How the "Circle of Fifths" Came to Be.
I love playing music but I'm also lazy about practicing. As a result, I progressed slowly in my early training. Since I don't practice as much as I should, I want to make what time I do spend on the guitar pay off.
The Mystery of the "Circle"
I'm the kind of guy that enjoys looking at the dollar bill to find hidden Masonic codes or ancient alien communications. So when my music teacher first told me about the "Circle of Fifths" I was intrigued. It looked esoteric and mysterious, like a cipher from some Roman tomb. I thought he was going to initiate me into the "Secret Order of Musicians" and tell me what the Circle was all about. Instead, he said "I don't really use it. Come back next week and we will work some more on your rhythm."
I cried with disappointed. He so easily dismissed it as irrelevant. I had heard so many musicians mention the Circle but no one could really tell me what it was good for. I really wanted to know, so I began to study it on my own.
I felt like a crypto-archeologist when I first began my investigation and what I found amazed me?
I discovered that:
Chord progressions are based on the Circle.
The guitar fretboard itself is based on the Circle.
Key signatures are based on the Circle.
The Circle indicates the intervals between notes.
Each key interlocks with another key.
The Circle groups the minor and major chords of each key together.
Anything That Helps Me Play Better, I Pay Attention To.
As I have said before, I am not a gifted player. Much of my desire to learn things like the Circle of Fifths stems from my lack of natural talent. However, I have found that when I give my attention to acquiring this "head knowledge," what follows is something that sounds like talent. By this I mean, I don't have to spend thousands of hours rediscovering how to play music. Someone has already done that for me. The information contained in the Circle of Fifths allows me to play better than I should. Sometimes I like to imagine what I could accomplish if I were both musically educated and
Who Needs the Periodic Table Anyway?
The Circle of Fifths is to music what the Periodic Table is to chemistry. It lays out in very general terms how ever thing is made. I suppose there are physicists who can't read the Table but I can guarantee that the best chemists know it. The same goes for musicians. I believe that any musicians who ignores the Circle is simply choosing to play at a level below his or her best. Don't get me wrong, for some musicians that is still at a very high level. However, anyone who wants more out of music and their playing will benefit from knowing the Circle of Fifths.