On the whole, I think I know a decent amount of theory. But it has just struck me that I really have never studied the circle of fifths beyond knowing how many sharps or flats are in a key. I have never realized what a valuable tool it is, and I'd like to start to take advantage of it. What I'd like to be able to do is to readily know what chords are in each key. I feel this will allow me to draw similarities between keys and chords and find ways to connect different keys chords, which will hopefully take my composition to another level. So, are there any good exercises besides going through each key and saying, "Ok Ab major, well the ii chord is a major second above the root and is a minor chord, so we have a Bb minor. The iii chord is major third above the root and is a minor chord so we have C minor. The IV chord is a perfect fourth above the root and is major, so we have Db major,etc. I mean I guess an easier way I could do it is to just know the chords in all the natural keys(is that a term? I just mean keys where the root isn't a sharp or flat) and then flat and sharpen everything. So if I had A major, I could just flatten everything, and I'd get the chords of Ab major. Is this a good way to go about this?
Last edited by WalrusNutFart at Jun 29, 2011,
As a bass player, I watched john myung's progressive bass lessons on youtube. What he does is various arpeggio patterns around the scales in the circle of fifths.
Understand nothing, in order to learn everything.

Quote by liampje
I can write a coherent tune ... But 3/4? I play rock, not polka.
I don't really get your question. You start by saying you want to know about the circle of fifths and then move on to saying your overall goal is knowing what chords are in what key. The circle of fifths may have something to do with that, but it is easier to just know what quality the chords are in major and minor keys, which you seem to already know.

Major - I, ii, iii, IV, V(7), vi, vii dim

Minor - i, ii dim (or half dim), III, iv, V(7), VI, vii dim

As long as you know your key signatures you should be able to figure out the chords of any key. And yes, you can just learn the natural keys and then flat or sharp the chords if that helps you. I think I've found myself doing that on occasion.

As for shared chords in different keys, it really is as easy as you think. To practice, just pick two keys and write out every chord in the keys, then see which ones are common. You would use this mostly to modulate from one key to another using a common chord. You normally modulate on a IV or vi chord in a major key, so say you're in C major. You hit an F, the IV in your chord progression and want to take the song into a new key starting there. You could modulate to F major, making the IV now the I chord, or to A minor, making the IV the VI chord now.

There are tons of other ways to modulate but these are the most basic. Mess around and figure out what sounds good for yourself.
Last edited by MeGaDeth2314 at Jun 30, 2011,
You could say:
One to the right in the circle = 5th
Four to the right ,, = maj 3rd
Three to the left ,, = min 3rd

For a major scale you can find the notes of the scale by taking a particular note and start one from the left until you have seven notes. For example, left to C is F, and to the right is G, D, A, E and B. In order C, D, E, F, G, A and B.
For a minor scale you can find the notes by going two to the right and then to the left until you have seven notes. For example in D minor, two to right is A and E, then to left is G, C, F and Bb.

But whether this really makes it easier, i doubt it.
Last edited by DearMoose at Jun 30, 2011,
Thank you for your responses, yes I already know how to harmonize the major scale but thanks for the reply anyways. Sean, what do you mean by Co5 order? Do you mean, play a C major scale, then and Eb major scale, then a Gb major scale, then a Bbb major scale, and just keep going around the circle in minor third intervals? Why is it beneficial? Sorry for not being really clear about this in my post, but I want to be able to know off the top of my head what keys I can find a chord in. Thanks for the help guys.
Last edited by WalrusNutFart at Jun 30, 2011,
Quote by WalrusNutFart
Sean, what do you mean by Co5 order?

Co5 = Circle o' Fifths
Nothing that is worthwhile in life will ever come easy.
This is how I used do it:
Take a group of strings, G B and E for example (they have to be next to each other unless your string skipping).
Now play a randomly picked triad to keep it easy C.
ascend all the three triads you can make with C major or minor whatever you chose.
Descend the next chord in the cycle of fifths now it's G.
then Ascend with the next chord again it's D.
You can do this with major minor diminished augumented etc.
You can even go nuts and put a sequence in there such as C major C dim C#major C# dim, G major G dim G# major G# dim etc.
Same way you can practice with licks.
Take a lick you have a problem.
play the lick 2 times and then move it to the next note.
This makes practicing more effective and more fun since it's not the same old notes but you phrase mod it.
Quote by WalrusNutFart
Sorry for not being really clear about this in my post, but I want to be able to know off the top of my head what keys I can find a chord in. Thanks for the help guys.

If you mean it the other way around (what chords in a key). Learn the sequence of the sharps and flats (sharps are the Co5 starting from F to B, flats are the other way around from Bb to Fb) and than look at this scheme:
|  Db |  Ab |  Eb |  Bb |  F  |  [B]C[/B]  |  G  |  D  |  A  |  E  |  B  | (major)
 bbbbb bbbb   bbb   bb     b  |  [B]0[/B]  |  #     ##   ###   #### #####
|  bb |  f  |  c  |  g  |  d  |  [B]a[/B]  |  e  |  b  |  f# |  c# |  g# | (minor)

I don't know if it makes any sense to you, but that's the way I've learned to memorize it.
To construct the scheme: just keep in mind that C major and a minor has no sharps or flats. The Co5 is just from left to right. I know the sequences of sharps and flats so I always start with the F for the upper boxes. You could of course expand the scheme, but using more than 5 sharps or flats as key is not preferable.

Basically it just tells you if you're in scale, let's say, A, you'll have 2 sharps. So those will be F and C. The scale will be: A B C# D E F# G. If you want the chords just put the thirds and fifths up on all roots. Example for the D chord: D - F# - A.

Other way around: count the number of sharps/flats and compare to the scheme. Notice that if the key is A and the chord is D, you'll only count 1 sharp, the first one. You need the whole scale to know in what key you're in. Thus a progression.

Sorry for taking up so much space
Don't know if it can help you, but at least I can try.
Hey I actually just found a chart in a book that I was already going through, and it answers my question perfectly. So say I have a C major, I can find it in the key of G/Em, and F/Dm, as well(pretty obvious). Then Say I have a C minor, I can find it in Bb/Gm, Ab/Fm, and Eb/Cm. An easy way to remember that is the fact that Eb, Ab, and Bb are respectively the b3, b6, and b7 of C major, which then make a C natural minor. Then you can find a Cm7b5 in Db/Bbm, again pretty obvious.
Just a wee search and here it is:

vi - ii - V - I

Name the notes as you play them.

A great exercise is to play this through the cycle of fifths:

|| Amin7 | Dmin7 | G7 | CMaj7 |
| Emin7 | Amin7 | D7 | Gmaj7 |
| Bmin7 | Emin7 | A7 | DMaj7 |
| F#min7 | Bmin7 | E7 | AMaj7 |
| C#min7 | F#min7 | B7 | Emaj7 |
| G#min7 | C#min7 | F#7 | BMaj7 |
| D#min7 | G#min7 | C#7 | F#Maj7 |
| Bbmin7 | Ebmin7 | Ab7 | DbMaj7 |
| Fmin7 | Bbmin7 | Eb7 | AbMaj7 |
| Cmin7 | Fmin7 | Bb7 | EbMaj7 |
| Gmin7 | Cmin7 | F7 | BbMaj7 |
| Dmin7 | Gmin7 | C7 | FMaj7 ||