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Question about the circle of fifths!

Radu-Cristian Perde

New Student
Legend
Nov 11, 2019
194
151
22
Montreal
Hi everyone! First of all, sorry for my inactivity. Life got in the way and I was in the hospital and blabla but dont worry im bouncing back up and am doing well!

Alright so, I have been working on the circle of fifths recently. I do understand how to look at it and understand how it works while ''reading it''. What I dont grasp is exactly how to use it? I am not sure of the correct way to see it or if its just something that is a must know in theory! I want to know how you guys sort of approach it and any tips or tricks. I know in the lesson Papa Gates said to take the time to learn it and Im sorry if it sounds like its a dumb question and that its pretty obvious but should I really push it to learn it all by heart?

Thank you all!
 

Jak Angelescu

Guitarist for Unknown. I Run This Joint
Staff member
Legend
Sep 24, 2019
2,521
2,840
33
Kansas City, MO
23
Hi everyone! First of all, sorry for my inactivity. Life got in the way and I was in the hospital and blabla but dont worry im bouncing back up and am doing well!

Alright so, I have been working on the circle of fifths recently. I do understand how to look at it and understand how it works while ''reading it''. What I dont grasp is exactly how to use it? I am not sure of the correct way to see it or if its just something that is a must know in theory! I want to know how you guys sort of approach it and any tips or tricks. I know in the lesson Papa Gates said to take the time to learn it and Im sorry if it sounds like its a dumb question and that its pretty obvious but should I really push it to learn it all by heart?

Thank you all!
The Circle of 5ths is definitely something you should know in theory! First and foremost, because it goes in 5ths, knowing it helps you know your key signatures faster and more efficiently. It also helps you with your interval knowledge, because of this. I'll try to give an example. And please let me know if this doesn't make sense...

I'm sure you know that from C to G is a 5th. So automatically, you know that G is the 5th degree of C major (perfect 5th). Now already you know that if you wanted to learn a basic chord progression pattern such as I-IV-V, you know already that your V chord will be a Gmajor. You can easily use this as a reference point to figuring out other chords in chord patterns.
Now let's say you want to improvise or write a solo using harmony guitar parts, or you simply want to write vocal harmonies. You know now automatically if you have a C in the key of C major, that G will harmonize with it well because the Circle of 5ths taught you that G is the perfect 5th of C.

In my humble opinion, the Circle of 5ths is best designed and used simply to get you to know your key signatures faster, because it moves in 5ths. I wouldn't really say that any specific guitarist writes a solo saying "oh I used the circle of 5ths to write this." It's moreso like using it to help understand and utilize key signatures themselves better. Does that make any sense?
 
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Andrei Moraru

New Student
Nov 11, 2019
418
884
andreilucianmoraru.com
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It's useful because it allows you to figure out the notes for every possible scale. You should take the time to learn it but the gist of it is the following:

- when going towards the right (or clockwise), you're gonna encounter scales with sharps in their key signature; key signatures tell you if any notes are to be sharpened or flattened;
- when going towards the right (or clockwise), you're gonna encounter scales with flats in their key signature;

Both times you are moving in fifths. Everything starts on C.

If you go to the right, the first scale you encounter is G major, and the difference between C and G, the 2 root notes, is a rising fifth since you're going up. Lather, rinse, repeat for the other ones.

If you go to the left, the first scale you will encounter is F major, and the difference between C and F, the 2 root notes, is a falling fifth since you're going down.

I hope the clears it up a bit.
 
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Radu-Cristian Perde

New Student
Legend
Nov 11, 2019
194
151
22
Montreal
The Circle of 5ths is definitely something you should know in theory! First and foremost, because it goes in 5ths, knowing it helps you know your key signatures faster and more efficiently. It also helps you with your interval knowledge, because of this. I'll try to give an example. And please let me know if this doesn't make sense...

I'm sure you know that from C to G is a 5th. So automatically, you know that G is the 5th degree of C major (perfect 5th). Now already you know that if you wanted to learn a basic chord progression pattern such as I-IV-V, you know already that your V chord will be a Gmajor. You can easily use this as a reference point to figuring out other chords in chord patterns.
Now let's say you want to improvise or write a solo using harmony guitar parts, or you simply want to write vocal harmonies. You know now automatically if you have a C in the key of C major, that G will harmonize with it well because the Circle of 5ths taught you that G is the perfect 5th of C.

In my humble opinion, the Circle of 5ths is best designed and used simply to get you to know your key signatures faster, because it moves in 5ths. I wouldn't really say that any specific guitarist writes a solo saying "oh I used the circle of 5ths to write this." It's moreso like using it to help understand and utilize key signatures themselves better. Does that make any sense?
Okay so it sort of makes sense but at the same type its a difficult concept to grasp. So from what im getting from, I should learn it by heart so I stop thinking about it and so it just becomes autotmatic knowledge of lets say, playing a C note and knowing where to find the harmonic or scale or chords that can work with right?

Because see, Im learning to play the cello and its tuned is C-G-D-A which means its tuned in fifth (So just like when a guitar is tuned in drop D. The 6th string is tuned in fifth with the fifth string). So im learning to navigate that as well and see how all the strings and notes connect and its a bit confusing hahaha
 

Radu-Cristian Perde

New Student
Legend
Nov 11, 2019
194
151
22
Montreal
It's useful because it allows you to figure out the notes for every possible scale. You should take the time to learn it but the gist of it is the following:

- when going towards the right (or clockwise), you're gonna encounter scales with sharps in their key signature; key signatures tell you if any notes are to be sharpened or flattened;
- when going towards the right (or clockwise), you're gonna encounter scales with flats in their key signature;

Both times you are moving in fifths. Everything starts on C.

If you go to the right, the first scale you encounter is G major, and the difference between C and G, the 2 root notes, is a rising fifth since you're going up. Lather, rinse, repeat for the other ones.

If you go to the left, the first scale you will encounter is F major, and the difference between C and F, the 2 root notes, is a falling fifth since you're going down.

I hope the clears it up a bit.
It makes sense. Ive grasped that concept like, im capable of reading the circle no problem! What im having a hard time to grasp really the whole memorization of it. But to memorize it and understand all the sharps and flats, does it mean that I need to learn every scale for every note?
 

Andrei Moraru

New Student
Nov 11, 2019
418
884
andreilucianmoraru.com
10
It makes sense. Ive grasped that concept like, im capable of reading the circle no problem! What im having a hard time to grasp really the whole memorization of it. But to memorize it and understand all the sharps and flats, does it mean that I need to learn every scale for every note?
As someone who has studied music since 1994, I don't think I have all the scales memorized yet. I still go about it note by note. But yeah, if you no longer wish to use the circle, then memorizing them keys is the only way to go. You'll get there in time.
 
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Jak Angelescu

Guitarist for Unknown. I Run This Joint
Staff member
Legend
Sep 24, 2019
2,521
2,840
33
Kansas City, MO
23
It makes sense. Ive grasped that concept like, im capable of reading the circle no problem! What im having a hard time to grasp really the whole memorization of it. But to memorize it and understand all the sharps and flats, does it mean that I need to learn every scale for every note?
Here's what my teacher taught me, and it really simplified everything. I hope it helps you:

Every 5th degree you move up, the 7th tone of that scale becomes sharpened. And you just borrow what's already been sharpened from the previous scale, and continue to sharp the next 7th. I know it's hard to explain but I'll give an example.

C Major: C D E F G A B C
G Major: G A B C D E F# G (noticed how the 7th tone is sharpened. You always sharpen the 7th tone because of the formula whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half for the major scale)
D Major: D E F#(because the F was sharped in the previous scale) G A B C# (because C is the 7th tone it must be sharped) D

Now we already know that the next key, A major, will have an F# and a C# in it because they were in the previous key signature of D major. All you do is continue to borrow the sharped notes from the previous key signatures and continue to sharpen the 7th tone of the current key signature. I'll continue an example.

A Major: A B C# D E F# G# A
Notice how the C# and F# came from the previous key of D major, and because the G is the 7th tone of the scale, we have to sharpen it.

So I hope that makes sense! If it doesn't, let me know and I'll make a little video for you. Essentially to help memorize the notes in each key, just remember to sharpen the 7th, and use the previous sharped notes from previous keys and continue to sharpen the 7th of the current Key. I have to admit though, I'm not sure how it works in the flat keys. My teacher hasn't taught that part to me yet. Maybe Andrei will know :)
 

Radu-Cristian Perde

New Student
Legend
Nov 11, 2019
194
151
22
Montreal
Here's what my teacher taught me, and it really simplified everything. I hope it helps you:

Every 5th degree you move up, the 7th tone of that scale becomes sharpened. And you just borrow what's already been sharpened from the previous scale, and continue to sharp the next 7th. I know it's hard to explain but I'll give an example.

C Major: C D E F G A B C
G Major: G A B C D E F# G (noticed how the 7th tone is sharpened. You always sharpen the 7th tone because of the formula whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half for the major scale)
D Major: D E F#(because the F was sharped in the previous scale) G A B C# (because C is the 7th tone it must be sharped) D

Now we already know that the next key, A major, will have an F# and a C# in it because they were in the previous key signature of D major. All you do is continue to borrow the sharped notes from the previous key signatures and continue to sharpen the 7th tone of the current key signature. I'll continue an example.

A Major: A B C# D E F# G# A
Notice how the C# and F# came from the previous key of D major, and because the G is the 7th tone of the scale, we have to sharpen it.

So I hope that makes sense! If it doesn't, let me know and I'll make a little video for you. Essentially to help memorize the notes in each key, just remember to sharpen the 7th, and use the previous sharped notes from previous keys and continue to sharpen the 7th of the current Key. I have to admit though, I'm not sure how it works in the flat keys. My teacher hasn't taught that part to me yet. Maybe Andrei will know :)
Ok I think I got it!! So let me reiterate just to be sure: So we have the C major scale. To have the G major scale (which is next) we take the C major scale and sharpen the seventh. Then, when we go to the G major scale, all the notes are the in the same order as the C major scale except that now we start the scale with the G AND the note the seventh of the C major scale is sharpened. Do I get this right?
 
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Radu-Cristian Perde

New Student
Legend
Nov 11, 2019
194
151
22
Montreal
As someone who has studied music since 1994, I don't think I have all the scales memorized yet. I still go about it note by note. But yeah, if you no longer wish to use the circle, then memorizing them keys is the only way to go. You'll get there in time.
Fair point! Theory seems like you have to slowly pick and choose what to memorize but its just good to be familiar with the different aspect of it!
 

Jak Angelescu

Guitarist for Unknown. I Run This Joint
Staff member
Legend
Sep 24, 2019
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Ok I think I got it!! So let me reiterate just to be sure: So we have the C major scale. To have the G major scale (which is next) we take the C major scale and sharpen the seventh. Then, when we go to the G major scale, all the notes are the in the same order as the C major scale except that now we start the scale with the G AND the note the seventh of the C major scale is sharpened. Do I get this right?
You almost have it right! At the very end you said the 7th of the C major scale is sharpened. It's the G major scale that you need to sharpen the 7th tone of. It's because you are currently on the G major scale. Let me see if I can explain it a different way.

You have the C major scale. The 5th degree of a C major scale is G. So now in your G major scale, you automatically know that because of the formula for a major scale, that the 7th degree of a G major scale is going to be sharpened. So in the key of G major you have an F#. Now moving on to D major you already know that there's going to be an F# in the key of D major because there was an F# in the previous key. And then you sharp the 7th of the D major key to get the final sharp for that key.

Essentially all you are doing is Sharping the 7th degree of the scale each time and bringing over the sharps from the previous key.

C: C D E F G A B C
G: G A B C D E F# G (7th is sharped)
D: D E F# G A B C# D (7th is sharped, F# is taken from previous key)
A: A B C# D E F# G# A (7th is sharped, C# and F# is taken from previous key)

Now because you know that your next key signature is E, you already know that the C, F and G will be sharpened because of the previous key signature. All you have to do is remember what 7th you sharpened from the previous key and continue adding it into the next key :) does that make any more sense? If it's still confusing I'll be more than happy to make a video😍
 

Radu-Cristian Perde

New Student
Legend
Nov 11, 2019
194
151
22
Montreal
You almost have it right! At the very end you said the 7th of the C major scale is sharpened. It's the G major scale that you need to sharpen the 7th tone of. It's because you are currently on the G major scale. Let me see if I can explain it a different way.

You have the C major scale. The 5th degree of a C major scale is G. So now in your G major scale, you automatically know that because of the formula for a major scale, that the 7th degree of a G major scale is going to be sharpened. So in the key of G major you have an F#. Now moving on to D major you already know that there's going to be an F# in the key of D major because there was an F# in the previous key. And then you sharp the 7th of the D major key to get the final sharp for that key.

Essentially all you are doing is Sharping the 7th degree of the scale each time and bringing over the sharps from the previous key.

C: C D E F G A B C
G: G A B C D E F# G (7th is sharped)
D: D E F# G A B C# D (7th is sharped, F# is taken from previous key)
A: A B C# D E F# G# A (7th is sharped, C# and F# is taken from previous key)

Now because you know that your next key signature is E, you already know that the C, F and G will be sharpened because of the previous key signature. All you have to do is remember what 7th you sharpened from the previous key and continue adding it into the next key :) does that make any more sense? If it's still confusing I'll be more than happy to make a video😍
Okay perfect I got it! Yes so basically, every time we go one spot on the right, the 7th of that scale will get sharpen but we always keep the previous notes that were sharpened! I think I have a better grasp of it! Thank you so much Jak!!
 
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Jak Angelescu

Guitarist for Unknown. I Run This Joint
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Sep 24, 2019
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Okay perfect I got it! Yes so basically, every time we go one spot on the right, the 7th of that scale will get sharpen but we always keep the previous notes that were sharpened! I think I have a better grasp of it! Thank you so much Jak!!
My pleasure buddy I think it's great that you worked hard and got it figured out! I'm glad I could have helped because when my teacher taught me that I was mind blown lol!
 
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Radu-Cristian Perde

New Student
Legend
Nov 11, 2019
194
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Montreal
My pleasure buddy I think it's great that you worked hard and got it figured out! I'm glad I could have helped because when my teacher taught me that I was mind blown lol!
Yeah for sure! I mean, since i started doing each section of the syn gates school one by one, my guitar knowledge has drastically increased! And the circle of fifths, i really took the time and tried to write down as much as i could from the lesson (you really cant just get it if you just watch the video) and it already opens different doors. it feels very overwhelming though not gonna lie. It feels like there is so many things to do but i have to go one by one