Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > How to memorize the circle of fifths
How to memorize the circle of fifths
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2189 posts
Sep 05, 2017
1:29 AM
1635 posts
Sep 05, 2017
6:38 AM
The easiest way to do any music theory is to buy a keyboard.
1556 posts
Sep 05, 2017
7:49 AM
5 minutes of good information in this long video about the order of keys in the circle of 5ths, the order of adding sharps and flats, and enharmonic scales.

YES, to a keyboard (go Andrew!). There are apps for keyboards on your phone or tablet, too. Keyboard is really good for studying harmony.

I don't care for the mnenomic approach to learning the circle of 5ths (or circle of 4ths, if you go counterclockwise).

If you want to memorize the circle of 5ths, organize your harps in the order of the circle, and you can see it every time you pick a harp. You will learn it. I carried a copy of the circle of 5ths until I organized my diatonics this way.

Not only will the circle become automatic, you can also see the positions you could use to play displayed in your harp case by the order of harps.

The I IV V chords are displayed right there in the circle. Pick a major key on the circle: clockwise one is the V chord, counter clockwise one is IV chord.

I never set out to memorize this material and now I know it automatically.

Doug S.
4423 posts
Sep 05, 2017
9:26 AM
cool idea doug. i like it. i never had an issue with this as it is easy to visualize on the guitar neck.

there is a concept called tetrachords that makes it easy to understand how adding sharps and flats work building scales. you would have to have basic understanding of theory, which most harmonica players have no use for.so it would be of no use. ha ha.

i found this video a bit cumbersome.

Last Edited by 1847 on Sep 05, 2017 9:27 AM
2303 posts
Sep 05, 2017
9:34 AM
It's important to test yourself as to which harmonica to use in a given situation, and get good at that--know your options.
A gal won an Ab diatonic at the raffle at SPAH, and when I chatted her up later, the fellow talking to her misunderstood as to what keys it would be good for--he got Db mixed up with Eb--I bet him a dollar and won but forgot to collect . . .
3465 posts
Sep 06, 2017
3:39 PM
Gnarly, is Db 12th position? :-) Ow, my head hurts. :-(
Reasonably priced Reed Replacement and tech support on Hand Made Series Hohner Diatonic Harmonicas.

'Making the world a better place, one harmonica at a time.
Click MP for more info. Aloha Mark
685 posts
Sep 06, 2017
3:51 PM
I agree with dougharps. I keep my harp case arranged in circle of fifths order, and it makes it so easy to choose a harp when you play multiple positions. I use one of those soft zippered Seidel cases, so on the one side, from top to bottom, are Bb F C G D A E. If the song is in, say, E, and I want to play 1st position I grab the E. For 2nd, the one before it (A). For 3rd, the one two before it (D). Works great, and requires no mental arithmetic at crunch time. I don't know why everybody doesn't do this, yet I've never encountered another player that does.

1744 posts
Dec 07, 2017
8:30 AM
(sorry, I've been searching for an old topic and got back to this one)

If there is an easiest way, it's this: -

Get a piece of paper and draw a circle on it and divide the circumference up by putting 12 equally spaced marks on it (if you've used compasses, they will divide the circumference up into 6 and you can put marks halfway between each of the 6 marks). Label these 12 marks in order clockwise, starting anywhere you like, as follows: -


Then get a ruler and draw a line from C to F and others from F to Bb to Eb to Ab to Db to Gb to B to E to A to D to G to C. And there you have it.

From any note you have two lines - one going to the 5th above it or the 4th below it and the other going to the 4th above it or the 5th below it.

I suppose that is quite confusing, so for a harp player, you want to know what harp to play if the music is in C, then draw an arrow on the line from C pointing to F and continue with an arrow to Bb and so on around theh circle. This is proablby all in one of Adam's FAQs somewhere.

You'll probably need to write instructions such as "music in C, look at C, arrow points to F. That's the harp you use". That would also work for cadences and jazz changes, except that it would show you what key comes a 4th above, rather which harp is a 5th below.

P.S. Yeah, I always found mnemonics harder to memorise than the information they are supposed to convey.

P.P.S. If all you are interested in is which harp to play, then just have a notebook and write on line 1 of a page C -> F, line 2 C#->F# and so on. It's only 12 lines.
OK, you want to memorise it?
Can you memorise C,F,Bb,Eb,Ab,Db,F#,B,E,A,D,G,C?

More complex is if you want all 12 positions. My circle diagram is best for that - you want to play in C. Follow the arrows. F harp is 2nd position. Bb harp is 3rd positon, Eb harp is 4th position, etc.

Last Edited by Andrew on Dec 07, 2017 8:39 AM

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