You know the Circle of Fifths is important, but do you fully understand it? Today, we’re diving deep into what it means and how you can use it to supercharge your piano playing. Today’s new video breaks down this fundamental music theory tool, making it easy to grasp and apply to your practice sessions. You won’t want to miss this!

Here’s what you’ll learn in today’s new video:

  • What the Circle of Fifths is and what it means
  • How the Circle of Fifths can improve your understanding of chord progressions, scales, and more
  • Exercises you can use alongside the Circle of Fifths to enhance your playing
    … and more!


Happy practicing! 

Video Transcription:

You’ve heard about the circle of fifths, but do you really get it? Join me as I break it down in simple terms. We’re also going to talk about how it can turbocharge your piano skills, and make your practice more effective. So first, let’s take a look at our piano. There are 12 different pitches, each with a letter name, which can be seen on a piano keyboard. These notes repeat above or below the keyboard, sounding higher or lower. So for example, in music we have A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and they repeat all across the piano like this A, A, A, A, A, A, A, A, and so on. Besides the piano layout, we can also arrange these notes in a pattern known as the circle of fifths, which serves as a powerful reference tool. It’s like a multipurpose reference chart, like the periodic table, but for music. So let’s look a little closer at it.

The circle of fifths moves up a fifth clockwise, but what is a fifth? For example, starting from C, moving up a fifth leads to G. So for example, one, two, three, four, five. That’s a fifth. Then from G, a fifth is up to D, one, two, three, four, five. Another way to think of this is say the letter name and then count seven notes up, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. That is a fifth. G to D would be like this, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. So now we understand how it’s organized and set up. Now let’s talk about what each letter really means inside the circle of fifths. Each note on the outer circle corresponds to a major scale, showing their key signature. So let’s zoom into some key signatures. What is a key signature? It’s showing you exactly what notes are sharp or flat in a key. For example, if I play the G major scale in the key of G, every F is sharp.

So that is why there is a sharp sitting on this line that is an F on the treble clef staff. If I play the A flat major scale, every BEAD is flat. If you look closely, this is a B flat E flat, A flat and D flat. That is a key signature. It’s telling you what notes are sharp or flat in each key. So moving clockwise around the circle adds sharps, while moving counterclockwise adds flats. But what is that inner circle then? The circle neatly organizes major and minor keys. It shows you the relative minor keys of each major key. What does that mean? So for example, C major’s relative minor is always A minor. Why? Because both of these keys do not have sharps or flats. So for example, here is the C major scale. And here is an example of an A minor scale.

And here’s a hack. One quick way to find the relative minor of a major key is to count three steps down from that major key. This is what I mean. C major, if I count three steps down, they’re also known as half steps, I would go one, two, three, and now I know that the relative minor of C major is A minor. So now that you’ve got the whole picture, you can really see how the circle of fifths helps us show us key signatures, and how major and minor keys are related. But there’s more. Stay tuned. Now that I’ve given you a basic overview of the circle of fifths, let me know in the comments if you learned anything new about it. Let me know. Now, let’s talk about how the circle of fifths can really benefit your piano playing. The first way is practice the chords around the circle of fifths, clockwise or counterclockwise. So here’s an example of how you could practice it clockwise.

You could hold each chord for four counts, and this can really help you learn all of your chords. For example, here we go, one, two, three, four. And so on. The other way is you could go counterclockwise like this, one, two, three, four. And so on. This is a really great way to practice all of your chords, and make sure you learn all of them. So go around, clockwise or counterclockwise, with major keys and minor keys, and you’re going to learn all of your chords, and it’s a really great exercise to start your practice routine. The second way it can help your piano learning is it’s a great way to learn all of your scales. One way you could tackle learning all of your scales is going in order of the circle of fifths. But I actually have another video where I do talk about the circle of fifths and what order to learn your scales in, and I really recommend watching it here.

The third way is the circle of fifths can really help you with songwriting and improvising. The circle of fifths highlights the relationship between the one chord, the five chord, and the four chord. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a quick example. In the key of C major, which is all the notes of the C major scale, the one chord is C major, the four chord is F major, which is four notes up from C, and the five chord is G major. And one, four and five are extremely important chords in music. These chords are actually neighbors on the circle, and play a pivotal role in creating harmonic progression. In songwriting, moving between the one, four and five chords forms the backbone of countless songs across genres. The one chord provides the home base, the four chord adds movement and contrast, and the five chord introduces tension that resolves back to the one chord. So as I just said, C major is the one chord, F major is the four chord, and G major is the five chord.

But then let’s go a little bit to the right, and now in the key of G major, the C major is the four chord, the D major is the five chord, and you can keep going around the circle of fifths like that. So for example again, if I was in the key of D major, the G major chord is the four chord, the A major chord is the five chord in the key of D. So with that knowledge, you can really start improvising, playing some different chord progressions, and knowing what chords sound good together. And number four, the circle of fifths can really help with your ear training. By regularly practicing these chords and scales around the circle, your ear is going to start knowing what chords sound good together. It’s going to have a quick reference for what does one to four sound like, what does four to five sound like, what does five to one sound like, and so on.

The more you train your ear, the better you’re going to be able to just listen to songs and pick out the chords. And overall, just having a good ear really levels you up as a musician. All right. I know that was a lot of information in one video, but I hope it helped you guys. Sometimes it’s hard to know when to apply the music theory you’re learning to the piano. So I’ve created a free training that you can watch, and it’s going to show you the exact steps that I take my students through, that helps them learn their favorite songs faster. My students start playing their favorite songs quickly. Here is my student, Jerry, playing the blues, and he has only finished the first section of my program. If you want a very clear roadmap on what to tackle when learning piano, in what order, and that order will get you to playing your favorite songs faster, be sure to head to the link in the description below. If this video helped you, be sure to like and subscribe, and I will see you next time.