Circling Down the Drain in a Major Way!

Hey all! Long time no talk! So today, I would like to go digress slightly from the topic of music production and talk a little bit about music theory!

Now, music theory is no quick topic that you can learn in passing. There are many rules you should remember and different ways of going about retaining knowledge.

To begin, I would like to walk you through how to memorize the circle of fifths (or the circle of fourths), which is very helpful when discussing major keys. The circle of fifths is a very useful tool, but it can be challenging to remember.

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The circle of fifths is so-named because if you go down the circle to the right, the key signatures are fifths away from each other (i.e. G to D). Likewise, the circle of fifths can also be called the circle of fourths because if you go down the circle to the left, the key signatures are fourths apart from each other (Bb to Eb).

Here is where you begin when it comes to utilizing the circle of fifths:

  1. Memorize the Key signatures on the side of the fifths. Here’s how I remember them: Caroline Gets Drunk And Eats Butter F(#) It’s a bit silly, but it’s hard to forget!
  1. Memorize the key signatures on the side of the fourths. To do this, I use this method: Caroline Fondles B(b) E(b) A(b) D(b)s (pronounced ‘beads’). Note: The keys on the side of the fourths contain flats. Though not outwardly obvious, the keys on the side of the fifths contain sharps.
  1. Memorize BEADGCF. This jumble of letters is paramount to understanding the circle of fifths, and while I don’t have any zany mnemonics to help with memorization, just remember the word ‘bead’ and go from there.
  1. When going down the side of fourths, read BEADGCF from left to right. While the key of C major has no accidentals (Sharps or flats), the key of F major has a Bb. The next key, Bb major, has a flatted B an E. If you were to go all the way down to the key of Cb, all of the letters in BEADGCF would be used in order from left to right.
  1. When going down the side of fifths, read BEADGCF from right to left. If you have already got number four down, this should be easy. For clarification’s sake: The key of G major has one accidental: F#. The next key, D major, has two accidentals: F# and C#. If you were to go all the way down to the key of C#, all of the accidentals would be used from F to B.

Be on the lookout for part two of this discussion where we talk about minor keys!

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