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Understanding The Circle of 5ths (i.e.: “What Key Is This Song In?”)



If you’ve been around music long enough, you’ve probably seen or heard of the “Circle of 5ths”. If you haven’t, you may still routinely wonder what key a song is in based on the key signature of a song. Hopefully in less than 3 minutes…we will answer both questions.

Take a look at the above graphic – called the “Circle of 5ths”. On the outside are your major keys. On the inside are minor keys. Here is your first bit of valuable info. Want to play “Grace Like Rain” with Mighty To Save? Find your key you wish to play “Mighty To Save” in (major) and then see what key you need to play “Grace Like Rain” (a minor song) in the related minor range to have the songs flow right in to each other!

Now let’s move on…

Let’s look at key signatures of a song. The key of “C” has no sharps and flats. Moving clockwise around the circle are the sharps. Moving counterclockwise are the flats. If your key signature on your sheet music shows two sharps (F# and C#) then we move two spaces clockwise on the circle. (1…G, 1…D) We see that we are playing in the key of D major (or b minor). Got three flats (Bb, Eb, Ab)? Moving three spots counterclockwise reveals that we are in E flat major.

Hopefully this takes a little mystery out of the Circle of 5ths. Try memorizing the Circle sometime. See if it doesnt help you learn song keys!

Got any tips to share on what has helped you in music? Share them below in the comments!