Improvisation 101, Part 2 – Circle of Fifths

Circle of 5thsThe Circle of 5ths is a tool for learning the notes of a major scale. Starting at the key of C and going clockwise, each key is a 5th apart.

I use the circle of fifths to figure out how many sharps or flats there are in a major key.  In the previous post, I talked about tetra chords and the pattern you can use to figure out what notes are in a major key. The circle of fifths is another way to figure out how many sharps or flats there are in a major key signature.

Its starts on the key of C which has no sharps (#) or flats (b) and goes clockwise in fifths. A fifth away from C is the key of G which has 1 sharp, a fifth away from G is the key of D which has 2 sharps and on down to the key of F# which has 6 sharps. As you go on up the other side you take away flats. Db has 5 flats, Ab has 4 flats and so on until you’re back at the key of C.

For a little exercise, you can write down how many sharps or flats there are in each key:


Once you have figured out what notes belong to which key, you can then start practicing those notes on your instrument.

When you practice your your major scales, keep in mind there are 7 notes and each one has a number. For example: in the key of C: C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, A=6, B=7 and then we’re back to 1, which is C only an octave higher. Learn the note that corresponds with each number. This will help tremendously when you’re used to playing a tune in a certain key and then someone else comes along and plays it in a different key, you’ll know immediately what notes to play. We’ll go over more of this in the next lesson. I bet you’re on the edge of your seat aren’t you? If so, sign up to receive these blog posts by email!

Happy practicing.

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