Wayland Middle School Bands --> Scales --> Circle of Fifths
circle of fifths
order of flats
order of sharps

As we go around the circle of fifths in a clockwise fashion, the key signatures advance by an interval of a fifth:  C-D-E-F-G,  C-G is a fifth.  G-D is a fifth, D-A is a fifth, etc.  Also as we advance clockwise, the key signatures add one sharp.  The key of G is one sharp, F#.  The key of D is two sharps, F&C, etc.  BUT... when we get to the key of B, it’s fingerings are the same as the key with 7 flats, Cb.  F# & Gb are fingered the same and Db & C# are fingered the same.  So when we hit the flat keys and continue clockwise around the circle, each key loses a flat until we arrive back at the key of C. 

When you play the scales around the circle, you can go in either direction (clockwise starting with sharp keys or counter-clockwise starting with flat keys).  When you get to the three scales that can be thought in either flats or sharps, play them only once, thinking them either with flats or with sharps.

You know what is really weird?  Music wasn't planned this way, it just happened!  People heard the major scale sound in their heads, liked it and used it.  Then discovered that when you had an octave sound divided into 12 tones (the chromatic scale), the major scale could be written out in a particular half step / whole step formula.  To get that to happen (that is, to get the sound you wanted to fit with the way music writing was developing) you used a particular set of sharps or flats to make the correct sound pattern.  So, that desire for the sounds you wanted to be written down, dictated the flow of the sharps and flats and the circle of fifths, rather than the circle of fifths being scientifically developed and then the music fit into its theory!

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