Should I learn the Circle of Fifths and Major Scale Notes?

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Anyone tell me the practical benefits of knowing the Circle of fifths and the Major Scales Notes off by heart?
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  • bbill335bbill335 Frets: 585
    Why not 
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 16858
    edited January 2017
    YES.
    Next question.

    Let me use an analogy to English.

    Do need sentence learn stuff speak english good get point over?
    (Do you need to learn how to construct sentences in order to speak or write English well enough to be able to be full understood? Or could you get by with less knowledge provided you can make your point?)

    The circle of fifths is an important aspect to music theory.
    It isn't 100% necessary but it isn't hard and it provides a framework which allows you to communicate musically in a more eloquent and elegant way.
    You can get by just knowing the bare minimum , sure- but it will give you a deeper understand and allow you to be more well rounded.
    I am the juice of four limes.
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  • BarneyBarney Frets: 329
    A lot of chords move in 4ths or 5ths 1 to 4 chords in a blues...251 progresion eg..Dm G7 C.ect.its a logical way to practice things 
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  • vizviz Frets: 4544
    edited January 2017
    I think once you know the Co5, you couldn't imagine not knowing it, it's just too fundamental. It basically underpins everything else about how music actually works as it is the framework that describes similar keys and natural progressions. Everyone who gets to understand it will build a better appreciation of music, and also a better ability to compose and play. It's like knowing the alphabet or the Newtonian laws. It's hard to overstate its importance.
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  • beed84beed84 Frets: 1082
    Learn it and you'll benefit from it. Learn the circle of fourths too. Knowledge is power, therefore you can only be a better musician if you study this area and other theory too.
    "Life is full of disappointments. And by disappointments I mean people" -- Kambri Crews
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  • beed84 said:
    Learn it and you'll benefit from it. Learn the circle of fourths too...
    I just think of the cycle of 4th or 5ths as anticlockwise or clockwise rotations of the same representation.
    It's not a competition.
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  • ManneManne Frets: 6
    Check out the circle of fifths in terms of tetrachords: major tetrachord -> major scale -> circle of fifths.  
    major tetrachord is a series of four notes with the interval pattern tone – tone – semitone (2-2-b2).
    A major scale is a combination of two major tetrachords separated by a major second (2). Find detailed information here.




     

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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 16858
    Manne said:
    Check out the circle of fifths in terms of tetrachords: major tetrachord -> major scale -> circle of fifths.  
    A major tetrachord is a series of four notes with the interval pattern tone – tone – semitone (2-2-b2).
    A major scale is a combination of two major tetrachords separated by a major second (2). Find detailed information here.

    No, don't do this.
    Just learn the regular circle of 5ths before tackling something like this ^^^.
    I am the juice of four limes.
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  • I appreciate all advice, but can anyone give specific examples of how the knowledge of it can help? Thanks in advance
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  • BarneyBarney Frets: 329
    I appreciate all advice, but can anyone give specific examples of how the knowledge of it can help? Thanks in advance
    I thought i did :)
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 16858
    I appreciate all advice, but can anyone give specific examples of how the knowledge of it can help? Thanks in advance
    As I said above- do you think there is any advantage in knowing how to construct sentences, or just know a bunch of random English words and try to form them into some kind of order?

    Reharmonsing, transposing, playing changes are all much easier if you know the notes of the scales and the Co5.
    It is the beginning of a musical education though- not an end in itself.
    You can't just learn them and go 'ok that's me done'.

    Think of it like driving a car- you can know what a gear stick does, and an accelerator and maybe you can potter around a car par but does that mean you are safe to drive on the road.
    Then to drive for a living?
    Then to race cars for a living?

    Music is a lifelong pursuit and learning scales and the Co5 is the very first step.
    I am the juice of four limes.
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  • RolandRoland Frets: 1545
    Learn the notes - yes. You might find the best route is to learn the notes of the common keys, starting with C and Am, and then adding other keys.

    The benefits of learning this is that you immediately know which notes from the major and minor scales you can play against any chord. You also start to wonder about the notes that you aren't playing, and what they do. Learning them opens up other scales. The ones which have fancy names like mixolydian. It helps you learn notes in context, and understanding what they do for the music, and helps you avoid running up and down scales in your playing. You might gather that I've not found the circle of xyz useful, nor modal theory, because they lead you to follow the theory, not what the music needs.
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  • BarneyBarney Frets: 329
    I suppose it depends how far you want to go with things as well.....ideally you should know the note names plus interval it is  from the root note ...for all sorts of things inc building chords ...modes ..targeting various degrees...knowing what note changes to make it maj or min in all positions ...what  9th is ...sus 4 ect ...its never ending whatever the level of a player iff thats how you want to look at it

    On the other hand

    Learn the standard pentatonic postion...create some cool sounding runs and learn notes on the bottom E string and you will be able to adapt for different keys and you will be able to after a while play some blues type of thing ...iff thats all you want from guitar that would be fine....add a few chords and learn some songs .....you probably wouldnt improve much after that though

    I would rather have both ..theory is good but useless iff its not applied..it really needs learned then used ...
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  • vizviz Frets: 4544
    edited January 2017
    I appreciate all advice, but can anyone give specific examples of how the knowledge of it can help? Thanks in advance
    The main thing it does is tell you for any I chord, what is its V chord. So if you are in C, the V chord is the next one clockwise, the G. It also tells you the IV chord, by going anticlockwise from the C - ie the F. 

    ie, it rearranges all the notes so that instead of being alphabetical, they are in series of IV on the left, V on the right, and I in the middle. 

    It's a bit like if you had a set of colours and you had them in alphabetical order - blue, green indigo, orange, red, violet, yellow - that's not really much use; what you really need is for them to be in order of wavelength - red orange yellow green blue indigo violet - and hey presto you can now use them to predict the colours on the left and right side of any chosen colour in a rainbow, which is much more useful.

    That's the first thing it does.

    The next thing that it helps with is this: it tells you that the major scale of the adjacent key clockwise round the circle uses exactly the same notes, with the exception that one of the notes is raised. The note that gets raised is the SEVENTH note, the "leading note". So if you start with C major (which has no sharps or flats), the next clockwise key is G major, which must have one sharp. And counting up 7 from G is F. So G major has an F#. As you continue cycling clockwise, those sharps accumulate, so the next one, D, has 2 sharps - the F# and a new sharp, D's 7th note, which is C#. And so on. 

    Conversely it also tells you that if you go to the next anticlockwise key, you have to lower a note to get the new key's major scale. The note which has to get lowered is the FOURTH note - the 'subdominant' note. So if you start with G major (which has an F#), and go anticlockwise back to C, you have to flatten the 4th note to get C major. The 4th note from C is F, so that F# has to be depressed to an F natural, and hey presto you've got C major, like you started with. As you cycle anticlockwise from a key with lots of sharps, the sharps peel off one by one till you reach C, then the flats start to accumulate.

    So if you go one more step anticlockwise from C, you reach F. Counting 4 notes up from F, you get B. B natural is in the scale of C, but for F major you have to lower it - hence F major has a Bb as its 4th note. And from F (which has that B flat), the next one anticlockwise is Bb itself, and the 4th note from Bb is E, which you need to flatten; so Bb major has two flats - Bb and Eb. See, the flats accumulate. 
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  • Barney said:
    I appreciate all advice, but can anyone give specific examples of how the knowledge of it can help? Thanks in advance
    I thought i did :)
    Sorry mate you did thank you
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  • notanonnotanon Frets: 193
    edited January 2017
    Shed loads of info as @Viz says. Other uses as well - some images have the relative minor as an inner circle and lots of other information. For example look at the standard wiki page for circle of fifths - it shows the musical staves and the order in which the sharps or flats would be drawn, . . .  So useful I recreated the Wiki diagram (the wiki image is not mathematically precise) and made a clock for myself:

    http://i1378.photobucket.com/albums/ah105/UKGuitarPlayer/Misc/CofFifthsClock_zpstp4nbhhn.jpg

    That was my first version. I found so useful I gave some clocks to friends and family that are into music. That was the crappiest of the ones I made. I still have the Photoshop file kept safe :-)

    @Manne awesome C of Fifths!!!
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  • vizviz Frets: 4544
    viz said:
    I appreciate all advice, but can anyone give specific examples of how the knowledge of it can help? Thanks in advance
    The main thing it does is tell you for any I chord, what is its V chord. So if you are in C, the V chord is the next one clockwise, the G. It also tells you the IV chord, by going anticlockwise from the C - ie the F. 

    ie, it rearranges all the notes so that instead of being alphabetical, they are in series of IV on the left, V on the right, and I in the middle. 

    It's a bit like if you had a set of colours and you had them in alphabetical order - blue, green indigo, orange, red, violet, yellow - that's not really much use; what you really need is for them to be in order of wavelength - red orange yellow green blue indigo violet - and hey presto you can now use them to predict the colours on the left and right side of any chosen colour in a rainbow, which is much more useful.

    That's the first thing it does.

    The next thing that it helps with is this: it tells you that the major scale of the adjacent key clockwise round the circle uses exactly the same notes, with the exception that one of the notes is raised. The note that gets raised is the SEVENTH note, the "leading note". So if you start with C major (which has no sharps or flats), the next clockwise key is G major, which must have one sharp. And counting up 7 from G is F. So G major has an F#. As you continue cycling clockwise, those sharps accumulate, so the next one, D, has 2 sharps - the F# and a new sharp, D's 7th note, which is C#. And so on. 

    Conversely it also tells you that if you go to the next anticlockwise key, you have to lower a note to get the new key's major scale. The note which has to get lowered is the FOURTH note - the 'subdominant' note. So if you start with G major (which has an F#), and go anticlockwise back to C, you have to flatten the 4th note to get C major. The 4th note from C is F, so that F# has to be depressed to an F natural, and hey presto you've got C major, like you started with. As you cycle anticlockwise from a key with lots of sharps, the sharps peel off one by one till you reach C, then the flats start to accumulate.

    So if you go one more step anticlockwise from C, you reach F. Counting 4 notes up from F, you get B. B natural is in the scale of C, but for F major you have to lower it - hence F major has a Bb as its 4th note. And from F (which has that B flat), the next one anticlockwise is Bb itself, and the 4th note from Bb is E, which you need to flatten; so Bb major has two flats - Bb and Eb. See, the flats accumulate. 
    One other thing - you question whether you should learn all the major scale notes - there's very little to learn in fact - just remember the circle of 5ths - CGDAEB for sharps 0-5, and FBEAD (actually F Bb Eb Ab Db) for flats 1-5, and you're done. The mnemonic Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle tells you the actual sharps in order, and the same mnemonic backwards (Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles's Father) tells you the flats in order. 
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  • nickpnickp Frets: 144
    edited January 2017
    why not combine them - practice the major scale in all keys and use the cycle of fifths to choose the next key.  I have just learned the major scale all the way up the neck, plus the intervals, plus the chords.....it is the key to unlocking all sorts of shit that I really couldn't start to think about until I got this basic bit.

    it's easy to think - I don't use the major scale.  but I've found that once I learned it then i wonder how the fuck I got this far without learning it!

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  • vizviz Frets: 4544
    edited January 2017
    nickp said:
    why not combine them - practice the major scale in all keys and use the cycle of fifths to choose the next key.  I have just learned the major scale all the way up the neck, plus the intervals, plus the chords.....it is the key to unlocking all sorts of shit that I really couldn't start to think about until I got this basic bit.



    Regarding going round the Co5, You can use Hey Joe to go clockwise nearly halfway, then play a B chord as a sort of linking dominant chord, then repeat hey Joe, but starting on Gb (as though playing it in Bb), then finishing with another linking chord (F). Thus you've gone all the way round. 

    Or to go anticlockwise, try "Brother can you Spare a Dime", playing it in Ab minor. That's the longest sequence of 4ths I've found. Start on Abm and the 4ths start from the F. So that's Abm F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B (and then F to finish the line). That run from F to B gets you all the way round the circle till you meet the last chord of Hey Joe (the E). So you've covered the whole Co5 with two songs.
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  • axisusaxisus Frets: 9623
    I inadvertently started off with the square of sevenths and I've struggled with theory ever since.
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  • proggyproggy Frets: 1349
    notanon said:
    Shed loads of info as @Viz says. Other uses as well - some images have the relative minor as an inner circle and lots of other information. For example look at the standard wiki page for circle of fifths - it shows the musical staves and the order in which the sharps or flats would be drawn, . . .  So useful I recreated the Wiki diagram (the wiki image is not mathematically precise) and made a clock for myself:

    http://i1378.photobucket.com/albums/ah105/UKGuitarPlayer/Misc/CofFifthsClock_zpstp4nbhhn.jpg

    That was my first version. I found so useful I gave some clocks to friends and family that are into music. That was the crappiest of the ones I made. I still have the Photoshop file kept safe :-)

    @Manne awesome C of Fifths!!!
    I like that clock
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  • Now, I'm going to try and tread a fine line here between respecting the theoretical knowledge of those who have posted here, whilst saying the Circle of Fifths is pretty much redundant on the guitar.

    Why?  Because, unlike a piano, as a player you don't need to concern yourself unduly with whether a particular key has sharps and flats.  Want to transpose a C major scale to a B?  If you were going to write that down in notation, or play it on a piano, you would need to use the Circle of Fifths to know that B has five sharps.  On a guitar?  Just shift the whole thing down by one fret and throw the Co5ths in the bin.  If you know the fingering for the major scale (without using any open strings) then you can move it anywhere you like, without giving one jot for what the note names actually are.  Apart from the root note, of course.  It's the *relationship* between the notes you are playing rather than the actual note names themselves that are important.  In fact, because you can tune a guitar up and down with ease, the actual note names can be more of a hindrance than a help.  I tune down to Eb, but I still call a C chord a C chord, and unless I'm playing with a piano or other fixed-tuning instrument, it works fine.  And if I *am* playing with a fixed-tuning instrument, I just tell them I'm playing a B and let them worry about it! :)

    @Viz gives an excellent summary of the theory, but I've already argued that you don't actually need to worry about "how many sharps are in this key signature" to play the guitar to a high level.  As for finding 5ths?  Doesn't this come naturally, from the most basic of chords, the power chord?  The E, A, and D shape have a 5th built right into them as the next note up from the root - so doesn't every guitarist instinctively know where to find (if not the actual name of) the 5th of any key?

    For me personally, the secrets of music theory can be unlocked by considering chord construction.  Learn the basics - root, third, fifth, and understand the what makes major and what makes minor chords (changing the third, basically).  Then consider sus2, sus4, major and minor 7th, add9, add11, and learn how they sound.  Then diminished, and augmented, and... well, it never stops.  

    If you know a chord you know half the scale, and then experimenting with filling in the blanks to see what sounds good is my personal recipe for interesting playing, rather than sweating over whether you should be playing an F# or G in that A major scale.  Knowing what sound you're going for, rather than what theory says you should do, is they key to interesting playing IMHO.  On the guitar, at any rate.  I'm not sure Mozart would thank you for changing his sheet music, but since most mainstream guitar playing is largely improvisatory, this sort of approach works, in my experience.

    Again, to make it clear, I'm not criticising anything that has gone before, it's just that it's my opinion that, specifically for mainstream guitar playing, the Circle of Fifths is not worth spending time worrying about.
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  • beed84beed84 Frets: 1082
    @notanon that clock is awesome. Would be handy have one of those myself!
    "Life is full of disappointments. And by disappointments I mean people" -- Kambri Crews
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  • notanonnotanon Frets: 193
    @beed84 I have the file to print complete with cut out markers at 300 dpi.the clock is dirt cheap plastic. Pop the back off insert the print out. Let me know if you want the file.

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  • beed84beed84 Frets: 1082
    notanon said:
    @beed84 I have the file to print complete with cut out markers at 300 dpi.the clock is dirt cheap plastic. Pop the back off insert the print out. Let me know if you want the file.

    PM'd
    "Life is full of disappointments. And by disappointments I mean people" -- Kambri Crews
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  • RockerRocker Frets: 2474
    My honest answer to the OPs question is no. But knowing some theory never did anyone any harm. From my perspective, theory can stifle your natural curiosity about what works or doesn't work musically. Playing for fun as I do, I believe that ear training and learning how to listen to music is very important. I mean listening to music from the view of trying to replicate it as closely as possible. @Octatonic had a thread about learning a set list in 30 days, this contains a lot of very useful help and information on music and how to play it. Worth reading IMHO.
    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [Albert Einstein]

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  • vizviz Frets: 4544
    edited January 2017
    Now, I'm going to try and tread a fine line here between respecting the theoretical knowledge of those who have posted here, whilst saying the Circle of Fifths is pretty much redundant on the guitar.

    Why?  Because, unlike a piano, as a player you don't need to concern yourself unduly with whether a particular key has sharps and flats.  Want to transpose a C major scale to a B?  If you were going to write that down in notation, or play it on a piano, you would need to use the Circle of Fifths to know that B has five sharps.  On a guitar?  Just shift the whole thing down by one fret and throw the Co5ths in the bin.  If you know the fingering for the major scale (without using any open strings) then you can move it anywhere you like, without giving one jot for what the note names actually are.  Apart from the root note, of course.  It's the *relationship* between the notes you are playing rather than the actual note names themselves that are important.  In fact, because you can tune a guitar up and down with ease, the actual note names can be more of a hindrance than a help.  I tune down to Eb, but I still call a C chord a C chord, and unless I'm playing with a piano or other fixed-tuning instrument, it works fine.  And if I *am* playing with a fixed-tuning instrument, I just tell them I'm playing a B and let them worry about it!

    @Viz gives an excellent summary of the theory, but I've already argued that you don't actually need to worry about "how many sharps are in this key signature" to play the guitar to a high level.  As for finding 5ths?  Doesn't this come naturally, from the most basic of chords, the power chord?  The E, A, and D shape have a 5th built right into them as the next note up from the root - so doesn't every guitarist instinctively know where to find (if not the actual name of) the 5th of any key?

    For me personally, the secrets of music theory can be unlocked by considering chord construction.  Learn the basics - root, third, fifth, and understand the what makes major and what makes minor chords (changing the third, basically).  Then consider sus2, sus4, major and minor 7th, add9, add11, and learn how they sound.  Then diminished, and augmented, and... well, it never stops.  

    If you know a chord you know half the scale, and then experimenting with filling in the blanks to see what sounds good is my personal recipe for interesting playing, rather than sweating over whether you should be playing an F# or G in that A major scale.  Knowing what sound you're going for, rather than what theory says you should do, is they key to interesting playing IMHO.  On the guitar, at any rate.  I'm not sure Mozart would thank you for changing his sheet music, but since most mainstream guitar playing is largely improvisatory, this sort of approach works, in my experience.

    Again, to make it clear, I'm not criticising anything that has gone before, it's just that it's my opinion that, specifically for mainstream guitar playing, the Circle of Fifths is not worth spending time worrying about.
    I think you're spot on in that as a guitarist you don't NEED to know that E major has 4 sharps (though it helps if you can shout to your keyboardist "No! Play a G#!" for example) and I definitely agree that you can treat the guitar as a key-agnostic instrument from the first fret upwards; but what I think is that you can't unlearn it once you know it, it is very simple to learn, and it is incredibly useful - just in terms of knowing how I, IV and V chords actually work; why the V chord has a flat 7; what happens when you make the ii chord into a major II chord; etc - all these things and many others are encapsulated in the Co5 diagram. I just think Co5 is one of very few fundamental musical building blocks that manages to convey an awful lot of info.

    I would agree though that piano players need it even more, to know sharps and flats to play the right black notes, but I'd also say that being familiar with the piano layout does also help guitarists by the way, as it's the perfect model of our western music system. 

    Just thinking as I write, I will concede there's a difference between understanding it and learning it off by heart; understanding it is probably a very useful first step; learning it is maybe not so much, initially at least.

    :)
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  • @viz what does happen when you make the ii chord into a Major?
    Would that indicate that the key has changed? i.e the i and ii are now iv and v?
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 16858
    @viz what does happen when you make the ii chord into a Major?
    Would that indicate that the key has changed? i.e the i and ii are now iv and v?
    That is called a parallel modulation- yes it means a key change.
    What is typical is a progression like this:

    Dm7 / G7 / |  Cmaj7 / / / | Cmin7 / F7 / | Bbmaj7 / / / |

    This is a ii V I in C then a parallel modulation where the Cmaj7 becomes the ii of a II V I in Bb.

    I am the juice of four limes.
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  • vizviz Frets: 4544
    edited January 2017
    ^ well I actually hadn't meant that - I meant like a secondary dominant, like instead of ii V I, it's II V I. The II has a major 3rd, which is a semitone below the V chord's root note. So if you were playing in C, and you heard the notes F#, G, C - that F# would be part of the secondary dominant - it's the major 3rd of a D major chord. (You'd normally expect to hear F,G,C, like a normal ii V I). But if you hear an F#, the chords you've got are D - G - C, a II V I progression, back-cycling round the Co5. Pretty sure I haven't explained myself very well there but. 
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