The Cycle Of 5ths

Good point, I didn’t think about it. But I still think that when teaching that by playing 3rd fret of 5th string and then 3rd fret of 6th string (C to G), is moving in the cycle of fifths, there is the danger that the learner thinks that this movement is fifth, when in fact it is a fourth.

@jkorvola C to G is a 5th G to C is a 4th D to A is also a 5th A to D is a 4th. So Justin is going up in 5th. If you go around the circle of 5th counter clockwise it becomes the circle of 4ths.

@Jozsef It’s not done for convenience this is how the fretboard is laid out. A 5th is always directly above the root it also and over two frets and down one string.

And a 4th is always below the root. Adjust for the B string.:sunglasses:

C to G is a fifth when ascending (going higher in pitch). C to G is a fourth when descending (going lower in pitch). Piano/keyboard is a great way to see this. G to C descending is a fifth, which makes sense because if you are playing C4->G4->C4, you are first going up a fifth and then back down a fifth.

When going clockwise in cycle of fifths the intervals can be seen as ascending fifths or descending fourths. When going counterclockwise the intervals can be seen as ascending fourths or descending fifths.

Yes, I know that too. What I meant was that if you start playing the cycle of 5ths in the order of ascending pitches, you will not be able to complete one cycle on the guitar.

@jkorvola C to G is always a 5th, doesn’t matter which way you go ascending or descending the fact is in the Key of C the note G is the 5th degree of the scale it does not change because you go the other way.
So what you saying is that if you play a I IV V in the Key of C the F(IV) and the G(V) are not the IV and V of the key of C because the root note on both chords are on the E string and the Root for the C in on the A string. This is simply not true. The F and G are always the IV and V interval of C Take a look at this fret board diagram and you’ll see what I’m saying.

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This is true and accurate.
Intervals are not measured or defined within the context of any key, they are just two notes sitting in their abstract world having an intervallic relationship with one another.

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This is totally irreverent and does not change the fact that G is the 5th of C and using the Circle of 5th which this thread is about does not change the G to the 4th of C just because it is lower in pitch. Changing Scales from C to G changes C to the 4th of G.

In the exercise Justin is starting on the note C and going to the Note G the 5th of C then from G to D the 5th of G then from D to A the 5th of D and so on.
If Justin was going to the 4th of C like Juho is suggesting he would be going to the not F.

I was talking about intervals, not scale degrees or chords in a key. Circle of fifths has many different applications, one of them being that you move in fifths or fourths around the circle (intervals).

The fact is that when you descend from C to G, the sound you are making is interval fourth.

If you dont believe me, check lesson 5.1 Diatonic Intervals: Perfect | , where is for example text:

The Interval of a 4th is an inverted 5th:
C to G ascending is a 5th (C, D, E, F, G)
C to G descending is a 4th (C, B, A, G)

The Circle Of 5th works off Scale Degrees.

Which still does not make the G the 4th of C. C is the 4th of G

This does not Change the fact that the note G in the context of the Circle of 5th is the 5th of C. Do you agree that a major Chord is Made up of the Root 3rd and 5th? Using you example of a piano only 1 of these chord would be a C major because the G note is higher in pitch in only 1 of them. Yet all 3 chords are C major chords.

Using Richards example the G is still the 5th of C doesn’t matter how many semitones you count.

I am talking about intervals and you are talking about scale degrees, so we will never agree, because we are talking about two different things.

And yes in key of C, G is the fifth degree.

Usually with piano in addition of the chord you showed, you play the root note of the chord with left hand, so that the root note will be the lowest note.

I’m talking about the Circle of 5th which is made from Scale Degrees and in the lesson Justin is also talking about the Circle of 5th and in the context of the lesson C to G is a 5th. Doesn’t matter if you are going up or down in pitch.

You can see where the confusion come in. Going Down a 4th using the Circle of 5th would be C to F or G to C.

Circle of fifths build from scale degrees is your interpretation of circle of fifths.

I would argue that more commonly circle of fifths is seen as representation of all 12 notes as ascending fifth intervals when going clockwise.

I mean Justin even says this very clearly in the video from 0:28->0:45.

Ascending fifth intervals you say. Where do you suppose these 5th intervals come from?
Could it be the Diatonic Scales associated with each note in the circle.

The reason the circle of 5th is laid out the way it is has nothing to do with 5th or 4th. It is laid out for the number of sharps and flats in a Diatonic Major Scale. C has no Sharps or Flats G has 1sharp D has 2 sharps A has 3 sharps and so on. Going the other way C has no sharps or flats F has 1 Flat Bb has 2 flats Eb has 3 flats and so on.

That is certainly one way to look and use it. It is a tool used for many purposes.

That is, imho, a fair comment when applied to the actual notes that Justin plays in terms of their pitch falling then rising (as opposed to the note names which are an exact match for the circle of 5ths).

Correct. It would be impossible to start at the lowest possible note C on a guitar and do a complete clockwise lap of the circle of 5ths. It can be done on a grand piano with its 88 keys, its 7 octaves + 3 note span.

When going up in pitch - yes.

When going up in pitch - yes.

When going up in pitch - yes.

Check out the lesson for Coldplay - The Scientist where the guitar is tuned in 4ths.

Yes. Many musicians call it the circle of 4ths and read it anticlockwise, or actually have it written out in the inverse order to read 4ths clockwise. This is especially true of musicians who tend to play in keys with flats (think brass for example, as opposed to guitarists who tend to avoid those flat keys and like C, G, A, D, E etc.)


As stated, a grand piano allows this, not many other instruments.

This is not correct. An ascending 5th is inversely matched by a descending 4th (major 5th ← → minor 4th).

G is the 5th scale degree in the C major scale.

G is the 5th diatonic chord in the key of C major.

All good.

G can be at an interval of a 5th from C or at a 4th interval from C depending on whether the pitch movement is from low to high or high to low.

Justin is going to notes with the correct name to match exactly those shown in the clockwise direction of the circle of 5ths.

But, strictly speaking, he is not moving up in 5ths as he plays notes that alternately go lower in pitch then higher in pitch.

Good point. There is an easily overlooked yet important distinction between ‘intervals’ separate and independent of scales / scale degrees / chords in a key. Many of the same terms are used when discussing them and the overlaps are many.

I wrote a massively long topic covering this very thing in the old forum, which I have yet to migrate. The topic is still available in the archive here.

Yes, different things. I will write more.

It is an explanation that I find useful and it helps describe the derivation very clearly.

This is also true, but to me is a little more arbitrary. An analogy might be that it is akin to seeking something when you know in advance what that something will be. Like someone saying, “Hey, let’s arrange the 12 notes around a circle, but not in alphabetical order and see what happens. Wow – look! By some amazing magic trick they can be placed in this seemingly random order and they show a pattern of 5ths.”

This is subjective on my part and both can be correct.

I would suggest that these properties are all a result of the arrangement – not a means to creating the arrangement.


See my circle of 5ths topic. I must migrate it soon.

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Thank you for the detailed answer and the extra material, I will check it out, from a quick glance it seems very interesting.

Also makes sense why it is demonstrated this way. Overlapping terms in music theory certainly confuse me sometimes.

@jkorvola @Jozsef @stitch @TheMadman_tobyjenner

I have just created a new topic that I hope will help in this discussion.


Cool Mr C !

Will have to check it out at the weekend. A few days of knitting fog and herding cats, trying to get big French Agri Plant hire, come lop some trees down. Been a non playing week and the fun ain’t over yet. Will need beer and distractions at the weekend. This will do me fine !!

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I have now started to post instalments in a new topic on the theory and practical uses of the Circle of Fifths, beginning here: The Circle of Fifths Part 1 - where does it come from?
I hope people find it useful.

Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide, Approved Teacher & Moderator