Beyonce Knowles (Pop), Franz Schubert (Romantic), John William (Film), Armin Van Buuren (EDM), Jerome Kern (Jazz), and Beethoven (Classical) are all celebrated artists in their respective genres, loved and revered by fans from across the globe. But have you ever wondered what the secret behind their great musicality is? Well, this list presents just a drop out of an ocean of artists that leverage this tool to produce appealing, good-quality tunes across the musical genres. The good news however, is that you don’t necessarily require a degree in music to understand the insights of the musical chart and how you can use it to produce quality content for your esteemed audience. In this article, we decipher all the Circle of Fifths tips and tricks your favorite artists use to keep their game ahead of the rest.
Of course, anyone can compose and write songs. If you have a Piano at home, you can try creating soothing melodies using Circle of Fifths. You can watch and learn some of your favorite piano scales at a reputable piano showroom in Sydney. To get started, we introduce you to the magical musical chart!
The Circle of fifths is an intuitive tool a composer can use to determine the relationships among the key signatures and tones in their content. It enables the composer to visualize and control how the 5thdegree and tonic of a scale are linked and integrated into the music. It is also used to harmonize melodies, create chords, and decide how the song is swayed across different pitch centers. With this chart, artists can understand and efficiently anticipate scale relationships and the harmonic progressions distributed throughout the song. As such, the tool gives composers an easy and efficient method of creating notes and chords that can come out really great in any musical scale. For example, if you pick a key like C major, the minor notes will be A, E, and D, the major notes will be on either side of G and F, and the diminished note will be B. These notes make a great combination and can be used to create a chord progression, say from C to D minor, then to E minor, D minor, and back to the C chord.
Understanding parts of the tool
At first, interacting with the chart might seem a bit overwhelming. But soon after, you realize using it is as easy as any other walk in the park.
This musical tool is a product of the relationship among 12 chromatic scale tones, their associated minor and major keys, and their equivalent key signatures. It is divided into three main sections: the outer section, the capital letters section, and the small letter section. The outer section comprises the actual key signatures; the capital letter section represents the major keys, while the small letter section contains the corresponding minor keys. The chart is also made up of Enharmonic equivalents, which are regions in thetool where two keys sharing the same key signature are listed. For instance, G♭ and F# are said to be enharmonic equivalents because they would all be sounded using the same key on a piano. However, it is essential to note that while a Key like C major has enharmonic equivalents, the ambiguity surrounding writing a song in B# Major necessitates that it be rested alone on the Circle instead of being paired with an enharmonic equivalent.
It’s also interesting to note that the ‘5th‘ interval relationship between key signatures in the tool actually motivated the title ‘Circle of Fifths’. You can put this to perspective in the chart by starting at C major and moving in a clockwise direction while observing the intervals for both adjacent major and minor keys. You will realize that the interval between each key signature is ‘5th.’ In the major keys, for instance, G is a 5th place up from C, D is a 5th place up from G, A is a 5th place up from D, and so on… Likewise, for the minor keys, E is a 5th place up from A, B is a 5th place up from E, F is a 5thplaceup from B, and so on.
If you try the same movement, but in an anticlockwise manner, the interval in progression becomes four. Why then is it not called the Circle of fourths? Well, the answer is simple. The occurrence of ‘fourths’ interval in the tool is less common compared to the occurrenceof ‘fifths’; hence, the latter supersedes.
The chord technique
Each key has two chords which are the important chords in the key. These chords include the root of the chord and the “V” chord. In the chart, the two essential chords include the root chord and the adjacent chord in a clockwise movement. The key of C, for instance, has two critical chords, C and G, which a composer can exploit to produce an entire song.
Success with harmony requires that you understand how they resolve. Because music is more about tension and release, understanding how to harmonically transition between chords that create tension and chords that provide a point of relaxation will give your music superiority. The easiest yet powerful way to achieve this is through mastering the transition from V to I in any key. If you are in the C key, you can move from G to C. in this case, going from C to D will create a bit of tension while the movement back to G, and eventually to C, will work to resolve it. This should be your ticket to great harmony and musicality!
To create winning hits, you will need to use progressions that are both predictable and simple. The Circle of fifths provides composers with one of the most substantial types of progressions, often defined as “pleasantly predictable.” It’s actually the ‘prerequisite’ for great fine tunes! Here is how to get started with the tool’s progression:
- Choose a key (e.g., G major)
- Note the seven harmonies naturally existing in the key (For G major, they include G Am Bm C D Em and F#dim)
- Commence progression on any of the identified harmonies (e.g., Em)
- Given the fifths principle, the next chord should naturally be built on the note that is four times higher/5 timers lower (e.g., Em- Am)
- Maintain the trajectory for as long as you wish (E.g., Em Am D and so o)
- It’s a good practice to end the progression on the tonic chord (i.e., the default chord of the chosen key). However, this is not a rule. To get back to G major, for instance, we will need to either insert a D-Gin the progression (useful when jumping out of the circle of fifths pattern) or simply stop when reach G
This pattern guide should be considered a template that composers can modify endlessly for their own preferences. For instance, the composer can use a flat-VII instead of theharmony already built on the 7th scale degree.
Playing through the just-created progression gives you a feeling of repetition.The repetition sense is because in a sense, pairs of chords usually feel like they are working as partners. As a consequence, melodies with high degree repetitions usually integrate well with the Circle’s progressions. So, to create melodies with high degree of repetitions:
- Have a progression whose end connects nicely with the home/tonic chord.
- Start by experimenting with a simple melodic phrase and a starting note. For starters, begin on the B note while strumming chord G. Create a melodic phrase by singing the notes B-D-B-D, then end the phrase on an E while strumming C.
- The next phase should begin on F#dim, start from note A, and sing the A-C-A-C notes. End the phrase on a D while strumming a Bm (This repeatseverything you’ve done, though a scale-degree lower).
- Step iii.) should be repeated to produce the 3rd phrase
- Then while using the same format, develop the fourth phrase that gives the whole section a smooth closure. That’s your melody with four brief phrases right there!
Again, this is just a melody guide template and can be manipulated as many times as possible and to the composer’s liking. In some instances, your melody might not even require the aspect of repetition. Repetition is only recommended as it is easier to work with and integrates well with various kinds of progressions. It also enhances the memorability of a melody which is crucial in the development of hits.