Lessons on The Circle of Fifths

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Over the years of playing with many talented musicians, they have shared their tips and tricks with me and I am extremely appreciative. With heartfelt thanks, I am grateful for the knowledge of the Circle of Fifths. Whether you are just beginning to play the piano or you are a seasoned musician, learning the theory behind the Circle of Fifths is an extremely important and valuable tool to have.

Here's a short article from a friend over at HearandPlay, Jermaine Griggs' site for piano and keyboard musicians.

The Circle of Fifths Secrets Revealed

"Often times when one refers to the Circle of Fifths we think about Scales but today I would like to expose some secrets in the Circle of Fifths.

First, we already know that each note in the scale has a number position when we refer to intervals. So in C Major, from C-C would count 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 for the scale.
C Major = C D E F G A B C. These interval number positions we use when talking about progressions so when we talk about a 1 we mean C and a four means F etc. When you look carefully at the circle of fifths you would see that starting from B going forward up to C major you would have found the 7 3 6 2 5 1 progression for C Major.

Its important to note that in the circle if you count six spaces forward from any letter position you would find the 7 3 6 2 5 1 progression. Therefore the circle shows you the progression for all the Major scales.

If you should take a further look you will see the 5 1 4 progression. So if you want to find the progression of the major scale just find the note and the 5 will be on your right and the four on the left of the scale you are in. E.g. C Major 5 1 4 progression would be, 5 = G on the right of the circle, 1 in the middle and 4 on the left of the scale you are in.

To find the progression #4 7 3 6 2 5 1 progression just count seven spaces forward going to the right of the scale you want to find it in and the #4 would be the seven letter found. E.G."

Article by Jamaican-Music 


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My understanding of the Circle of Fifths is that you must first be able to measure the interval of a perfect fifth. A perfect fifth spans five staff degrees and is comprised  of three whole-steps, and one half-step, or seven half-steps. rather than counting steps, a perfect fifth can be calculated more quickly by using information already learned in connection with the scale, the note from which the measurement is to be made as tonic. From a tonic note up to its dominant note is an ascending perfect fifth.

It is through the interval of the perfect fifth that keys are related to each other. Starting with C, we count up a perfect fifth to find the keynote G for the scale with one sharp; we count up a perfect fifth from G to find the keynote D for the scale with two sharps, and so on until we reach C# with seven sharps.

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The flat keys are related in a similar manner. Starting with C, we count down a perfect a perfect fifth  to find the keynote F for the scale with one flat; we count down a perfect fifth from F to find the keynote Bb for the scale of two flats, and so on until we reach Cb, with seven flats. From the Circle of Fifth images you can see that each progression up a fifth adds one new sharp, and each progression down by fifth adds one new flat.

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the key names used for 5, 6, and 7 sharps have enharmonic equivalents in the names for keys 5, 6, and 7 flats: B (5 sharps) and Cb (7 flats); F# (6 sharps) and Gb (6 flats); C# (7 sharps) and Db (5 flats). so now the circle of fifths for major keys is produced.

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This circle includes all the major key names with the sharp keys reading clock-wise from C, and the flat keys reading counterclockwise from C. The circle is joined by the three enharmonic keys. The number of sharps or flats for each key can be determined by counting the number of fifths away from C.

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For example, A has three sharps because it is the third key clockwise from C; Db has 5 flats because it is five keys counterclockwise from C. The circle also indicates the order of sharps and flats on the staff.
More on that next time.

I am truly grateful for all of my readers. Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving! Doesn't the circle remind you of pie? Do you have a favorite? Have fun with this course lesson learning the musician's pie, the circle of fifths.
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Blessings,
-- LadyD

"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King Amplify
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