The Architecture of Music

The Circle of Fifths

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The Circle of Fifths

The Circle of Fifths (COF) is a diagram that brings all the P5 intervals next to each other, enabling us to see the fixed P5 intervals of all the notes. The circle of fifths is a very useful tool in analyzing chords and scales because (in general) notes closer to each other around the circle sound better together than notes further away. Notes can move in an ascending (clockwise) or descending (counterclockwise) manner around the circle. D was used as the central or bass note of the circle below because all the sharps and flats are symmetrically the furthest notes away from D. Though D was used as the starting point in this circle, any note can be used to begin the circle as the notes never change position. This is why the circular representation is useful, as it can rotate and describe the P5 intervals between any notes.

The Circle of Fifths