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Music Theory for Electronic Musicians 2: Minor Keys and More

Lesson 8 of 26

The Circle of Fifths

J. Anthony Allen

Music Theory for Electronic Musicians 2: Minor Keys and More

J. Anthony Allen

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Lesson Info

8. The Circle of Fifths


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Welcome and Overview Duration:04:15
3 Minor Scales Duration:06:27
4 Relative Keys Duration:11:03
7 Analysis: Ghosts N Stuff Duration:26:08
8 The Circle of Fifths Duration:09:48
11 7th Chords in Minor Duration:16:38
12 9ths and 13ths Duration:09:08
13 Suspended Chords Duration:05:03
14 Reading a Chord Chart Duration:11:02
15 ster and Unnamed Chords Duration:03:47
22 Bass Riffs Duration:08:49
23 Get Muddy Duration:03:02
24 Analysis: Windowlicker Duration:12:44
25 Chromaticism Duration:03:43
26 Thanks and Bye! Duration:01:15

Lesson Info

The Circle of Fifths

Welcome back. Um, so next we're gonna talk about this thing called the Circle of Fifths. So you might have seen this before. Um, if you took any kind of music lesson or anything like that Ah, and you might have seen it and just said that just looks like a crazy symbol, and I don't know why. Um, that weird little diagram has anything to do with my life. Um, it's like these stereotypical image toe hanging in your fourth grade music room. Um, if you had one. So it gets kind of a bad wrap, but I want to show you why that's important to us as we get into some of the compositional things about music theory. So let's talk about that for just second. So what we've done so far and from, ah, music theory for electronic musicians one and music theory electronic positions to Ah, we've talked about cords. How to figure out chords, how to figure out the key, how to assemble cords. Ah, once you know the key and what each chord does. So we have major chords. We have minor chords. We have minor keys. W...

e've got all the different chords within the key, Um, and all the different patterns for figuring out the keys. Ah, and the cords. So the next kind of big topic, while actually the rest of this class, more or less, we're going to be working on, um, how to, ah, couple things you can do to create ah, music. So when you're creating how you can use theory to help you create, so we're gonna be talking about a lot of different kinds of stuff, But a lot of these techniques are gonna be aimed at creating. We're still gonna do a bunch more analysis because from what I heard from the first class, that was something that a lot of people wanted. Ah, you know, the joy of an online classes that if you don't want to, I want to look at those analysis things. If those aren't interesting to you, then you skip right past him. I'm not gonna grade you, so it doesn't matter if you don't like a skip past. Um OK, um but I do think they're valuable toe. Look at how different songs work and sort of see this stuff in practice. Okay, so, um, let's look at this thing called the Circle of Fifths. So here it is. Let me get it nice and big for us. Okay? So if you just Google around, you'll find a whole bunch of different versions of this. Uhm So what I'm gonna do first, just explain what it is, and then ah, well, cut to the next video and we'll show how you can use it when you're writing a track. Um, there's a bunch of different things we see in here. Um, this shows us several things very efficiently. Ah, the first thing that shows us is the relationship of the relative major and minor. So we can see here that it's outlining all of the major keys and major chords along the outer circle and the relative minor on the inner circle so we can look at sea, and we know that. See, the relative minor of See is a minor from in the key of a minor, the relative major, his seat. It goes both ways. So, um, that's a hand. It's a handy diagram to see all those really fat. So if you're in the key of E, we can tell that the key of e the relative minor is gonna B c sharp minor. So if we have the circle of fifths hanging around, we can just see that really fast. Based on this diagram, um, that being said, I don't expect you to print this out and hanging up in your studio. I've never gone into a recording studio that had of a poster of the circle of fifths on the wall. Um, I don't know what I would think if I did walk into one, but regardless, it's good to know, um, you could also figure these things out for yourself. You know how to figure out the relative minor of all these keys of based off the scale and the pattern going around while seeming random is just counting up by five for every note. That's why we call it Circle of Fifths. So see, in the key of C, that's important if we count up five. Remember, sees all the white notes so see the e f g. So ah, fifth away from CSG. If we're in the key of G and we count up five, it's gonna be G A B C D. That gets us to D in the key of D if we kind of five, we get to a in the key of a when we kind of five, we get to eat and so on through all the notes we count up. Five will always end up at the next note in this circle until we get all the way to F. And then we count up five when we get back to see so it goes all the way around in a circle, hence circle of fifths. Now, sometimes you'll come across this and will be called the circle of fourths. Um, why would it be called this trickle of force because of fifth upside down is 1/4. So if we go backwards so this way it's fifths. If we go this way around, it's actually a circle of fourths. So see Teoh F C d E f. That the fourth so 1/4 away from C is an f f to B flat is F G a. The flash pride that with these fingers, F g A B flat is 1/4 away from. So that's the second thing it tells us is that tells us fifth relationships going around. It tells us fourth relationships going around and it tells us our relative major and minor going around. Um, there's one other thing it shows us. Actually, there's two other things that shows us. But there's one more than gonna look at right now, and that is it Very quickly shows us the try tone now the tri tone. I don't think I've mentioned the tri tone yet, but, um, it's sometimes called a diminished fifth. Doesn't matter what it is, is. It's the ugliest note, ugliest harmony we've got and what you can find it by going directly across the farthest thing away. So D flat to G is the tri tone. Those are the ugliest two notes. You could play together, so see down across to G flat. Those are the ugliest notes. So if you just go straight across the thing e flat goes to A or C to F sharp actually will be the same. Um, So if you go straight across, you find the try till now this the tri tone. Is this weird? Um, oops. Ah, this weird sounding interval. It doesn't sound good. Um, let's make one. So there's a C. If we go see directly down, we get a G flat or in F sharp. Same note. There's one. So let's do like this long. We'll hear him one after the other. Okay, now we're gonna alternate between CNF Sharp. This is the tri tone interval. It's the halfway point on the circle of fifths. It doesn't sound very good. Bit like a British siren. Um, let's hear him at the same time. So that tri tone sound is generally considered one of the most distant things. Weaken Dio other than a minor second. You know, doing that the two notes right up on top of each other, but very close to it would be the tribe. There are ways to make the tri tone sound good. Ah, so that's Ah, the third thing that we find in the circle of Fifths. Now, the fourth thing is the thing that's the most useful to us as creators of music, either producers or songwriters or whatever you actually are. Um, and that four thing. I'm gonna leave as a surprise and push us over into the next video where we're gonna deal with just that four thing. Um, so circle of fifths, The three things that we talked about seeing in it are the relative, ah, majors and the relative miners through these connections, the pattern of fifths all the way around pattern of fourths all the way around and the tri tone relationship by cutting straight across. So try tone is ugly, but sometimes useful to know. Okay, see in the next video.

Class Description

In the first part of Music Theory for Electronic Musicians, we learned how to work with the piano roll editor in a DAW to make harmonies, melodies, and whole tracks. In this second part, we'll expand on those ideas. We'll work with minor keys, focus some time on melody and bassline writing, and we'll talk about how different tracks work. 

Extensive Analysis 

In this class, we feature an extensive track analysis segment by Daft Punk, Avicii, Skrillex, and many more. In each of these segments, we'll look at their tracks on the piano roll editor. We'll talk about why they sound the way they do, and how you can use similar techniques in your own music. Each of these segments picks apart multiple elements of the song and dissects it in an easily digestiable manner. 

Who should take this course? 

Anyone interested in producing their own tracks. This will get you up and running and give your tracks a unique sound in no time.


This course consists of video lectures, which all contain a session in Ableton Live 9. If you are using a different program (or none at all), no worries! This isn't a class on how to use Ableton Live, and the concepts can be applied to any DAW.  



Well, I slobbered all over you after your first class and this one is as good or better. I realize people don't go to college for 12 years and learn what you shared in a few hours and you didn't earn your doctorate with just this stuff. I mean Julliard must offer a lot more, but you have advanced my knowledge by miles and I've got to say thank you. Make some more of these simple, common talk courses - I'll buy them all.

Nick van Lochem

This course its so good he makes it al sound so easy. that ists easy to remember and use in your creations.

Scott Vincent

Very cool class - learned a lot from this class as well as from the Part 1 class. Highly recommend both classes!