The Minor Scales In The Circle Of Fifths
Since a natural minor scale has exactly the same notes as its relative major scale, we can also put the natural minor scales in our circle of fifths. So, for example: since the A minor scale and the C major scale share the same notes, we can put them in the same place in the circle of fifths:
And see here our circle of fifths, which gives us a quick overview of the number of sharps and flats in every major and minor scale, plus an overview of relative minor/major relationships.
How To Use The Circle Of Fifths
Press on Circle of Fifths Tattoo, from Sokolow Music
Now that you know how the Circle of Fifths works, you must be wondering how you can apply the Circle of Fifths. This section really could be a full novel in itself. There are limitless uses of the circle. Some are self-evident, and simply require taking a close look at the circle, while others venture into territory of complex music theory, complicated harmony, and all sorts of mental gymnastics regarding keys and key signatures.
If fact, once you see just how useful it is, you may have the inspiration for your next tattoo! If youre not really that committed, you can always try a temporary circle of fifths tattoo or guitar vinyl stick on.
Here are a few of the more basic and useful applications of the Circle of Fifths. Many of them stem from the Circle of Fifths ability to easily show you the diatonic notes in any key.
How Does The Circle Of Fifths Work
Fifths are musical intervals. The circle of 5ths is an arrangement of the 12 notes of the musical alphabet in a circle. Each note on the circle is a perfect fifth apart.
At the top of the circle we begin on the note C. As you go clockwise around the circle, the notes move in perfect 5ths.
A perfect fifth above C is G, and G is the next note on the circle going clockwise.
A perfect fifth above G is D. D is next on the circle.
Next, a perfect fifth above D is A, and so on. Clockwise, the circle moves through all 12 notes of the musical alphabet going in 5ths finally returning to C.
You will notice at the bottom of the circle three of the notes have two spellings each. The same pitch can have multiple spellings. These are called enharmonic notes. On the circle B and C are enharmonic equivalents. F and G are equal. And, C and D are the same note. If you are confused about this, read over the musical alphabet lesson.
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Circle Of Fifths Chart
Once you have added in all the relative minor keys your circle should look something like this:
The amazing thing about this circle is that all of the different layers are all separated by perfect 5ths! The major keys, the relative minor keys, the sharps and the flats are all separated by intervals of a perfect 5th . The only difference is that it the interval is going up with sharps and going down with flats.
Here is a printable circle of fifths chart that you can download and print out to use for reference.Just click on the image to open and download the PDF version.
Anyway, I hope you have found this music theory lesson helpful! Please have a look at the video above if you havent had a chance yet as I think you will find it really helpful.
Mnemonic Devices To Remember The Circle Of Fifths
A mnemonic device is a tool to help you commit information to memory. There are a handful for the circle to help you remember the order of the notes. In these cases, we create a phrase that tells a story full of imagery and the first letter of each word represents the notes moving either direction around the wheel, depending on if you’re focused on sharps or flats .
- Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle
- Father Christmas Gave Dad An Electric Blanket
- Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Bacon
- Fair Cinderella Goes Down At Every Ball
- Funky Chickens Go Dancing And Eat Burgers
- Good Dogs Always Eat Before Furry Cats
- Five Big Elephants Are Dragging Garbage Cans
- Big Elephants Always Drive Go Carts Fast
- Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles Father
As you can see, there’s as many of these mnemonic devices as you can imagine, including dirty ones if that’s what helps you remember. You can pick one from above or come up with your own.
Notice that two of the above are marked bold. These two mnemonic devices are also the order of the sharps and flats for major scales. You can just as easily create some for the minor scales, which go in the same order from a different starting point.
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Ways To Use The Circle Of Fifths
Of course the easiest thing to find with the Circle of Fifths is the key signature for each key . It can also help you find your basic diatonic major and natural minor scales and their notes. It also contains a clever little way to know what your major and minor chords are with these shapes
Another great use for the Circle is finding potential keys to modulate and substitute. In jazz it is common to work your way from chord to chord using secondary dominants, which is the fifth of the fifth! The fifth of C is G and the fifth of G is D, so if you wish to move from the key of C to G, that D will make a great pivot chord! Jazz also focuses on the Circle of Fourths, which as mentioned is moving counterclockwise.
The Circle Of Fourths
You may notice I call it a circle of 5ths and 4ths. Fourths are another musical interval. If you go counter-clockwise on the circle you will see the notes go in ascending perfect fourths.
From C, a perfect fourth above is F. A perfect fourth above F is B, and so on. The notes go in 4ths all the way around the circle when moving counter-clockwise.
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Using The Circle Of Fifths To Find Key Signatures
Lets work through an example of how to find a key signature. Say you are learning a song that is in F major and you want to know which sharps or flats to use, so you know what the diatonic notes will be. As you can see from above, the Circle of Fifths all but places the key signatures in your lap!
While reading through, keep in mind the F-C-G-D-A-E-B sequence we introduced earlier and that it shows the order in which sharps are added to keys around the circle. The sequence is very useful for finding a key signature, and its a great idea to memorize it.
In order to work out how many sharps or flats are in F major, we need to find it by moving round the Circle of Fifths. Remember we always start at C. If we were to head round clockwise once, we would land on G. This has one sharp in its scale, and if you consult the F-C-G-D-A-E-B sequence, youll know its F. If we head round once more, we would land on D, with the two sharps of F and C. So far F is not coming up, which is what we need.
Lets try moving the other way. Go back to C, then move counter-clockwise once. A perfect fifth below C is F. This is what were looking for! Because weve moved round counter-clockwise once to land on F, F has one flat. Recall the F-C-G-D-A-E-B sequence backwards , and youll see that F majors key signature is Bb.
This isnt just the pattern of notes around the Circle of Fifths. It is also the order in which sharps are added to each successive key when going around the circle clockwise.
Modulation And Chord Progression
Tonal music often modulates to a new tonal center whose key signature differs from the original by only one flat or sharp. These closely-related keys are a fifth apart from each other and are therefore adjacent in the circle of fifths. Chord progressions also often move between chords whose roots are related by perfect fifth, making the circle of fifths useful in illustrating the “harmonic distance” between chords.
The circle of fifths is used to organize and describe the harmonic function of chords. Chords can progress in a pattern of ascending perfect fourths in “functional succession”. This can be shown “…by the circle of fifths ” rel=”nofollow”> dominant than scale degree IV)”. In this view the tonic is considered the end point of a chord progression derived from the circle of fifths.
According to Richard Franko Goldman‘s Harmony in Western Music, “the IV chord is, in the simplest mechanisms of diatonic relationships, at the greatest distance from I. In terms of the circle of fifths, it leads away from I, rather than toward it.” He states that the progression IiiVI would feel more final or resolved than IIVI . Goldman concurs with Nattiez, who argues that “the chord on the fourth degree appears long before the chord on II, and the subsequent final I, in the progression IIVviioiiiviiiVI”, and is farther from the tonic there as well.
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Minor Keys On The Circle Of Fifths
So far Ive covered all the major keys you can build with sharps and flats in the key signature.
Next up are the minor keys.
Luckily, theres nothing new to learn here since the minor keys all have a relative major that shares the same key signature.
You can use the same method of moving left and right by fifths while adding sharps and flats if you start in the right place.
Heres what I mean. The relative minor of a major key is the scale that begins on six of the .
Simply follow the key signature of the major key and count up six scale degrees to find its relative minor.
Simply follow the key signature of the major key and count up six scale degrees to find its relative minor.
In C major, that means that A minor is the relative minor key. These keys share the same key signature that contains no accidentals.
The same holds true for the rest of the relative minors. That means that if you arrange the minor keys around the circle the same way beginning on A, you can easily find the key signatures.
For example, take the key of F# minor. To find the signature, move clockwise on the circle by three steps adding sharps each time. Youll end up with F#, C# and G#same as the relative major key of A major!
Moving Right On The Circle
If youve heard some music theory basics you probably know that the key of C major contains no sharps or flats.
If you start with the key of C major and move up by a fifth, youll land on G major.
The key of G major contains a single accidentalF#. As you continue moving clockwise by fifth intervals around the circle, youll add a sharp with each step.
How do you know which sharp to add? Thats on the circle as well!
The order of sharps starts one step to the left of C major and follows the same pattern, although most musicians remember it with a mnemonic.
The one I use is: Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle
Moving by fifths and adding a sharp each time will give you all the keys that contain sharps in their key signatureup to C# major with its whopping 7 sharps!
The circle of fifths arranges the musical keys by the number of accidentals in their key signatures.
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Finding The Relative Minor Or Major Of A Key
Every major key has a relative minor key. What this means is that both keys use the exact same notes, including any accidentals .
The difference is they have a different tonic and the distance relationship between the notes is changed a bit. Since they are the same notes though, this distance won’t impede you from using the relative key.
Pro-Tip: One of my favorite ways to write a bridge to a song is to use the relative minor or major key. It will sound familiar due to the same notes being used but give you the opposite mood of the song. It’s a nice juxtaposition that you can use as a surprise that leads right back into a chorus with the right lyrics.
In your mind, all you have to do to find the relative minor of a major key is to move 90 degrees to the right and you’ve found it. To move from a minor key to the relative major is the opposite. Move 90 degrees counter-clockwise and you’re done.
If you have a Circle labeled like ours, then you can find the relative minor key on the inside of the circle, where C-Major’s relative minor is A-Minor, G-Major’s relative minor is E-minor, and so forth:
There is one snag to this method that solves itself as you work with the Circle of 5ths. The naming convention for major keys will usually use a flat accidental, such as Eb , except for F# .
Minor keys largely use sharp accidentals to name the keys except for Bb. The reason has to do with the count of semitones when constructing the chords.
The Basic Building Blocks Of The Circle Of Fifths
The first of these patterns is the key signature. A key is a set of seven notes collectively called a scale. The scale is built by a specific relationship between the notes.
These relationships are different depending on if you’re in a major or minor scale, for instance .
When you hit the eighth note, you’re back to the start of the scale on the first note which is called the tonic. But now you are one higher. If you play the tonic and the first octave above it, you’ll hear the same tone twice with one higher in frequency in unison. But they still sound great.
This is called consonance. Due to the mathematical relation between the notes they sound pleasing together to our ears. It’s called dissonance when they seem to clash.
Chords are built with a grouping of notes played together that are all consonant and pleasing. The basic form of a chord is the root of the chord, plus the third above it, and then the fifth above the root as well.
You can then duplicate a note, usually the root, to use as a bass note to form a bass melody, and you can even invert chords and other tricks. It’s all built on chords and easier than it sounds.
The entire reason I built the conversation up to chords was to introduce the concept of the fifth. There are three types of fifths based on the number of semitones above the root the fifth lies:
- Diminished fifths
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The Circle Of Fifths And How It Relates To Piano Playing
This post is about making the piano easier to understand. In my piano lessons, my students very often ask me about the circle of fifths and their use in piano playing. Essentially, it is the easiest way to memorize all the scales and how many sharps or flats they each have. Since most pieces are based on scales and a have certain tonal center, it is extremely important to feel confident about playing the scales and picturing the sharps and flats corresponding to each scale.
The piano is a very visual instrument. You see a key, you press a key and sound is there. The seven steps of the scale are easy to be found if you get used to the shape of the black keys. Around the groups of three black keys are the tones f, g, a, b .
Around the two black key groups are the tones c, d, e .
Every scale has 7 steps. They are either half steps, two adjacent keys including the black keys such as b to c, or whole steps, equal to two half steps such as f to g. The major scale always follows the following pattern.
W = Whole Step
Major scales ascend with the pattern: W W- H W W W HFor Example C Major: C D E F G A B C
Natural minor scales ascend with the pattern: W H W W H W WFor Example A natural minor: A B C D E F G A
Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the solution!
Music : What Is The Circle Of Fifths Learn Popular Chord Progressions That Use The Circle Of Fifths
Western music is divided into 12 pitches, and each of those pitches can be the root note of a wide array of chordsmajor, minor, dominant, diminished, augmented, and more. Those chords can appear in any order within a song or composition, but some chord progressions just seem to naturally sound good. One such progression is where the chords move in fifths.
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