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Home | Music Theory | Circle of Fifths

Music Theory - Circle of Fifths

The circle of fifths is an interesting way to display the relationship between the keys in music. A fifth is a musical interval in which two notes are five letter names apart such as F and C (F is a fifth below C).

The circle of fifths is a diagram made up of all the key signatures aligned to form a circle. Each clockwise step around the circle (the dominant direction) represents an interval of a fifth (counting up from the root or tonic) and adds one sharp to the key signature of the new major scale. Each anti-clockwise step (sub-dominant direction) represents an interval of a fifth (counting down from the root) and adds one flat to the key signature of the new major scale. What is perhaps most interesting is that it is possible to complete more than one circuit in either direction (so C can theoretically be represented as Dbb, B# etc.).

If you follow the diagram in the clockwise (dominant) direction the 5th (dominant) note of the original scale becomes the 1st note of the new scale and the 4th (sub-dominant) note of the original scale becomes the 7th (leading) note of the new scale.

If you follow the diagram in the anti-clockwise (sub-dominant) direction the 4th (sub-dominant) note of the original scale will become the 1st note of the new scale. The 7th (leading) note of the original scale becomes the 4th (sub--dominant) note of the new scale and is flattened.





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