Ah…the ever elusive Circle of 5ths. You’ve always wanted to master it, and now you can. Part 2 covers the flat keys…

In Part 1, we looked at an intro to how and why I’m teaching you this and covered the right side of the circle – the sharp keys. Today we’ll be going around the other side to fill in the flat keys.

We’re going to be doing the same thing we did for the right side – with one minor change. To continue counting up from our starting point of C, we’re going to count up 4 instead of 5. The reason is explained in the video, but the short answer is that it’s 5ths as long as you go clockwise around the circle, but that’s not very logical for building it, so for the flats we’ll be going counter clockwise, and the relationship there is 4ths. Check out the video. It will make sense when you see it.

So – from C, counting up 4 we get the key of F. It will have one flat. How do we know what order the flats are? It’s a simple memory device: it spells the word BEAD and then it has a G and a C on the end. Or you can just remember that it starts on B and then you’re going to count up 4 from each time you need to add a flat. So in F, the one flat is Bb. What’s next?

Count up 4 from F


1 2 3 4

Bb. That would be next on the circle and it will have two flats: Bb and Eb. We continue around the circle and we get our final version. You can see the video to see me do this in real time.


This bit at the end about the flat keys and sharp keys intersecting is a pretty important thing in music called “enharmonics.” A note that is enharmonic has two note names – that’s basically all the keys on the piano, right. Even B can technically be considered Cb. It’s not really practical for us to write things that way – and like I said in the video – musicians hate it when these things get too complicated, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with the concept, but don’t worry too much about playing in the key of Cb. You could say you are and write it that way, but you’ll be in the key of B. Trust me. As you get out into the real world, music needs to be dealt with simply because there’s often a lot of it to learn all at one time. Half of the people in your band probably don’t now any theory at all. And if you’re reading charts, nobody is interested in making everything more difficult. So know the keys and be able to play your scales and chords in all of them. But don’t expect to be out there playing in Gb or F# all the time. And if you’re a guitar player, make sure you have a capo handy for those times when someone is really just being a diva and it will make your life a lot simpler to play that one damn song in F or G with it.

Stay tuned for the next section, where we’ll cover minor keys and how they fit into the circle. Happy playing, my peeps!

Originally posted 2012-10-23 19:05:35.