What is the circle of fifths?

To make changing chords easy, ChordBank arranges chords in what is called the “Circle of Fifths”.

Basically, this means that, as you move clockwise, each key is a perfect fifth away from the one immediately following it.

What’s a perfect fifth?

And why does it matter? Good question!

If you look at the keys on a piano keyboard, for example:


Start at the letter C and count up five keys. These are the first five steps of the major scale. C, D, E, F, and, finally, G:

The fifth note in C’s major scale is G.

This relationship of fifths turns out to be very important in music. Chords that are a fifth apart work tend to work really well together.

And it works both ways, too. Let’s keep going, counting up another five steps from G:

And we land on D. The notes G, C, and D work extremely well together. Like, thousands and thousands of songs have been written with just those three chords.

And that same relationship doesn’t just work with G, C, and D. It also works with any three chords, each a fifth apart.

Pick any three:

G, C, and D. C, F and G. D, G, and A.

The backbone of just about any song you’re learning is right there on the circle.

So that’s why we put those notes in a circle—so they fit right into the songs you’re trying to play, or the chords you’re trying to practice.

Look to your left. Look to your right. You’ll find something that sounds and plays great.