The circle of fifths is a musical tool showing how all of the 12 keys are related. It is based on a simple principle: in the clockwise direction, each new key is the dominant (V) of the previous key. Therefore, in the other direction, each key is the sub-dominant (IV) of the previous key. The outside track is the circle of fifths for major scales, and the inner track is are the appropriate minor keys for the major keys listed. Here it is:

Okay, I've tried this approximately 10 times now. The result of my experiment in ASCII circle creation technique is that I shall create something entirely new. The rectangle of fifths is what follows:
Bb-----F------C------G------D
| Gm---Dm-----Am-----Em---Bm|
| |                       | |
Eb-Cm                   Gbm A
| |                       | |
| Fm---Bbm----Ebm----Abm-Dbm|
Ab-----Db-----F#-----B------E
The practical application of this is extremely fun. One uses what I call a limiter to get all of the chords in which one can play in a particular key (note that this does not take modulations into account). The limiter is composed of all of the keys adjacent to the original key (plus the original key for the slow ones out there). For example, if we play in C major, we can play F, C, G, Dm, Am, and Em chords and it will still be in key. Note that F is the IV chord of C, G is the V chord; C, G, and F are the primary chords in a C major progression.

For some more fun progressions, take a look at II-V-I progressions. They're wonderful, plus they make you sound more professional.
It is a difficult to produce the perfect circle but here is an oval of fifths so to speak :).

Think of it as the circular face of a clock.

What I find interesting: You can reconstruct the clock like a ferris wheel placing any note at the top (twelve o'clock). This note is the tonic.The major chord is at 12 o'clock, the fifth is at 1 o'clock, the second is at 2 o'clock, the sixth is at 3 o'clock, the third is at 4 o'clock, seventh is at 5 o'clock, but the fourth is at 11 o'clock.

Taking the key of C as an example because in our diagram the C is at the top (at 12 o'clock) the notes of the diatonic scale in C (C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C) follow the clock: 12 o'clock, 2 o'clock, 4 o'clock, but then back to 11 o'clock, 1 o'clock, 3 o'clock, 5 o'clock, and then back to 12 o'clock (C)

'Rotate' the ferris wheel to place any starting note at 12 o'clock.Let's say you place G at the top. If you now follow the notes of the diatonic scale around the circle in the key of G (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G)you notice the notes follow the same 'hourly' pattern on the circle described for the key of C. This reveals something about the construction of the black keys on the piano keyboard.In the key of G when you get to the seventh note (five o'clock) you see it is now an F# in that position and that would be the black note on the piano keyboard. This can be done for any of the twelve keys. Fun to think about.

cf also mode and Ionian for a better analysis of chord names and such.


                            12

            11               C           1

                   F                  G

      10                                         2
           Bb                               D
                                


    9    Eb                 *                 A    3

                                         
                                         
        8   Ab                               E
                                                 4
                                  
                   Db                  B

               7             F#           5 

                             6


It is interesting to use the circle of fifths to note relationships of chords within different keys for example the sixth of any key is the second of that keys fifth.

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