Circle of fifths for guitarists, how to undertand.

Mastering the Circle of Fifths, for beginner guitarists

The Circle of Fifths for Guitar Players

The Circle of Fifths is a musical tool that can be used by guitarists to help memorise:

  • Notes on the fretboard
  • The order of sharps (per key signature)
  • The order of flats (per key signature)
  • The number of sharps (per major/minor key)
  • The number of flats (per major/minor key)

The guitar challenge

For this guitar challenge we’re going to use 4 different patterns on the fretboard to memorise the following:

Major Keys with Sharps (fifths / clockwise)

Each of the following chord sequences will represent the root note as well as how many sharps are needed for that major or minor key.

The first pattern that I’m going to show you will start at 12 o’clock with C major on fret 3 string 5 finishing with C# major fret 9 string 6.

Major Keys with Flats (forths / anticlockwise)

Key signatures that have flats are also either major or minor. For this pattern we’re starting on Fret 8 string 5 and finishing with C minor on fret 2 string 5.

Relative minor keys with sharps (clockwise)

We’re going to use pattern 1 to keep track of which major key is next (clockwise) to work out each relative minor key.

A relative key shares the same number of sharps or flats or non at all.

The pattern from major to minor is a semitone and a tone.

Relative minor keys with Flats (anticlockwise)

As with sharps, relative minor keys with flats is the same process which is also a semitone and then a tone difference.

The order of sharps and flats per key

Patten 5

To memorise the order of sharps and flats is easy on the guitar. The sentence that I teach everybody is Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle.

We can use the same sentence to remember the order of sharps (left to right) and the same sentence to remember the order of flats. Forward for sharps, backwards for flats.

  • F# C# G# D# A# E# B#

  • Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb

Circle of Fifths alternative

Circle of Fifths (Alternative)


Are you confused by the Circle of Fifths? This PDF might make understanding how many sharps and flats there are per major and minor easier

Category: music theory