Free Printable Circle of Fifths PDF Charts

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The circle of fifths is an almost magical tool for musicians! 

Magic in its simplicity. Here is an ingenious invention to help you find major and minor key signatures, music scales, chords, etc. You will also get the free circle of fifths PDF charts that you can print and use as you learn more! 

First Things First...

12 Different Pitches

Before we look at the picture of the Circle of 5ths (below), you first need to know how it's constructed. Maybe it seems a bit confusing at first, but it is easy really:

  • First, remember that we have only 12 different pitches?
Piano keys Layout

On the piano keyboard, you can easily see them as:

  1. The 7 white keys, the basic notes A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.
  2. And the 5 black keys that have note names derived from the white keys: C# or Db etc. (7+5=12!)

The Perfect Fifth

  • Second, remember what a perfect fifth was? No?

A perfect fifth is a musical interval between two notes exactly 3 1/2 steps or tones apart.

(If you'd like to learn more about music theory, I recommend The Essentials of Music Theory. It's great for self study.)

Let's take a walk on the piano keyboard...

Start from the lowest C on the keyboard (to the left). Play a perfect fifth up... G. Right.

Continue another perfect fifth... D. You've got it!

Cicle of fifths on the keyboard

Now continue like this, and you will get: C-G-D-A-E-B-F#... What?!

-Why a black key?

Remember that there is a diminished fifth between B and F, which is only 3 steps. So we have to move F up half a step. OK? Let's continue. Where were we?

Here we go:

Circle of fifths on the keyboard

F#/Gb (the same key!)- C#/Db-(let's call them "flats"(b) from now on) - Ab- Eb - Bb - back to the white keys now...

F - and... yes! We are back on C again!!

The Circle of fifths piano keyboard

Did You Know?

You just traveled around the piano on 12 different keys, all a perfect fifth apart! Need more help? Keep reading, or check out this: The Circle of Fifths for Piano: Learn and Apply Music Theory for Piano & Keyboard.

Circle of fifths on a piano

The Circle of Fifths Tool: Free Printable Charts

So, there are 12 different pitches...

The clock has 12 hours. Neat! We can use the clock as a template! Start at 12 o'clock.

Let's decide that C is here. Going to the right around the clock, you will return to C again after a full circle.

circle of fifths printable

OK. Now how on earth is this useful?

  • Use the free circle of fifths PDF to get an overview of all the 12 tonalities, or key signatures, in major, and if you look at the inner circle, the relative minor!
  • You can quickly learn how many sharps or flats a scale or key signature has: 1 o'clock (G) has 1 sharp, 2 o'clock (D) has two, and so on...

-Hey, wait a minute! I can't see any 8, 9, 10, or 11 sharps or flats?

Yeah, that would be unnecessary.

Instead of having one circle with only sharp key signatures and another with only flats (which would give us an awkward key signature with 11 sharps or flats at 11 o'clock), we use the fact that the black keys can have two names (enharmonic).

And instead, rename them after 7 sharps/flats. (There is a slight overlap, as you can see at the bottom of the circle.)

Two Halves of the Circle

The picture of the circle of fifths you saw above is "merged" with what could have been a circle with only sharps and a circle with only flats.

One side is with sharps, and the other with flats. The key signature for C is "natural" since it uses only white keys.

  • In this way- going to the right from C until about 7 o'clock gives you 7 key signatures with sharps. And going to the left of C, again 7 "hours" backward- gives you 7 Key signatures with flats. Cool!
  • You can easily see what piano chords work well together: Pick one, let's say F major. The neighboring two, Bb and C, together with F, are the most essential chords in F major.
  • AND you can easily change them with their relative minor chords right underneath! So in F major, you can use F, Bb, and C major, plus D, G, and A minor chords for a "smooth" harmony! Go to the piano and try it out!!
  • Plus, if you work with functional chord analysis, you can see the chord functions. Tonic (I) (Pick any note), Subdominant (IV) (To the left of the one you picked), and Dominant (V) (To the right).

And finally, for all the music theory geeks like me- isn't the Circle of Fifths just beautiful? :)

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