Circle of harmonies or how the Circle of Fifths helps create beautiful songs 

Circle of harmonies or how the Circle of Fifths helps create beautiful songs 
Posted on: May 10, 2023
10 minute read
Last updated on: May 16, 2023
Views 564

With the power to evoke feelings and awaken remarkable memories, music is a phenomenal language that takes us to an other realm. Its creation is a real art that demands in-depth knowledge and expertise. This article will discuss the Circle of Fifths, one of the essential techniques utilized by professional musicians and sound engineers. 

You may calculate the tonal connections between chords and notes using the Circle of Fifths, which is the foundation of musical harmony. With the use of this instrument, musicians are able to not only select the appropriate tonality for their songs but also open up new possibilities for harmonic progressions and melodic lines that may captivate audiences and arouse intense emotions. 

Additionally, when employing the Circle of Fifths, musicians find it much simpler to comprehend how various tonalities and chords relate to one another. This is particularly helpful when making arrangements or transferring compositions to other instruments. 

The Circle of Fifths, its principles, and how it may be applied to produce beautiful melodies and harmonies are all covered below. We’ll discuss several well-known tunes that directly benefited from the use of this instrument. Are you prepared to explore the realm of musical harmony and learn the Circle of Fifths’ secrets? Afterward, let’s get going! 

An explanation of the Circle of Fifths 

All of the potential tonalities that can be employed in music are graphically represented by the Circle of Fifths. Each tone is represented by a circle that is divided into 12 equal sections, representing the number of semitones in an octave. 

In a clockwise or counterclockwise orientation, each note on the circle is one-fifth of the note before or after it. As an illustration, if you begin with the note C, the subsequent notes will be G, D, A, etc. The instrument is called a Circle of Fifths because this configuration results in a closed circle of fifths. 

Using this tool, musicians may quickly grasp which notes and chords can be utilized in a recording and establish the tonality of a piece. When composing or arranging music, Circle of Fifths can also make it simpler to comprehend how various tones and chords relate to one another. 

What applications Circle of Fifths has 

Fostering peace 

Harmony may be produced effectively by using the Circle of Fifths. The musician may then observe which chords go well together and how they relate to one another. The chord that will serve as the foundation for the piece must be chosen before using surrounding chords from the circle to generate harmony. For instance, you may use G, F, Am, Dm, and other chords if the underlying chord is C. 

Music Transposition 

Transposing songs is an additional use of the Circle of Fifths. Simply speaking, transposing a musical work involves altering the key so that it may be played in an other key. A musician can choose the appropriate tone to transpose rapidly using the Circle of Fifths. By employing the Circle of Fifths chords, such as D, Em, and Am, you may, for instance, transpose a song with a C base chord to a G key. 

Designing Melodies 

The musician can generate tunes by using the Circle of Fifths. The practitioner might utilize the chords in the circle to ascertain which notes complement the one chosen as the base. If the basic chord is C, for instance, the musician can use notes from the chords G, F, Am, Dm, and others to build a melodic harmony. 

Studying Circle of Fifths will be a valuable and applicable method for studying musical theory. It aids in the musician’s understanding of how tonalities and harmonies function. Knowing the Circle of Fifths can help you determine which chords work well together and which notes blend well with one another. 

See also
Enchanting modes: how musical tonalities create moods in music 

Circle of Fifths: How to Use It in Songwriting 

Clarifying the Key 

The first and most crucial step in using the Circle of Fifths to write songs is determining the key. The choice of harmonic progressions and melody lines is aided by the key, which also establishes the fundamental tonality of the song. 

Examining the composition’s opening and closing chords will help you identify the key. For instance, the composition’s key will probably be C major if the opening chord is C major. 

You must first identify the first chord in a piece of music before identifying the successive chords’ major and minor identities. Subordinate chords are typically only employed in the middle sections of a work, while major chords are typically used at the start and finish. 

Since all major chords are on the same line and minor chords are in neighboring squares, utilizing the Circle of Fifths makes it simple to identify the key of a piece. If the major chord is the initial chord, you may follow the Circle of Fifths line from there to find the additional major and subordinate chords that are frequently utilized in this key works. 

Chord and melody creation 

Making the chords and melody for your song comes next after deciding on the song’s key. Circle of Fifths assists you in this process by illuminating the chords that work best in each key. 

Pick the song’s foundational chord first. Any chord you choose to utilize as the foundation for your music can be this one. You may begin with a C major chord, for instance. 

Next, locate other chords that complement the primary chord using the Circle of Fifths. If you began with the chord C major, you may use the Circle of Fifths chart to choose additional chords that are near it, such as G major, F major, D minor, etc. 

You may start writing a melody after selecting a few chords that sound excellent with your main chord. Utilize notes that complement each chord while adhering to the musical scale in accordance with your chosen chords. By doing this, you may create a melody that sounds excellent with the chords and is harmonic. 

Don’t be scared to experiment with different pairings and the Circle of Fifths to discover the perfect harmony for your song. Creating a melody and chords is a creative and experimental process. 

Picking chords and harmonies 

The next stage in using the Circle of Fifths to songwriting is harmony and chord selection. By ensuring that the melody and harmony are in tune, it will aid in the creation of musical harmony. 

To choose harmony and chords, you must ascertain the song’s tonality and employ the right chords. You may use the chords C#m, D#dim, E, F#m, G#m, A, and B if the song’s key is C-sharp minor, for instance. 

You can find the seven major chords in each tonality using the Circle of Fifths, which may also help you determine which chords work best with the major chords. For instance, the major chords in C-sharp minor are C#m, G#m, and F#m, whereas the minor chords are A and B. 

You should choose chords that include extensions or substitutions in addition to the major chords when choosing chords. In place of C#m, for instance, you may use Amaj7/C#. 

Circle of Fifths will also assist you in recognizing potential tone shifts if they are required. If a song is in the key of C-sharp minor, for instance, you may convert it to E-sharp major, the key that is opposite it, which gives you more options for utilizing chords and forming harmony. 

There are a number of different songwriting and chord-picking approaches that may be used in music composition outside the usage of the Circle of Fifths. 

  • Chord progressions are collections of chords utilized in a composition. The I-IV-V (often known as the “blues progression”), II-V-I, and vi-IV-V progressions are frequently utilized. The particular option is frequently determined by the genre, the composer’s attitude, or the song’s topic. 
  • Sense of Music: Sometimes the finest songwriting ideas come from feeling and intuition rather than a methodical, analytical approach. You may be inspired and produce something fresh and original by listening to the music you love frequently. 
  • Try employing unexpected chords to produce an intriguing sound by experimenting with harmonies. As an illustration, utilizing a dominant chord in a minor key frequently results in an unexpected turn in the music. You will eventually arrive at intriguing and sometimes even surprising outcomes if you experiment with various harmony variants. 
See also
From the Idea to the Finished song

The Circle of Fifths, chord progressions, musical sensibility, and playing with harmonies are only a few of the tools available to you while creating music, so keep that in mind. If you don’t give the creative process adequate time and attention, no approach is guaranteed to be successful. 

An illustration of a song utilizing the Circle of Fifths 

Let’s use The Beatles’ song “Let It Be” as an illustration and use Circle of Fifths to examine it. The music in question is in the key of C major, thus we must first ascertain its key. 

The song “Let It Be” employed the Circle of Fifths in a particular chord progression, which makes sense. A harmonic sequence, as we all know, is built on joining chords that have the same frequency. Circle of Fifths may be used by choosing only chords that fall on the circle of fifths. 

The chord progression used in the song “Let It Be” (C, G, Am, F) demonstrates the reasoning behind the employment of the Circle of Fifths. You can observe that these chords are located on the circle of fifths in the following sequence by looking at the circle: C-G-D-A-E-B-F#-C#. 

As a result, a chord progression that makes sense and sounds harmonic was produced using the Circle of Fifths. 

Identifying the song’s chords and harmonies Let’s now take a closer look at the chords and harmonies utilized in the song “Let It Be.” 

  • Intro: C-G-Am-F-C-G-F-C 
  • C, G, Am, F, C, G, F, C 
  • Chorus: F-C-G-F-C-G-Am-G-F-C 
  • Individual verse: C-G-Am-F-C-G-F-C 
  • Chorus repetition F-C-G-F-C-G-Am-G-F-C-G-F-C 

We can observe from the song’s harmonic structure that one of the most important elements in establishing the harmony was the utilization of the Circle of Fifths. The C-G-Am-F chord progression is based on the Circle of Fifths, which gives each chord a more logical and natural sound. 


Musicians may help create the harmonic framework of songs by using the Circle of Fifths, which is a straightforward yet useful approach. It has demonstrated itself at identifying the tonality of songs, producing chords and melodies, choosing harmony and chords, analyzing songs, and comprehending how they were composed. As we saw in the case study, the Circle of Fifths may help artists write songs faster and add harmonic aspects that will make their songs more compelling and compellingly emotional. 

Advice for budding musicians: – Understand the Circle of Fifths and how you might employ its usefulness in your compositions. 

  • Try out different chords and melodies while experimenting with harmonies. Don’t be scared to explore for novel sound combinations. 
  • The genuine expertise of a composer or sound designer comes in producing a masterpiece with your own sentiments and emotions; Circle of Fifths is only an instrument. – Don’t forget about the sense of music. 
  • Use chord progressions; feel free to use techniques that you are familiar with or that other artists have used to good effect. 
  • Don’t limit yourself to the Circle of Fifths; while effective, it is by no means the only technique available. Don’t forget to make use of the many songwriting techniques available. 

Overall, Circle of Fifths will be a tremendous asset in assisting you in composing more captivating and aesthetically pleasing music, accelerating the songwriting process, and improving your own musical expertise. But it’s crucial to keep in mind that, like with any instrument, your feeling and understanding of the music should come first. 

Author Maxim Hetman
Highly skilled sound designer with over 15 years of experience in the field.
Maxim Hetman