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Jazz Piano - What is the Circle of Fourths?
The Circle of Fourths is a very important musical pattern that is extremely powerful and useful when learning how to modulate keys, transpose, compose, memorize chord progressions, resolve tension release patterns and much more.
It's simple to move around the circle of fourths once you know the order of the keys.
In fact, this is much easier to learn than most traditional teachers think it is.
More importantly it is far easier to master than they would have you believe it is.
That is simply because for years they were raised on the circle of 5ths (Reverse) mainly to just memorize scales and keys.
(Side note) The Cool Piano Teacher provides a far easier and more practical way to memorize all major scales in minutes rather than years using kinesthetic shapes in the hands rather than numerical values in the brain.
It is these shapes that allow jazz pianists to seamlessly and instantly weave between beautiful lines and progressions shifting keys and scales when improvising and re-harmonizing tunes.
Unlike the circle of 5ths the circle of 4ths is based upon the natural gravitational pull of harmony from the V7 (Dominant) chord to the I (Major 7).
It is the most common pattern used in Western harmony so therefore far more practical in functional application to the creative musician.
(Back to circle of 4ths pattern) Unlike what is both thought & taught traditionally it requires only minimal practice for the circle of 4ths pattern to become second nature.
In fact I will teach it to you right now using the diagram above I created and it will take you only seconds to memorize.
Here we go. Looking at the diagram Say out loud and memorize the red colored C & F.
Good, next what word is created by the blue flatted letters? They spell out a blue colored BEAD. Now include the flats so you get actually get black piano keys Bb-Eb-Ab-Db.
Now what follows the flatted blue bead? A Green G (with flat) making it the black piano key Gb, enharmonically known as F#.
Finally we have another blue bead without flats. White colored piano keys only B-E-A-D followed by another white piano key Green G without the flat.
So now let's quickly review the entire circle of 4ths.
(Blue bead flatted) Bb-Eb-Ab-Db
(Green G flatted) Gb also known as F#
Another (Blue bead) without flats B-E-A-D
and finally another (Green G but without the flat) just G
Now close your eyes and recite out loud the entire circle of 4ths using the imagery provided.
The first half of this circle going from the F to the Gb at the bottom is referred to as the flatted keys with flats in the key signature
The second half going backwards from the G to the F# at the bottom consists of the sharp keys with sharps in the key signature.
Pretty easy huh? So the next time a classical teacher tries to convince you that the circle of 4ths is far more complex to learn than it seems, charge them $100 and teach them how it's done.
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