Circle of Fifths

As we talk about the circle of fifths what you learn will apply to the scales and chords of all the major scales.

The circle of 5ths is a good way to learn and remember your music keys with all their flats and sharps in them in an organized way.

I think using the 5th’s circle is good for the remembering sharp keys and the 4th’s circle is good for remembering the flat keys. Just another way to learn them.

This circle is similar to the circle of 4ths. It is actually the reverse order of the circle of 4ths.

You may find this circle easier to understand with the tetrachords than the circle of 4ths page.

The link below will open the circle of 4ths page so you can look at both pages

Circle of 4ths (Opens New Window)

If you are reading this page you should know about music intervals the link below will open a new window so you can go back and forth if you need to.

Music Intervals (Opens New Window)

In music the V to I chord is a common move. The V chord wants to move to the I, this is the 3rd in the V chord that does this. it wants to resolve or go home.

I to V Chord Movement – Major

You will find the I chord to the V chord common 5th move. Some songs are based on this move. The Beatles song I Should Have Known Better is basically a I – V7 move.

Another Beatles song is Nowhere Man. This song starts with an E to B chord change or a I to V.

i to V Chord Movement – Minor

A Minor One-Five(i-V7) move is a common 5th movement in the harmonic and melodic minor scales.

These V-I moves are also called cadences. This is a fancy word for getting back to the beginning of the verse.

Circle of Fifths Image

This image is similar to the one I made for the major scales page to explain tetrachords.

Just add the two tetrachord sections(large numbers at center) to make a scale. I think this is easier to understand than the circle of 4ths because you are reading forward.

To read the circle of 4ths you are reading the scales in backwards way, you have to move the 1st tetrachord in front of the 2nd one to read it right.

Only add sharp to sharp or flat to flat tetrachords in sections 7,8 and 9. These are keys that are the same pitch but written differently.

Following the Fifths

When following the fifths you need to go back to your 1st chord and not forward.

In other words if you move from C to G this is a 5th forward, C-D-E-F-G If you went forward again from the G chord it would be a 4th, G-A-B-C.

You would still play the same chord but thinking this way is less confusing for chords than following the 5ths.

If you move back you are going down a 5th G-F-E-D-C. You are still going to C but it can cause confusion sometimes as to whether you are moving four or five notes.

The 4ths circle starting with C will take you thru the keys starting with the flat keys.

The circle of fifths isn’t used as much as the 4ths but it is very important for the V-I relationship. The V chord wants to move to the I chord.

Inverting 5th Intervals

If you read the interval section you will remember that when you invert a 4th it becomes a 5th and when you invert a 5th it becomes a 4th.

Inverting means you move the bass note up one octave so C to G(5th) becomes G to C(4th) and C to F(4th) becomes F to C(5th).

Circle of Fifths – Major Chords

The Bottom Line – Circle of Fifths

The main thing is to know all your I, IV and V chords in every key. These are all major chords and the chord table up above is all of the chords.

Here is a list of the I IV V chords in all the Keys


I Chords

IV Chords

V Chords

G♭ and F♯ are the same pitch just written different.

Every major chord is in three keys. The root key and the other two keys it came from.

The C scale came from the F and G scales. Both these scales have a C chord in them along with the C scale.

Minor chords are also in 3 scales not counting the harmonic or melodic minor scales. They are in the ii, iii, and vi positions of the major scale.