The Circle of Fifths

Organizing the 12 musical keys

The circle of fifths is a way to organize the musical keys. The term "fifth" means the musical interval called Perfect Fifth, spanning 7 semitones. Basically, starting from the key of C major, you can advance step by step by a perfect fifth. Every step corresponds to a one of the 12 musical key. The circle is composed by 12 key tonalities, each tonality is one perfect fifth up the tonality preceding.

In the picture below you can see the circle of fifths with the 12 musical key and corresponding alterations. The C key has no alterations, the G key has one sharp, the D key as two sharps, the A key has three sharps, and so on. At the Db/C# key we switch to flats alterations, considering the C# key as Db. This is needed in order to conclude the circle at the starting point, the C key, otherwise we would have arrived to a B# key.

circle of fifths on guitar

Here's how alterations are added moving on along the circle of fifths:

C: no alterations

G: F#

D: F# C#

A: F# C# G

E: F# C# G# D#

B: F# C# G# D# A#

Gb/F#: F# C# G# D# A# E#

Db/C#: Bb Eb Ab Db Gb

Ab/G#: Bb Eb Ab Db

Eb/D#: Bb Eb Ab

Bb/A#: Bb Eb

F: Bb

C: no alterations

In the picture below you can see the progression along the circle of fifths along the guitar neck.

Starting from the key of C major, advancing by a perfect fifth, we get the G, D ,and A keys....

circle of fifths on guitar

moving on again, E, B, F#, C# keys...

circle of fifths on guitar

At this point we now consider the C# as Db key (otherwise at the end of the circle we will arrive to a B#, not a C), and we move again as usual by a perfect fifth, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb keys.

circle of fifths on guitar

We pass through Bb, F, and C keys. Eventually we arrived at the starting point, the C key (yeah it is really a circle!)

circle of fifths on guitar

In the pictures below you can see the 12 musical keys visualized on Fachords Guitar Scales Generator


Key tonality C: no alterations

circle of fifths on guitar - C key tonality

Key tonality G: F#

circle of fifths on guitar - G key tonality

Key tonality D: F# C#

circle of fifths on guitar - D key tonality

Key tonality A: F# C# G

circle of fifths on guitar - A key tonality

Key tonality E: F# C# G# D#

circle of fifths on guitar - E key tonality

Key tonality B: F# C# G# D# A#

circle of fifths on guitar - B key tonality

Key tonality Gb/F#: F# C# G# D# A# E#

circle of fifths on guitar - F# key tonality

Key tonality Db/C#: Bb Eb Ab Db Gb

circle of fifths on guitar - C# key tonality

Key tonality Ab/G#: Bb Eb Ab Db

circle of fifths on guitar - Ab key tonality

Key tonality Eb/D#: Bb Eb Ab

circle of fifths on guitar - Eb key tonality

Key tonality Bb/A#: Bb Eb

circle of fifths on guitar - Bb key tonality

Key tonality F: Bb

circle of fifths on guitar - F key tonality

Key tonality C: no alterations

circle of fifths on guitar - C key tonality

You can practice on different key tonalities with Fachords Guitar Scales Generator

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