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Circle Of Fifths: An Introduction

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So how is the circle of fifths actually used in music?

Although the circle of fifths is very common in Baroque and Classical music, it is also used in popular music. From popular songs, to jazz standards and neo-classical rock, the Circle of Fifths gets put into actual practice quite often!

In popular music, the Beatles song "Yesterday" opens with and shows the power of the secondary dominant chord (and as a result the idea of the circle of fifths, or cycle five motion).

"Yesterday ..." G (I)
"all my ..." F# min (ii of vi)
"troubles seemed so ..." B7 (V of vi)
"far away ..." E min (vi)

This motion of F# - B - E (a small slice of cycle five) adds so much depth to the piece. Try it without the two modulatory chords. Try simply G to E min; I --> vi and you will immediately hear how much more richness, detail and beautiful depth the inclusion of the modulation via the cycle five motion adds.

In fact any song that has a secondary dominant is using a small slice of the circle of fifths!

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