# Thread: trouble using the circle of 5th's

1. ## trouble using the circle of 5th's

I understand that this can be used to figure out what key a song is in by looking at the key signature. For example, a key with 2 sharps is the key of ? I can work with the flats because that is easy, but what about the sharps?

2. I don't quite have it memorized either. But here are some tricks:

Notice the patterns of the Flats (moving counterclockwise) F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb. If you ignore the "b"s you will see the word B-E-A-D in the middle.
Now notice if you start on Gb (where we just left off - at the bottom of the circle) it is also called F# and if you continue on from there (still going counter clockwise) the same letter pattern will repeat F#-B-E-A-D-G.

I think it was Jestme that posted this next tip a long time ago (I apologize if it was someone else - this was a while back). Look at the sharps on the staff at the beginning of a piece of music (the Key Signature). Find the one furthest to the right. The Key will be a half step higher than that sharped note. For instance in the Key of G the sharp is F#. In the Key of D the sharp to the right is C#. This is the easiest way for me to do it.

3. Originally Posted by richb2
I understand that this can be used to figure out what key a song is in by looking at the key signature. For example, a key with 2 sharps is the key of ? I can work with the flats because that is easy, but what about the sharps?
whatssup Rich? dont you know that all the answers are already written in this forum?

check out this thread:

4. That's easy enough. Just find the rightmost sharp and raise it 1/2 step and that is your key? Thank you so much. The flats are pretty easy : just find the second to last flat on the right. That's your key (except Bb which is F).

5. Originally Posted by Rgalvez
whatssup Rich? dont you know that all the answers are already written in this forum?
Is there a book that covers this tiny little question? I'm just joking. I appreciate your responses. You are one of the people (and Walter Becker) responsible for totally changing my way of thinking about music. Thank you.

6. Originally Posted by richb2
Is there a book that covers this tiny little question? I'm just joking. I appreciate your responses. You are one of the people (and Walter Becker) responsible for totally changing my way of thinking about music. Thank you.
Ignited and united we stand Rich. Thank you for the kind words!!

7. Since the guitar is tuned mostly in fourths (inverted fifths), you can use your knowledge of the instrument to help you remember the order of keys. As long as you remember that G major is the first sharp key, just think of the open G string as a starting point, and each lower open string adds a sharp (D, A, E). When you run out of strings, find the fifths going up (B, F sharp, C sharp). If you know all your major scales, or even just know the shape of a one octave fingering, you can figure out which notes are sharp or flat for each key. As I have mentioned elsewhere, if you have a practice notebook (staff paper) writing out all of the scales on an easily locatable page (first or last) gives you a convenient reference tool. For this purpose, I would suggest writing them in the order of the circle of fifths, cycle of fourths, or both.

8. By the way you can go memorizing the Circle of Fifths by playing chord progressions (this method is thought by Bruce Arnold in his Chord Workbook book): for instance play a II-V-I starting from C,then play F,then Bb,then Eb etc until you reach the G. By doing this practice you learn chords in all positions and also you're memorizing the Circle too. It's really cool.

9. I haven't heard the trick before where you can take the rightmost sharp and raise it by a half step to figure o9ut the key. I was curious to know if there were any tricks to figure out the key signature based on flats?

I'm going to go through the other thread and see what other tricks I can find.

10. Originally Posted by jrhoden
I haven't heard the trick before where you can take the rightmost sharp and raise it by a half step to figure o9ut the key. I was curious to know if there were any tricks to figure out the key signature based on flats?

I'm going to go through the other thread and see what other tricks I can find.
Richb2 posted the trick for Flats above.
Originally Posted by Richb2
The flats are pretty easy : just find the second to last flat on the right. That's your key (except Bb which is F).

11. I should add that no sharps or flats is the key of C. Just one flat (Bb) is a key of F.

Normally, the flats and sharps always appear in a certain order. For the flats it is BbEbAbDbGbCbFb (BEADGCF). That's how I know that if we have just one flat, it will be a Bb. If we have 3 flats they will be Bb, Eb, and Ab, in that order. I also know that if we have 3 flats, the key will be Eb, since it is the 2nd flat from the right (when we have 3 flats).
Last edited by richb2; 04-03-2009 at 03:07 AM.

12. Here's a cool site that can help with learning the circle of fifths:
http://www.circle-of-fifths.net/
I've used it a little bit and it is quite helpful.

13. Originally Posted by richb2
I should add that no sharps or flats is the key of C. Just one flat (Bb) is a key of F.

Normally, the flats and sharps always appear in a certain order. For the flats it is BbEbAbDbGbCbFb (BEADGCF). That's how I know that if we have just one flat, it will be a Bb. If we have 3 flats they will be Bb, Eb, and Ab, in that order. I also know that if we have 3 flats, the key will be Eb, since it is the 2nd flat from the right (when we have 3 flats).
And again it's just watching the circle and you'll find the order of these notes there. For instance, speaking about mental work (another good subject of the forum) when I go to work I think: Ab how many flats does it have? then I visualize the circle in my head: OK C is at the top, no flats.The key of F is at the left ,I know it has 1 flat, which one? the one at its left side (of the circle) - Bb. Then Bb has two flats which one? Bb itself and then the note at its left side Eb. Eb has three flats in Bb,Eb and then ? Ab (at the left of Eb). Ab therefore has 4 flats in Bb,Eb,Ab and? Db(at the left of Ab in the circle,always the circle).
And this is important: how do I know this order of the notes? because I visualize the right side of the circle and find this order :F#, B, E, A, D,in reverse order of the left side of the circle (the notes with the flats) which is practically what Rich comments. This same mental procedure takes place with the sharps : it has this order F#,C#,G#,D#, which by the way is just visualizing the top part of the circle ! (F,C.G,D and so on but adding the sharps).
So If you're lost with 'what is the next note with flats/sharps' just visualize the circle. (But of course first you have to memorize it. It's not difficult).
Cheers.
Last edited by Rgalvez; 04-03-2009 at 08:05 AM.

14. Memorizing the Major Triads (1-3-5) is also a good exercise and can help with memorizing the Circle of Fifths.

I do this when I am driving or waiting in line, etc. I start with C. The C Major Triad (1-3-5) is C-E-G. So right away I have learned that G is the next stop in the Circle of Fifths. So then I start with G and its Triad is G-B-D. This tells me that D is the next stop in the Circle of Fifths. I continue doing this (I just say it aloud in my brain) until it wraps back around to C again.

The full circle using Triads looks like this:
C-E-G
G-B-D
D-F#-A
A-C#-E
E-G#-B
B-D#-F#
F#-A#-C# (Then I convert that to Flats, which would be Gb-Bb-Db)
Gb-Bb-Db
Db-F-Ab
Ab-C-Eb
Eb-G-Bb
Bb-D-F
F-A-C (Then it starts over)
C-E-G

15. I have the circle of 4ths down pretty well (deals with the flat keys). But my memory of the FCGDAEB thing for the sharps is bad. Really bad. So I know how to look at a key signature and figure out the key. But I get a feeling that my teacher is leading me to learn these cricles for a different reason.

BTW, I am off "to Holiday" (as gadlaw once said, when we're overseas, we're ALL canadians) for about 10 days, so don't think that I just croaked or gave up on the guitar, either. If I hear any really good blues over in Ireland, I'll let you guys know.

16. Originally Posted by richb2
I have the circle of 4ths down pretty well (deals with the flat keys). But my memory of the FCGDAEB thing for the sharps is bad. Really bad. So I know how to look at a key signature and figure out the key. But I get a feeling that my teacher is leading me to learn these cricles for a different reason.
Hey Rich. just in case I was a couple of months in the Jimmy Bruno online Institute (he teaches improvisation in jazz). He taught us to play scales in five position using the circle of fourths (or fifths backwards if you prefer), So this is another application.

My tip? learn an easy progressions: I-IV-V (for instance) in the order of the circle. You will start memorizing it and practicing chords in all positions. if you don't like to practice too much chords then you could practice the circle with scale positions.

17. Originally Posted by Rgalvez
Hey Rich. just in case I was a couple of months in the Jimmy Bruno online Institute (he teaches improvisation in jazz). He taught us to play scales in five position using the circle of fourths (or fifths backwards if you prefer), So this is another application.

My tip? learn an easy progressions: I-IV-V (for instance) in the order of the circle. You will start memorizing it and practicing chords in all positions. if you don't like to practice too much chords then you could practice the circle with scale positions.
How do you use the 5 positions with the circle of 5th's (or 4ths)? Well I know BEADGCF and I also know FCGDAEB. I know how to figure the key from the signature for both the sharps and flats. What else is of significance here? I understand that next to the octave, the 5th is the closest key. What does this mean? Can I play a major scale over any major chord and also the 5th of the key of the major?

18. Originally Posted by richb2
How do you use the 5 positions with the circle of 5th's (or 4ths)? Well I know BEADGCF and I also know FCGDAEB. I know how to figure the key from the signature for both the sharps and flats. What else is of significance here? I understand that next to the octave, the 5th is the closest key. What does this mean? Can I play a major scale over any major chord and also the 5th of the key of the major?
In one of your posts you commented that your teacher uses the circle for other purposes rather than a mnemonic tool for recognizing the flats or sharps in a given key.
If you practice chords or scales using the circle of 4ths or fifths you'll have more skills when improvising, transposing or modulating songs.

I practice scales like this: I play the five scale positions in the key of C starting in the third fret,(the note G will be the 'V' note in C).

Next I play the five scale positions in the key of F, starting again in the third fret (but now the note G wil be the II note in F and I will play the scale position starting from II). Next I will play the scales (this time in the key of Bb) starting from the third fret again , and this time G will be the ..... VI in the key of Bb.

Using this method you will learn the different functions of a note in a key: G is the V of C, then G is the II of F, then G is the VI of Bb, then it will be the III of Eb and so on., which will be the order of the circle.
But then it comes an aha moment: isn't a usual chord progression iii-vi-ii-V-I ?. that's it. learning the circle will help you learning chord progressions in all keys , however you will also learn the function of a note in all keys, which will help you learn all notes in all 12 keys,it will help you in improvisation, modulation, transposing songs,learning the fretboard (remember that the guitar is tuned in fifths except the second and third string)etc.

maybe today it won't be that clear, but if you practice scales using the order of circles you will find many aha moments and find relationships that you didn't discover before.
Last edited by Rgalvez; 04-05-2009 at 02:04 PM.

19. Originally Posted by Rgalvez
... learning the circle will help you learning chord progressions in all keys ...
That's the part I like most.

Moving counterclockwise around the circle is the most common chord changes in music.

Notice if you start on D and move counterclockwise you will get D to G to C. In the Key of C that is a 2-5-1 chord progression (one of the most common progressions in Jazz). This means you can start anywhere in the circle and find the chords for a 2-5-1 progression.

20. I got this from a cool website, which can bring ideas to what we have covered so far:

''The circle of fifths falls into the category of "something handy to know but not something that you can really practice"... that is, until you begin analyzing songs and/or writing your own songs. Many common chord progressions follow the circle of 5ths. The more familiar you are with this device, the easier you will be able to spot it's use within a song.

One use for the circle of 5ths in a compositional sense is as a key changing device. Changing the key signature in the middle of a piece of music is called MODULATION. The smoothest modulation occurs between keys that have only one note difference between the two keys. If you've been paying attention, you should realize that this is exactly how the keys are organized with the circle of fifths.

A good way to practice modulation, utilizing the "circle", is to pick a position on the guitar neck and "run the scales" through the circle. Without moving up or down the fingerboard more than one fret, you should be able to pick out each successive sharp or flat key and play that Major scale.

If you are soloing over a chord progression that suddenly shifts to a new key, the ability to quickly change to the appropriate scale is a must. You won't always have the luxury of shifting your hand position in order to change to a new scale.