Yo pkr2, here's that post I promised (Circle of 5ths)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Gard, Feb 7, 2001.

  1. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    ...ok....a day late and a dollar short (story of my life :rolleyes: ), but better late than never, eh??

    OK - The Circle of 5ths

    The circle is a way of arranging notes - then from there key signatures/major scales - in descending 5ths. This is the order:

    C - F - Bb - Eb - Ab - Db - Gb(F#) - B - E -A - D - G - (C)

    This is typically done in a circular fashion for more clarity, but that isn't something that's doable here (at least I don't know how). The circle starts and ends on the key/note C, because the key of C has no sharps (#'s) or flats (b's). C would be at the top of the circle.

    As you go counterclockwise around the circle you go down a 5th - i.e. if you count backwards from C 5 notes, you get F (C B A G F). Of course if you go clockwise, you're going up in 5ths - i.e. C to G (C D E F G). Now, how do we get the flats and sharps in the circle? Well, the same way we get the sharps or flats in the keys themselves.

    There is an order that the flats and sharps come in -

    The order of flats are:

    Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb

    The order of sharps are:

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

    There is an easy way to keep track of these orders as well:

    Flats: Battle Ends And Down Goes Charlie's Father

    Sharps: Father Charlie Goes Down And Ends Battle

    Now, how does this apply to the circle? Simple, each time you you move one place in the order counterclockwise, you add a flat:

    C - 0b's
    F - 1b (Bb)
    Bb - 2b's (Bb Eb)
    Eb - 3b's (Bb Eb Ab)
    Ab - 4b's (Bb Eb Ab Db)
    Db - 5b's (Bb Eb Ab Db Gb)
    Gb - 6b's (Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb)

    If you go clockwise you add a sharp each time you move one place further than before:

    C - 0#'s
    G - 1#'s (F#)
    D - 2#'s (F# C#)
    A - 3#'s (F# C# G#)
    E - 4#'s (F# C# G# D#)
    B - 5#'s (F# C# G# D# A#)
    F# - 6#'s (F# C# G# D# A# B#)

    Now we could have the key of C#, but we already do, it's called Db. Same for Cb, we are just calling it B. Also be aware that the keys of Gb and F# are the same thing.

    Any note that isn't sharped or flatted is a natural, so we can easily get all 12 scales:

    C - C D E F G A B (C)

    F - F G A Bb C D E (F)
    Bb - Bb C D Eb F G A (Bb)
    Eb - Eb F G Ab Bb C D (Eb)
    Ab - Ab Bb C Db Eb F G (Ab)
    Db - Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C (Db)
    Gb - Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F (Gb)

    These are generally referred to as the "flat keys", because, well, they have flats in them :D.

    C - C D E F G A B (C)

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

    These are, surprisingly, referred to as the "sharp keys". Amazing, eh? ;) Uh, has anyone seen my car keys? :eek: :D

    So this is actually easier than trying to get all of the notes in the keys in a chromatic fashion.

    Now, admittedly, this is kinda dry stuff. So, how does it apply to us? Well, this is where it gets a bit complicated to explain, but bear with me.

    Music has certain tensions and resolutions. The most powerful resolution in western music is...drumroll please...THE DESCENDING 5TH! Hey, waitaminit...that's what the circle of 5ths does!

    So a very common and powerful part of music is this movement of chord to chord, 5 to 1, G to C to F...hmm...now in jazz a very common progression is 2-5-1. Well now, in the key of F, G is the 2 chord (the chord based on the 2nd note in the scale), C would be the 5 chord, and of course F would be the 1. Hmm....follows the circle of 5ths doesn't it?

    Don't play jazz? OK, the second most powerful and common progression is 4 to 1. Funny, but if you count UP when moving counterclockwise, you're moving in 4ths (C to F = C D E F)!! How does this apply to you? Well, ever hear of the blues? Or country?? Or rock??? The prototypical song in these forms are referred to as "3 chord songs". Those chords would be the 1, 4, and 5 chords. In the key of C, that would be C, F, and G. You will notice that if you take a piece of paper and write the circle as I described up above, the notes to either side of C would be F to the counterclockwise, and G to the clockwise. This works for all 12 notes/keys in the circle.

    So, you can use the circle to get the two most powerful chord progressions, the 2-5-1 of jazz and the 1-4-5 of most pop music. There's also the interesting fact that the 2 chord and 4 chord share two common tones:

    Gm: G Bb D (2 chord in F)
    Bb: Bb D F (5 chord in F)

    So, they are sorta interchangeable in a sense. But exploring that idea is an entirely different post, with it's own interesting points.

    Pretty cool stuff, huh? :cool:

    I'm sure that this will probably raise as many questions as it answers, so ask away!! (Unless you ask "Why did you waste all that time typing this silly stuff??" :p)

    Honorable mention to metalarch69 for proofreading services rendered :)

    [Edited by Gard on 02-08-2001 at 01:46 AM]
  2. Doug


    Apr 5, 2000
    Buffalo, N.Y.
    There's a great circle of fifths chart at http://www.activebass.com.

    Go to the site, click on "The Bassics" in the header, then go to theory charts. You should see the link to the circle of fifths.
  3. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Doug, thanks!!! :D
  4. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Circle of Fifths


    This is the image from ActiveBass.com
  5. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Jazzbo -

    Cool...I need to learn to do that, it would have saved a great deal of typing on my part! :D Thanks for posting that, I'm sure it will help some people more than my long-winded and convoluted explaination did!!! :eek:
  6. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Not long winded nor convoluted, Gard. In fact the last paragraphs of your post were starting to get into my "grey" area. I think that I understand how to use the C.O.F. but the application of it was what was eluding me

    Having learned to play pretty well by ear, I have been using the info in the C.O.F.'s but only because, through repitition, I can pretty well establish the root by ear and the compatible notes are coming to me naturally. I had no idea why I used the notes that I was using, except for the fact that I play mostly patterns and the right notes sort of fall in the right sequence.

    I can see this as being an aid to actually writing the notes to a song in the "working out" stage.

    I can only think of one question. Should I commit the C.O.F.'s to memory or just use it as a reference as it's needed? I am learning to read and I can already see certain things like the staffs, COF's and scales have recurring patterns. Oh well, it's coming slow but it will get there eventually. :)

    I once had another bassist tell me that pattern playing was a no no. The more I study, the more I wonder if this was good advice. It seems more and more that adhering to theory is conforming to the same patterns that I've learned already through repetition. I know that I'm already doing a lot of things right because I've played long enough to know a sour note from a good one, The only problem is that I can't explain why I play the notes that I'm playing. It seems that at least part of the answer involves the C.O.F.'s.

    Please don't think that the slowness of the questions indicates a lack of interest in what you are offering. Each new concept takes a couple of readings before it's clear enough in my head to ask any intelligent questions.

    Thanks to Doug and Jazz for thier contribution also.

    Thanks guys, I ,for one, really appreciate your time and effort.

  7. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    pkr2 -

    Glad to have been some help so far. I'll try to answer your other questions as best I can for now. Remember, some of what I will say is personal opinion, though, ok? :)

    Yes, I think you should memorize the Circle, I use it to practice my scales, and also as a way to force myself to practice in all keys when working on arpeggios.

    What I do for at least a portion of my scale/mode practice is put my metronome at 40 bpm, and play one note per click (1/4 notes) through all the modes of one key, say C. Then, without changing the metronome setting, I will play the next key in the circle (F) at 2 notes per click (1/8 notes). I continue around the circle adding one note per click each time I go to a new key, by the time I'm done I've played in all 12 keys, and from one to 12 notes per beat, mm 40 bpm. Tomorrow, I'll do it again, except that I'll start on F, the next day Bb, and so on. That way I've kept myself from getting in a rut with my scales, I avoid playing too much in one key. I also so some sequences and intervals in the "key of the day". For arpeggios, I work in the "key of the day" as well.

    So the circle is good for keeping your practice habits from getting too stale, at least key wise. Since music tends to follow the pattern of the circle, eventually your hands will naturally go to the next chord almost without conscious thought, if you're always practicing things with the circle.

    As for the pattern playing part of your question, well, all music is patterns. Patterns of pitches and patterns of rhythms. So to me, learning and practicing patterns is a good thing, sort of like studying how to spell words, and structure sentences in a language. Actually, IMO, that's EXACTLY what you're doing when practicing musical patterns, studying a language.

    The trick is to get the patterns to feel and sound natural, unforced. In my experience, repetition is the key to this, the more times you've played a particular pattern, the less conscious thought you're going to put into what your hands are doing, and the more of your attention will be on how the notes sound and relate to the song you're playing.

    Eventually, your patterns will start to borrow from each other, a bit of this pattern followed by a smidge of the other pattern, leading to a chunk of that pattern over there....and you're making music. Remember, music is organized sound, and patterns are a form of organization.

    Hope my rambling on was of some value! :eek: :D

  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Both using this in songwriting and Jazz have been mentioned - the Circle of Fifths is often used when writing the bridge in an AABA song - where B is the bridge. So you know where you want to end up and can work through the Circle to decide the chords to use to get there - like counting back.

    A very obvious example, is Duke Ellington's "CottonTail". The first chord of the A section is AbMaj7 and so for the 8 bar "bridge" he chooses four 7th chords for 2 bars each. Look at the Circle diagram and you can see that the four chords must be C7, F7, Bb7 and Eb7, following the Circle, to end up at Ab.
  9. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    thought this was a good one so imo it deserves a bump :D
  10. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    Isn't the diagram missing C# major/a# minor, Gb major/Eb minor, Cb major/Ab minor?
  11. They are there. What is the word enharmonic?
  12. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Exactamundo, enharmonic.

    C# = Db
    F# = Gb
    Cb = B

    Works for both notes and keys/scales.

    Cass, thanks for the bump and the kind words.
  13. Tronictq


    Jan 23, 2001
    I don't know this was mentioned but the circle of fifths backwards is also the ccycle of fourths.

    C - F - Bb - Eb - Ab - Db - Gb - B - E - A - D - G

  14. Comakazi


    May 3, 2001
    Midwest US
    I just wanted to say thanks to you guys (Gard, Jazzbo, Pacman, Ed Fuqua, etc...). I have learned so much from you guys. I haven't ever received formal training (a situation I'm wanting to remedy), but I can't tell you how valuable I've found many of your posts. I'm constantly finding stuff, printing it off and pinning it up around my practice room as handy reference, and good reading -- at least to me!:)
    Anywho, I know a lot of time and thought goes into posting some of these things, and although the subject matter can be a bit dry at times, you guys do a great job of making it a good read. So thanks for taking the time and effort to share some of what you've learned I appreciate it.
  15. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I guess technically you're correct, but in real world situations, it's known as "circle of 5ths, to the strong side".

    I have no idea why.
  16. Tronictq


    Jan 23, 2001
    Really? I was taught the cycle of fourths! then I was shown the circle of fifths, it's just backwards. I thought it was prettty neat.

    It's right either way so... but what do you mean by "Real world situations?"

  17. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    no problem, I didnt know this circle of 5ths, have always heard of it, some of the progressions in my Bass Guitar Scale Manual, say this pattern revolves around a cycle of 5ths, so if i didnt know exactly what it was in my many years of playing, i naturally assumed there were alot of new commers to the game that didnt know it either.

    BTW, its even cut and pasted in ms word, so i can have access to it at all times ;)

    thanks for turnin me on to the info, its very much appreciated
  18. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Well, you areright and I'm not picking at you.

    Mostly educational situation, and in the military, use the circle of 5ths to the strong side as a warm up. Just means scales in swing 8ths around the circle. Gets blood flowing and allows players to "tune as they go"....

    not that education or the military are all that 'real world'......
  19. Tronictq


    Jan 23, 2001
    Oh not a problem, i knew you weren't picking on me. Srry if it sounded that way. :p Just wanted to know what you meant by Real world situations, and now i do! :p

  20. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Tronic, the other "real-world situation" part of it is to analyze chord progressions (as I did a bit in the original post), and you'll notice that typically they will tend to follow the sequence of descending fifths, i.e.: C to F to some kinda B, etc, etc. It's of course not a "hard and fast" rule, but it IS the most "strong" chordal movement to western ears.

    Other harmonic motion is predominant in other harmonic/melodic systems, we need to be aware that our musical system isn't the only one sometimes. You wanna open up the ears a bit, listen to some Balinese music! :D If I remember correctly, there are 22 individual pitches in an octave, rather than the bland 12 we use!!!! :eek:

    Comakazi, I'm happy to be of any help, and feel honored to even be mentioned in the same sentence with those other guys. I'm not worthy to even carry Ed's gig bag, Jon's cabinet, or Jazzbo's power cord. I feel I learn as much by putting this stuff in words as anyone else does by reading it. It helps solidify the information in my own mind. I've always said that some of my best teachers have been my students (just don't tell them that, they'll want refunds!!! :eek: ;) )