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Scales and Modes with Joshua Barnhart – Circle of Fifths


Scales and Modes with Joshua Barnhart – Circle of Fifths

Welcome. Hope no one has P.T.S.D. from N.A.M.M.

Bad jokes aside this time we’re going to run circles around the circle of 5ths. The circle of fifths works in 2 directions. Clockwise, shows us the progress of keys if you naturalize flats or add sharps. Counter-Clockwise, shows us the progression of keys if you were to naturalize sharps and add flats. Berklee tends to refer to these two circles as the circle of 5ths, and the circle of resolving dominants… bleh. Or an easier name the circle of 4ths.


Anyways it looks like this:

So here is the idea. We’re going to use this as our template, run through all of our exercises we’ve gone through in the past lessons, and apply it here as a way to get used to playing chord changes. Firstly let me say this can be done with any scale, any exercise, any arpeggio or any permutation you can think of. I’m just going to teach you the concept, and you can plug and play however you want.

This work out has great benefits if you do it the right way. Get a metronome. Put it at a tempo you’d be comfortable thinking ahead. Grab your C major, 3rd fret A string. With quarter notes play up the scale giving the top octave 2 quarter notes. That should be 4 bars of C major. Now we move on to G Major. Do the same thing. Keep moving till you reach F# and move on to Db, and keep going till your land on C again. Like I said any scale could replace this Major scale, you can go either direction, or use any exercise you want once you get the concept under you fingers.

If we were to approach the circle with a triad, then with the metronome, use the chord tones as quarter notes doubling the top octave. At this point we’d only need 2 bars to complete the exercise. You can run this either way around the circle you’d like. Now here is where this gets interesting, and my interesting I mean psychotic. If you use one of exercises we’ve talk about. Like approaching each note of the triad with 5ths from below and above you can get really creative. So if we were to use 8th notes in our 2 bar phrase it would look something like this.

And then move on the next key depending on the direction you’re moving.

Not only will this help you learn to walk key changes, but solo them as well. Try doing with with 7th arpeggios moving from the closest chord tone on each key change. Keep in mind you can mix this up any way you see fit. If you have troubles with shifting, try doing this on 1 string and 1 finger per fret, and see how much better you fretboard vision will get. If you don’t know your other modes well enough on their own, just imagine how much better you’ll be after you play them in all 12 keys with a few exercises thrown in. This is a great tool that should keep you busy for years to come. It’s a great default work out for timing, learning new scales, and key changes.

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