your brain to practice too.” meaning don’t neglect the mental aspect of playing. And many have headed our call, but..Neglecting the physical is not good either! It’s important to follow up the games and courses online with some good old fashioned sight reading. This will connect the mental to the physical. I recommend flute and violin music as a great supplement to reading guitar music. And I recommend learning songs in different positions to challenge your knowledge of the neck. Happy practicing!

Photo by Laineys Repertoire

Major Scales in CAGED

July 8th, 2009

Following up on our CAGED system for the guitar video, I am pleased to announce a new video exploring the CAGED system and major scales. This video deals with the second part of using the CAGED system, building a scale on top of a CAGED pattern. It does not cover the first part of the system, finding the location of CAGED patterns.

The best way to learn scales in the CAGED system is with baby steps. Learn one pattern at a time and learn it well. Build up from the triad (which is usally the CAGED pattern plus one or two notes) to the scale by adding one note at a time. When you practice the scale don’t just play it up and down, play it backwards, skip notes and use patterns, etc. Watch the following video for more ideas…

And part II…

And the Winner is…

July 1st, 2009
  photo by terren

The winner of our Birds of Fretopia competition is Michael Moore with a score of 1196! No doubt a fretboard master after all those games. He’ll also be receiving our fashionable T-shirt. Look for another competition soon.