Instructables
Picture of Key Transposing Wheel for chords
If you play chord-style guitar, banjo, ukulele or autoharp (to sing along to), you may find many songs are written in a key that doesn't suit your voice or your playing style.

You may be able to use a capo to raise the pitch a few semitones (but you can't lower the pitch), or you can count up or down as you play each chord (which is OK for one or two intervals). Otherwise, it can get complicated remembering different keys or all the sharps and flats.

Here is a quick, easy and cheap transposer to easily change the key of any song. You just decide which key you want to change from and to, then set the wheel so that the two keys line up- and you can instantly see every chord you need to change to. Full instructions for how to use it are in Step 7 (and also on the free PDF download with the wheel design from my website - see below). 
 
 
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Step 1: What You Need

The materials  are very simple- 
  • A4 cardboard (best) or thick paper. I got coloured card from a $2 shop, or you can get it in a craft or stationery store. If you're using thick paper, it's best to laminate it.
  • paper fastener - the split type that you push through and open put. If you can't get one, you could try using a twist-tie.
  • laminating pouch if you have access to a laminator; you could use contact plastic. If you have reasonably thick card, you don't need to laminate or cover it - you can easily make a new wheel when it gets tatty.
You'll also need a pair of scissors with a pointy end (or something pointy), and a design to print on your card. Oh, and a bit of sticky tape.

You can download a free PDF design from my website, www.cathyschords.com
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Puzzledd (author) 4 years ago
Tragicsnowfall has posted an excellent link below for a free download to identify and make chords etc- it even has sound so you can hear the notes etc.

Here's the link:  http://www.microtools.de/gcplus/

Thanks, Tragicsnowfall!
guitarcodex plus.gif
I did something like this with straight pieces of paper, but it was much more specific. I suppose what I did couldn't be put on a wheel, but it included each cord form, rather than bass note. For example, in the key of 'E' a 'D' chord would be 'D#°'. 'D' in the key of 'C' would be 'Dm,' and so on. This is handy for both transposing, and finding that mystery chord that you just can't seem to figure out.
For those interested, the chords for 'C' are;
C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, B°, and back to C. Every key has each note in it, whether sharp or flat, so you will always have "A, B, C, D, E, F, and G in some form or other.

Another very handy tool is the circle of fifths. You can look that up and find a bunch of them. I prefer the plainer ones, with minors in the middle. The circle goes along with standard notation, so the more keys to the right the more sharps you have, and the farther to the left the more flats. This way if you don't know standard notation you can still figure out what key you're in. It has plenty of other uses as well.
Puzzledd (author)  TragicSnowfall4 years ago
Thanks for this good information!

I have an old list of chords that I still use, arranged in keys so that it's easy to see the main chords and secondary chords in each key - but it's probably out of print but still copyright :(
Another ridiculously handy tool for finding chords, scales, notes, and whatever else is Guitar Codex. It shows you what notes are in a scale, what notes are in a chord, what chord you're punching into it, what intervals all the notes in a chord are, etc. It has a list of alternate tunings, and you can even punch in your own nonstandard tuning. Everything you never really wanted, but like anyway. You can get it here;
http://www.microtools.de/gcplus/

It's Java, so it will work on just about anything. I've probably learned more from that little program than anything other guitar resource I've seen.
Hi :0) Can you please help refresh my memory? I don't know what i am remebering..."father Charles goes down and eats burnt fried chicken"... and "battle goes down..?????" and "second to the last flat in the key signiture" ?????means ???and one semi-tone up with sharps means???

What am I remebering? I actually had grade two Royal Conservatory theory, but I am truly gapping. I do in reality deal with post traumatic stress, and there are holes in my memory-which is really frustrating. I picked up my guitar and can only remember two chords. I know that I am not comfortable using the tab system- I learned with diagrams of the strings and dots on frets. If I have too many questions, hit delete and we can pretend that I was never here ;0)
father charles is the order of sharps in the circle of fifths, which goes FCGDAEB. flats are the other way, BEADGCF. the second to last flat/sharp tells the key, but i use the number of sharps and flats and use the circle of fifths to find the key. a semi tone is 1 key away on a piano or 1 fret on a guitar, and C# is 1 semitone higher that C.
Thanks SO SO much! I am printing off your answer. So... if I went from B to Bflat is that not a semi tone? Or would I have to go to C? also, I remember the way to draw the treble cleff, and bass, but can remember a 'K' and a capital 'C' I think. Are those key signatures? thank you again! I feel like I've lost who I was -I just have fragments of information. I picked up my guitar and have a complete blank. when I tried a flute, I couldn't even get an ombasure (spelling??) In school, in the music program, we were transposing and learning scales. I sang solos, and had both voice and flute lessons. I sang descant, then metso soprano. Now i don't know where my range is. Why do you think that might be.? Here's another question-hope you don't mind...when I hear some songs, they are either too low, or too high and I can't sing along. Is there anything i can do to join in without sounding really off key?
You've made my day by helping me. Hope you have an excellent day.
B to Bb is a semitone, as well as B to C. the K and C might be the alto clef, but i have no experience with it. i have no experience with playing wind instruments and singing, but youre embouchre problem is probably because the muscles used for flute have pretty much melted away. you could transpose the song youre trying to sing into a different key, but dont use a key that creates nasty sounding dissonance between the notes (think of chords- changing one note can change the entire sound in either a good or bad way). glad i could help.
Thanks so much for your help. Wondering...would B to C, possibly be a tone rather than a semi-tone? Not criticising, just trying to figure stuff out. Again, thank you for helping me :0)
Puzzledd (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
Think about a piano keyboard- there is no black key between the B and the C notes... so it's just a semitone from B to C; also from E to F (i.e. there is no B# /Cb note, nor is there E# /Fb). There's a diagram of a keyboard HERE if you can't picture it.

I remember going to a seminar once where they explained the history of music notation...was interesting at the time, but I don't remember why our Western musical scales are designed with odd intervals like that! 
Ahhhhh, yes yes yes-makes perfect sense to me now. thanks! :0)
Puzzledd (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
Good ;) Don't forget to keep singing! (Remember, if you're playing guitar, you can play the songs in a key to suit your voice- handy, that!). There are plenty of nice, easy songs with the chord diagrams on CathysChords.com :) 
I wish we live closer, it would be fun to sing with you :0)
Puzzledd (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
Yeah, that would be fun!!
Well, if you're ever in Melbourne....
yes, its a tone, or full step, because there is a black key between them. a half step goes up a semitone, which is right to the next piano key or guitar fret.
Puzzledd (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
Your K and C notations are explained here: http://www.dolmetsch.com/musicalsymbols.htm
Puzzledd (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
You're WAY ahead of me lol! I never learnt all that "second to the last flat in the key signature means..." stuff, just the very basics. I used to know how to work out a key from the key signature, but I no longer try to play classical guitar unless I remember the piece, maybe once a year. Too lazy, life's too short and yes, my memory and concentration are NOT good (never were great but now...) My 90-year-old mum says she has trouble remembering things, but I tell her it's because she's too busy with important things - she's still researching family history, and she can do that better than most. Just don't ask her where her keys are... I ask her for theory tips if I need them.

My method for guitar is: pick a couple of easy chords (D and E7 are good), practise them with a slow song (e.g. Rock My Soul), bash away with your right hand, sing along and have fun! Instant gratification, no sweat and tears (maybe a little blood if you play too long at first and use steel strings - ouch - need to let the fingertips harden gradually).

That's why my site is organised in levels, with simple chord diagrams on each song sheet (and large font for oldies like me)- you can start very easy and gradually pick up extra chords at your own pace, and you should be able to play some songs at each level as you go.

Some people are happy to only ever play the first few chords, and that's fine. Others get keen and go right through to bar chords. I haven't written those up yet - I think the basic stuff is what's most useful with my site. So keep picking up that guitar, check the chords you know on the simple chord chart  and find some songs with those chords ( list of songs with chords at www.cathyschords.com/listofsongsforguitar).

Have fun, and let me know how you go. Remember, it's great therapy  for you, and great if you have young kids around, too- they think you're SO clever;) 
Thanks.:0) Good advice. Does anyone know what on earth I'm asking about? It's bugging me. So often I want to sing along to songs but they're out of my range. I guess the first step is to figue what my range is and then try the wheel lol ;0)
Puzzledd (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
Sorry, can't help with the theory! Sounds far too complicated, no wonder you have gaps in your memory. I only remember learning Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit for the treble clef lines) and FACE for the spaces- forgotten the bass, don't use it in guitar.

Suggestion re your range: some songs need a wider range than others, and it can be tricky to work out the best key to sing in. Our Friday Folkies group has male and female voices, so we tend to do a lot of songs in D (a bit high for me, and the guys would prefer Eb, so it's a compromise; some of the women prefer to sing higher, too).

This is where a capo is so great - you can try out a key, then if it's a bit low, try it with your capo on 1st, 2nd, 3rd fret.. you may be able to go higher if your neck isn't too wide.

Try singing a song like Rock My Soul, which has a narrow range and only 2 chords - start in the key of D (D, A7 chords). For my voice it's OK in D if I sing low, but if I try an octave higher, it's too much of a stretch. If neither works for you, try a capo, or even a different key - the A and D7 chords are easy to play. I'll often try a song in the key of C (or D), then in G, to get a quick idea of a good key for a song - then I can use a capo to bring it up a bit if needed.

Once you get an idea of your favourite key to sing in, you can try that one first for a new song, then use a capo, or transpose if needed. I do find that my voice changes from day to day, too;) Some of our group songs have 2, 3 or even 4 sets of chords written in, as we've tried out different keys at different times. One group member used to call these one "alphabet soup".

Singing along to songs is a bit of a trap- so often the recording artists have a great range (they are professionals, after all) and if it's a male voice, that can be hard, too. I like Peter, Paul & Mary and Simon & Garfunkel to sing along to as I can usually do one of the voices. John Denver is OK for me, too. Otherwise I have to turn up the volume to drown me out! Perhaps you can find a good "sing-along" artist for you - or just accompany yourself on guitar :)
Re-reading your kind message. Can you please tell me how to determine that the key of D has D7 chords (what are D7 chords?)
Puzzledd (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
The D7 chord actually goes with the key of G... So, if I remember rightly, the key of G will have a Tonic chord (G), a Sub-Dominant (C), a Dominant Seventh (D7) and a Relative Minor (Em). These are the main chords we use to play simple songs with guitar accompaniment (or chord-style keyboard, etc) in whichever key.

In the key of D, the Dominant 7th chord that you would use would be A7.

The D7 (or A7 chord etc) is actually a "Dominant 7th" chord, which has the minor 7th added to the major chord/triad. The Dominant 7th chords are used frequently, and are commonly just referred to as "seventh" chords, which is a bit misleading... for guitar, I find it easier just to learn the main set of chords for each of the common keys;)

Hope this makes sense...

A thought about singing: If you want to sing along with a song that's not in your key and you used to sing descant, can you try some harmonies? Also remember that if you practise singing scales, you can maybe extend your range again?
I am going to read and re-read your post. all terrific info and suggestions. thanks ever so much!!!
Puzzledd (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
You're welcome;)
I went looking for a good chord chart online- I have a really good one that I've had for over 40 years which shows the main chords in each key, the key signatures etc, really clearly laid out. I don't know if it's still in print, but it's probably still copyright, or I'd scan it, (I may still do that one day, just not sure of the legality - maybe OK for study purposes).

I found a similar chart that you can download- not a very clear scan, but a good layout- check it out at
http://enterarena.blogspot.com/2009/12/guitar-chord-guide-by-danny-taddei-1986.html

If you're a visual learner like me, it may help you to get a good "overview" of the chords and keys - though if you want to get back into all that complex theory, good luck with that one- sounds too much like hard brain work for me;)

Hope you have fun - and keep playing and singing- even simple songs can be fun!
Wow! Great thoughts. Thanks :0) ) bass= "All cows eat grass" ;0)
Puzzledd (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
Oh, that's right! How could I have forgotten?
I tried playing your "father Charles.." notes, but they didn't sound like anything to me ;I
Where were you during high school music classes? Brilliant!
could it be that the father charles was all sharps?
Puzzledd (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
Thanks :D I actually never got all the theory, but this works. I got sick of working out each chord separately; guitar should be fun!
Puzzledd (author) 3 years ago
You're very welcome :)
Mr Steve3 years ago
Thank you
yamon4 years ago
Great idea! I'm definitely going to recommend this. Most excellent Instructable
Puzzledd (author)  yamon4 years ago
Thank you :)!
belleque4 years ago
Thanks Cathy! Very handy!!
Puzzledd (author)  belleque4 years ago
You're welcome!
rcarlyle4 years ago
I made one of these about 40 years ago and it was very useful. Thanks for posting it Puzzledd.
Puzzledd (author)  rcarlyle4 years ago
You're welcome. I hadn't come across one but I'm sure they're around. I used to write all the letters in a circle and count the intervals each time until I thought of this - guess I was re-inventing the wheel. Now with computers, I was able to update to a neater version, too :)
phredw4 years ago
A help for people like me who sometimes want to transpose music on the treble staff but don't have a very firm grip on what note goes where might be to add graphics of the note positions on the staff in the possible octaves.
Puzzledd (author)  phredw4 years ago
That's a good idea, if you're using the transposer for notes. Mine is mainly designed for chords, and it just shows the letters so that you can add back in any variations such as minor, seventh etc.

You could always make a larger version and write in the notes if you wanted:)
CherylTX4 years ago
Brilliant! Love it!
Puzzledd (author)  CherylTX4 years ago
Thank you!
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