The circle of 5ths, sometimes referred to as the circle of 4ths and 5ths, is a chart that reveals many patterns of melody and harmony in music. Many students will brush it aside as another boring theory assignment but the Circle of 5ths is actually the key to easy memorization of so many music concepts.
Here are three ways that a full understanding of the circle of 5ths chart will benefit you:
• Learning Intervals – Chords, scales and melodies are all made from intervals. This chart shows perfect 5ths in sequential order going clockwise around the circle. Perfect 4ths go counter clockwise around the circle. All intervals in every key are revealed through patterns.
• Chord Functions – Chords function in music the same way that workers function in a business or players function on a team. A popular chord pattern such as 1, 4, 5 (Nashville Number System) is indicated clearly in every key. Select any note and name it the 1 chord. The next note clockwise is the 5th and the next note counter clockwise is the 4th. There are also easy patterns to find all other chord functions as well.
• Relative minor – Some versions of the circle of 5ths chart includes an inner circle showing the relative minor. The lower case note on the same pie piece would be the relative minor or the upper case note.
• Sharps and Flats is all key signatures – Key signatures tell the musician which notes are flat or which notes are sharp in the key. All major and natural minor key signatures can be learned with this chart. Sharps are ordered by 5ths while flats are ordered by 4ths.
Acronyms for remembering the circle of 5ths:
5ths – Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Birds
4ths – I always just remembered BEAD-GCF. If you have a good acronym for the order of 4ths please let us know by leaving it in the comment box. Thanks!
by Henry Bahrou