The Circle Of Fifths is the industry standard method of graphically organizing the 12 keys in Music.
When moving clockwise around the circle of fifths, the keys are separated by an interval of a fifth: "G" is the fifth note of a "C" Major scale while "D" is the fifth note of a "G" Major scale. When the keys are organized in this manner, each successive key contains one more sharp than the previous key.

This is the logic and beauty of the circle of fifths.
When moving counter clockwise, the diagram is often called the Circle Of Fourths. In this case, each new key contains one more flat than the previous key. The keys are separated by an interval of a fourth . This means "F" is the fourth note of a "C" Major scale while "Bb" is the fourth note of an "F" Major scale and so on.

The circle of fifths is a systematic approach to organizing and memorizing the 12 keys of music according to the number of flats or sharps a key contains. All musicians must be totally comfortable with the circle of fifths.
A complete discussion of music theory, scale formulas and the theory of keys is beyond the scope of this web site. I have written on these topics at length in my best selling instructional books Guitar Scale Guru and Guitar Chord Guru.

Everyday Usage of The Circle of Fifths

1.) When practicing with your poster transpose any scale or chord to all 12 keys, if you work your way through the Circle Of Fifths you will be sure to play in each and every key -a critical element in the development of professional level skills.

2.) As the Root Notes of chord progressions most often move by 4th and 5th the Circle Of Fifths is a perfect reference and guide for not only writing songs but also figuring out the chords to a given song. For example when playing in the key of C the most important chords would be I - IV & V or the chords C - F - G, these three chords are located right next to each other on the Circle Of Fifths. To continue that line of thought the next most common progression would be a II - V - I or the chords Dmi - G7 - C. Once again the root notes of these chords are located right next to each other on the Circle Of Fifths.

When composing, arranging or playing by ear, the root note of chord you're seeking can very often be next to the root note of the chord you are currently on.

Scales Have Formulas And Spellings

A scale is defined by the distances between each note, this is called a scale formula. Most studies of music theory are best begun with the key of C, the key (scale) spelled with no flats or sharps. Using a keyboard, the key of C provides a powerful visualization. The C major scale is spelled like this:

C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C

A Major Key Is Essentially A Major Scale

If a song is in the key of C MAJOR, that means that every note in the melody, and every note in every chord is derived from the C major scale or a harmonized C Major scale. This is called DIATONIC HARMONY. A key is essentially a scale.

Below is the basic harmony in the key of C. A song written in that key would typically contain only chords taken from the harmonized scale.

Scale Formula Visualization

Listening To Basic Diatonic Harmony

Use the listening and visualization exercises below to get the sound of harmonized scales in your ear.

Reference Chart: The 12 Keys Of Music

Distance To Next Note Whole Step> Whole Step>
1/2 Step>
Whole Step> Whole Step>
Whole Step>
1/2 Step>  

The 12 keys of music, their key signatures and the exact letter names of the notes in each of these 12 keys is basic information for any musician. Think of this material the same way a school child would think of the alphabet and basic multiplication tables, it is simply essential knowledge to have at the fingertips.

One very good way to learn the 12 keys of music, the key signatures, and the names of the notes in each key is quite simple and low tech: copy them out with paper. Ideally, you would do this in a manuscript (music paper) writing book. Although it can be a little tedious, it's simple and it works. It is one easy way to become the more literate and knowledgeable musician we all aspire to be.

SCALE>>>

I

Do

II

Re

III

Mi

IV

Fa

V

Sol

VI

La

VII

Ti

I

Do

Key of C
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
Key of G
G
A
B
C
D
E
F#
G
Key of D
D
E
F#
G
A
B
C#
D
Key of A
A
B
C#
D
E
F#
G#
A
Key of E
E
F#
G#
A
B
C#
D#
E
Key of B
B
C#
D#
E
F#
G#
A#
B
Key of F#
F#
G#
A#
B
C#
D#
E#
F#
Key of F
F
G
A
Bb
C
D
E
F
Key of Bb
Bb
C
D
Eb
F
G
A
Bb
Key of Eb
Eb
F
G
Ab
Bb
C
D
Eb
Key of Ab
Ab
Bb
C
Db
Eb
F
G
Ab
Key of Db
Db
Eb
F
Gb
Ab
Bb
C
Db
Key of Gb
Gb
Ab
Bb
Cb
Db
Eb
F
Gb

Additional Ideas: The Circle Of Fifths

You Say Circle And I Say Cycle, You Say 4ths And I Say 5ths!

Which is it the circle of 5th or the cycle of 4ths? Although most people say "circle of fifths", you can say it either way, they are both correct. If you move clockwise around the cycle (circle), you are traveling by the interval of a 5th. If you move counter clockwise around the circle (cycle) you are moving my a 4th. This brings to another point of interest and everyday application of the circle of fifths:

The three most important chords in any key are the I, IV and V chords. In the key of C these chords are of course C, F and G respectively. Notice how they are right next each other on the circle of fifths! Its a cool way the circle can be used as a tool

for writing songs or memorizing the most important chords in a key. To your right you will see a simple game designed to help you memorize the I, IV and V chords in a any given key. Press the big red button in the middle of the game and you will see the I, IV and V chords in the key of C become highlighted. Next press reset to return to the normal view of the circle of fifths. To continue playing press any of the red buttons underneath the key signatures. The I, IV and V chords in the that key will be indicated.

Dude, Where's My Chord?

Have you ever been writing a song, or trying to figure one out by ear, and become stuck on a chord, searching the next one? Very often the root of the chord for which you are searching will be on the circle of 5ths, right next to the root of the chord on which you are stuck. Of course, blues musicians deal with the I, IV and V chords almost exclusively and they will find this little trick invaluable. Jazz musicians also deal with the I, IV and V chords but the principle cadence in jazz music is a II, V, I or Dm, G7 and C Maj respectively. Notice that the root of the cadence (D, G and C) are all neighbors on the circle of 5ths.

Blues And Jazz?

Like it or not, that is your musical heritage. The musical procedures and vocabulary associated pop, rock and all modern music is firmly based on and directly drawn from blues and jazz music, especially blues. (Sometimes I think the only thing that has truly changed are the hairdos!) Strip away the high tech gear, custom made guitars and boutiques amplifiers and you are left with something that has remained essentially pure and true to its roots in a myriad of ways. The modern guitar style is clearly a derivative and descendant of blues playing with many common licks, tricks, scale and harmonic practices remaining virtually unchanged for generations. The most important fact you can glean from the chord progressions of blues and jazz songs is that the strongest and most important type root motion (movement of the chords bass notes) is by 4th and 5th.

If you want to be a competent musician, guitarist or songwriter you must be familiar with and spend time playing standard songs in the blues and jazz styles. When you find chord progressions that you like, which will happen frequently, analyze them, play them in a few different keys and the claim them as a new part of your very own roots based musical vocabulary.

One of the greatest jazz composers to have ever lived, and someone who is to be considered a national treasure here in America is the great Horace Silver, someone who has written may jazz masterpieces. An animated, play along chord progression in the style of the Horace Silver classic The Preacher appears to the right. Notice how root movement (bass motion) of a 4th or 5th gives that classic jazz flavor. Many jazz musicians cite The Preacher as one of the very first songs they learned to play when studying jazz composition and improvisation.

If you want to play rhythm along with the recordings the chord voicings are just below. Play through these chords in slow motion, until they are automatic, until they are memorized. The root notes of the chords are indicated in red. The red arrows show when the root motion of the chord progression is either by the interval of a 4th or 5th.

Suggested Chord Voicings For Traditional Jazz Style Play Along Exercise

Incredible World Class Products From Master Guitarist Karl Aranjo.

Karl Aranjo’s instructional books have become international best sellers and industry standards. Written in a relaxed, clear, no bull and entertaining style these books are guaranteed to dramatically improve your playing and or teaching. Featuring great graphics, studio quality CD's and tight text Karl's’ work is packed with just exactly the type of information and professional level theory you have been searching for!

If you are a player, teacher, school representative or shop owner Karl Aranjo’s instructional books and educational products will instantly improve your program and keep your students focused and directed. Learn what thousands of happy guitarists, teachers and businesses have already learned; you simply can't lose with this incredible world class material!

Cool Chords includes red hot CD with 57 recorded examples If you are studying, learning or teaching today's’ guitar Cool Chords is guaranteed to become your new favorite tool! It’s the entertaining and rock and roll way to learn chords, progressions, rhythm, musical notation and critical terminology. This breakthrough method doesn't’t rely on the tedious practice routines or boring study rituals of the past, instead you’ll be having fun and rockin’ out with one of 57 studio tracks while learning to play the great rhythm guitar, classic chord forms and the new and hip sounding Cool Chords which are such a big part the modern guitar sound. List price $14.95, your price: $12.95. Include $3.OO Shipping per book
Guitar Buddy -a new method includes a cool CD with 75 recorded examples and password to an interactive educational web site dedicated to your success! The lost of art of learning and teaching the guitar is learning to play and think in the open position. All styles of playing require a firm grasp of the open position and Guitar Buddy imparts this core knowledge in a highly entertaining and enjoyable style which makes the process seem fast, fun and easy. This is a playing method which has the student perform 75 excellent and full sounding examples with a red hot, studio quality CD, which gives today's’ students and educators just exactly the kind of the sound they have been searching for. The method culminates with 5 full length solos suitable for recitals or performance. List price $17.95, your price: $15.95. Include $3.OO Shipping per book (Foreign orders add $6.00 USD)
A Blueprint For Hot Guitar -licks, tricks and techniques includes 2 Red Hot Studio CDs with a total of 116 professionally produced tracks. In your hand will be the blueprints for the guitar lessons we guitarists have always needed and wanted, the types of lessons that clearly teach hot moves, cool grooves and no nonsense professional level theory that quickly gives a player new musical fun along with many insights, skills, ideas and tricks. The kinds of lessons that mean playing hot, new, interesting and great sounding guitar today! . The Blueprint will get you thinking about and doing real work on: continually evolving a vocabulary of interesting chords and chord tricks, picking out leads, melodies and single line parts, learning musical and tasteful rhythm grooves to play behind a singer or soloist and developing solid musical ideas and concepts to contribute to original songs or arrangements. Written for those who want to know the secrets of professional guitarists and teachers. List price $19.95, your price: $17.95. Include $3.OO Shipping per book (Foreign orders add $6.00 USD)
Guitar Scale Guru has become an international best seller and industry standard. The book is all about scales, how to play them & what to call them. Included is a detailed examination of all the essential theory involved with playing and writing contemporary guitar music in the most musical and logical way possible. When you're interested in some particular scale, application or theoretical concept, look it up in the extensive table of contents. This allows you to return to your business without getting hooked into some structured series of method books that don't fit in with your style, books that are of little of no interest to you as a busy player. Karl is confident you will benefit from his tireless efforts to give you the best possible printed material . Guitar Scale Guru is the book you’ve been looking for. Your price: $13.95. Include $3.OO Shipping per book (Foreign orders add $6.00 USD)
Guitar Chord Guru has become an international best seller and industry standard. If you’re a teacher or serious student of the guitar, the material presented here can be your secret weapon. Each page quickly imparts critical concepts and allows you to continue teaching and studying without drawing a ton of your own circles, arrows, footnotes and chord graphs. At last, all the essential diagrams, drawings and information concerning theory, chords and their uses in one logical, easy to read book. The printed material in these pages is simply the best! Guitar Chord Guru cuts through the bull and shows what you want and need, it truly is the book you've been looking for. Your price: $12.95. Include $3.OO Shipping per book (Foreign orders add $6.00 USD)

The Ultimate Guitar Poster at over 3ft. By 2ft. is a must have focal point every practice room and guitar studio! Contains a boatload of top notch information and hot looking graphics guaranteed to save and maximize your valuable practice time. It’s all there:
Complete notes for TAB, Jazz Chords, Open Chords, Traditional Open Scales, Lead Scales, Theory and so much more. (including the incredible, free, interactive web site you're currently enjoying) It’s a professional guitarists encyclopedia that fits neatly on the wall of your practice space. Your price: $11.99.

FREE SHIPPING ON POSTERS!

SPECIALS:

  • 2 Posters For $20.00
  • 3 Posters for $25.00

(Foreign orders add $10.00 USD per ORDER)

Free Shipping On Package Deals !

Chord Guru, Scale Guru & A Blueprint For Hot Guitar. For those whose time to
get serious has arrived. $43.00 FREE SHIPPING

Chord Guru, Scale Guru. Great for teachers
professionals and all serious players $27.00 FREE SHIPPING

Chord Guru, Scale Guru & THE ULTIMATE GUITAR POSTER. Great for teachers
students and beginning to intermediate players $35.00 FREE SHIPPING

Cool Chords, Guitar Buddy. Great for teachers
students and beginning to intermediate players $27.00 FREE SHIPPING

(Foreign orders add $6.00 USD per package deal)

Ordering Is Easy!

Specify products ordered & Include $3.OO Shipping per item. (Foreign orders add $6.00 USD per item) Pay safely and securely on line at PAYPAL (account is KARARAN3@aol.com)or at GUITARU.COM (click on "resources")

For all other inquiries, or for mail order Email: karlaranjo@yahoo.com

Support Excellence In Free On Line Guitar Education

Even though it is far superior to many of its competitors, this site is and always will be free. I am honored to have visitors and hope that I have helped and can continue to help your playing and teaching by developing more and better instructional aids, videos and animations. As I am continually developing and significantly investing in this site I ask you to please consider ordering my books or making a small donation (PAYPAL account: KARARAN3@aol.com) to help cover my development and operating costs.