Fig. 2 has us zigzagging CW between
major triads (represented by the letters on the
outside of the circle) and minor triads (shown
inside the circle). In this triad-mapping
exercise, we’re playing only eight chords, but
if you continue around the wheel until you
reach your starting point, you’ll hit 12 chords.
By staying on one string set—as we’ve done
here—you’re forced to move up and down the
fretboard as you navigate the wheel. Great,
that’s one type of workout. Another excellent
option is to restrict yourself to a five-fret location and find the triads on a variety of string
sets. Both approaches force you to think about
triad inversions, and that’s the point.
Fig. 3 is all about stacking fifths to create quintal harmony—a cool, impressionistic
sound. If you scrutinize the notation, you’ll see
that each note is located one CW “click” from
its predecessor. Play slowly and observe the
let ring markings to create three-note quintal
voicings: C–G–D, A–E–B, G%–D%–A%, and
E%–B%–F. Once again, you can generate variations by simply starting on a note other than C.
For a real brainteaser, try Fig. 4. Starting
on B%, we’re moving CCW in fourths, mixing arpeggios (composed of single notes
spaced a fourth apart) with four-note quartal clusters and fourth intervals. Whether
we’re plucking notes one at a time (as in the
arpeggios and intervals) or in a cluster (the
half-note voicings), every note is spaced one
click away from its immediate neighbors.
All 12 notes of the Western
music system are arrayed
outside the Circle of Fourths
and Fifths. Traveling counterclockwise, each note is a
perfect fourth from its predecessor. Moving clockwise,
the notes are separated by a
perfect fifth. Use the letters
outside the circle to represent
major chords, and you’ll find
their respective relative minors
located inside the circle.
By the time you’ve reached the end of this
exercise, you will have crawled CCW two-and-a-half times around the wheel.
Compared to typical songs with their
keys and diatonic chords, an exercise
like this can sound alien. But it’s good
to stretch your ears in the privacy of a
practice session. (And if you like this edgy
sound, be sure to check out these Rhythm
& Grooves lessons on premierguitar.com:
“Exploring Quartal Harmony,” April 2011;
“Crazy Quartal Comping,” May 2011; and
“Stealth Quartal Colors,” June 2011.)
If you put your mind to it, there are virtually endless ways to use the cycle chart as
Circle of Fourths & Fifths
a practice tool. For instance, take any scale
you know and play it CW or CCW around
the wheel. As you work through each scale,
name every note out loud. Another idea:
Take your favorite blues licks and move
them around the wheel. You’ll have to
change octaves in the process, but exploring a familiar pattern in a new register is
an excellent way to expand your improvisational bag of tricks.
The cycle chart is a demanding mistress—perfect for generating ideas that force
you into unfamiliar areas of the fretboard.
What are the odds you’d do this on your
own? Have fun spinning the wheel!
¿ let ring
¿ let ring
oeb oeb oeb
oeb oeb oe
¿ let ring
oe b oe b oe b oe b ˙˙˙˙ nnn#
oe oeoeoeoeoeoeoen oe b oe b oe b oe b oe oe n