Cyberfret.com: Guitar Theory: Circle of 5th - Major Keys
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Major Key Circle of 5ths

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A more visual picture of how the keys are related is the circle of 5ths. Start on a C and move clockwise around the circle.

The key of G major is up a perfect 5th from C (G is the 5th note in a C major scale). Keep moving clockwise and the key of D major is up a perfect 5th from G (D is the 5th note in a G major scale) This continues around the circle until it starts over (C is the 5th note in an F major scale). You will notice that 3 points on the circle have 2 different names. B is the same as Cb, F# is the same as Gb and C# is the same as Db. These are known as enharmonic keys (sound the same, but are spelled differently). As far as practical use, you would use the B instead of the Cb. It is easier to think of 5 sharps rather than 7 flats. Also you would use Db instead of C#, because it is better to think of 5 flats instead of 7 sharps. Since F# and Gb have an equal number of sharps and flats, both are used.

C# and Cb are considered more "theoretical" keys than actual usable keys, so for most situations do not use them.

major key circle of 5ths

Things to do

  • memorize the order of sharps (these are the more common keys used for guitar). Get some staff paper and write the key signature for C# over and over until you just know it. Then you will be able to figure out any key signature, using the tricks learned above. Start quizzing yourself, and write the answer on your staff paper. Then do the same for the major keys that use flats.
  • Once you have the key signatures memorized, practice "spelling" the major scales. For example, if you know that the key of a A major has an F#, C#, and G#, then and A major scale would be spelled ( A B C# D E F# G# A) Practice naming the scales forwards and backwards.

These are not things that you can learn in a very short period of time. Pick one or 2 keys to work on at a time. Learn these keys first, they are THE guitar keys.

C D E F G A B C
G A B C D E F# G
D E F# G A B C# D
A B C# D E F# G# A
E F# G# A B C# D# E



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