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The Circle #1:
The Perfect 5th

Posted on: December 11th, 2011 by dville

The-Circle WebWelcome to  The Circle where you’ll discover the numerous ways the Circle of 5ths can be used to build your understanding of the structure of music .

The Circle of 5ths is exactly that; a circle with the twelve tones of the Chromatic Scale spaced evenly around the perimeter one fifth interval apart. You can think of it the same way the twelve hours are spaced around a clock-face five minutes apart.  What’s the reason for The Circle? You can use it as a tool to understand the organic nature of how chords and chord progressions are organized in western music.

Pick any note on the circle to start on. This will be the key you will be playing in. Let’s choose C at the 12 noon position on the circle. The fifth of C is G, the note immediately to the right of C in the 1 o’clock position. Count it 1-C 2-D 3-E 4-F 5-G. G is the fifth note of the C Major Scale.

2Observation: The fifth of any key is found immediately to the right of the root on the circle.

If we make the fifth, in this case G, a 7th chord it will introduce a tension in the G Major chord that will make the G7 want to resolve back to the root C. We can substitute Roman numerals for the root (I) and the fifth (V) or the dominant 7th chord (V7). Use this method to transpose to any key on the circle and play two-chord songs in any key.


 Observation:  Changing a Major Chord to a 7th chord introduces a tension which makes the 7th chord want to resolve a fifth interval counter-clockwise on the circle.


What made Sherlock Holmes such a great detective? His power of observation.  Make note of your observations as you make our way around the circle and soon you’ll be solving its mysteries.

7 Responses

  1. Gavin Thomson says:

    Hi Jim,I've recently stumbled across your blog and find 'The Circle' posts really interesting. I've started to think this way myself and the post I've reaed have been extremely helpful and insightful. However it doesn't seem possible to find a complete archive of them – is there a way to access this? For Example I found a great post about dimished chords via google but I can't navigate to it via the site which makes me wonder what else I might be missing.Interested in you DVDs – do they use a similar sort of methodology?Thanks for any advice,Gavin

  2. Jim D'Ville says:

    I'm unsure of what you mean about a complete archive. All The Circle posts I've don are in the archive on the blog homepage. Volume 2 of my DVD series explains chord progressions using the circle. Thanks for you interest!

  3. Gavin Thomson says:

    Hi Jim,I mean that on the right of the page under the heading 'The Circle' there are handy links for the first few posts but after that I couldn't find a way of going to the next installment without just stepping through all the posts. But maybe I'll just do that anyway – it's all good reading!Thanks,Gavin

  4. Jim D'Ville says:

    Hi Gavin,Okay, I see what you mean. I thought I had only created the ones I posted, until I looked and saw I had actually done 20 The Circle posts! I listed them for you so you don't have to search the site. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I'm enjoying going back other them myself.

  5. Gavin Thomson says:

    Thanks Jim, that's Brilliant – I'm finding these really useful!

  6. Jim D'Ville says:

    No problem. To make it easier, you can also communicate with me via my regular email I'm always interested in what posts help folks the most.

  7. darrell deakins says:

    I was at your Ukulele festival in California and I didn’t have the money for your circle of the perfect 5ifths I would like to purchase it if possible.

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