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Lessons 4 - The Circle of Fourths

The circle of fourths is very important in jazz.  

 

Lots of jazz progressions move root note to root note in circles of fourths.

 

It's also a great practice tool  for nailing whatever you've just learnt in all 12 keys.

 

You'll see in the Guitar SightReader Toolbox metronome's Bass Movement that this can play a bass note using the circle of fourths as well as 11 cycles that will take you through all 12 keys.

 

Fortunately, it's really easy to learn!

 

It goes:  C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D, G (and then back to C).

 

Let's do it like this:

 

Circle of Fourths                                      (it starts with C and then F)

 

Bb,  Eb,  Ab,  Db,            Gb                   (the word 'BEAD" and G all in flats)

 

B,    E,    A,    D,               G                    (the word 'BEAD" and G)

 

So, say if you have a G7 sitting by itself in a bar, you can use method called compression by sticking a minor chord on note before the G7 before it...

 

[ G7                  ]     becomes     [Dm7        G7        ]  - this adds more movement.

 

Infact, the most used progression in Jazz; the II-V-I (Dm7-G7-Cmaj7) moves in the circle of fourths.

 

[Dm7          |G7b9           |Cmaj7          |Cmaj7              ]

 

About the G7b9 (why?).  A pure G7 is rarely used because it doesn't go out of the key in Cmaj7 (C major scale) and therefore sounds a little bland.  

 

Practical : Learn the circle of fourths well.  Recite it to yourself 4 times tonight before you go to bed tonight (from memory).  You are going to take each bar that you put together in your blues piece (Lesson 3) and play it in all 12 keys by taking the chord above it through that cycle!)