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The circle of 5th’s

The circle of fifths is something that every guitar player should know. It’s a great way to understand how different chords, scales, notes, etc. Work together with each other. Understanding the rotation of the different notes, will help you to understand how sounds blend together. So here it goes, a pretty brief and simple explanation of the circle of 5ths.

circle of 5thsThis is the clock of music! All 12 keys in the western style of music. This is a handy tool for musicians to know how many sharps/flats are in a certain key. And just as the name suggests, this circle is based off the perfect fifth in a key. So going right from the 12:00 O’clock (C major) the fifth note in the key of C is of course G! (1)C,(2)D,(3)E,(4)F,(5)G. Continuing on, the fifth of G is D and from there the fifth of D is A. So on and on.

RELATED NOTE: If you move backwards around the clock, you have the circle of 4ths! Take a look and see for yourself.

Are you seeing how this is all working out? Now you may wonder what any of this has to do with you and your guitar playing. Well in most songs and music, a simple chord progression will end in the Five to the One. So if you’re playing a song in the key of C. The end to the chord progression will be a G chord to a C chord. (Five to One) Remember, each note has a number value. Start with the first note in the key and count forward. In the key of C major it will be C1, D2, E3, F4, G5, A6, B7, and C8,  (There are 8 notes in major and minor keys)

Try this on your guitar. Play a chord progression of a 1, 4, 5, 1.  that will be in the key of C major, C, F, G, C.  That is a very standard chord progression. And do you notice how the G to the C just has that resolution kind of sound to it? It sounds complete.

The circle of 5th’s can show you how to progress in keys. If you have key changes in songs, the circle of 5ths might have something to do with it. This shows that the two keys have the same number of sharps and flats in it. This means the two scales are “Enharmonic” simply put, they sound the same. If you’ve taken the time to know the notes on the guitar you would know that a C note can also be B# or a Gb can be an F# Or Eb can be D# It all depends how you look at it, the two notes are the same sound. And the circle of fifths show that in relation to the relative minor scale to a major scale. The notes in the A minor scale are the same as the notes in the C major scale. The notes in a G major scale, are the same notes in an E minor scale.

Now!!! One more thing before the end of this post. The circle of 5ths can also be used to identify the relative minor scale of a key. Look Up, and notice under the C, you have A minor. Under the G you have E minor

So hopefully you got something from this. The circle of 5ths can be a confusing subject, but study long enough, and it’ll come to you! Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

Tom Hooper.


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