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Chapter-8 :Circle of 5ths and chord relations

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What is Circle of 5ths?

The circle of fifths is a diagram used in music theory that helps students memorize and understand the 24 major and minor keys used in music, key relationships, and many chord relationships.Logically, this diagram is pretty fascinating. It ties together many common relationships found in music. The circle of fifths illustration was conceived by German musician Johann David Heinichen in 1728.

Memorizing the circle of 5ths diagram is worthwhile. It’s not as hard as it seems once you understand the logic behind the circle.

 

Fifths are musical intervals.  The circle of 5ths is an arrangement of the 12 notes of the musical alphabets a circle. Each note on the circle is a perfect fifth apart.

Ex: Easiest way to understand this is if your starting scale is C we take the 5th note of C major scale.C major: C D E F G A B. You see the 5th note of C Major scale is G marked in red.


LESSON 1: SHARPS

As we learned in the Major Scales, the C Major scale contains no sharp or flat notes – C D E F G A B. This is the only Major scale with only natural notes. All other keys will have a varying number of sharp or flat notes. Each key has a unique key signature.

If we build our next scale starting with the 5th note of the C major scale, we get the G Major scale – G A B C D E F#. Notice that the G Major scale has one note that is sharp (F#).

Now, lets build a third scale starting from the 5th note of the G Major scale. That will give us the D major scale – D E F# G A B C#. Notice that we now have two notes that are sharp (F# and C#).

If we build a fourth scale from the 5th note of the D Major scale, we get the A Major scale – A B C# D E F# G#. As you’ve probably guessed, the A Major scale has one more sharp than the D Major scale.

That’s how it works.

If you build a Major scale from the 5th note of another Major scale, the new scale will have one more sharp than the scale you started with.

That’s where the “5ths” in the circle of 5ths comes from, but what about the “circle” part? The circle comes from the fact that if you continue to build a scale from the 5th note of the previous scale, you will eventually wind up right back at the beginning, C Major:

  • G is the 5th note of C Major.
  • D is the 5th note of G Major.
  • A is the 5th note of D Major.
  • E is the 5th note of A Major.
  • B is the 5th note of E Major.
  • F# is the 5th note of B Major.

Now, one of the conventions of key signatures is that a proper key signature does not mix sharps and flats. You have one or the other, not both. Another convention is that the letter name for each note can only be used once. These two conventions present us with a problem.

Once you get to a certain point within the circle, it becomes impossible to observe these two conventions without considering the note F to be E# and the note C to be B# or resorting to the awkward designation of DOUBLE SHARP. (Denoted by x, a double sharp note is equivalent to the note one whole-step higher than the letter name being used. Cx is the same pitch as D.)

Let’s look at the key of F#:

F# G# A# B C# D# E#(F)

 In order to avoid using both F and F# in the key signature, we have to “bend” the rules and name F as E#.


LESSON 2: FLATS

So, let’s take a look at key signatures with flats instead of sharps.

If we go back to the C Major scale (C D E F G A B), but instead of going to the 5th note, we go to the 4th note to construct our next scale, we get the F Major scale- F G A Bb C D E. Notice that the key of F Major has one flat.

If we build our next scale from the 4th note of the F Major scale, we get the Bb major – Bb C D Eb F G A. Notice that we now have two flats.

It’s the same pattern all over again.

If you build a Major scale from the 4th note of another Major scale, the new scale will have one more flat than the scale you started with.

And once again, if you keep going, you’re going to end up right back at C:

C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D G C

The Final view:


Relative Major and Minor

The basics:

Formula:  Take the 6th note of any major  scale, play the same series of notes from the 6th note and it will be the minor form with same notes.

For every major scale there is a related minor scale. These two scales are built from the same notes:

Major Scale:C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C(C Major)

Relative Minor Scale:A – B – C – D – E – F – G – A(A minor)

The only difference between the two scales is which note you start with. The minor scale starts from the sixth note of the major scale. The scales are called RELATIVE because they share the exact same notes.


Relative minor in circle of 5ths

  • At 12 O` clock position, C has the same relative minor scale in the inner circle that is Am.
  • At 1 O` clock position, G has the same relative minor scale in the circle that is Em.
  • At 11 O’ clock position, F has the same relative minor scale in the circle that is Dm.
  • You can also count like we did in the primary stage, From Am in the inner circle Count the 5th of the scale that is E, So you can put Em on 1 O` Clock position and so on.
  • The rest of the circle has been matched the same way with relative minors.

Deeper into chord relations:

Using the Circle of Fifths to Find Notes and Chords in a Scale.

We know that notes in a scale correspond to the chord scale in the same key, right?  Here’s how they line up:

Find the Notes in a Scale

Again, we are using the key of C as a reference.

The Circle of Fifths can help us name the notes in any major scale.  Here’s how:

Look at the C scale in one octave:

C D E F G A B C

Note on the circle that the 1st note is C.  The 2 note, D, is two steps to the right of C.  The 3 note, E, is two steps further to the right.

Now jump across the circle — not quite straight across — to the 4 note, which always sits to the left of the root note in the Circle of Fifths.

Once you have the 4 note, the 5, 6, and 7 notes are respectively two steps to the right from each other.

That little pattern works with any key.  If you were to “spin” the markers for the 1st through 7th scale positions, so that another note is the root note, the pattern works the same way.

Find the Notes in a Scale

Again, we are using the key of C as a reference.

The Circle of Fifths can help us name the notes in any major scale.  Here’s how:

Look at the C scale in one octave:

C D E F G A B C

Note on the circle that the 1st note is C.  The 2 note, D, is two steps to the right of C.  The 3 note, E, is two steps further to the right.

Now jump across the circle — not quite straight across — to the 4 note, which always sits to the left of the root note in the Circle of Fifths.

Once you have the 4 note, the 5, 6, and 7 notes are respectively two steps to the right from each other.

That little pattern works with any key.  If you were to “spin” the markers for the 1st through 7th scale positions, so that another note is the root note, the pattern works the same way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find the Chords in a Scale

Once more, the key of C is our reference.

Because the Circle of Fifths can help us name the notes in any major scale, it can also show us the chords in a major chord scale.  Here’s how:

First, remember that any key has a set of chords which go with it, just as it has a major scale of single notes.  The major chord scale is shown in the table above.  Just like the notes, the chords are identified as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.  The 8 chord is always the octave of the 1 chord.

In the major chord scale, the 1, 4 and 5 chords are all major chords — named the same chords as the 1, 4 and 5 notes.  In the guitar world, these are the “BIG THREE” chords of every chord progression — the 1-4-5 progressions.  In C, you’ve played it many times:  C-F-G.

The 2, 3 and 6 chords in the chord scale are all minors, and the 7 chord is a diminished or diminished 7th chord.  Again, those are all named after the note whose position they represent.

The minor chords add color to what we play, but one of them is the primary minor chord — often called the relative minor — based on the 6th note of the scale.  In the case of C, it’s the A minor chord.

A trick in using the Circle of Fifths to find the relative minor is to move 90 degrees right from the root chord.  So the relative minor of C is A minor, since A is 90 degrees to the right of C.


In the first image everything is centered very nicely and we can see the relationship between each of the chords in C major

In the second image the mask has been rotated to the left so that F is now chord and we can see the relationship between each of the chords in F major

In the third image the mask has been rotated to the right so that G is now chord and we can see the relationship between each of the chords in G major

We would continue to rotate the mask to the left or the right depending on which key we want to use chords in.

We can do similar things in the natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor only the masks would change for each type.

 

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Conclusion

You know it takes a lot of time to read this whole thing, read it again and again, try it with your guitar to figure out,and after that if you have questions, please ask in the comments section below 🙂


Reference Video:

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