The Circle of Fifths - where does it come from, where does it go?

Using our same three examples, with the two notes removed from either end, we now have the following.

C major pentatonic and A minor pentatonic scales

C Major pentatonic
C, D, E, G, A

A minor pentatonic
A, C, D, E, G

Ab major pentatonic and F minor pentatonic scales

Ab Major pentatonic
Ab, Bb, C, Eb, F

F minor pentatonic
F, Ab, Bb, C, Eb

E major pentatonic and C# minor pentatonic scales

E Major pentatonic
E, F#, G#, B, C#

C# minor pentatonic
C#, E, F#, G#, B

Just as the major scale and relative minor scale positions can be readily found by use of the pointers set at right-angles, so too can the major pentatonic and relative minor pentatonic scales.

C major pentatonic ← → A minor pentatonic

circle5ths 4 07

Ab major pentatonic ← → F minor pentatonic

circle5ths 4 08

E major pentatonic ← → C# minor pentatonic

circle5ths 4 09

In summary …

We can easily find the notes of any major scale from the Circle of Fifths. Select the major scale.
Find its root on the circle. Count one note anticlockwise and five notes clockwise from the root. That group of seven consecutive notes, when rearranged alphabetically, will give the notes of the major scale in question.

The relative minor scale will comprise the exact same notes. The root note of the relative minor can be found three places clockwise from the major scale root. If considering right-angled pointers, or a clockface, the major scale and relative minor scale root notes are at 90 degrees to one another.

If seeking a major pentatonic, simply find the major scale as described above then remove the two notes from the extreme ends of the group of seven.

A relative minor pentatonic will then comprise those same five notes and its root matches the root of the relative minor scale.

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Okay - it’s another quiz challenge.

Here again is the full Circle of Fifths with enharmonic equivalents of sharps / flats shown.

1] Which seven notes does the Bb major scale contain?
2] Which seven notes does the A major scale contain?
3] Which minor scale is the relative minor to D major?
4] Which five notes does the G major pentatonic contain?
5] Which minor pentatonic is the relative to F major pentatonic?
6] Which five notes does the Eb minor pentatonic contain?

Click here to read the hidden answers ...

1] Eb, Bb, F, C, G, D, A - in alphabetical order - Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A
2] D, A, E, B, F#, C#, G# - in alphabetical order - A, B, C#, D. E. F#, G#
3] B minor
4] G, D, A, E, B - in alphabetical order - G, A, B, D, E
5] D minor pentatonic
6] Gb, Db, Ab, Eb, Bb - in alphabetical order - Eb, Gb, Ab, Bb, Db


Thanks, Richard. Another great and easy to understand presentation. Now if only I can remember it :slightly_smiling_face:

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Haha, yes, it’s that old dog syndrome of forgetfulness which bites :dog:

Comments, questions …

Topic continues with Part 5 here.

Great, clear explanation once again Richard. Wow, you must have spent some time putting all these tips together. I’ve followed this through to here, part 4, and got the quiz 100%.
Great stuff!

Are the colours round the circle meant as an aid to recognition/memorisation?
The colours blend into each other going round the circle but there’s more definition when the notes are alphabetical.
There’s a big definition between B&C and E&F, the smallest intervals. Is this done for a reason?
I’ve never thought about trying to visualise notes as colours on the fretboard. Not sure if it would work for me.

Thanks for all your efforts.


Hi David.
Thank you so much for your kind words and appreciation. I am glad you are gaining from it all. 100% woohoo!
The colours? That was an idea I had and tried to develop a little when I created the topic on modes. In the old forum, before I revealed my intent, I teased the community by posting a series of colour swatches and asked people to give their instinctive resonses to the various colour blends. My hypothesis was that major modes would contain warm colours and minor modes cool colours (happy and sad). It didn’t work out but I liked the colour wheel overlaid on the circle of fifths so I kept it.

Oooo, really now again …and I think about once every 2 weeks(?)…at least when I read something about the circle here I have to chuckle when I think about Adrian’s @adi_mrok observation…I almost laughed myself unconscious the first time… :joy:

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Thanks Rogier … I think. I’m not quite following your reference re: Adrian.

phew … found it :sweat_smile:

or was this in a completely different context? I didn’t read it further, this is in my head linked to your color charts, and basically all the other color charts I’ve come across since then… :see_no_evil: :joy:


:rofl: :rofl:
He’s a funny fellow that Mr M-ROK




:see_no_evil::see_no_evil: oh I remember this one glad it made someone laugh :laughing:


Thanks Richard
Yes I am gaining from it. I can already see how a lot of things can be worked out from one simple diagram. It’s definitely going in my notebook.
I’ve heard that some people associate sound with colour and was wondering if the colours were something to do with that. I don’t have that association though so I’ll focus on sound.

Around :o: Sound

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Synesthesia. :slight_smile:

Oh err, Fancy words! So what’s the word for when you can hear sounds, notes, music in your head. There’s no actual sound - but you can ‘hear’ it….Soundualise ??

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I hear lorries, trucks and wagons in my head.

What’s that called?




The Circle of Fifths Part 5 - where does it go? [c] major & minor chords

We now move on to a further aspect of the Circle of Fifths. One that is shown readily and automatically on most diagrams of it. Many of you may have wondered at its omission until now. We move on to what I presume and hope will be the favourite part of @brianlarsen (it involves the inner wheel and minor chords).

We will take two paths to arrive at the same destination. We will follow two stories to reach the same ending. One a little winding and fanciful, the other short, straight and direct.


We saw previously that selecting any seven consecutive notes around the Circle of Fifths will yield the seven notes of a major scale where:
1] the root note is in the second position (when reading clockwise);
2] the order of the scale degrees reads 4, 1, 5, 2, 6, 3, 7 (also reading clockwise).
We also made the leap to considering these scale degrees as root notes of the chords in the key and saw that the 4, 1 and 5 are a match with the IV, I and V chords and sit right alongside one another. Those three chords are all major chords. This small reminder of a harmonised major scale and its diatonic chords shows it.

The major chords, as already seen, are grouped together in a cluster of three. Let us take it that they be fixed in those happy positions. Notable now is that the minor chords are also together as a small cluster of three.
The diminished is stuck out at the end, poor thing.