Circle of Fifths

circle_of_fifthsIn my long guitar history, for the most part, I wasn’t that worried about music theory. I figured… if Angus Young didn’t need it… neither did I. But, as always, the cute little, unassuming uke has led me down this new and exciting path. I think the uke is so foundational and such a simple tool that it gets out of the way and allows you to focus more on complex concepts. 

So Circle of Fifths… I had heard of the circle of fifths before but I stayed away from doing any digging on it. I think I thought of it as some big complex scary deep thing that would take a long time to figure out and use. Maybe you do need some depth to really understand why it is what it is but it’s surprisingly simple to use.

The circle of fifths is a multi tool and there are a lot of things you can do with it. To me, the coolest thing it does is help you compose riffs. You can use it to do this very easily. Basically, pick a chord on the diagram below, and the 5 adjacent chords, outer and inner rings, are the chords that sound good with it. It’s that easy. Write riffs that include those 6 chords and they’ll sound good. Remember these are baseline chords so you can interchange G and G7 etc.


The circle of fifths is a good tool and like most tools you have to be careful of getting too crutchy with it or you risk sounding like everyone else who gets too crutchy with it. Also tool rhymes with rule and the circle of fifths is a good rule (of thumb) and now that you know the rule you can break it.

Here’s the vid that finally got me to get it and it’s even a uke guy.


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