Circle of Fifths Lesson: Master Guitar Chords in No Time

Circle of Fifths Lesson

You’ve already now learned to utilize the Whole step Half step formula, key signatures and the Musical alphabet to write down the Major scales and its relative minor scales. In case you missed out on the first part of this tutorial, please refer to the beginning of this lesson by clicking the link on; Part 1: How to learn Major and minor scales on the Guitar.

The Circle of Fifths or Cycle of Fifths is the visual representation on how the different keys relates to each other. It shows how they are group together and which are further away from each other. As well as the number of sharp and flat present on each keys.

Looking at it, the way Circle of Fifths is laid out; it is in the clockwise direction. Beginning with C on 12 o’clock position going to G which is the fifth note of C Major placed in 1 o’clock position– C D E F G A B C.

Circle of FifthsHowever, the bottom 3 portion of the Circle of Fifths have two names and interchangeable because they are enharmonic equivalents having the same set of pitches indicated either by sharps or flats. To work on this, always remember 5 to 7 o’clock is read as B F# and C#, while counter clockwise 7 to 5 o’clock would be the Db Gb Cb.

To avoid confusion, B Major Scale should sound the same with Cb Major Scale, F# Major would also sound the same as Gb Major Scale, and C# Major Scale sounds the same with Db Major Scale. 

Going back now from where we left off which is G Major in 1 o’clock position, the fifth note on its scale is D – G A B C D E F# G to be place in the 2 o’clock position. To finish the chords with sharp (#) key signatures just continue counting in fifths until reaching C# Major. 

Chords Key SignaturesTo locate the (#) sharp key signatures for G, A, D, E, B, F# and C# Major using the Circle of Fifths is by counting clockwise starting in F Major at 11 o’clock position in accordance to the number of sharp notes present on each Major scale.  

Example: G Major with 1 sharp, beginning at F Major 11 o’clock position is F, so that would be the F# for G Major G A B C D E F# G.

Example: C# Major with 7 sharp key signature starting on F Major 11 o’clock position is F C G D A E B.The key signatures are F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#. This is how it is properly written, C# Major C# D# E# F# G# A# B# C#.

Circle of Fifths ChartThe other half of the circle are the flats (b) and working on this is to count in Circle of Fourths starting again in C Major. As we count in Circle of Fourths staring in C Major, C D E F G A B C, the first Major chord with a flat signature is F Major – F G A Bb C D E F in 11 o’clock. To complete up to Cb Major continue to count in fourths.

To find the flat key signatures for F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb is by counting counter clockwise this time starting at B Major in 5 o’clock position. Still following the number of flat notes on each key.

Example: F Major has 1 flat note F G A Bb C D E F. to find it is to start the count at B Major 5 o’clock position, the flat note of F Major is Bb.

Example: A♭ Major has 4 flat notes.Counts starts at B Major 5 o’clock position B, E, A, D. the flat notes of A Major are Bb, Eb, Ab, Db. Writing it as Ab Bb C Db Eb F G Ab.

Relative minor Key on the Circle of Fifths

After discovering the Major chords using the Circle of Fifths, let’s now discover the relative minor of each Major chords by counting in 6th degree starting again with C Major. This is just the same method thought in part 1 of this lesson..

C Major Relative minorEvery time you count in 6th degree starting from the root note of the Major, you’ll end up to its relative minor. On the bottom part of the Circle which is interchangeable, the B, F#, C# will have sharp minor while Db, Gb, Cb in flat minor.

Relative minor for flat and sharpMemorize CIrcle of FifthsEasy Way to Memorize the Circle of Fifths

To memorize the placement of chords in the Circle of Fifths without looking at it is by portion. Grouping them in top, and sides.

Top FCG, you can call it as “Fun Chord Grouping”. The sides with sharp is spelled BEAD in backwards DAEB then add the remaining two chords C# and F# calling it “Fun Chords”, all together as Bead Fun Chords. For the flat side, it is rightly spelled as BEAD with Gb and Cb, call it “Good Chords”, that you can call the Bead Good Chords.

Other Usage of the Circle of Fifths

The use of the Circle doesn’t end here. The Circle of Fifth is also a useful tool in learning the Chord Progression of a song or to right one that will be discussed on the 3rd installment of this tutorial by clicking Part 3: Guitar Chord Progression using Number System & Circle of Fifth.