Scale of Fifths?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by monkeylover009, Jun 13, 2005.

1. monkeylover009

Aug 16, 2004
Co. Londonderry
Hey, my friend keeps saying to me he wants to learn the scale of fifths or something but he dont know what it is and neither do i! Anyone out their able to enlighten me?

2. seanlava

Apr 14, 2005
I think he's talking about the circle of fifths. As long as you know how to play your major scales, this should make sense. In my experience, the main use of the circle is to help musicians remember key signatures. Each key has a unique sequence of notes, both natural and accidental (sharp or flat) that differentiates it from the other keys. This unique sequence makes each key sound different from the other keys; hence the word "signature" in the name.
If we start with the simplest key, C major, we can see that the notes in this scale are all natural, no sharps, no flats:

C D E F G A B C

Now let's move to the next key in the circle of 5ths, which is G major. How did we get to G? Simple, we just count 5 steps up, starting on C. (That's why it's called the circle of 5ths, get it?) The key signature for G is one sharp:

G A B C D E F# G

This is where the circle comes in to play. As we move up from C in 5ths, we add sharps to the key signature of the new key. The key that is two 5ths from C is D major:

1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5
C D E F G-G A B C D

The key signature of D major is two sharps:

D E F# G A B C# D

Two 5ths, two sharps. Pretty neat, eh? For each 5th you move from C, add one sharp to the key signature! A is 3 5ths from C, and has 3 sharps. E is 4 5ths from C, and has 4 sharps, and so on. To calculate flats, just count 5ths BELOW C, ie: F is one 5th below, has one flat. Bb is two 5ths below, has two flats, etc. By doing this, you can figure out the key signature of any key, even if you're not familiar with playing in that key.

Another use for the circle is to determine the names of the sharps or flats within a given key signature. If we take the key of D major for example, the scale goes like this:

D E F# G A B C#

Take a look at the distance between the sharped notes in this key. From F# to C# is five letters, or a 5th, right? This is the circle of 5ths in action again! In any given key signature, the sharps (or flats) with each be a 5th apart! Pretty slick, right? Using these rules, you could figure out even a hard key that you have never played in before. Let's take my "favorite" (Not) key, B major, for example. How many sharps does this key have? Just count how many 5ths this is from C:

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

B is 5 5ths from C, so it's key signature is 5 sharps. What are the notes that are sharped? F# C# G# D# A#, which are each a 5th apart!

When I first learned this, it was like magic! Previously, I had thought that music theory was just a bunch of random names for notes, but the circle of 5ths helped me understand the underlying order of music. Work this out on your instrument, and it will make more sense than trying to puzzle it out in your head.

3. VRT_RONBO

Thank you seanlava. That is the best explanation of the circle of fifths I have seen. I have always seen diagrams of the circle of fifths, but never really understood what it was all about. I guess I just kinda played what felt right. You just never know what useful info you might get on this forum.

4. monkeylover009

Aug 16, 2004
Co. Londonderry
Thanks from me to! Em should i tell him or let him sweat a while thinking bout it?

5. slybass3000Banned

Nov 5, 2004
Yeah, but now where in the zone where cycle of fifth is a cycle of fourth because of the nature of the tuning of the bass. It should be a descending fifth which is the same as an ascending fourth !!!
I know some people will argue with that statement but, in real life we play mostly cycle of fifth the descending way.
So, practice your exercices or scales using the cycle of fifths this way:
C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D and G.
It will sound natural and that is the way music is resolving too.
SB

6. cassanova

Sep 4, 2000
Florida
Once you get to the key of F and start working on the flats, the circle does go in 4ths.

7. slybass3000Banned

Nov 5, 2004
Actually,when you start using the wheel or cycle of fifths, it is better to think only one way. I know what you mean by the flats and sharps going in opposite ways,but, I believe it is more of a shortcut to memorize keys. The best way is really to go down a fifth all the way.
SB

8. ireidt

Mar 6, 2005
Florida
The circle of 5ths and 4ths is as follows: C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, G, and C to complete the cycle.

all the scales are the same pattern, so they should be easy to learn
what is hard is doing a root, 3rd, 5th, 7th appegiao through the circle of 5ths and 4ths