Guitar Resources

Circle of Fifths!

The circle of fifths is a method developed over 340 years ago that is still used today to aid in the writing of music. The way it is drawn can help us to understand what chords work well with other chords.

A basic circle will look something like this

To work out the notes around the circle, we start at C and then move to the seventh semitone

C -> C# -> D -> D #-> E -> F -> F# -> G

Now do this for each note

G -> G# -> A -> A# -> B -> C -> C# -> D

and this creates the pattern starting at C G D A E B F# C# G# D# A# F
of if we are using flats instead of sharps C G D A E B Gb Db Ab Eb Bb F

Once we have our circle, we can do a simple bit of location for certain notes called the Degree.

For a C scale, C is the first degree or "I", D is the 2nd degree or "ii", E is the 3rd degree or "iii", F if the 4th degree "IV", G is the 5th degree "V", A is the 6th degree "vi" and B is the 7th degree "vii°". The roman numerals tell us something about the way the chord will form. Chords in Upper case are major chords. Chords in Lower case are minor chords. For the key of C, the chords C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am and Bdim are the chords that work well together, although Bdim doesn`t really sound very nice. Most musicians using this type of method would normally leave out the Diminished Chord. It sounds rather discordant.

The circle of fifths for the C key looks like this

The chords either side of the key we want to know the chords for are major chords. The next three chords around the circle are minor keys and finally the 5th chord around from the Key is a diminished chord.

This layout works the same for all major keys. Here is an example of an E major chord

You will find if you use all the major and minor chords for the particular key you want to use they will indeed sound nice together. There is just one more thing to discuss. By using 7th chords, such as C7, Dm, Em7, F7, G7 and Am7 they will still sound nice added into a song in the key of C. Similarly for the Key of E, add in E7, F#m7,G#m7,A7,B7 and C#m7.

The 7's can be used for all the major keys in this way.

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