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Zebra Keys

Music Theory

Lesson 16 - Introduction to the Circle of Fifths

printable version

I. Index


1.  Introduction
2. The Circle of Fifths (Circle of 5ths)
3. Properties of the Circle of Fifths
4. Conclusion


II. Content


1. Introduction
In this lesson, you will get familiar with the Circle of Fifths (Circle of 5ths), also known as the Circle of Keys. What is this Circle of Fifths? The Circle of Fifths is a circle that has all 12 keys of the piano written on it. The Circle of Fifths is useful for many things in music such as improvisation and writing music.


2. The Circle of Fifths
Let's take a look at the Circle of Fifths. Each of the 12 keys is represented in this circle.










3. Properties of the Circle of Fifths
There are many interesting properties for the Circle of Fifths. Let's take a look at some of them.

The Circle of Fifths helps identify the three primary chords in any key.

In the lesson "Three Primary Chords" in the chords section of beginner, you learned about a set of three primary chords that could be used to play 1000's of songs. You also learned that there is a set of three primary chords in each of the 12 keys. You learned that in the Key of C, the three primary chords were C, F, and G. Well look at the Circle of Fifths. If you look at C, it is surrounded by F and G! So to find the three primary chords in any key, just look at any key in the Circle of Fifths, and the two letters surrounding that key will complete the three primary chords in that key. For example, in the key of A, the three primary chords are A, D, and E. In the key of Bb, the three primary chords are Bb, Eb, and F.

The keys of the Circle of Fifths moves up by a perfect 5th in the clock wise direction.

The keys of the Circle of Fifths move up by a perfect 5th in the clockwise direction. Take a look at C. If you move clockwise, the next key is G. G is a perfect 5th above C. Every single move clockwise on the circle of Fifths moves the key up by a perfect 5th.


4. Conclusion
You should now be familiar with the Circle of Fifths. One interesting property of the Circle of Fifths is that the primary chords appear next to each other on the Circle of Fifths. You will learn more about the Circle of Fifths in lessons to come.




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