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Music Theory Graphics: Scales, Keys and Modes on the Circle of Fifths #MusicMonday

Music, like math, communicates across time, culture, and language. Also like math, the invisible intricacies of music can be made clear through graphics. A lot of math make little sense to some students until it’s transformed into geometry. Likewise, the mysterious world of the circle of 5ths (and therefore key signatures) finds wonderful expression in these teaching images from Ethan Hein.

From Ethan Hein’s blog:

If you want to understand Western music theory, the circle of fifths is an invaluable tool. For one thing, it can help you understand how key signatures work. But it also helps explain why the major scale and diatonic modes relate to each other, and gives a possible explanation for why they sound good.

This kind of circular representation is called a scale necklace (or sometimes scale bracelet). It’s easy to transform the major scale into its parallel modes by adding and removing notes from the ends of the necklace. For example, to change the C major scale into C Lydian mode, you remove the F, the furthest counterclockwise end of the necklace, and replace it with F-sharp, adding it onto the furthest clockwise end of the necklace.

See and hear more!

Ethan Hein


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