Over the last year I have been learning a lot and fine tuning my skills in composition and writing music. It was easy for me at first to just write out some music, but it wouldn’t really come together melodically until I got a better understanding of Melody and Harmony. This article is going to be about understanding Melody and the Circle of Fifths.

Basics of the circle:

The circle of fifths is an intuitive method for determining the relationships among all of the tones and key signatures used in music. It offers composers a way to visualize how the tonic and fifth degrees of a scale are linked and is useful for creating chords, harmonizing melodies and deciding how to move music to different pitch centers. The circle of fifths is also useful for musicians since it provides a way to efficiently anticipate and understand harmonic progressions and scale relationships found throughout music.

Circle of fifths

(Available as a sticker for your laptop or studio)

So basically the Circle of fifths is an easy way to make chords and notes that sound good together with in any scale.  You pick a root, or key. Lets say C major. The major notes are one either side. F and G.  The minor notes and chords are then D A and E.  The diminished is B.


All of these notes will sound good together. You can also use them for chord progression. Go from a C chord to a D minor to an E minor to an D minor then back to C. Other such great ideas can be found in the circle.

Working with the Fifths is also GREAT for mixing live. If you have a song in C Major then mix with in the circle to get a really nice mix. It will add worlds to your DJing.Just as beat matching is important so is Harmonic Mixing.

Here is a great website that will give you an Interactive Circle of Fifths to play with.


Other Techniques with the Circle of Fifths:

The Two Most Important Chords

In any key there are two chords that are the most important chords in that key. They are the Root of the key and then the 5th position, or “V”,  chord. In the circle of fifths that is the root chord, and then the one on the right of it one position. So in Key of C that is C and G, You can make a whole song with just those two chords.

How Chords Resolve

Music is about tension and release. This is often created harmonically by having chords that create tension resolve to chords that provide a point of release or relaxation. The simplest, and most powerful of these resolutions is the movement from V to I in any key. In C that resolution is G to C.  So with that idea go from C to D creates a little tension. Then move to G then back to C to resolve it. Sounds great!

Around the Circle

Find C and G on your circle of fifths. They live next door to each other. To go from C to G you have to move clockwise around the circle. So here is your first use for the circle: if you what to find the V chord for any key, like Bb for example, find that note on the circle and move clockwise to the next neighbor and you have found the V chord, which in this case is F. This creates moving music that has a sense of melodic story.

There are much more ways of using the circle to know what chord will give tension, and release. These are just some ideas to play with and I hope to write more about it.
Use the circle to have great mixing of sounds and tracks.Move either to the Left or Right of what the song’s key is,or you can move down one to the minor.  So In the case of C You can go to F and G major or A D And E minor for a good mix.
The image attached to this also has the colors based on Ableton’s clip colors. I use this to color my clips so I have perfect harmonic mixing.  I have created a sticker of this for my laptop as well and will be selling these on the website soon. It’s a great trick that has brought my sound to a smoother understanding and in the mix.
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