• Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
  • Started by Mar T.
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
  • Mar T.
  • Senior Site Administrator
  • Michelin Starred Chef
  • *
  • *
  • Pay it forward! (watch that movie..)

    • 6311


    • 1648
    • Today at 02:10:20
    • Duiven
  • more
Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
on: March 07, 2017, 01:35:17
« Last Edit: July 16, 2018, 00:57:00 by Mar T. »
@Jim about The Circle Of Fifths (collected from A Songs for Review post by one of our kitcheners ):

Regarding key changes (responding to one of our members), they're actually not that difficult to do...in fact your question "which key would I choose?" is very pertinent indeed.  I'll give you a very quick run-through, you never know, others might find it useful too.

Any key in (standard western) music is defined by how many sharps or flats are played...so to make things really straightforward, the key of C major has no sharps of flats (let's not do minor yet).  The keys that are closest (or the easiest to go to) in C major are the ones with the least number of sharps or flats.  So, G major has one sharp and is "closest" to C major in the "sharp direction" and F major has one flat and is closest in the "flat direction".  Both of these keys are easy to move to, and the transition (more on that in a bit) can be done very smoothly.  Obviously you can keep going adding sharps or flats and at some point you'll end up meeting yourself!  This is most commonly represented as what is known as the "circle of fifths":



If you've seen this before and wondered what it's about then maybe now it makes more sense.  To recap, if you find the key you're in on the chart then by adding one sharp (or taking away a flat in a "flat key") you will move one step round the circle in a clockwise direction and if you add a flat (or play one less sharp) then you'll move around the circle in an anti-clockwise direction.  The keys one step away from the starting key (and their relative minor keys) are referred to as the "closely related keys"...these are the ones you want to choose from in the first instance.  For C major, these keys are F major (and D minor) and G major (and E minor).

So that's the basic theory about moving between keys, but how do you actually do it?  It all depends on what effect you want to achieve...some composers will jump to another key in order to create a shock effect (then there was that awful "truck driver" key change trend in the 60s and 70s which thankfully went away), but the thing to do (IMHO) is to make that change as smooth as possible.  This is where we need another very useful (but simple) bit of music theory...the power of the dominant chord.

Calm down, it's not as bad as it sounds...we can use the chart again, but first I do need to explain what a dominant chord is.  Going back to C major, there are three major chords which exist naturally (the posh word is diatonically) in that key: C (obviously), F and G.  If we want to add a seventh on to those chords (after all, they do sound nice, sevenths) we have Cmaj7, Fmaj7 and G7 (remember, the chords are "built" by playing alternate notes from the key scale), why is G7 different?  Because the 7th note is a whole tone below the root note, whereas with the other two the 7th is a semitone below.  This makes the dominant chord unique, and in any key (major or minor) there is only ever one dominant chord.  What's more, your ears know this, and also due to some complex stuff to do with frequencies and leading voices you don't need to know about, the most pleasing resolution in a given key is to move from the dominant chord (even stronger with the 7th in) to the root chord.  In fact, so strong is this resolution, that music theorists not only give it a special name - the "perfect cadence" - it is (according to them at least) what defines which key the music is in.  (E.g., play G7->C, you have convinced everyone that you are in C major).

Still with me?  Good.  So why do you need to know this stuff about dominants?  Because the power of dominants is so strong that you can use them to smooth out key changes...Let's say I want to go from the key of C major to G major...then I can do some stuff in C major so we know where we are, then instead of playing a D minor chord (which lives in C major) I can play a D major (ideally a D7) chord and as long as the G chord is next (D is the dominant in G) then it sounds like we're in G major now and we can carry on in the new key quite happily.  The only slight jar was playing D7 instead on Dm7, but it's only a semitone different, and there are ways of approaching that chord too to make it even smoother.  Why did I say that about the chart?  Well, you can always find the dominant chord of a key by looking at what the next clockwise key is, e.g., to the right of G is D, and we needed the D7 to move to the G major key.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, but it's the most useful bit, and if you play around with those dominant chords of a related key (often called "secondary dominants") you'll find you can make things much more lively!  (Jazzers use secondary dominants all the time...but then they do lots of more crazy stuff than that!).

Sorry, this post turned into a monster...but hopefully it's helpful.  ;D


Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #1 on: September 19, 2017, 11:06:20
i would say anyone learning this start in C. All you need is cdefgab for any song. As you gain more exp. start doing things outside of abcdefab. The next level is chords a little outside of this, Such as a7 - which is a,c#,e, g7, fmin, dmaj... Then another level outside of this, such as adim or caug. really play every day and you will learn, listen to as much different music as you can - you wont hear this stuff on the radio much!

I wouldnt start trying to learn with say the key of gsharp!

Trev
Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud, etc... Trevor Gilligan


  • Mar T.
  • Senior Site Administrator
  • Michelin Starred Chef
  • *
  • *
  • Pay it forward! (watch that movie..)

    • 6311


    • 1648
    • Today at 02:10:20
    • Duiven
  • more
Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #2 on: September 19, 2017, 15:23:23
Hey @TrevorGilligan , that's a good tip for piano/keyboard players. For guitar players it doesn't matter that much as the scale just shifts on the neck  ;) ;)

Cheers!
:mart:


Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #3 on: September 19, 2017, 17:47:26
agreed! if you can do a scale once, you can really do it anywhere on the neck, think its called transposing!


  • Jim
  • Chef de Partie
  • *
  • Weirdy Beardy

    • 829


    • 494
    • November 04, 2018, 11:11:23
    • Nottingham, GB
    • https://soundcloud.com/jim-clark-17
  • more
Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #4 on: September 19, 2017, 17:53:24
Hey @TrevorGilligan , that's a good tip for piano/keyboard players. For guitar players it doesn't matter that much as the scale just shifts on the neck  ;) ;)

Cheers!
:mart:

Still, not that many open chords that can be found in G# (or the more usual Ab) though...


Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #5 on: September 19, 2017, 18:13:45
True, unless you use a cappp i suppose.
and like open c maj to me gives a different sound than a bar chord c!
Also, depending on a vocalist, a song may have to be moved from say c to a if its out of someones range


  • reidmoto
  • Poissonier
  • *
  • Songwriter - Learning how to cook good food

    • 125


    • 58
    • August 24, 2018, 03:18:27
    • Long Beach, California 90808
    • https://soundcloud.com/reidmoto
  • more
Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #6 on: July 16, 2018, 00:34:40
Wow, @Mar T. that was an amazing post on music theory, and I think you could teach a college
level class on it!

I love using secondary dominants, especially two or three if I want a feeling of tranisition
or action/movement, and of course to change keys.

You are very knowledgable and a great teacher and writer!

I think the jazz standard, "Giant Steps," is a journey around the whole circle of fifths.

Reidmoto


  • Mar T.
  • Senior Site Administrator
  • Michelin Starred Chef
  • *
  • *
  • Pay it forward! (watch that movie..)

    • 6311


    • 1648
    • Today at 02:10:20
    • Duiven
  • more
Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #7 on: July 16, 2018, 00:55:37
Hey @reidmoto , I see it's a bit confusing, but actually @Jim deserves all credit here.. I just 'quoted' a post of him in one of the review threads to be sure his knowledge about this aspect of Music Theory is shared as publicly as possible, to help us kitcheners find certain useful ingredients as easy as possible..
Cheers, bro!
:mart:


  • Jim
  • Chef de Partie
  • *
  • Weirdy Beardy

    • 829


    • 494
    • November 04, 2018, 11:11:23
    • Nottingham, GB
    • https://soundcloud.com/jim-clark-17
  • more
Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #8 on: July 17, 2018, 16:09:58
Thanks @Mar T.  ;D

And @reidmoto   :D

Going all the way round the circle of fifths is not all that uncommon...even Mister Offensive (which I shared here) does the full loop the loop on the verses (although it's the circle of minor thirds going on there, so not as many keys get covered).  Giant Steps on the other hand, is a much more complicated beast, although I think that has root movement in alternating minor thirds and perfect fourths, but not fifths.  Hey Joe is probably a better example of movement in fifths, but that doesn't go all the way round.  ;)


  • reidmoto
  • Poissonier
  • *
  • Songwriter - Learning how to cook good food

    • 125


    • 58
    • August 24, 2018, 03:18:27
    • Long Beach, California 90808
    • https://soundcloud.com/reidmoto
  • more
Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #9 on: July 17, 2018, 16:17:25
@Jim I wasn't aware that it was not uncommon to go around the whole circle of fifths, I'm guessing mostly in jazz tunes?

Although I like and appreciate jazz, I'm not a jazz player, nor am I able to write songs at this point in a jazz style.
I do know what a ii - V - I is though LOL.

Thank you for the other examples of songs, and the next time I need some help on a music theory related
problem in a song, I will be sure to look you up here.

Best,

Reidmoto


  • reidmoto
  • Poissonier
  • *
  • Songwriter - Learning how to cook good food

    • 125


    • 58
    • August 24, 2018, 03:18:27
    • Long Beach, California 90808
    • https://soundcloud.com/reidmoto
  • more
Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #10 on: July 17, 2018, 16:49:50
As a matter of fact, I have a question for you @Jim, and if you don't have the time to answer it,
no big deal.

One of the things I've been striving to get better at, is writing a great bridge, that contrasts to
the verses and choruses, in my primarily rock oriented songs.

I have my usual methods: If the verses and choruses were mainly centered around ! - IV - V, then
it's easy to get contrast by going to the minor chords for the bridge.

I also use a method I heard the Eagles talk about, and often drop the IV major chord, to a iv minor chord.

I also use the dom 7 and resolve to one of the diatonic chords of the key.

But do you have any other tips for creating great contrast and relief for the bridge?

I know how to do key changes, but don't use them for my bridge sections. I mainly use key
changes to move up a whole step to increase the intensity of the song towards the end.

I took four semesters of modern harmony at a junior college, and studied with a guy who
was a graduate of the Dick Grove School of Music for a year, and had music theory wired
tight.

But it was a bit of overkill as far as how I could use the knowledge, because I don't want to
write jazz, or film scores, and want my songs to be accessible to the average Joe's and Jane's
out there.

Reidmoto


Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #11 on: July 17, 2018, 18:34:59
Quote
Giant Steps on the other hand, is a much more complicated beast, although I think that has root movement in alternating minor thirds and perfect fourths, but not fifths.

Hey @reidmoto I love chord progressions! Anyway, I just want to clarify that "Giant Steps" is analyzed as a descending cycle of Major Thirds .... the "minor third" cycle is a common misconception .... because there are minor thirds in the progression.....but you have to look at the secondary dominants...i.e. what each 7th chord is "tonicizing".

Sorry for jumping off topic. (Saxophonist by trade.)  ;)

So, yeah, I hope @Jim or @Mar T.  can help you out with song bridge chord progressions. Ha,ha , I'm the wrong person to do that.  :)
Bill
Songwriter, Keyboards, Arranger, Producer & Engineer for November Sound

November Sound is based on the Mother, Father & Son musical trio of Melissa, Bill & Will. I'm the father so anything I post will have my wife singing and/or my son playing percussion.


  • Jim
  • Chef de Partie
  • *
  • Weirdy Beardy

    • 829


    • 494
    • November 04, 2018, 11:11:23
    • Nottingham, GB
    • https://soundcloud.com/jim-clark-17
  • more
Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #12 on: July 17, 2018, 20:26:31
@Bill from November Sound I'll have to get back to you about Giant Steps...

@reidmoto my thoughts on how to make an effective bridge (or any part/all of a song) is that it needs to be sympathetic with the message of the song, which in most cases means it needs to make the lyrics resonate.  For instance, if your bridge is about how you realise that although you were sad that you and your lady split up (the material of your verses/chorus) in actual fact she was a right cow and it's good riddance, then you'd probably want a nice bright major key bridge contrasting with the minor body.  Alternatively, your bridge could be a tristful moment of epiphany, and you want to reverse the pattern and have it in a minor key, and maybe make it a coda rather than repeating the chorus.  There are more subtle techniques than just major/minor, such as using modes effectively, and you can modulate fully to a more remote key, or chose between the smoother options of parallel or relative minor/major keys.

Generally though, you want your song to have a shape, one which reflects its journey as much as possible, and moreover, you almost always want the energy of the song to increase, usually peaking at the bridge.  Things that give music more energy are usually making it have one of (or a combination of) these qualities: louder, faster, higher or brighter.  Louder is the most obvious option, and will probably happen anyway, although that might be swallowed up by a limiter or compression.  Faster works, but is a bit cheesy and more difficult with an ensemble (but you can deliver lyrics quicker without those problems).  Higher is in my opinion an option that works successfully, and I wouldn't countenance not at least moving once clockwise round the circle of fifths to lift the chorus up, then maybe again for the bridge (although I usually go for something more exotic)...if you're interested I can expand.  Finally, by brighter, I'm referring to those pesky modes again, I'm not covering them here, but for a bit of extra brightness you can always try a lydian mode bridge which could work well, I think.

Anyway, there are some thoughts...I think it's important to introduce colour into your music, so where you're talking about introducing minor IV chords, it's great stuff and I'd encourage you to go further with such things...minor IVs (in a major key) are nice because they are ambiguous, it could be a borrowed chord from the parallel minor, or it could be just a chord alteration, or it could be something else (lydian plagal cadence, if preceded by major II?)...realising the actuality (especially in the context of prosody) is what in my mind makes a truly great song.  :)


  • reidmoto
  • Poissonier
  • *
  • Songwriter - Learning how to cook good food

    • 125


    • 58
    • August 24, 2018, 03:18:27
    • Long Beach, California 90808
    • https://soundcloud.com/reidmoto
  • more
Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #13 on: July 17, 2018, 21:01:53
@Bill from November Sound, thanks for your reply, but now you're getting a little over my head LOL!

I know you sax players have to be intimately familiar with the chord changes so you can know what lines
you can play to nail it. I have no idea how to do a major or minor thirds circle, but know about a dom 7th
going to a target chord.

@Jim OMG, what a great answer and so articulate and well written!

I fully agree, as far as every part of the song including the bridge, needs to be congruent with the message
and feel of the song.

I know what modes are, but they have never been my strong point. I will mess with the Lydian mode, to
see if I can find out how to add those chords to a bridge.

You're a beast with this stuff!

Thank you so much, and I appreciate you taking the time to write out such a detailed reply!

Best,

Reidmoto



  • reidmoto
  • Poissonier
  • *
  • Songwriter - Learning how to cook good food

    • 125


    • 58
    • August 24, 2018, 03:18:27
    • Long Beach, California 90808
    • https://soundcloud.com/reidmoto
  • more
Re: Music Theory : The Circle Of Fifths
Reply #14 on: July 17, 2018, 21:26:00
@Jim I forgot to add yes, I'm interested in this, "I wouldn't countenance not at least moving once clockwise round the circle of fifths to lift the chorus up, then maybe again for the bridge (although I usually go for something more exotic)...if you're interested I can expand."