When I started making music at a very young age I had no real idea how music was created. I started around 13 years of age. I gradually learned my way around.
Picked up some piano lessons. I learned a lot of classical piano material but I wondered how this was going to help me. Luckily, my teacher was young. He never had me use a metronome to practice.
It was fun and he accelerated my learning and fundamentals. You learn about meter, symbols, rests etc. But I was always wonder how you know what to put where. How the heck do you know how it all fits together?
I wanted to know how this. One day out of the blue, my piano teacher brushed me off the piano stool and he started wrangling his hands going here there, everywhere. Vaguely explaining. How he would go from part to the next was puzzling.
I still had insufficient musical theory. But he finally wrote down the circle of fifths and it expanded the way I understood composition. It made it much easier to set something up. To get some music going.
Circle Of Fifths
The circle of fifths is organized in such a way that shows all of the notes. It also shows you which notes are related to one another. It shows which notes use sharps which one have flats. To me this really opened up my eyes. It’s a fantastic tool. It’s a tool that the beginners of the beginners should use. You’ll be glad you did!
On this version of the circle of the fifths that I use, it displays all the major keys on the outer rim of the circle. This means that all the more upright, bright and “happy” keys can be located on this portion.
Memorize the Circle
Memorize the circle. Cherish it. Memorizing the circle is a simple task all you have to envision is what next note can give you a power chord. Going up 5 notes or going down 5 notes.
The inner rim of the circle displays all of the minor keys. They similarly are placed in a fashion of fifths, you can create power chords by going up or down. So
A-E-A, E-B-E, B-F#-B, etc.
“It’s almost fractal in a sense.”
It’s such a brilliant tool decipher how keys relate to one another because the outer reflects the inner. It’s almost fractal in a sense. For example: C major is relative to A minor. They can work with one another. You can find A minor in a progression with C Major and it will not sound out of place.
When my Piano teacher was chicken scratching his writing in my notebook he explained that relatively speaking, you can make 4 or 5 movements from your home key. So if you are C major, you can go to A minor, G major, F major, D minor, E minor. And it made more sense because all of those chords can be discovered under C major.
Plus we reflected for a moment. He would ask me where do you think pop music lies in most notes used. I told him with no apprehension that was from C major to A major. He would agree and told me these are the easiest because they have the least amount of extra sharps, plus they are much easier to play on the guitar.
Take a look at the circle of fifths and see if you can detect any other patterns that can be found. Highlight these and see how larger 7ths can emerge for example.
While you can use these implicitly or explicitly. It’s always a tool and a provider of rules which can be broken. Especially if you create music of electronica on far field. If you are creating experimental material and you want something dissonant and extreme, it may be more appropriate to break the rules.
But if you are creating more mainstream electronic music you may want to stick on the simple side of the circle.
I don’t say this to make it easier for you but I genuinely believe that people have become so accustomed to these sounds, that they can perhaps achieve a sense of nostalgia as they more commonly played.
I don’t always use the circle of the fifths in my mind. I sometimes may just go for overall feeling irrespective of traditional rules. In time and practice it flows much more naturally and intuitively. That’s when the fun begins!
But I think if you want to understand systems and the mechanics of it all music theory is a good place to extend your knowledge. If you want more information on chords and emotions check out my previous post: How To Use Chords To Shape Feelings and Emotions
I’ve only scratched the surface. But this is very powerful tool in create electronica, rock, pop – whatever kind of music!
Remember, Have a killer day!
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