Understanding The Circle of Fifths

by Tania Gleaves on March 30, 2015

The circle of fifths, introduced by Johann David Heinichen in 1728, is a visual arrangement of related keys. Although its name gives the impression that it’s a difficult concept to grasp, it’s really just an easy way to remember the number of sharps and flats in a key signature and the major and minor key relationships.

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Sharps and Flats

If you can imagine a clock for a moment, where each hour represents a particular key, you can identify that key’s sharps and flats. Let’s say that:

  • 12:00 or “0:00” represents the C Major key (or the A Minor key)…
  • 1:00 represents the G Major key (or the E Minor key)…
  • 2:00 represents the D Major key (or the B Minor key)…
  • 3:00 represents the A Major key (or the F# Minor key)…
  • 4:00 represents the E Major key (or the C# Minor key)…
  • 5:00 represents the B Major key (or the G# Minor key)…
  • 6:00 represents the F# Major key (or the Eb Minor key)…
  • 7:00 represents the Db Major key (or the Db Minor key)…
  • 8:00 represents the Ab Major key (or the F Minor key)…
  • 9:00 represents the Eb Major key (or the C Minor key)…
  • 10:00 represents the Bb Major key (or the G Minor key), and
  • 11:00 represents the F Major key (or the D Minor key).

Perfect Fifths

If you’ll notice, each hour (or key) is separated by a perfect fifth (moving clockwise). A perfect fifth is an interval made up of three whole steps and one half step. For example, A perfect fifth above C is G, and a perfect fifth above E is B. This is where the pattern gets its name . It follows a unique pattern on our imaginary clock where:

  • … the perfect fifth of the C Major key is G.
  • … the perfect fifth of the G Major key is D.
  • … the perfect fifth of the D Major key is A.
  • … the perfect fifth of the A Major key is E.
  • … the perfect fifth of the E Major key is B.
  • … the perfect fifth of the B Major key is F#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the F# Major key is C#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the C# Major key is G#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the G# Major key is D#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the D# Major key is A#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the A# Major key is F.
  • … the perfect fifth of the F Major key is C.

This pattern helps us determine the sharps and flats of a signature because they’re always a perfect fifth away (moving clockwise). Just remember that sharps increase in the clockwise direction while flats increase in the counter-clockwise direction (note: when you move counter-clockwise, each hour- or key- is separated by a perfect fourth).

Related Keys

As an example, the C Major and A Minor keys are related because they both lack sharps and flats. Based on the circle of fifths, we discover that a single flat relates the F major key to the D minor key while a single sharp relates the G major key to the E minor key as well. Two flats relate the Bb major key to the G minor key while two sharps relate the D major key to the B minor key too. Three flats relate the Eb major key to the C minor key while three sharps relate the A major key to F# minor key. Starting to see a pattern? The concept is of course easier to understand with a visual.

circle-of-fifthscircle of fifths chart

The Enharmonic Notes

The 5:00, 6:00, and 7:00 hours are unique in that they help you identify different notes with the same pitch. These notes are said to be enharmonic to each other:

  • “5:00″ can either be B Major (G# Minor) with five sharps (from the clockwise perspective) or Cb Major (Ab Minor) with seven flats (from the counter-clockwise perspective).
  • “6:00″ can either be F# Major (D# Minor) with six sharps (from the clockwise perspective) or Gb Major (Eb Minor) with six flats (from the counter-clockwise perspective).
  • Lastly, “7:00″ can either be C# Major (A# Minor) with seven sharps (from the clockwise perspective) or Db Major (Bb Minor) with five flats (from the counter-clockwise perspective).

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Blues Piano Lessons

by Erik Thiede on March 30, 2015

Could you use a crash-course in the blues? These blues piano lessons will get you headed in the right direction. We’ll begin with blues chords, string together a common blues progression, and combine it with a complementing bass line. Excited? Can’t wait to jam? Let’s get started with your blues piano lessons!

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Let’s begin with the chords we’ll use for this exercise. To make things easy, we’ll play in the piano-friendly key of C. A C chord consists of the notes C, E and G. To add a blues “flavor” to the chord, make it a seventh by adding a fourth note – B flat – to the top of the chord. Do the same with an F chord and a G chord. These three chords represent the 1-4-5 pattern that is most common in modern music. The pattern is so-named because, C being your root chord or starting point, the F chord is 4 steps up and the G chord is 5 steps up.

Patterns are also known as progressions. Some “chord progressions” are quite familiar. The most popular blues chord progression is the 12-bar blues progression. A bar is also known as a measure. A measure contains a certain number of beats, often four, that determine the pace and rhythm of the music. A phrase consists of the 12 measures, a sort of beginning-to-end section within a song.

Here is how you will play your 12-bar blues tune. Each chord represents a full bar, with four beats per bar:

C | C | C | C7 | F7 | F7 | C | C | G7 | F7 | C | C

Here’s another blues progression you can try. In the last two bars, the chords shown are played for two beats instead of four:

C | F7 | C | C7 | F | F7 | C | C7 | G7 | F7 | C, F | C, G

To add bass to the music, you can simply play the corresponding note; a C chord gets C for the bass, etc. Put it all together and you’re playing the blues! You can play your songs very slowly for one type of mood, or you can pick up the pace for another.

Once you’ve mastered the key of C, work on playing the same progressions in other keys. If you ever join in on a blues jam, for instance, you may need to match the key that the other musicians are playing in. If you are uncertain what the other chords would be, you can find a chord progression chart online that will come in handy.

If you’d like to find more blues piano lessons, click over to some of the great sites I’ve listed on my piano lessons review page. Enjoy!

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Learn & Master Piano Review – The Best DVD Piano Lessons

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The Learn & Master Piano course is considered to be the world’s best home-study DVD program for learning to play the piano. In fact, it is hailed as the #1 piano course available in the market today. It is a top-grade course series by the same brilliant minds who gave us other equally successful instructional […]

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The Value Of Easy Piano Lessons

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The eMedia Piano and Keyboard Method Review – How It Works?

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Product Overview eMedia Piano and Keyboard Method is a software compendium of piano lessons and learning tools. It includes audio, video, recording, and correction facilities. The software is simple, easy to install, can be used with or without a MIDI keyboard and is available for the Windows and Macintosh operating systems. The eMedia Piano and […]

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The Knauss Piano – A Beautiful Instrument, A Scant History

March 25, 2015

Perspectives Of Piano History If you’re anything like us, then you appreciate the way that piano history provides highly interesting perspectives into the lives of past musicians and equally interesting influences on both the musicians of the present and future. We’re particularly encouraged by the history of the Knauss piano and its contribution to the […]

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You Can Learn to Play Piano Online!

March 24, 2015

The Internet has transformed many parts of our daily lives, and now it is helping make piano lessons even easier! Playing the piano online is the way to go for adults and children alike. Maybe you’ve dreamed of learning the piano, but never got the chance as a child or young adult. Perhaps you had […]

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Piano Supplies – The Lamp, Bench, Piano Hinge, and Humidifier

March 23, 2015

A Gentle Reminder While some people are content with a piano and a bench, there are three additional components that make the piano more comforting and longer-lasting. One often forgets the intricacies involved in the use and upkeep of a piano until it needs repair or when it becomes difficult to play. So this article […]

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Piano By Pattern: What’s the Controversy?

March 22, 2015

Product Overview The Piano By Pattern lessons revolve around the concept of “patterns”, a striking difference from the normal “learn by rote” methods. The creator of the system purports that there are secret patterns that can be learned, allowing the pianist to significantly cut down study and repetition time and to play any song by […]

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Top 10 Ways To Effectively Practice Piano

March 21, 2015

Let us start by admitting piano practice isn’t always fun. At times, it can be as grueling a task as mopping the floor or teaching your York Terrier to roll over (even when he hasn’t done it for the hundredth time). The key thing about piano practice however, is that it isn’t really supposed to […]

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