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Learning Music Quickly: Building the Circle of 5ths, Pt 3 – Minor Keys

We’ve hit the last piece of the Circle of 5ths, and probably the most confusing part: minor keys. So come on in and get the lowdown…

So, we’ve done the pieces of the circle of 5ths that explain the sharps and flats. Now the only thing left is this bit about the minor keys. Basically, every key has a corresponding “relative minor.” The relative minor of each key has the same sharps and flats as it’s major key. So you are really getting two keys for one whenever you look at the circle.

You can find the relative minor by either counting up six from the root of the key or by counting down three. It’s easier for beginners to count up six when you’re doing this on paper, but if you’ve got a keyboard in front of you, it’s just as easy to count 3 down the keyboard to the left. For siimplicity in the video, I’ve counted up six. So let’s do C. Count up six from C:


1 2  3  4 5  6


So the relative minor of C is A minor. Which means if you write a song in A minor, you are going to use the same sharps and flats as C – none. Or all the white keys on the keyboard. For G, it will be E minor and there will one sharp: F#.

You can continue around the circle for each key and get it’s relative minor this way. And then start to memorize the relative minor for each key. It’s actually a good thing to know in general in music, because the reality is when playing in any key, we use the VI minor (six minor) chord quite a lot, so this relationship to it’s relative minor will become pretty solid in your understanding of music theory as you go along in music.

Check out the video for a complete rundown of all the keys. And as always – happy playing!


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Andrea Bensmiller

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