Joel Mabus Wheel Of Fifths
A tool for transposing, finding keys and modes,
and generally understanding harmonic structure
There are two wheels above — the outer wheel is what is usually called the
“Circle of Fifths” because as you move clockwise the next musical note is
one fifth above the last. (It is sometimes called the “circle of fourths”
because moving counterclockwise, each note is a fourth above the last.) The
inner wheel shows the relationship of the notes to any given root, or keynote
(Roman numeral I). As printed, the wheels are fixed so that the root is ‘C’
Note that the diatonic scale notes are all adjacent (F to B) and marked with
roman numerals. The pentatonic scale notes are adjacent (C to E) and marked with
a crosshatch near the hub. The five accidentals are all adjacent and shaded (Gb
to Bb) with their most common names given.
The number of sharps or flats in each major scale is given above and to the
right of each letter name. Common enharmonic names are given below the note.
Within the diatonic scale, the names of the seven “church modes” are given
— when the modal scale begins on that given note the key takes that name. For
example, “C major” has the same notes as “D Dorian” or “G Mixolydian”
or “A minor.” As a chord finder, the most common chords used within the key
also lie close to one another (e.g. IV & V to either side of the I chord).
Also the natural extension of each diatonic chord is given. (M=major, m=minor,
To use these wheels as a transposer or note-finder, the inner wheel must
rotate so that another key can be selected. You must assemble it as two wheels
which move freely: Make TWO photocopies or printouts of this page (or the wheel
above, a gif file). From the
first copy cut the entire wheel. From the other copy, cut out only the inner
wheel. Then you can pin the two wheels together with a clasp through the center
point, or for more durable use, mount each wheel on a disc of cardboard and then
pin them together with a clasp or brad. Save this original as a master in case
you need to do-over.
NOTE: arranging the musical alphabet in fifths and placing them in a circle
is nothing new. However, the graphic on this page and the arrangement of the
inner wheel is a new creation I have developed over the past few years. It
is my work and is copyrighted. I offer it here to my students, whether in
class or online, free of charge. But any attempt to publish this graphic,
or modify it for purposes of gain will be considered a breach of copyright law
and the perpetrators will be prosecuted.
© 2003 2004 Joel Mabus