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Thread: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

  1. #1
    singer/songwriter Brad Kozak's Avatar
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    Default Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Here's my (first) contribution to music theory on this forum.

    A lot of players I've met are unfamiliar with key signatures, and don't know much about the value of the Circle of 5ths. Attached are two PDFs - the first one is a chord chart, the second PDF has additional chords along with a fretboard chart, a Circle of 5ths, and a list of key signatures.

    Here's what's cool about the circle of 5ths...if you can tell time with an analog clock, you already know more than you think about music theory. Memorize the key signature names on the circle. They are arranged so that the fifth note of any key is the root (or first note) of the next key moving clockwise. The keys on the outside of the circle are "sharp" keys, those on the inside are "flat keys." If "C" is at the "zero" hour (no sharps/no flats), G is a one o'clock (and has 1 sharp in it's scale/key signature), D has 2, A has 3 and so forth. The flat keys work counter-clockwise - F has one flat, Bb has two, Eb has three, and so on.

    Here's something else that's cool...did you know that (when you arrange scales in order of the Circle of 5ths, that the last four notes of ANY major scale are the same as the first four notes of the next scale? These four-note patterns are called "tetrachords" (Greek: "tetra"=four, "chord"=note).

    And something really useful - Look at the circle. Pick any letter...it will represent the key you want to use for your song. The selection that is counter-clockwise one space is the IV chord, and the one that is immediately clockwise is the V chord. This is HUGELY useful when transposing from one key to another. Let's say you've got a song you know in the key of "A" - look at the circle. A I-IV-V-I progression would be A-D-E-A. Wanna transpose? Pick a new key...let's take something a little off the wall, like Bb. According to the Circle, Your new chord progression would be Bb-Eb-F-Bb.

    Relative minors to a major key are always three notches up on the circle. In other words, the relative minor to the key of C is the key of A minor...three spaces clockwise on the circle.

    Here's a useful bit of knowledge for you when your chart has a diminished 7th chord in it: did you know there are only three different diminished 7th chords, period? If you look at a piano keyboard, start at any note, count up three half-steps (or on a string, go up three frets). Do that three times, and you have the notes in a diminished 7th chord. Do it once more, and you're back to an octave above where you started. The notes in a dim 7th chord divide a 12-tone scale into four equi-distant intervals. 12/4 = 3. The only difference in a C7, an Eb7, a Gb7 and an A7th is the root - the note on the bottom of the chord. (Don't know which chord to play? As long as you finger it right, you have a one-in-three shot at getting the right Dim7th chord.)

    If this info is helpful to anybody, let me know.

    - Brad Kozak
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails chord chart 1.pdf   chord chart 2.pdf  

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  3. #2
    Registered User groveland's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Now that's one useful document! Really well done, Brad.

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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    When I went to college, something clicked for me during my second semester of music theory. I'll describe it here to see if it helps. It's just a different way to think of the circle of fifths.

    First I learned the phrase "Frank Can Get Drunk At Every Bar" this gave me:

    FCGDAEB

    If you look at the C as having no sharps or flats, then you can go forward (to the right) through the key signatures (from C to C#) as such:
    C - No Sharps
    G - One Sharp
    D - Two Sharps
    A - Three Sharps
    E - Four Sharps
    B - Five Sharps
    F# - Six Sharps
    C# - Seven Sharps


    Then you can go to the "left" for flats
    C - No Flats
    F - One Flat
    Bb - Two Flats
    Eb - Three Flats
    Ab - Four Flats
    Db - Five Flats
    Gb - Six Flats
    I can't remember the deal for Cb, maybe not possible, or just always done as B

    The order of the sharps is the same as the original phrase: FCGDAEB, the order of the flats is the phrase in reverse: BEADGCF

    This has always stuck with me for some reason, probably because the phrase is easier for me to remember than the visual picture of the circle of fifths. As long as I always wrote FCGDAEB at the top of my test, I could work it all out. Whatever it takes to remember.

    Just my two.

    JC

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Really good. Good explanation. I printed it out and put it in my theory notebook. (I print several of the threads we have here on the cafe having to do with music theory, the ones deserving of later study, and I put them with some other notes I have taken in a binder.)


    I found this book to be very useful:

    http://www.chordwheel.com/

    and it has a circle of fifths slide rule on the front which is really kind of neat.

    I am the kind of person who learns by learning the system. I am not very good at just learning a whole lot of disconnected facts. Learning chords on the mandolin was very hard for me because, back then I didn't have any grasp of the theory, how it fits together. It was just learn this chord and then learn that chord and oh, here is a usefull chord to learn. Not what I am good at.

    But grabbing on to the circle of fifths puts everything together into a cool pattern. Much easier to walk around and across the circle and see what the chords and chord transitions do.

    And - while the progression of fifths around the circle is pretty key to music in general, another layer of understanding and insight, and even visual and tactile reinforcement, is provided by our instruments being tuned in fifths.

    At the most basic level, because our instruments are tuned in fifths, everything learned in closed position, any cool harmonies or transitions between points on the circle, can be used anywhere else, up down left right, anywhere - you learn the system and you can apply it anywhere.

    Music and its playing becomes much richer and more fun than just a heaping big pile of individual notes and arbitrary seeming chord shapes.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
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    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    The circle of 5ths is so elementary and helpful that I wonder why not everybody knows it by heart. I didn't know that FCGDAEB phrase, though - but I faintly remember that there is a similar German phrase that my father taught me when I was a boy (I forgot how it goes...)

    The circle and the seven modes together are the 20% theory you need for 80% of all harmonic problems (that's easy for me to say, because that's as far as I ever went)

    Bertram
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Registered User LKN2MYIS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Brad -

    I'm having trouble viewing these images. They either won't view in an application or are so enlarged that all resolution is lost.

    I'd love to have a printed copy of these, but I'm lost as to how to view it.

    Any ideas?
    John
    Long Island, New York

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    Registered User LKN2MYIS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Never mind - I got it! Duh.

    I just hit the attachment part of the listing and it opened in Adobe.

    A GREAT document - thanks for doing this!
    John
    Long Island, New York

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    Formerly Know As B-MAN Bret Roberts's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Printed out and lamanated, should come in handy.

    Thank you.
    "I'm not a loser. The fact that I didn't put a gun in my mouth years ago - that little fact makes me a winner, baby. (Al Bundy)"

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    Chief Moderator/Shepherd Ted Eschliman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    I used to sell a Micro-Fibre cloth with the Circle of Fifths on it but it never really took off. It was handy to drape over the case while practicing scales, and of course, clean the instrument after practice. Wonder if any would be interested if I resurrected it?

    Ted Eschliman
    Writer, Music Industry Consultant


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    Registered User MLT's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Thanks for this download...I am heading to the UPS store during lunch to get it laminated.

    Also, Ted, I have 4 or 5 of those cloths, not only educational--but I just prefer them. Too bad they didn't take off.
    MLT
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    Registered User wreded's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Brad,
    Thanks a bunch! Already downloaded and i've GOT to share it with some guitar playing friends. They're all stuck on actually reading the music and have absolutely no idea how or when changes happen in a song. Understanding theory, even if just a little bit, sorta frees one from the "confines" of musical notation. i'm not downplaying reading music, i can but i've always thought that actually writing music down merely gets the idea down on paper. i think of it as translating from one language to another, something always gets lost or garbled in the translation.
    Ted, i'd be interested in a couple of those nice cloths. Again, one (at least) to keep, one (at least) to share

    Dave

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    Registered User swampy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    I learned it as

    Fat Charlie Gets Drunk After Eleven Beers

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Love the cloth Ted.

    And I haved downloaded and printed out lots of stuff from JazzMando. In particular, I found some blank fret board diagrams that I printed out to document all my double stops.

    After some workshops I went to this summer, I have gotten a bit away from paying attention to the names of the keys of the progression, and just dove into the number system. Move a closed double stop up a string, and its a fifth, move it up a string and down two frets (sort of a knight's move in chess) or move it down a string and its a fourth. Drop down two frets in position and its a sixth. Things like that work well and I don't have to remember what key I am going to, or even what key I might be in.

    Its like remembering a quarter slice of the circle of fifths pie, and then slipping it around the circle blindly. Umm... er.... something like that.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
    We cannot put off living until we are ready. -- Jose Ortega Y Gasset

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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    I'm with the innocent bystander. The mandolin is such a logical instrument that all the stuff in the circle of fifths diagram is right there on the fretboard. Intervals always have the same geometric shape unless you're too close to the nut.

    Check this out: (on A and E strings only) Open - A, E 2nd fret B F#, 4th - Db, Ab, 6th - Eb, Bb, 8th F, C, 10th G, D. Which completes the circle! Martin

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    Registered User G'DAE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Hi! I can't seen to open your attachment. Any help?
    Bob.
    Cleanliness is next to Dawgliness....Dawg,2008 Blueberry Band Workshop.

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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    I couldt either, clicking or double-clicking the mouse on the attachment with the left mouse button. Worked well clicking with the right mouse button ja choosing "open file in a new window". Maybe works for you, too.

    PS: Dont know why this is so, but Im a moron what comes to computers. Would somebody civilize me in this (sorry, no mandolin content ;-)

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    Registered User G'DAE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Thanks Arto..... I never thought to right click, I'm not computer whiz either.
    Bob.
    Cleanliness is next to Dawgliness....Dawg,2008 Blueberry Band Workshop.

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    cyclo-mandolinist! OzMando's Avatar
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    Smile Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Quote Originally Posted by swampy View Post
    I learned it as

    Fat Charlie Gets Drunk After Eleven Beers
    Interesting My highschool music teacher always remembered the order of the sharps and flats as:
    Fat Charlie Goes Down After Eating Bananas

    Very Useful resource provided by the OP by the way. Thankyou.
    Play on friend, play on...

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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Brad; as a beginner, trying to make sense of what appears as complete randomness ... thanks for putting this up. It makes the whole jigsaw puzzle, that is music from my perspective, just a little clearer. More please!

  23. #20
    Distressed Model John Ritchhart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    First I learned the phrase "Frank Can Get Drunk At Every Bar" this gave me:

    FCGDAEB
    I learned it "Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Boloney"

    It's interesting that it not only shows the fifths progression clockwise, but also which notes are sharped in which order in the key signature. G=F#, D=F#C#, A=F#C#G# etc.

    We few, we happy few.

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    Registered User Jim MacDaniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Quote Originally Posted by jcrouse View Post
    "Frank Can Get Drunk At Every Bar"...
    Or alternatively, but equally non-PC, "Floozies Can Get Drinks At Every Bar".
    "The problem with quotes on the internet, is everybody has one, and most of them are wrong."
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    Registered User chordwood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Hi Brad,

    Thank your informative post on chords and the C of 5ths. For whatever reason, I cannot get but the thumbernail of your pdf doc. I wonder if you could send me the pdf by email.

    Thanks,
    Hans

  26. #23
    Registered User Jim MacDaniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Hans -- see Arto's post above about right-clicking, but if you are still only seeing the thumbnails, you right-click on them and select Save Target As... to save the files directly to your PC without opening them.
    "The problem with quotes on the internet, is everybody has one, and most of them are wrong."
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    Registered User chordwood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    Thanks, I got it.

    Hans

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    Default Re: Chord Chart/Circle of 5ths.

    I have found it easy enough to go through the cycle of 5th's simply remembering BEAD and then the few chords that separate the two of them. (B, E, A, D) G, C, F (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db) Gb/F#
    Always thinking ahead.
    mark

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