The Rule of Fives

A lesson based around the concept of fives or fifths. How to use this idea to practice scales, understanding chord movements within the circle of fifths.

Ultimate Guitar
The rule of five (examples on bass guitar) This lesson assumes you already know about the circle of fifths, major scale construction and intervals (if this isn't the case then I will do some lessons in the future to help clear this ambiguous information). If you know about these three concepts then this lesson will aid in your practice routine, dexterity, speed and hand coordination. When most people practice applying theoretical concepts to instruments and musical situations, they normally start by learning the basics and then proceed to apply them to situations. Most people do this without fully expanding and learning more advanced applications within the chosen concept. So taking the major scale for starters. The major scale is constructed using 7 different notes and most people learn any scale in only one position. They then proceed to practice ascending chromatically till that scale is played in all 12 keys. The reason this lesson is called "the rule of five" is due to everything being grouped in fives whether it's five note sequences, around the circle of fifths or increasing 5 BPM. I've broken these down into five steps, which can be applied, to scales, arpeggios or rhythmic sequences. 1) Practice scales moving in fifths (through the circle of fifths). I do this a lot with scales where you start with an A major scale (for example) and move round to E, B, F#, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb, F, C, G, D and back to A. (I've used enharmonic equivalents in this example to keep consistent to the circle of fifths). Practice this sequence both ascending and descending, alternating after each scale (A major ascending, E major descending, B major ascending, F# descending and so on). A major scale ascending (2 octave)
E major scale descending (2 octave)
2) Apply this same method going up a fourth (down a fifth circle of fourths) to learn the sequence in reverse (which is always good practice for chord sequences especially in jazz). A, D, G, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, F#, B, E and back to A. This sequence is great for jazz as it creates a rolling ii V movement throughout all 12 major keys. Practice this sequence again similar to the previous exercise (ascending, descending, ascending, descending). 3) Practice scales in sets of five. Take the root to the fifth, second to the sixth, running up and down the scale. A major scale ascending

4) Practice scales in intervals of a fifth. Take each note of the major scale and play a fifth above (a fifth relevant to the major key, not just a perfect fifth). All of these intervals will be a perfect fifth except on the seventh note of the scale where it's a diminished fifth (tri-tone). A major scale in fifth intervals
5) Always practice scales, arpeggios, rhythms and grooves in sets of fives. In this case, five means increases in BPM (beats per minute) with a metronome. Always start slow at roughly 60bpm then increase to 65bpm till you reach your limit (where you can't comfortably play it in a repetitive cycle). People normally believe that if they are able to play a scale, groove or arpeggio once to a metronome then they can comfortably play it. It must feel comfortable when played in a constant repetitive fashion (at least five to ten times in constant cycle). With constant practice you'll be able to increase the metronome further after a while.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Thank you. I was trying to come up with an original way of practising scales. Glad a bassist was able to help. Although I can play guitar and drums secretly too.
    Wow. Leave it to a Bass player to finally shed some light on the circle of fifths for me! Good article.
    Hate to say it bud, but this lesson doesn't really explain the CoF... Just used it to help recall the Fifths of certain notes... but if that actually cleared something up for you then great x)
    Well I realized that the circle isn't a circle in the same key, but transitioning from one key to the next kind of thing. So that def helped.
    This was a legit lesson. All I can say is great job. Anything else would be repeating you or beating a dead horse. Great job