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The circle of fifths is one of the most useful tools for any musician to learn, but learning how to actually apply the circle of fifths in a way that’s musically useful can be a bit of a puzzle… Until now.  

Are you tired of hearing all this stuff about the mighty circle of fifths and not really knowing how it all applies to making music? Well, then I’ve got good news for you because I’m going to teach you how to use the circle of fifths to make really unique and engaging chord progressions.

If you’re a new piano player, maybe you’ve heard about that super popular chord progression known as the I – IV – V progression. To play this progression in the simplest key, you’ll use C major for your ‘I’ chord, F major for your ‘IV’ chord and G major for your ‘V’ chord.  

There are TONS of songs written with those three chords, and they’re all great, but what if I told you there’s another way to think about how chords move together via the circle of fifths?

Let’s take another look at our I and V chords. These two chords are like best buddies, they always sound good when they bop back and forth from each other and you can use this unique chordal relationship to make some really cool sounding, ‘cyclical’ chord progressions.  

Try this:  Play C G D A. Each of those chords is a fifth apart from the last chord in the progression. You’re basically milking that I V chord movement for all it’s worth AND changing into different keys as you move through the progression. And if you want to keep on going, you can move on through the circle of fifths all the way back to C major again. It’s a great creative and technical exercise to try out!

Do you have a unique way to use the circle of fifths that I haven’t thought of?  Let me know in the comments below!


Jordan Leibel

Jordan Leibel is passionate about songwriting, improvisation, and helping you become a creative musician! He’s worked as a composer for film, commercial, and theatre projects as well as a session musician and producer for recording work.

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