Circle of 5ths
Found in: Scale & Key Signature
Hello fellow teachers,
How and when do you incorporate the circle of fifths in your lessons? I am open to any and all suggestions!
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
The circle of 5ths is usually introduced later on in the foundation program, in conjunction with Jazz and Acc Level 2 which gets into theory. In my studio that is typically around Level 8 – 9. Sometimes later, depending upon the class.
By the time it is introduced, students have a firm grasp of scale from Acc L2 and are in the Jazz program at least to Jazz Clue 3. Then the circle of 5ths will have immediate relevance, and your students will be equipped to recognize the beauty of how music is organized.
At the moment, I don’t believe the circle of 5ths is addressed specifically in any of the TTPs. I just have a lot of Neil and Gordon notes from conferences where they’ve talked about it and have incorporated it where it makes sense to me.
None of my Simply Music students have progressed to a level yet where they need the circle of 5ths.
However, before simply music I would teach the circle of 5ths by actually removing the circle and teaching it in a graph form. It’s a bit hard to explain but when I show other teachers and students it makes a million times more sense than the circle. My biggest gripe is that the actual circle is overwhelming for students and looks like some strange decoder ring from A Christmas Story. Drink more ovaltine!
I use two graphs and explain sharps by 5ths and flats by 4ths. The reason I use flats by fourths is that going backwards by fifths to find the flats is hard to “hear”. Going UP by 4ths however is VERY easy and it sounds just like “The Adams Family” theme song. Try and and you’ll see what I mean.
Plus, going up by 4ths tells you exactly the next scale as it will always be the next 4th.
As for 5ths, like I said I lay things out in a graph not a circle.
I start with:
D=2 F#, C#
A=3 F#, C#, G#
I then ask the student.. ok “whats next? If c was 0, G was 1,
D was 2, and A was 3, what is E going to have?”
They automatically say “Four!”. Thats right! And it has all the old sharps from before plus one new one. And the newest sharp is always a half step below the scale.
E=4 F#, C#, G#, D#
This is very easy for the student to comprehend and see visually. The circle is good when you want a quick “reference guide” for memorization purposes. The circle is very much like the SHM reference manual books with their visual cues.