Help for Circle of Fifth and Key progression for composing

I really appreciate someone skilled can correct or confirm, that I got it right here, concerning the chord name, circle of fifth and key progression.

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  1. I found this chord while fooling around: strings 1, 2 and 3 second fret, 4 string open, 5th and 6th string muted. That should be a Dmaj7 as I understand. - It have the D open as the root on string 4, F# as the third (III) on string 1 fret 2, and A as the fifth (V) on string 3 fret 2, and then C# as the seventh (VII) on string 2 fret 2, which then make it a Dmaj7. Is that correct?

  2. Beautiful sound. I want to know what goes together with that, so I go to the Circle of Fifth and try to find Dmaj7 in the different keys. I find it in only the A and D key. Is that correct?

  3. It does go pretty well together with the few chords I know in those keys. Is there some of the chords it goes better together with than others, like in this case, Dmaj7, will as a rule of thumb, go better together with the second circle? Or maybe another common way or rule of thumb to use, or is it simply trial and error and just listen to all of them and from that take the direction I want the song to go??

I use this smarty the circle of fifth found here: Circle of Fifths - interactive chord wheel

I am pretty sure I have nailed it on chord name.
the second I am not certain. Maybe it is also to be found in other keys? Is there a way to know what keys a certain chord will be in for sure, other than like I do, just turn the wheel and look it up in one key after the other??

As I luv to investigate the guitar this way, by just pulling and pressing some strings, this will be something that will happen over and over again for me. So I really would luv to get it corrected and right, as I explore the guitar every day and make notes and such.

Any skilled help and guidance is seriously appreciated! Please :heart: :pray:

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You are talking a language I love and asking questions to make me smile here Kim.

Your chord is Dmaj7 as you correctly identify.

Within any set of diatonic chords there are three major, three minor and one diminished.
Of the major type chords, when extended by continuing to stack thirds, two become major 7 (those built on the 1st and 4th scale degrees) and one becomes dominant 7 (that built on the 5th scale degree).

Dmaj7 can therefore be the tonic chord in the key of D major or the sub-dominant IV chord in the key of A major.

In my circle of fifths topic I describe six note clusters as being a key visual tool for also finding the six main diatonic chords of any key.
There are three clusters containing D on the outer rim.
D in a central position - making it the tonic.
A in the central position with D anticlockwise - making D the IV chord.
G in the central position with D clockwise - making D the V chord.

How and where else can you use D maj7?
There are no hard and fast rules beyond if it sounds good it is good.

That particular chord is often used in a sandwich between D major and D7. This gives a really nice voice leading on the B string fom fret 3 to 2 to 1.

For other uses it could be incorporated as a borrowed chord into progressions in the relative minors.
If in the key of D minor, Dm is the tonic, then Dmaj7 would be a borrowed I chord. Perhaps not so common.
If in the key of A minor, Dmaj7 would be a borrowed IV chord. See my topic on borrowed chords.

You could use Dmaj7 in modal music. It could be bVII in E Dorian or the bVII in E Mixolydian for example. See my topic on modes.

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You are such a treasure! I got tears in my eyes :heart: :pray:

Yes, the D7…wow. Also tried D - Dmaj7 - D7. --YES. :sunglasses:

Right, will look into that for sure! You can count on me here!

Awesome. I just got through scales and modes and have a pretty good overview and history background on that now. Also a fairly good understanding on both.

I will sure look closer into that and also study hard in more details on the Circle of Fifth. Only got a somewhat good overview and understanding. That is beyond amazing what work you put into that topic!

One thing I discovered while trying to go to next chord from Dmaj7, was that it could work somewhat going from Dmaj7 to Dm and Am, but not the other way around. Then it sound weird.
I also discovered that with some other chords. It works somewhat or even pretty good one way, but if I go from Dm or Am to Dmaj7, then it doesn’t work that well in my ears.
Is there a natural explanation on that or is it just my ears not liking it as much?
Should all chords work equal both back and forth or is it natural that some works both ways and some not that good? I guess it’s kind of natural without really knowing. I watched some videos of Justin improvising with the scales and how a “wrong” note can’t be hanging there or end there and need to go to the next or previous to kind of get home. Also not all notes could be the end note kind of. He used different terms, but I guess you know what I mean. I will get here… :joy:

You have no clue how much I appreciate your help on this. :partying_face: :sunglasses: :heart: :pray:

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I don’t see a Dmaj7 there in the G-key according to the wheel I use. I do see a D7 and other D’s.
I sure have to study this and much more details!!! This is one of the keys to open pandoras box.
But I do now see how I can change key within the piece and how I can jump around and then come back to the key I started in.
This universe is endless and just blowing my mind…
My understanding of Mozart, Bach, Satie and other such legends, have just increased tremendously … oh wow…
I will take a deep dive into all of this and maybe some results will be posted in my learning log before year is gone.
Right, one more mug of tea and some study before sleep. This is amazing! :+1: :partying_face: :sunglasses: :heart: :pray:

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View this. The notes on the outer wheel can be taken as root notes of major chords, those on the inner wheel as root notes of minor chords.

The 6-note clusters I mentioned contain three adjacent notes from both outer and inner.

Find D on the outer wheel. Consider it to represent the root of a D major tonic chord. All main diatonic chords in that key are within the 6-note cluster.
D, Em, F#m, G A, Bm
In describing this and using the general word chords, I could be more specific and write triads. Each of those triads could be extended to 7th type chords.
Dmaj7, Em7, F#m7, Gmaj7, A7, Bm7

Note the I and the IV become major 7 chords. The tonic and the major chord built on the note one place anticlockwise (G here) become major 7.

So it would be for the diatonic chords in the key of A major. A and D occupy two adjacent positions on the outer wheel. D is anticlockwise of A. If those are taken as the root notes of extended chords they would give Amaj7 and Dmaj7.

The note clockwise of the tonic root is also on the outer wheel, also leads to a major triad but when extended gives a dominant 7 chord.

If G is tonic, D is clockwise and D7, not Dmaj7, is the diatonic 5 chord in the key of G major.

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Got it!. I will consolidate this during the next couple of days! - Have spend some hours on triads today, how lucky is that :slight_smile:
Thnx, appreciate it. I promise I will get all this tied together!!! That will be my gift back for now, to grasp and understand this stuff. :+1: :sunglasses: :nerd_face: Finished grade 3 in music theory at first go today, early this morning :partying_face:
Atm going through the borrowed chords before bed time. …luv it!!! Excellent stuff. :heart: :pray:

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Oh yes. Now I recall it. Justin talked about Bach and how he used one scale downwards and another upwards, as Bach didn’t like the sound when going the opposite way with the same scale… right. So it is natural like that.
So much to digest. - But as I am one that read the manual more than once, I will go over the same again and again until it penetrate and get stuck :nerd_face: :nerd_face: :nerd_face:

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Right. The E Dorian use the same notes as in D Major, and E Mixolydian the same note as in A major. - The E is the second in D major and E is the fifth in A major.
:sunglasses: :joy: oh man. Time to sleep. What an amazing day it have been :nerd_face: :sunglasses: ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz

Dang…can’t sleep when mind is like this…
Both of those end with a D# and both modes have a flatten 7. So both end up with a D. That’s why you wrote as you did… The Dorian have a flatten 3rd also. The G… but doesn’t matter in this case as we are interested in the D

The E Major have - E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#
E Dorian flatten 3rd and 7th which then gives E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D
E Mixolydian flatten 7th which then gives E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D

Have a feeling I almost got tricked there. :thinking: :thinking:

:nerd_face: - :face_with_monocle: ---- Think I need to figure something smart out for Mr. Richard. He need a challenge now and then also :nerd_face: :face_with_monocle: :innocent:

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Was actually looking for songs in F key. But then stumbled into to this:
The Beatles - Hey Jude, actually uses Dmaj7 and the D, Dmaj7, D7 - the “sandwich between D and D7” is being used-

Progression 1: A, D, Dmaj7, D7, G
Progression 2: A, D, Dmaj7, D7, A7, D, C

Also good for inspiration looking at how others use a chord or a set of chords. Yet another pearl. amazing.

Found in Justin Songs.

@Richard_close2u - You answered all my questions and guided me in the right directions and much more than that. I have plenty now, in order to move on and now know where to put my effort the next week or five. I am so grateful for that. You are a game changer for sure!!! - I will post my progress on this and other stuff in my learning log, when I have trained, studied and digested and cry out for help if I get stuck again. Really appreciate your time, effort and kindness! :kissing_heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :pray: :pray: :pray:

Both yourself and @Richard_close2u are speaking pigeon to me however you’re both clearly exceptional players. Any chance either of you have some uploaded clips of yourselves playing? Would love to watch.



Hi Cate, Richard is indeed a very good player, but even better teacher :smiley:
You’ve been playing guitar for longer than Kim! He has however been ‘touched by fire’ in the form of music theory and how chords/scales fit together. If you take it slowly, it is well worth reading through Richard’s excellent series on the circle of 5ths. It’s an area that is easy to get into but just keeps giving :smiley:


So Brian, if that was an attempt to make me feel better……not so much :joy::face_with_raised_eyebrow: I’m both gobsmacked and impressed with Kim’s knowledge considering he’s newer than me. I’m also feeling rather inferior now with my lack of any knowledge.…… which eventually I hope to increase

Thanks Brian :slightly_smiling_face:


Ah, the old comparison chestnut :rofl:
It’s funny the way anyone who knows more than me is a genius and anyone who knows even less than me must be thick :wink: (ditto for playing)
You actually don’t have to be able to even play a note to become good at music theory/appreciation.
Just enjoy what you’re doing. Simple.


Welcome to my world. I have been comparing myself to everyone all my life. I’d love to know more about the theory side of it but unfortunately when reading things these days, most goes in one eye….out the other. My piano teacher when 9 (for all of 4 months or so before I quit for some reason) told my parents, I was essentially crap at reading music but had a great ear for it so if only the ear could strum and finger pick, I’d be a happy girl. As it goes, I’m now at the stage of being happy to know the basics, enjoy what I can do and accept what I can’t …… which may be a lot but hey, we’re not all cut out to be the John Butlers of the world but thank you for your support and encouragement Brian :slightly_smiling_face:


Just woke up after an amazing wonderful sleep.
Not sure where I heard, if it was from Justin or elsewhere, (can’t link the reference) that said, there are some song writers who don’t play or play very little(something along those lines), but write beautiful music. - Can’t confirm on that and forgot where I heard.
Also it is way faster learning the theory, than actual play it. Being good at playing an instrument does takes some time, no way around it. - Also when spending +5 hours per day in average since day 1, I should at least have some kind of progress in some areas :wink:

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My conclusion on ear and theory: Ear compose the music, theory writes it.

I really don’t have that much knowledge, but I somehow cracked the code the other day, when getting an overview of scales and modes. That just propelled me through grade 3 in the practical music theory lessons. Now into grade 4 and learning about triads, while of course looking at the stuff Richard have presented here. - Richard is on another league. He is a true treasure!!!

As a Buddhist, I know we are all equal, no matter the circumstances. :heart: :pray: We just carry with us a different “backpack” , I am good at math, pretty decent at chess, luv reading history and investigate and have studied and trained stuff that actually help me a great deal on the theory. All can increase their capacity, intelligence etc. Just a matter of where and on what we use our time and effort.

They just made theory so difficult and over-complicated, so they could make a job out of it. If it was simplified, there would be no reason for a teacher and they would have to find other work :wink: Another thing when reading about scales and modes and history on the wiki pages, you quickly notice, they use the same few notes and shuffle them around. As said, they make simple things complicated :wink: - Kind of teasing but also there are something to it. But getting the overview and roughly understanding of scales and mode can be a breakthrough, as it have done for me. The details comes as we go along, the overview is key. Else hard to see the forest as the trees are in the way :wink:

It somehow does makes life much more easy and enjoyable, doesn’t? :wink: We have been raised to constantly compare ourself to others, And taking the time and effort spend on compare and use for something much more fun and interesting is a win win for us :wink:


Reading all that about you is so enviable. You obviously have a true sense of calm, particularly embracing Buddhism into your life. I admire your ability to understand and absorb so much. My once young self was ever so much the investigator. Always needing to know everything and immediately, exploring even more (hence packing my bags and taking off abroad for 6yrs - no plans, just go), however that 9yr old has fast realised her potentials since starting this guitar journey and that is, I’ll have to be content to play camp fire music.

Thank you for giving so much time and insight into your life Kim. You’re very much the kind of person I’d love to sit with and pick your brain.

Apologies if I get this wrong but Nembutsu

Nope, got that wrong I believe. Thu-chi-che

Again, my apologies if I’m offensive with my attempts.


Wow, didn’t know that term/ word: Nembutsu
How amazing beautiful that is! Just learned something new already. Only at my second mug of tea. :heart: :pray:

:joy: No, you didn’t get anything wrong. Both are correct! :wink:

I study and practice within an old tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. But please don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret :wink:

Please, I am just a beginner on the path, just like with the guitar journey. But I am trying my best! Can’t do more than that and else I try my best to enjoy and have fun :wink: :heart: :pray:


Well, you definitely have a beautiful path ahead of you. I always felt like I was born in the wrong country. Somewhere calming and peaceful is more my thing.

Thanks for your time Kim. I appreciate your generosity :heart::pray:

Oh, and my lips are sealed. Your secret is safe with me. :innocent:


Let’s look at the notes set out as though on the strings or a TAB.

Dmaj7 to Dm

F# → F (down a semitone)
C# → D (up a semitone)
A → A is static
D → D is static

Any movement is just a semitone leading to root and minor 3rd of the new chord and there is some pleasing contrary motion.
Movements of a semitone give a strong sense of satisfaction on arrival.
That said, although there is resolution, when played in a short loop neither chord truly feels like a static home chord to my ears.

If using this chord change, one way would be to have it within a bigger progression and use it as a major 4 to minor 4 (Dmaj7 rather than just a D major in this case). That would place it within the key of A major. So try building a bigger progression such as:

| A | E | A | F#m | Bm | Dmaj7 | Dm | A |

Dmaj7 to Am

F# → E (down a tone)
C# → C (down a semitone)
A → A (static)
D → E (up a tone)
X → A (5th string is not played on Dmaj7)

The movement is in different directions with only a single semitone change that lands on the minor 3rd of the new chord. It should sound good but is not overloaded with irresistible voice leading. Nor does it sound complete to my ears.

Once again I wouldn’t necessarily think of Dmaj7 as the tonic here as that would make Am a borrowed v chord (where the dominant V of A major would normally be). So perhaps place it as a borrowed IVmaj7 in the key of A minor and build a progression to fit it within such as:

| Am | G | Am | C | Am | Em | Dmaj7 | Am |

Dm to Dmaj7

F → F# (up a semitone)
D → C# (down a semitone)
A → A is static
D → D is static

On the face of it, that all seems interesting and should sound good. Well the exact same loop as above will reveal it, as it simply bounces between the two chords.

Does it sound weird? Maybe it is hard to tell as it is a closed loop. Within the context of a larger progression would it?
I’m struggling to think of an example of a piece of music that has a chord make that sort of movement.
The words may have suited your reaction to the sound but when Cole Porter wrote ‘how strange the change’ he completed the line with ‘from major to minor’ and the music followed suit. He did not write ‘from minor to major’.
Maybe you could try things and find a suitable progression where it sounds killer.

Am to Dmaj7

E → F# (up a tone)
C → C# (up a semitone)
A → A (static)
D → E (up a tone)
A → X (5th string is not played on Dmaj7)

The same loop as above bounces between them.

There may be a theoretical rules explanation for this. Which I will put forward - knowing that rules in music can be ignored if it sounds good.
Dmaj7 is a major type chord. You will find both A minor and D major triads in the key of G. As notes in a previous comment however, in the key of G, the D major is the 5 chord and when extended must necessarily become D7 not Dmaj7. That’s the rules! Compare and contrast these two simple progressions. one will sound fine, the other somewhat meh!

A diatonic progression in G:

| G | C | Am7 | D7 |

A non-diatonic progression in G using Dmaj7:

| G | C | Am7 | Dmaj7 |

Wow. That covered a lot of ground and I think I still need to go back up and address a number of questions still unanswered.