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And He said "Learn the Circle of Fifths"

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by AlphaMale, Mar 10, 2008.

  1. AlphaMale


    Oct 30, 2006
    Ventura County
    This guy showed me what I'd have to read to not get in remedial classes, it wasn't that hard but I SUCK at reading. But the part that I knew would kill me and that I need to know already is how to play over chord changes, I asked him for tips and he said "Learn the Circle oaf Fifths". I've heard about this in a music appreciation class but I don't know much about it can someone explain what the Circle of Fifths is, how it's relevant to playing over chord changes, and any tips on playing over chord changes.
  2. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    I don't know how it could help in playing over chord changes. I use it to read the key of a song from the sheet music, thats about it.

    I'd say you're better off learning chord theory and structure as a starting point (i.e. major, minor, dominant, half diminished, etc).

    Learn the shapes, how they are derived from the modes, and so on.

    At least then you'll be able to play the notes associated with a given chord.
  3. drumsnbass

    drumsnbass Bassic User

    Dec 13, 2004
    Phoenix AZ area
  4. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005

    Don't play with shapes. Learn the notes and their functions. Shapes do nothing for your reading since all you are doing is painting by numbers.

    Honestly it sounds like you need to take the remedial class if your reading is that bad. You might learn something there since any music class after that will require reading.
  5. HaVIC5


    Aug 22, 2003
    Brooklyn, NYC
    I disagree, shapes can really help your reading intervallically. Recognizing the visual look of a sixth can help position yourself on your instrument.
  6. Shmelbee


    Mar 28, 2005
    Sioux Falls, SD
    Once you learn the circle of fifths, just read it counter-clockwise and you'll have a nice circle of fourths. You'll see a lot of stuff in the Real Book which you can practice right away that progress in fourths (i.e., ii-V-I progressions).
  7. i sort of know the circle of fifths but i dont know WHAT TO DO WITH IT?:confused: i have seen the wheel half a dozen times i can remember whats in there if i look again a couple of times
    but it has never been accompanied by an explanation as in how does it help us?
  8. buddyro57

    buddyro57 me and PJ (living with the angels now)

    Apr 14, 2006
    Cedar Falls Iowa
    all good comments here, i agree that you should take the remedial course, there's so much to learn. I don't think the cycle (circle) of fifths is any panacea for learning how to play over changes. The circle is more of a visual aid for seeing the arrangement of closely-related keys (adding one sharp or flat as you go, depending on if you read the wheel clockwise (sharps) or counterclockwise (flats). Your guy probably said to learn it because the chord progressions for many tunes follow the cycle for short durations. Play the roots around the cycle; reading clockwise C G D A E B etc and you will hear that is is strong and compelling root movement. It will probably remind you of many tunes you have heard.
    About reading; take it slowly, but a metronome, the key is looking at printed music everyday, if you only do it once a week, the learning curve makes it much harder. Also, a teacher will help immensely, its tough to do it on your own. BUT- the rewards of becoming "literate" are well worth the effort. When I was in school I would be in a big band rehearsal at 2:00, studying Debussy at 4:00, playing Haydn in the orchestra at 5:30, then on to my country gig at 8:00!
    Keep after it and don't get frustrated- its a life-long process.
  9. BillMason

    BillMason Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2007
    "Some of the best songs ever written have been created using cycles of descending fifths such as the "Am7-Dm7-G7-Cmaj7" progression that moves through the circle until ultimately arriving at the tonic."

    A chord tone in one chord becomes a chord tone in the next chord to nicely set you up for a chord tone. For example, in the chord changes referenced above, "Am7-Dm7-G7-Cmaj7":

    Am7 includes A, C, E and G.
    Dm7 includes D, F, A and C.
    G7 includes G, B, D and F.
    Cmaj7 includes C, E, G and B.

    If you're soloing or writing a melody, with one chord per bar, you might end the first bar of Am7 on a C, which when held over to the Dm7, becomes the 7 of Dm7. You might finish the Dm7 bar on an F, which becomes the 7 of G7. You might finish the G7 bar on a D, which becomes the 9 of Cmaj7, or a B, which becomes the 7 of Cmaj7.

    Similarly, if you're walking, A-G-B-C leads right into D, the root of the next chord, where you can play a D-C-B-A down to the G7, or a D-F-A-C to the D in the next bar, which would be the 5th of the G7 chord, where you could play D-B-G-F and then for the Cmaj7, E-D-C-B and then back to A.

    Find songs you know that use a Circle of 5ths progression, and study the bass lines, and study the melody. See what the original artist did to move through those progressions. There's lots of helpful information at the link above.

    Also, one of the recent Bass Player magazine issues did an article on this - I can't remember what it said as I just skimmed it, but you should check it out - within the last 2 months. Visit their website, you'll likely find it there.
  10. BillMason

    BillMason Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2007
    It is that also, but it is much more than that.
  11. jweiss

    jweiss Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2007
    Park City, Utah
  12. Jonyak


    Oct 2, 2007
    Ottawa, Ont
    it helps you create chords, know what notes to play withing chords and also how to read key signatures.

    its pretty much the foundation of all theory.

    I am not gonna go into exactly how to use it, cause thats what a remedial course is about, most likely.
  13. Liko


    Mar 30, 2007
    The circle of fifths (it's also the circle of fourths if you read it the other way around) shows the progression of key signatures. It also helps with string jumps, since they're a fourth apart (if you know the circle of fifths, you know what's a fourth up and a fourth down from your current note)

    More importantly, however, it shows you the chords in a pretty standard I-IV-V progression. If you're in the key of G, the V chord is one step one way in the circle and the IV chord is one step the other way. The V of V (II in your current key) is one step beyond the V chord. play it minor and that's the harmonized ii chord of your key. And the sixth is another step along the fifths beyond that. Play it minor and you have the vi chord. I, ii, II, IV, V and vi are the most common chords in pop music, and if you know major and minor patterns based on each of the notes in the circle of fifths, as well as where the root of the chord is in relation to the root of the key, you can improvise a bassline.
  14. manbass


    May 20, 2004
    Tampa Bay
    Everybodys right here. I boiled it down to interval recognition and how the Fretboard patterns out. The C of 5ths is tough to wrap a head around in the beginning stages until it is tangibly demonstrated on the instrument, and even then it took me a while. Keep looking at the logic of it and the bell will ring.
  15. AlphaMale


    Oct 30, 2006
    Ventura County
    I feel like a moron. I just realized if oyu go to the fifth and then 5 notes below it over and over again from C you'll eventually complete the circle of fifths.
  16. i think reading every post has made me get it a little. thanks

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