"Circle of Fifths"
How to Easily Learn
Flat Key Signatures
Using the Circle
The Circle of Fifths has
developed as a way for
the music student to remember how key signatures are related. It is
a great visual aid that show the math we have talked
This section provides you with steps on how to create
your own tool for this basic theory.
Using the principals learned in key
signature math you can create your own
circle to show the fifths. The word "key" or "keys" is often used
signature to keep it short.
You may say in the key of D, indicating that it is
the key signature for D.
Build a Circle of Fifths
Using the previous principals learned about keys
you can develop your circle diagram of fifths.
Starting with a blank circle you can apply the
following list to create your own circle.
Alternatively our workbook the
key to key signatures is a power packed way to step through this
learning exercise in a way that you can systematicly learn how keys are
changed and built.
Print or draw up this blank template.
Create the Sharp Keys
Use the following steps to build
sharps (look at the graphic at the top of the page if you need help)
Put a line horizontally through each circle
Put a label at the top by writing: Major -
horizontal line - Minor. This means that in the top of your circles you
will have major key names. In the bottom you will have minor key names.
Begin in the top half of the top circle with a
'C'. This is the neutral key no sharps or flats.
Using the keyboard below count a fifth up and
write in the next key name. The first one will be G
Continue to count up another fifth until you
have 7 key names. (the last two will be F# and C#). Squeeze the last
three names to one side they will also get flat names.
Create the Flats Keys
To build the flat keys:
Count a fourth up
from C which is F
that is the first key going counter clockwise
Count another 4 up and continue to add flat
keys the next is Bb.
Continue by fourths and fill in until you
have 7 flat keys. (three flat keys will overlap with three sharp keys).
Your template should look close to this (without
the treble clef).
Number of Sharps and Flats
The next simple step is to add sharps.
The next simple step is to add flats
Write the number of sharps in at the inner
circle line each key gets one new sharp.
G = 1 sharp, D= 2 sharps and so on
until C#=7 sharps.
- The sharp added at each key is a Major 7
interval up from the key name. For G it is F# (or a half step down from
Write the Sharp name that is added on the
outside of the circle. At C# it will be B#.
Your circle of fifths should look similar to this:
Write the number of sharps in at the inner
circle line each key gets one new flat.
- F = 1 flat, Bb= 2 flats and
so on until Cb=7 flats.
The flat added at each key is a
Perfect 4th interval up from the key name. For F it is Bb. For Bb it is
Write the flat name that is added on the
outside of the circle. At Cb it will be Fb.
The sharp and flat sequences are fully shown below on the master staff.
Each sharp or flat is added in sequence on the note
line associated with its name. You can sketch in a staff if
you wish to help you see it on your circle of fifths.
Flash cards would be a good way to review the key names and number of
sharps. This is covered in detail in our workbook.
All Sharps & Flats for
the Key Signatures
The last thing we need to do is address the minor keys. Again this is
covered in great detail in our workbook, but you can work it out here
using these rules.
The minor keys are related to the major keys
at a minor 3rd down from the major key considered.
- Write in A minor (am) under C.
Write the minor key in under the major key
name for each key on the circle.
Check your key name by using the rule of
fifths and fourths.
Your final circle of fifths
should look like this.
That was a bunch of information provided in a short space to develop
this tool. It is more than you will get with the majority
materials. Or it is covered in many books over a long time. Or it is
just thrown at you as one big circle to figure out on your own.
Here is the rub when it comes to learning the keys. If you know them,
this was an easy exercise, if not you learned a lot, but you probably
don't have them down cold.
Our Getting It Down Cold Workshop on the Keys and Scales Workshop takes great pains to simplify this process
and expand on other ways to think about and reinforce the ability to
learn key signatures and this music theory element.
We cover acronyms steps to easily remember the development of the keys
and use methods to help you readily remember the key names and sharp or
This one workbook will give you a huge jump on how others learn the key
Having this knowledge down cold just makes it that much easier to work
with other elements of music theory.