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Circle of Fifths Question and soloing Question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by kp_funk, Jan 26, 2005.

  1. kp_funk


    Jun 9, 2003
    Hi all,

    I hope I am not asking a question that has been asked already. If I have have please point me to that thread so I can read it. However, I have been reading about the circle of fifths but I do not understand it's application, why I need to know it, and how to use it to it's fullest. I have been told I've been using it all the time, but I just don't understand the theory behind it, and all that I should use it for. Can someone please assist me in understanding it?

    Also, I am trying to get an understanding of soloing on the bass. I really want to perfect this skill so if anyone can give me some direction it would be much appreciated. Do I need to know the circle of fifths to solo? etc.
  2. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    So what if it has? Interactive discussion is often more useful than archived stuff.

    The cycle of fifths is a fantastic theoretical tool... it goes like this...

    C, G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#(C)

    B# is enharmonically the same as C (that means it's the same note), so the whole thing just starts again.

    It's most basic function is in knowing what notes you can play in a given key... or the converse, knowing what key you're in from a given set of notes.

    You can use it to work out the key you're in from the number of sharps in the key signature...

    You know that there are no sharps or flats in the Key of C major, right? What if there was one sharp? That's the key of G major. Two sharps? That's D major.

    C, G, D... that's following the cycle of fifths.

    If you were to see six sharps in the key signature, you'd know by referring to the cycle of fifths that it is the key of F# major.

    What order do the sharps come in?

    F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#

    One sharp is the key of G major and the sharpened note is F#. D major has two... F# and C#. A major has F#, C# and G#... that's following the cycle of fifths again.

    Flat keys, you go backward from C in the cycle of fourths...

    C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb, Bbb, Ebb, Abb, Dbb(C)

    (Don't worry about the "bb"s for now, I just put them in to bring the cycle back to C.)

    If you see one flat the key is F major. Three flats it's Eb major. etc.

    The order in which the flats appear is...

    Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb

    So Eb major which has three flats as we saw above, has Bb, Eb and Ab.

    Music theory uses a lot of mnemonics to help you remember stuff like this. The one I learned was Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle for the order in which the sharps come in keys and reverse the order of the words for the flats: Battle Ends and Down Goes Charles Father. That was from a more innocent age and you might want to use your own!
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.

    The circle of fifths is physical description of the key signatures. It describes the relationship of keys and how they are built, yeah? You've seen the illustration in jazzbo's tutorial.
    "Using it all the time" - OK. It's not so much that you've been "using it" as it is the notes you play just exist in it. Like a fish in water.

    Maybe what you're trying to talk about is the CYCLE of fifths, that is to say the dominant chord (V7) resolving to the dominant chord of the next key center (A7 to D7 to G7 etc.)?

    "An understanding of soloing" - yeah, don't we all. Soloing is about HEARING and about playing what you hear with enough clarity that everybody else hears it too. So it's not just "understanding", it's understanding and conception and aural comprehension and physical approach all wrapped up. You don't have to memorize the whole dictionary in order to have a conversation, right? Playing music is kinda like that. What is important is conveying MEANING, in this case what you are hearing. The larger your working vocabulary, the more specificity you have in your language and what you are trying to say. But the vocabulary isn't driving the idea, your intent is.
    Jim Stinnett has a lovely description of this search for more vocabulary - what you are looking for is more bullets but what you REALLY need to work on is improving your aim.
    Learning theory concurently with ear training concurrently with exercises to familiarize yourself with the fingerboard concurrently with exercises to get harmony in your ears, that's what you need to work on.
  4. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    I learnt how to solo on guitar using techniques of Hendrix, Clapton etc, then transfered those skills to bass. Worked a treat!
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Be still, my beating heart.
  6. Man I admire all your threads and how you get straight to the point in a descriptive way
    It's a priviledge to have guys like you that have been there done that and are able to share their knowledge and everybody else on this site
    Man I'm lucky I found this site gives me the two I's
    Inspiration and Information
    Anyway back to subject Good Soloing IMO comes from a good ear and finger co-ordination as mentioned from ED
    A good exercise is to play your major scale/modes of major slowly but before you play the 2nd note from your starting point hum/sing the pitch before you physically play the note then continue with the rest of the intervals so you get to hear the relationship between the two ( hand/ear )
    This helps with your finger-ear co-ordination even transcribing music helps in this area but the goal is to hear what you play which will help your soloing if you can do that then your on the way to some good musicianship
  7. kp_funk


    Jun 9, 2003

    Thanks for the info. I love this site. And there are some very talented people who know what your talking about. There's a lot of info that I have to try to make sense of and apply, but now I have some direction in my practicing. I've been taking a few lessons (one every couple of months) to help me with my theory and soloing. Along with your replies I hope I can make great improvements with my playing and practicing.

    If anyone has more to add, please reply. I really want to understand to play bass to the fullest.
  8. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    What he said.
  9. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    (speaking to Ed Fuqua)
    ^That was written pretty well too, Jace. That's how I feel too.

    "What He said" +1

  10. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    That's fantastic. :)