Circle of Fifths

Circle of fifths is a graphical representation of major and minor key signatures and their relationships to each other, in high quality and in printable format, you can download the PDF using the direct link

Circle of Fifths PDF

PDF NameCircle of Fifths
Published/Updated On
Primary RegionUnited States
No. of Pages1
PDF Size0.42 MB
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Circle of Fifths PDF - Overview

The circle of fifths is a way of organizing the 12 chromatic pitches as a sequence of perfect fifths. If C is chosen as a starting point, the sequence is: C, G, D, A, E, B (=C♭), F♯ (=G♭), C♯ (=D♭), A♭, E♭, B♭, F. Continuing the pattern from F returns the sequence to its starting point of C. This order places the most closely related key signatures adjacent to one another. It is usually illustrated in the form of a circle.

The circle of fifths organizes pitches in a sequence of perfect fifths, generally shown as a circle with the pitches (and their corresponding keys) in a clockwise progression. Musicians and composers often uses it to describe the musical relationships between pitches. Its design is helpful in composing and harmonizing melodies, building chords, and modulating to different keys within a composition.

Circle of Fifths

Using the system of just intonation, a perfect Circle of Fifths consists of two pitches with a frequency ratio of 3:2, but generating a twelve perfect fifths in this way does not result in a return to the pitch class of the starting note. To adjust for this, instruments are generally tuned with the equal temperament system.

Twelve equal-temperament fifths lead to a note exactly seven octaves above the initial tone—this results in a perfect fifth that is equivalent to seven equal-temperament semitones. The top of the circle shows the key of C Major, with no sharps or flats. Proceeding clockwise, the pitches ascend by fifths. The key signatures associated with those pitches also change: the key of G has one sharp, the key of D has 2 sharps, and so on.

Similarly, proceeding counterclockwise from the top of the Circle of Fifths, the notes change by descending fifths and the key signatures change accordingly: the key of F has one flat, the key of B♭ has 2 flats, and so on. Some keys (at the bottom of the circle) can be notated either in sharps or in flats.

Starting at any pitch and ascending by a fifth generates all twelve tones before returning to the beginning pitch class. Moving counterclockwise, the pitches descend by a fifth, but ascending by a perfect fourth will lead to the same note an octave higher (therefore in the same pitch class). Moving counter-clockwise from C could be thought of as descending by a fifth to F, or ascending by a fourth to F.

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