Circle of Fifths - The Tool Everyone Should Use

Hey All,

In my opinion anyway…

I first saw this tool 20 odd years ago during my first effort at harmonica. At the time I thought interesting but I really didn’t “get it”. I did buy a cardboard rotatable dial of it an still have it around somewhere - I think.

With this tool you know:

  • All 12 positions in every key
  • All the relative minor keys assuming you can count to 3
  • Diatonic chords associated with a major key
  • All the notes in major key heptonic scales as long as long as you know the tone semitone relationships an the hop cross slide system. (natural minor keys too?? I haven’t checked)
  • Chords that sound good together in a song
  • Transposing chords in a key to a different key
  • and more

I wish I had taken this tool seriously two decades+ ago.

Of course I am referring to the circle of 4ths/fifths.

By knowing and understanding the circle of fifths as it is usually called - to me a lot more of what Luke is teaching sinks in. Luke teaches music theory in “bite size” chunks and then applies it to tab and the harmonica. I get this and it obviously “works” for many but it always seemed to me that a bit more music theory would make the picture more complete. I’m more the big picture first then dive in type. I think the circle of fifths is a way to present enough more (but not too much) theory to see more of the big picture of how the harmonica fits into music.

I want to stress I am in no way criticizing what or the way Luke teaches. Nor am I affiliated with any other harmonica teaching course or program. I think Luke is easily one of the best on the net and I really like his approachable style and style of linking some theory to tab to harmonica and music one can play and I actually am a harmonica beginner again having dropped harmonica to work on guitar. I am thinking hard on doin the b2b course.

Now all this said I came across a circle of fifths video (or two) that I think (and the comments say) is the most clear concise and understandable explanation of the circle of fifths I have ever seen. This person plays ukekele not harmonica and so isn’t really a competitor to Luke or other harmonica teachers. I don’t know how appropriate it is to link the video and thought I’d bring the subject up indirectly for any advice. Since Luke obviously plays ukekele he and or slim may know who it is as soon as I say Gracie.

I’ll stop here and see what reaction there is. I just see questions here that the circle of fifths would either answer or provide more background. I just don’t want to stir up any fuss.

-Ed-

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I had the ‘advantage’ of being an Accordionist. The left hand (basses and chords) are arranged from “C” up by 5ths (C, G, D, A, E, B, F#) and down by fifths (C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb). The 2nd row in is the bass, the chords go out from there M, m, 7Th & Dim The Circle of Fifths just becomes 2nd nature. The inside row is the 3rd, so the note inside C is E, and these go up and down in the circle of 5ths. Hopefully It shouldn’t be too hard to memorize the above up and down notes,

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Hey Ed - definitely share the link man! This forum ain’t “The Luke Show.” It’s a place for any harmonica enthusiast to ask or share anything related to harmonica or music or life.

I don’t know who Gracie is, but you’ve piqued my curiosity - I’d like to see the vid!

Oh, and the circle of fifths is also good for determining what key harmonica you need to play in 2nd (or any other) position:
https://www.harmonica.com/harmonica-keys-for-beginners/😉

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I’m from the Bay Area in California originally, and there was a funny bumper sticker one of the famous music stores had that said:

Play an Accordion, Go to Jail. That’s the Law.

If only they’d known how helpful it is in memorizing the circle of fifths, they might have changed their tune. :wink:

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Hey All,

The musicians name is Gracie Terzian and she plays the ukelele and harp ukelele and she I think knows guitar and piano. She does nothing harmonica that I know of. She has a lot of music theory videos from very very basic to more than I need to know.

Here is her circle of fifths lesson.

Note I first memorized the order of flats (beadgcf) and then write the order of sharps as the order of flats backwards. Easier I think.

The other note I would make is that for whatever key you identify - first position is the key you chose next key to the right (clockwise) is second position the next to the right is third position the next fourth position and so on. Knowing this it is easy to know what harmonica to grab to play. So for example you want to play in key of A in third position - what harmonica do you grab? Eazy Peazy…

I’ll deal with the hop cross slide method for identifying notes in a key later.

I hope this helps. Like I said I wish I had paid attention 2+ decades ago.

-Ed-

I should have added that she has videos for minor scales as well.

I also should have added that if you know the heptonic (7 notes) major and minor scales and a couple rules you also know the major and minor pentatonic scales as well.

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That is for sure. I learned the bass note pattern (left side of accordion with all the little buttons. One button has a concave top. That would be middle C. First thing you learn, notes from Middle C up G, D, A, E, B, F#. FROM MIDDLE C DOWN, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb… You may notice that the sequence up (ignoring (b &#) is the exact sequence in reverse.

BTW, when I was around 10 (which would be about 1951) The accordion became VERY popular. It was kinda like a piano that was small enough to strap to your chest with straps over the shoulders which would play all notes, all keys, both melody (which could be thirds, chords, fifths, etc.), and a base and chord accompaniment all in one self contained instrument much smaller and lighter than a piano.

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Hey All,

Poppo just for you. I wanted to show people still play the accordion even in rock cover songs. This band does several and I really like them. What an eclectic mix of instruments! Very cool after this song we can return to our regularly scheduled harmonica stuff.

I like the chickens too!:grin:

-Ed-

As a PS a very dear family friend passed about 6 weeks ago. He played the accordion - I remember it well as a kid

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Hey All,

Here is Gracie again doing a lesson on minor scales.

-Ed-

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Hello @Poppo and @EasyEd,
I was born in 1963 and grew up with the accordion and piano thanks to my grandmother (born in 1912). She could play well and of course I was allowed to learn something.
Yes, compared to the piano, an accordion is easy, but compared to the harp it is very, very difficult… :grin:
:older_adult: Accordion was such a big one. To this day I don’t know why she was so good at playing the piano and accordion, including reading music.
Oh memories, it was so beautiful! Recordings, also from us, were made with a monster tape recorder and a simple microphone :microphone:.
unforgettable!
Here in :de: there are regions where a lot of accordion is still played, also by young people. It’s just tradition.
Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:

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I find it easier to simply remember two sentences (one for major, the other minor) where the first letter of each word identifies the note. Goes clockwise.
For major notes:
Funny Carol Gets Drunk And Eats Butterflies
For minor:
Green Dragonflies Are Even Better
Hope this helps

Robert
London, :canada:

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Poopo;
I too was the victim of 7 years of accordion lesson when I was young. I didn’t know to call it a “circle of 5ths” but I had it memorized about 50 years ago when I was 12. I’ve never managed to forget it.

I played the accordion about 12 years. I was pretty darn good. My sister played for Myron Floren’s wedding, and when his concert tour came to Denver she went backstage at halftime. Myron had someone go get her accordion out of her car and they played an “impromptu” duet of “Tiger Rag”. He hadn’t published his version, but my sis, who had absolute pitch had learned it from the record. She had written it out and I learned it too. She was also guest soloist with the Denver Symphony Orchestra. Charlie Maganti (SP?) said she was the best female organist in America. I think I was well aware that they higher note was a fifth and the ‘inside note’ was a third. I had a love of making music from the first time I could play a song. I still LOVE making music, Can’t play the Accordion or Organ any more (bad back) but I am slowly getting better on the Harp.

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ANY way that you can remember is the best way for you!

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Lots and Lots of accordions built in Germany, Hohner built most of them, I think. When I was 15 I was asked by the local ‘accordion org.’ asked me to be a judge at their yearly competition (Our studio did not belong to the org, so I was ‘neutral’. I could not believe the percentage of Hohner Accordions! I played an Accordiana, My sister and Excelsior, (both made by the same company in Italy. When my sis started recording ‘Rinx Records’ she needed to get her Accordion ‘Amped’, had to send away for about a month, so she bought a 2nd Excelsior. When it came back I inherited her Excelsior, and my little sis the Accordion. When I started college I kinda gave up the Accordion. I wish I had either one today, but I guess I couldn’t play either with my back…
Well, God Bless You Astrid, stay well!

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l agree but l simply carry it in my head.

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