Simple question here: Is the circle of fifths something that you learn just as "it is", or is there a way of learning it which makes the process deeper (and I'm guessing that learning the process would in the long run actually be more helpful than learning the actual circle of fifths)


There isn't really a way that makes the process deeper, you just have to understand it. I never memorized it or anything, then one I looked at it and made complete sense.
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herein lies the problem, I don't understand why it goes up in 5th clockwise, and 4ths anti-clockwise.

Also, is finding which keys are major/minor relative to each other it's only purpose?

its more of a reference than anything, but it can be useful.
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Well, who knows why they chose 5ths... but... it works that way. A 5th inverted is also a 4th... so it makes sense. Also, you have chord progressions that go with it... left and right has the common ones, and across it brings in substitution theories and "stuff". So in a nutshell, it goes deeper than surface material.
I've never used the Circle of 5ths, so don't get too worked up about it. It's just a reference.
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Well, who knows why they chose 5ths... but... it works that way. A 5th inverted is also a 4th...

They chose 5ths because they of the frequency relation between it and the octave. a 50% frequency increase = a 5th (50% is the next logical step to choose after an octave = doubling)

What exactly do you wish to gain from learning the circle of 5ths? it's actually very rarely useful in music writing contexts beyond working out how many b/# are in a key.

one way i like to think of it is this "the most dissonant interval is the tritone and the least dissonant is the minor 7th. adding 1 sharp to the key sig will always be a tritone to the root (f# is a tritone above C) so the root must change to avoid that. In changing the root you are changing the Minor 7th to a major 7th which is the least dissonant change you can make"
not sure that entirley makes sense, and certainly has no practical application, but it can be nice to think about things like that, maybe you can develop your own crazy system to remember them/think about them?

EDIT: Also check out this thread https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=232368
it's in the music theory archives - those are all good articles which were deemed worthy of a sticky back in the day - i think they're probably sadly underused however (partly due to UG's really crap searchbar!)
Last edited by doive at Sep 21, 2009,
Being able to know any interval above any note is a useful skill. The circle of fifths is just a graphical representation of stacked fifths.
The main purpose of the circle of fifths to me, is to easily remember how many sharps or flats there are in a key.
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