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It’s OK if you weren’t able to grasp everything from the previous lesson.  It’s important to introduce you to the ideas before we explore them in depth, so the more you continue with the lessons the more you’ll understand and everything becomes easy!

To Start, a Challenge:

What are the 3 Major Chords in the Key of C?

What are the 3 Minor Chords in the Key of C?

How are these chords related?

The 3 Major Chords are related by the Perfect Fifth.

C moves a 5th up to G, and a 5th down to F

(Why are these called 5ths?  Count from C to G… 5 Scale Steps)

The 3 Minor Chords are related by the Perfect Fifth.

A moves a 5th up to E, and a 5th down to D

The Major chords within the Key have the same relationship to one another as the Minor chords have with each other.  This is the basis for the Minor Keys, C Major=A Minor.  But we’re not ready for that yet!

The Perfect Fifth is the Harmonic Interval.  It is the driving force behind most chord progressions and harmonic relationships.

If we start from the note C, and move up by Perfect Fifths, we find:

Moving in 5ths down from C gives us the Flat notes.

And up from F# (F-sharp) we get the Sharp notes all the way back to C.

All 12 Notes (White and Black Keys) create a complete Circle!

This is called the Circle of Fifths.  Probably the most important chart you will study in music.  Memorize it.  Meditate on it. Visualize it when you practice chords and scales through every Key.

On the Circle, every tone is related to the tones next to it by a 5th up (moving clockwise) & a 5th down (moving counter-clockwise)

So for example:

The Major Chords in the Key of C are I:C IV:F V:G

The Major Chords in the Key of D are I:D IV:G V:A

The Major Chords in the Key of Ab (A-flat) are I:Ab IV:Db V:Eb

Try to pick a note at random and figure out the Major Chords of that Key.  (Don’t worry if you don’t know what the notes of each Triad are! Just find the Roots.  We’ll get to all the details soon!)

Cool! Now we can start learning the Keys!

These Names should look familiar to you…   they are the Major Chords of the Key of C! (This is because of the Fifth relationship between Tones, Chords, and Keys.)

The way we indicate that Music is in a certain Key is with a Key Signature.  Here you can see that the Key of C has no sharps or flats.  The Key of G has 1 Sharp (F#). The Key of F has 1 Flat (Bb).  These Keys are said to be “closely related.”

Let’s look at all the Keys.

*Note:  At the Bottom are F#/Gb.  These are the same Key, they both have 6 sharps/flats, so they’re used equally in music.  In the middle are C# and Cb, these are very rare, but you see them sometimes for technical reasons {Bach uses C# Major in the Well Tempered Klavier, and Beethoven uses Cb (Ab Minor) in the Piano Sonata op. 26}.  They are enharmonic with Db/C# and B/Cb.

I Haven’t labeled the Keys, because I want you to figure it out for yourself, so that when you see the Keys in music, you already know what they mean!

Try not to think of the Keys as getting more difficult, or more complicated.  There’s really no reason that B Major- 5 sharps, is more difficult to play or think about than F Major- 1 flat…  Think of each Key as having it’s own particular Color.  You wouldn’t think that Purple is more difficult than Red, even though it has twice as many letters!  Once you start playing the scales in every key, you will become more familiar with them all until they are all Easy!

There is a reason why the 12 Keys are called ‘Keys.’  They unlock hidden patterns in Music!

Practice:

This practice is a mental exercise to put all the pieces of this lesson together.  Look at the Circle of Fifths.  Randomly choose a note, and figure out the I, IV & V chords (The Major Triads) for that Key. Continue until you have done this for all 12 Keys. Do this every day until you know every Major Key by heart. Look at the chart for the 12 Keys, and compare with the Circle of Fifths.  Let your eyes slowly move (forwards, and then backwards) around the Circle of Keys and identify each one.  Try to put a name to each Key Signature until it becomes automatic.

Practice writing out the Key Signatures.  Notice the pattern that emerges…  The Key of G has an F#, The Key of D has F# and C#, does the relationship in the Sharp notes sound familiar to you?  It should be, it’s a Perfect 5th!  Write out all 15 Key Signatures everyday, paying close attention to the notes that are sharp or flat, keeping in mind the Circle of 5ths.