# Circle of fifths question

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by monfoodoo, Jan 11, 2010.

1. ### monfoodooTele-Holic

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can the circle of fifths tell me (as in a E major scale,4 sharps, for an example),what the sharp notes are?

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The order of flats and sharps goes along with the circle of fifths.
F# C# G# D# A# E# B#
Flats are the opposite order:
Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb
You would use this order to figure out that E major is F# C# G# D#

3. ### weelieFriend of Leo's

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If you go around it clockwise,
the major scale of the one you are looking at is the mixolydian of the next one. In other words, to make the G major scale, you take C major scale and move the note two frets down from the G, up by a fret (F -> F#).

So in short, the sharps are the notes just below the root note. And they pile up, the next one around the circle will have all the sharps before it.

4. ### FirstBassmanFriend of Leo's

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Yup, that's the easiest way to look at it and the way I teach it.

5. ### monfoodooTele-Holic

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Yes,but can it tell me what position the sharps or flat are located in the scale?

6. ### jazztelePoster ExtraordinaireSilver Supporter

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monfoodoo, i'm not totally sure what you mean, but i'll take a stab at it...

every scale moves through the 7 letters of the musical alphabet (A B C D E F G ) in order, starting from whatever the tonic (I) is and cycling back around... so C major is C D E F G A B.

F major also does this-- F G A B C D E. but the B is flat, of course.

7. ### HikerPoster Extraordinaire

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7 note scales, 12 notes-chromatically if you play each sharp & flat. Get some of those basics in memory, however, spend time on the fretboard exercising your fingers like this example in cycle of fourths.

The practice tab exercise, there-copied bigger when cut/pasted to word software, and is sitting on my music stand at the moment...

If you get serious about reading music on paper-while playing, ditch the little music stand, and getcha a decent, heavy, orchestra-style, music stand (Manhasset brand). Sitting at a computer with a guitar/bass is overrated!

Enjoy!

8. ### Joe-BobDoctor of Teleocity

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The order of sharps and flats should just be memorized. Flats are easy BEADGCF, for sharps, I used a mnenomic to learn them; Four Crones Got Drunk At Easter Bar-B-Que.

9. ### boneyguyDoctor of Teleocity

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Yes.

On the Circle of 5ths diagram below when you move to the right of 'C' we are adding one # to the key signature with each step to create the 'sharp keys'. Conversely we add one 'b' to the key signature with each step we move to the left of 'C' to create the 'flat keys'.

So how can the diagram show us specifically which #'s or b's are in each key signature?

For example: The key of G has one # and that is F#. On the diagram below you will see that F is 2 steps to the left of G. That F is the note that is sharpened (F#) in the key of G.

The next key after G is D and it has 2 #'s, F# and C#. On the diagram go 2 steps to the left, just like in the first example key of G, and you have C. That C will be sharpened (C#) and we also include the previous F#.

So using this pattern on the diagram the key of A has F#, C# and G#. The key of E which is next in order has those previous 3 #'s that are in the key of A plus one more, the D#.

Make sense?

This same pattern continues for the all the other # keys.

The flat keys work a bit differently on the diagram. Their order is Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Cb-Fb. You can probably look at the diagram and work out the pattern.

So yes, you can get the order of sharps and flats from the Circle of 5ths but...
ultimatley, you need to just memorize the keys rather than consulting a diagram.

Last edited: Jan 11, 2010
10. ### LeopoldPlumtreeTDPRI Member

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I just look at it as one continuous string...

...Bb F C G D A E B F# C# G# D# A# E# B# Fx Cx...

The root of a major scale is always the second from the left in a series of six consecutive fifths.

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Every so often someone will refer to the "cycle of fourths" -- is this any different than the cycle of fifths? Backwards? Using a mirror? Left handed?

12. ### jsepguitarTDPRI Member

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Cycle of fourths is the cycle of fifths backwards.

I look at the cycle a little differently that the people above to determine the notes in a key. I use a circle with the relative minor included, like the one above. I also write in the diminished triad (7th degree) in the same column as the major and relative minor.

For C major, if you look at C major & the key to the left and the key to the right you'll find all of the chords in the key (plus the 7th degree added). So for C you have C & Am, F & Dm, G & Em (plus B dim). When you line the notes up it is C,D,E,F,G,A,B. This works for every key, you just have to use the right enharmonic note in some cases (F# vs Gb). I try to visualize the keys this way and in addition to knowing the notes of the key it also helps me with the diatonic chords - i know the ii chord in C is one column to the left and the minor chord or Dm.

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One more time! I usually think of "the cycle" in the direction: dominant fifth to root, so:

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

Is that the cycle of fifths (because we're descending by fifths) or the cycle of fourths (because we're ascending by fourths)?

14. ### PaisleyRocksTele-Holic

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Now, I am not a teacher, although I have taken a few lessons in my time. I think of the circle of fifths/fourths like this: with each subsequent note around the "wheel," you add either a flat or a sharp note (depending on which way you're going). But which notes do we raise or flatten?

A A#/Bb B C C#/Db E F F#/Gb G G#/Ab

In order to get all the notes in a scale, you use the following pattern: WWHWWWH (W = whole step, H = half step). Memorize this pattern - it's important, easy to remember, and essential.

So, if we want to get the C major scale, we look at the chromatic notes, and starting with C, we follow the pattern above.

First note is C. The next note, a whole step above C, is D. The next note, a whole step above D is E. The next note in the scale, a half step above E is F, etc. What we end up with for the key of C should be pretty familiar:

C D E F G A B C

Now, we want to determine which scale is "next." Here is where the circle of 5ths/fourths comes in to play. If we follow the circle of fifths/fourths diagram posted above, we can see that the "next" scale in the circle of fifths (going clockwise) is G.

But where did this G come from? How do we know it's next? How do we know which sharps/flats are in the key of G? One question at a time!

We know G is next, because it is the 5th note in the key of C! See, circle of fifths.

Now, how do we determine which notes are in it? Well, we could look at the chromatic scale, and follow the pattern explained above (WWHWWWH) starting at G, or we could just take the key of C, and rearrange is with G being the tonic, and raise the 7th in this rearranged scale by a half step:

G A B C D E F# G

Thus we have the key of G.

Why do we raise the 7th? Dunno, that's just how it is . Some nonsense about a leading tone, I believe..

Continuing our trip around the circle of 5ths, the 5th note in the key of G is D. Using the same rules as before, we keep the F# from the key of G, and raise the 7th a half step, and get the following:

D E F# G A B C#

Continuing on, we get A:

A B C# D E F# G#

And finally, we arrive at the object of our journey, the key of E:

E F# G# A B C# D#

Hooray!

The circle of fourths is similar, you except instead of basing the next scale around the 5th note in the previous scale, you base it around the fourth. So, again, we start with the key of C:

C D E F G A B C

The next scale in the circle of fourths is F. How do we know? The 4th note in the key of C is F. Circle of fourths, magic!

Now, this is where things deviate a little from the circle of fourths. Instead of re-arranging the notes, and then raising the 7th, we drop the seventh a half step, and then re-arrange the notes (since we are now going the other way around the circle). So, dropping the 7th in the key of C a half step gives us a Bb, and rearranging this scale around the F gives us the key of F:

F G A Bb C D E F

From here, the 4th is the Bb, and the key of Bb is as follows:

Bb C D Eb F G A Bb

See what we did there? Continuing on, we get the following scales:

key of Eb: Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb
key of Ab: Ab Bb C Db Eb F G Ab
key of Db: Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db
Key of Gb: Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb
key of Cb: Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb Cb

And now we're all flat! And we never got to the Key of E .

Or wait, what if we take it one step further!

key of Fb: Fb Gb Ab Bbb Cb Db Eb

Another way of writing this would be:

key of E: E F# G# A B C# D# E

So, I suppose, either way, we can find the key of E, hooray!!

(please pardon any typos or terms not explained/correctly or thoroughly)

15. ### boneyguyDoctor of Teleocity

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That's the cycle of fourths.

Moving to the left from the 'C' is the cycle of 4ths (up in 4ths/down in 5ths): to the right from the "C" is the cycle of 5ths (up in 5ths/down n 4ths).

Last edited: Jan 11, 2010
16. ### jsepguitarTDPRI Member

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Another way I answer the question of what notes are sharp/flat in a key is to relate the key to the modes of C major. So for F, I think of the Lydian mode which has a #4, so to make F major you would flatten the 4th degree (B). For G major, I think mixolydian which has a b7, so to make G major you # the 7th (F). If you know all of the mode formulas it's not too hard. The sharp and flat keys are opposites. For instance, I relate B major to B locrian which has a formula of 1-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7, so you'd have to sharp the 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 to get B major. For Bb, it's the opposite - you would flatten the 1&4 and the other degrees are natural.

17. ### boneyguyDoctor of Teleocity

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Wow!! And that simplifies things for you?

Hey, if it works that's great but I can't help thinking that if you can memorize all that transposing I think you could just as easily memorize the various keys and be done with it.

18. ### garytelecastorPoster Extraordinaire

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19. ### octatonicPoster Extraordinaire

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You can use the phrase "Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle."

I don't use it myself but some do.

And the reverse for flats.

20. ### Joe-BobDoctor of Teleocity

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I tell my students which ones that I use, and that they can use any one they want...as long as they can say it in public mixed company.

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