Theory - The Circle Of Fifths | GOT A UKULELE - Ukulele reviews and beginners tips

7 Feb 2012

Theory - The Circle Of Fifths

A minor theory lesson on Got A Ukulele with something that you may find useful - the Circle Of Fifths.

Below you will see a Circle of fifths chart that you can print off and keep in your songbook. It's called a Circle Of Fifths, because going clockwise around the circle from the 12 o clock position are all twelve musical pitches, going up by a fifth each time.  Laying the pitches out like this allows you to work out lots of cool things.

Firstly, you can use the Circle as is to immediately tell you what chords go well together in any specific Key.  Take the key of G Major for example - locate the G on the outer wheel.  The Circle tells you that any chord that touches that G box will work "well" in a song in the key of G, i.e. C, D and Em. The next closest but not touching chords (The Am and Bm) may work also, and the further you move from that G box, the harder it will be for the chords to work in that song. It's not a firm rule, but a good general rule of thumb.  That relationship works as moving clockwise from any Key you move to the Dominant (the V) of the previous key. Moving counterclockwise you move to the Fourth (IV) of the previous key. You would be amazed at just how much of popular music rotates around those note relations (i.e. I, IV, V) - and they do that because they sound naturally pleasing to the ears.

You can also use the Circle as a transposing tool - that is to say a guide for changing the chords in a song up or down in keys. You may have a song sheet that you really like, but you just can't make it work for your voice. Print off two copies of the Circle, but make one copy smaller. Cut out both circles and separate the inner from the outer ring. Putting the smaller of the outer ring copies inside the larger, you can now line up the change in key you want and automatically work out what all the other chords change to. For example, say you have a song in the key of G, but want to play it in the key of C, lay out the larger ring with the G at the top. Put the smaller ring in so the C chord is lined up with the G.  Now you can use that smaller inner ring to read off what new chord you would need to play for any of the original chords (Still following me....?)

circle of fifths ukulele


  1. Nice. But what about 7th chords (i.e. G7), is there a even smaller circle for those? Or another easy way to figure out if they fit in?

  2. This is the basic circle of fifths for beginners and concerned with major keys. Fitting seventh chords in to harmonise with the circle is more advanced and I will try to deal with that in another lesson! In the meantime, beginners learning the above and relationship between keys will be a great starter,

  3. Thank you - looks great and it is well appreciated. Cheers Chris

  4. Bridlington ukulele club10:06 pm, April 30, 2013

    Works for me!

  5. Yes that is really clear and i did wonder how they worked together. I am not technically minded and find it hard even with tablature it takes me a while to get what its all about and the connections with the chords i just cannot see it. This is quite easy to follow Thank You.

  6. Hey uked the 7th chord would be the chord clockwise of the key you're in.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing! It is really useful and enjoyable for beginners like me.

  8. Thanks, plain and simple introduction to the "circle..." just what I needed.


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