Lesson: Co5


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01-20-2005, 10:25 PM
Circle of 5ths

The Circle of 5ths (Co5) is generally used for determining what notes are in what key. Some people find it extremely useful, while others never use it. I think it's a very effective tool in constructing the diatonic major scales.

Now, there are 12 keys, one for each note in the western chromatic scale. In each key there are 7 different notes, A through G. What makes all these keys different, you ask? Well, in each key there are different variations of those 7 notes. Some have sharps (#) while some have flats (b). A sharp (#) indicates that the pitch is raised one semitone, while a flat (b) indicates lowering one semitone. When writing scales you must have one of each letter A through G. In other words, you cannot have A A# C C# E E# G A, or something like that! You must have A B C D E F G A. One of each letter.

Now, on to the actual circle! This is what it looks like:

The top key is C. It is the simplest key, and has no sharps or flats. As you progress clockwise (flatwise) around the Co5, you add flats, 1 per key you progress. The same is true for sharps - as you progress counterclockwise, you add sharps, 1 per key. Therefore, using this rule, you can figure out how many flats/sharps each key has. Here's a quick list:
C - 0 sharps
G - 1 sharp
D - 2 sharps
A - 3 sharps
E - 4 sharps
B - 5 sharps
F# - 6 sharps
C# - 7 sharps (often written as Db, they are enharmonic)
C - 0 flats
F - 1 flat
Bb - 2 flats
Eb - 3 flats
Ab - 4 flats
Db - 5 flats
Gb - 6 flats
Cb - 7 flats (often written as B, they are enharmonic)

Now, how do you add these sharps and flats? There is a specific order to do it in! The order for sharps is F# C# G# D# A# E# B#, while the order for flats is roughly the opposite, Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb.

Combining all of this knowledge, you can determine the notes of any key!
C - C D E F G A B C
F - F G A Bb C D E F
Bb - Bb C D Eb F G A Bb
Eb - Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb
Ab - Ab Bb C Db Eb F G Ab
Db - Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db
Gb - Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb
Cb - Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb Cb
C - C D E F G A B C
G - G A B C D E F# G
D - D E F# G A B C# D
A - A B C# D E F# G# A
E - E F# G# A B C# D# E
B - B C# D# E F# G# A# B
F# - F# G# A# B C# D# E# F#
C# - C# D# E# F# G# A# B# C#

That's all for now. Feel free to PM me if you have questions, or visit the Musician Talk forum!

Comments welcome! Many people seem to be searching for a good explanation on this. I did not include minor keys because those pertain to modes IMO, and thusly should go with a different lesson.


01-20-2005, 10:41 PM

It's ok...;-)
Just kidding. Excellent.
I would suggest taking a picture off google of the good old Co5's, instead of your diagram, which i must say, is done pretty well.
(maybe one with #'s/b's listed by each note[key]?)
anyways, you dont have to do that, you just might want to take that into consideration.
Good work, as usual.

01-20-2005, 10:51 PM
i dont understand...lol but if i did i bet it would be pretty useful.. :P

01-20-2005, 10:56 PM
Now, how do you add these sharps and flats? There is a specific order to do it in! The order for sharps is F# C# G# D# A# E# B#, while the order for flats is roughly the opposite, Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb.
A usefull sentence that i was taught for remembering the order of sharps and flats was this:

Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle - For Sharps

and use this exact same sentence but backwards for Flats.

Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles' Father.
Good thread.

01-21-2005, 07:14 PM
How different is this from mine SD?

01-22-2005, 12:03 PM
I didn't know you made one, if I did know that I would have directed about 90023 users to it :p: What lessons section is it in?

01-23-2005, 12:20 AM
strat man's can be found here:
i dont know if its been submitted, but there it is.

for some reason this forum has had many of the threads pruned. you can set the number of days the page shows threads of to a higher number and get older threads, and thats where that one went. there are a few other threads that can be found that way as well.

01-23-2005, 05:04 AM
Strats is similar, but longer and more in-depth. It's great, SD, but Strat_Man said just about everything.:golfclap: anyway!

I think you should've mentioned the minor keys, as they are actual keys in their own right. When you know the key signature there are always two possible keys, major or minor.

I know why you left them out, but I don't agree with it. I believe minors and majors should be treated as seperate scales, not just modes of each other.

01-23-2005, 11:43 AM
I'd further explain by what you mean about how many flats and sharps there are. I always got hung up on that in choir...then I had an epiphany.

01-23-2005, 03:14 PM
Yours IS more in depth, Strat? Please submit it for easy reference to others. Remember that more than 1 space will be reduced to 1 space (thus my periods everywhere) for Lessons.

01-27-2005, 07:18 PM
Okay. I was just checking with you. I'll submit it once I get the okay from Beat and others.

But, good lesson nonetheless SD. Submit yours too.

02-16-2005, 05:35 PM
Good but if I didn't know this, it would be useless.

02-16-2005, 05:40 PM
^ Please explain. How is this information useless?

02-17-2005, 04:19 AM
Originally posted by SilentDeftone
^ Please explain. How is this information useless?

I'll explain.This info is not useless by itself, but if someone does not know this he won't know where to use it.It would be very useful for piano players, but I don't know about guitar.Like, it is always good to know theory but I would some practical advice, like where the hell you can use it.I mean, OK, I can tell which scale has which notes, but what do I do with it???As I said, Piano players find this very useful, because they know all the nots on the keyboard and can easily build chords using this.But I think that this lesson is for beginners and those won't know how to make chords or solos out of letters on the paper.

I say it needs more practical info, but what you wrote is nice and well explained.

Oh, and it is me replying, cause Zabka is my girlfriend and she has registered on my computer yesterday and I've been browsing with her username (too lazy to change it), so it was my post. :D Won't happen again.

02-17-2005, 04:28 AM
^ she is pretty close to getting a warning. She is just going through threads and spamming. Tell her to stop or I will warn or ban her ;)


02-17-2005, 10:26 AM
^ lol, maybe you could leave her alone and take care of him ;)

02-17-2005, 04:08 PM
A note on guitar is a note on the piano. Theory can still be applied. And if you're referring to piano sheet music, guitar players can read sheet too. At least some of us :)

02-21-2005, 10:38 AM
I can read sheet, but it is a lesson.Someone reading it will learn a lot of info but I don't know if he will be able to use it, cause most of the guitars I know can't read sheet music.They maybe are able to count frets and tell which note is where but I don't know if they will find a use for knowing which notes are in which scale.I know it is useful, but a few more sentences to tell what to do with it would be good.
But on the other hand, that is something that can be covered in another lesson.
Just a suggestion, not a mistake, do it as you want :)

And another detail, you wrote that going counetrclockwise makes you scales with sharps, but you didn't mention that there are eight scales.They are listed, but it can confuse someone making a g# major scale or something like that.

02-21-2005, 04:07 PM
^ There are infinite scales, what if you want a Bbb scale? You'd get Bbb Cb Db Ebb Fb Gb Ab Bbb. You can theoretically go on forever adding sharps/flats; it doesn't stop at 8. However, doing that is silly.

Other than that, you're asking me to explain why music uses keys?

02-21-2005, 04:26 PM
A Bbb scale is basically A B Db D E Gb Ab A and that is same as A B C# D E F# G# A and that is simply the A major.I'm not arguing or something, but doesn't that mean that there aren't infinite scales?There are maybe infinite ways to write them in sheet but that doesn't change the number of the scales of notes you actually play, or am I wrong?

EDIT>I am talking about major scales, cause you can make your own scales and stuff, so that would make quite a big number of scales.:)

02-21-2005, 04:29 PM
Originally posted by SilentDeftone
Other than that, you're asking me to explain why music uses keys?

Kinda thought of it and yeah, you're right.
I was thinking of the lesson as something that should be comprehandable for players at any level, but that would make it like twenty lessons in one.

02-21-2005, 04:55 PM
Infinite ways to write them is what I meant, yes Bbb is essentially the same as A. I don't see why you should say there are only 8 though :)