Remember that music is built around some simple mathematical
concepts, including 12 notes, counting rhythms,etc.. We can also use geometric
patterns and structures to express musical ideas and concepts. (Don't worry, we
won't get to trigonometry, ever.)
There are several ways circles can be used to help
understand musical concepts. A common circle is the "Circle of Fifths,"
often mentioned in guitar books, and which we'll look at in a different section.
But first, let's just build a simple chromatic circle.
The notes start with A at the top and proceed clockwise around the circle.
Circle with natural notes only.
Note gaps where the sharps and flats should go. There is no sharp or flat in
two places, as we've discussed elsewhere.
Add sharps and flats to the circle. Now all notes in the
chromatic scale are shown
Versus Circular. You should try to understand both linear and circular ways
of looking at the chromatic scale. Both are important to learning the scale.
The linear method is consistent with the linear organization of a guitar fretboard or a
piano keyboard. But the circular model helps us see everthing quickly, and we also
see that the notes keep "cycling" around the circle. As the notes cycle to
the right, the pitch increases -- higher octaves; to the left, it decreases into lower
The visual is very powerful. Compare the
two below. Which is easier for you to follow?
Click here for the printable Chromatic
Scale Circle shown below.