The Circle Of Fifths

by Karl Hitzemann

Which key has four sharps? What's the one with two flats? And which one has seven sharps?! There is certainly a lot to remember when it comes to knowing the sharps and flats that are in the key signatures of twelve different keys. Not that your students will necessarily be reading music in the key of B major or D-flat major in the near future, but once they understand the concept, it's kind of neat to be able to identify keys at a glance. By using the circle of fifths, it's really easy to see that it is simply a pattern. This is just the tip of the iceberg that is music theory, of course. For instance, you could also point out that the keys B and C flat, G flat and F sharp, and D flat and C sharp are "enharmonic equivalents," meaning that they sound exactly the same, but have different key signatures. Also, if you start the circle with the key of A minor, you can go around the circle adding the same sharps or flats and name all of the relative minor keys.

Our song is very simple and meant to be a very basic introduction to the world of music theory. If nothing else, it will help your students have an understanding of how key signatures work.

The song starts with the chorus, which is sung three times, and has two verses. One verse explains that you add sharps to the key signature when you go clockwise around the circle. The other verse shows that when you go counterclockwise, you are adding flats. At the end of each verse, the singers shout out the names of the keys in order as each sharp (C, G, D, A, E, B, F sharp, C sharp) or flat (C, F, B flat, E flat, A flat, D flat, G flat, C flat) is added.

Once your students get to know the song, you could have a simple quiz to test their newfound knowledge. Ask which key signature has four sharps, or five flats, or no sharps or flats, and so on. If they know the lyrics well, they should be able to come up with the right answer. There are also several devices available for learning and memorizing which sharps and flats are in specific keys, but we'll cover that another time.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.