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  • What is the Circle of Fifths used for?

    Im hoping Gennation will chime in here with some link to his site, haha.

    Seriously though, I understand what the circle is, and how it works, but what can it be used for? (Other than easily figuring out how many accidentals are in the key.) How it works is cool and all, but what does this knowledge do for me? How do i apply this wierd diagram to music?

  • #2
    The only time it's ever helped me was while learning key signatures in music class. I have not used it since that class.

    And no, I cannot impart exactly how the circle of fifths helps you determine key signatures, because I've forgotten.

    Originally posted by flatfacerincone
    (Other than easily figuring out how many accidentals are in the key.)
    Um, "keys" don't contain accidentals in and of themselves... because then they wouldn't be accidentals would they?

    Anyway, I don't think the circle of fifths has much to do with accidentals at all... does it??

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    • #3
      It doesnt really; it just shows how many accidentals are in each key.

      For example, if you start at the top, the key of C major has 0 sharps. If you start going clockwise, youll see that G has 1 sharp, D has 2, yada yada yada and so on. So far thats the only usefull thing ive been able to do with the circle.

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      • #4
        the circle of 4ths is something that has more use.

        its a popular cycle in the jazz realm.

        same thing with the circle of 5ths.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by flatfacerincone
          It doesnt really; it just shows how many accidentals are in each key.

          For example, if you start at the top, the key of C major has 0 sharps. If you start going clockwise, youll see that G has 1 sharp, D has 2, yada yada yada and so on. So far thats the only usefull thing ive been able to do with the circle.
          "Accidentals" are notes played which are outside of the key. So for example, F would be an "accidental" note (regardless of intention) in a song that was otherwise in E major.

          So, what you're trying to say is that the circle of fifths shows how many sharps/flats are in each key. Which is, to my knowledge, the only practical use of the circle of fifths.

          One final note to ^: the circle of fifths and the circle of fourths are the same thing. If you move around it clockwise it progresses in fifths, and if you go counter-clockwise it progresses in fourths. Neat trick eh?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Dubb
            So, what you're trying to say is that the circle of fifths shows how many sharps/flats are in each key. Which is, to my knowledge, the only practical use of the circle of fifths.

            By extension, the circle of fourths/fifths shows you the relationships between keys - the closer two keys are in the circle the more notes they share. This can reduce the amount of trial and error required in writing a piece with a modulation. e.g. chorus is in G, so you try a bridge in D, but it sounds too similar, so you know that A will be a bit more of a contrast.
            http://www.overheadproject.com/

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            • #7
              Not much help to the guitarist.

              Better to know the fretboard of 4ths and 5ths. It is based on the C of 5ths, makes you aware of how close everything is to each other within similar keys.
              Nobody wants to hear you play your guitar, they just want to play your guitar.

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              • #8
                If you want to practice something, a riff or a song, in all 12 keys it's "better" to do it using the circle of 4ths than chromatically since the circle of 4ths more resemebls reality in the sense that it's very noirmal for chords to follow each other accordingly. The bridge for Rhythm Changes is for instance the circle of 4ths, as far as I know. .
                Terje Larsson

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                • #9
                  I found it was much more effiecient to just memorize the notes in each key and be done with it.

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                  • #10
                    the circle of fifths contains what key signature has how many accidentals (sharps or flats) and what order they are in. the order of flats-BEADGCF the order of sharps=FCGDAEB if you look at it...and start with the letter C in the flat order thats the first key signature with no flats... then F has 1 flat. Bflat has 2 flats and so on. idk if you care but major key signatures intervals are whole,whole,half,whole,whole.whole,half. which could be CDEFGABC. minor key signatures intervals are whole half whole whole half whole whole.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by evilbuttmuncher
                      the circle of fifths contains what key signature has how many accidentals (sharps or flats) and what order they are in. the order of flats-BEADGCF the order of sharps=FCGDAEB if you look at it...and start with the letter C in the flat order thats the first key signature with no flats... then F has 1 flat. Bflat has 2 flats and so on. idk if you care but major key signatures intervals are whole,whole,half,whole,whole.whole,half. which could be CDEFGABC. minor key signatures intervals are whole half whole whole half whole whole.


                      So thats it then? I knew that already. So all this diagram does is show how many flat/sharp notes are in a key? Im wondering about some uses other than that.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by flatfacerincone
                        So thats it then? I knew that already. So all this diagram does is show how many flat/sharp notes are in a key? Im wondering about some uses other than that.


                        And I told you. Go the other way, make it a circle of 4ths, and it's a great way to learn something (lick, scale, tune, whatever) in all 12 keys since it mimics real life because chords often come in this sequence, like for instance the well known ii-V-I cadence (in C that'd be Dm7-G7-Cmaj7). Or the bridge in Rhythm Changes, which is four dominant 7th chords going in the circle of 4ths.
                        Terje Larsson

                        inbox is full, send e-mail instead

                        Hey, wanna look at my comics? Come here then http://terjelarssonserier.blogspot.com/

                        Ah, sorry, it's all in swedish, but you can always look!

                        You can also check out my crazy friend Dan's crazy website where he'll teach you to master the guitar in 8 minutes (or days... or whatever).

                        http://spytunes.co.uk/

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                        • #13
                          Terje's right, but he maybe skirts around the point a little. That is that most tunes that change key do so around the circle. The most consonant key to change to is one on either side of it in the circle, and it is therefore the most common modulation. If you want to get an understanding of the way keys relate to each other, the circle makes a lot more sense than any other patterns, though there are many intersting ways of looking at key relationships. Giant Steps, for instance, looks at the relationship between keys a major third away from each other. The different thing about that is that if you go around in major thirds you only include three keys, whereas the circle of fourths/fifths incorporates all keys.

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                          • #14

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                            • #15
                              Hey, maybe I'll post a link to my lesson site

                              Seriously though, here's a few Circle of 5th's tid bit...

                              The Circle of 5th's a a way of organizing Keys.



                              As you move clock wise you add more #'s and then less b's. These show you the Keys as you'd see them in notation.

                              If you look at the Circle of 5th's moving clockwise...it moves in 5th's. But, if you look at the circle counter clock wise, it's in 4th's.

                              Playing 5th's (or 4th's) you can create pratically endless chord movements...very nice chord movements...changing through keys.

                              In Jazz and Blues it's used like this in a turnaround in G...

                              ||: G | C | G | Dm | C | C#dim | G | E7 | A7 | D7 | G7 E7 | A7 D7 :||

                              See how the E7->A7->D7->G7 move in 5th's/4th's?

                              Another use is a road map of ii-V-I progressions. You can start anywhere in the circle and make your starting note a min7 chord, then the next note counter clockwise, make it a dominant 7 chord. Then move one more note counter clock wise and make a maj7 chord from that note.

                              You've just created a ii7-V7-maj7 progression in the Key of the last note (the one you built the maj7 from).

                              To change Key's you can grab any note and use that ii-V-I sequence above to land you on the Imaj7 chord of the new Key.

                              Say you are in the Key of C Major and you want to change to Eb Major. Look two steps clockwise from Eb on the circle...F, make it a m7 (Fm7), then one step counter clockwise from F to Bb and make it a Dominant 7 chord, then land one more counter clock wise step at Ebmaj7.

                              So, play anything you want in the Key of C Major, then play, Fm7- Bb7-Ebmaj7 and you are now in the Key of Eb. This will work with ANY Key change you want to make.

                              Another thing with the circle is, you can see everynote IN a Key, and every note OUT of Key...

                              Take the Key of C (C D E F G A B C)

                              With a pencil, start at C and draw a lline to G, continue it to D then to A then to E then to B...now, for the next notedraw a line from B directly across the circle to F. THen continue your line from F to C.

                              You've completed all of the notes in the Key of C...but...

                              ALL the notes to the right are IN Key...and ALL the notes to the left are OUT of Key.

                              There's plenty more goofy stuff you can do with it, that's just a few.
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