• Here’s another interesting way to look at major scales

    in Chords & Progressions

    By now, you should know your major scales. If you don’t, there’s plenty of lessons on here to get you up to speed.

    But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

    I want to talk about an entirely different way to look at scales. A way that will help you to learn and understand chord progressions a lot faster! (Isn’t that what we all want? chord progressions create SONGS!)

    Don’t get me wrong… scales are great. I’m a great advocate of learning scales in the beginning.

    I just don’t like when people get wrapped up into playing them just to “warm up” (and stuff like that). I think they are much more important than that.

    They define the major keys you’ll play in. Understanding them is the key to playing smoothly in all 12 keys.

    So I want to give you the “CIRCULAR” way to understand major scales. Yes, “circular!”

    By now, you know that I’m infatuated by the circle of fifths. I think it’s a wonderful way to teach music. I think it cuts through all the baloney and if you really understand it, you can get really far… really quickly.

    Take the C major scale for example:

    C D E F G A B C
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1

    Here’s how you would look at it circularly:

    C major (circularly)

    B E A D G C F
    7 3 6 2 5 1 4

    I bet you’ve never seen the C major scale like that before.

    And the thing is…

    All the notes that would normally be in the scale are represented. Nothing has changed in that regard. Just the order of notes. We’ve rearranged them into a different pattern.

    A pattern you’ll run across time and time again in song after song (if you haven’t already).

    And this, my friend, is the secret.

    Think about songs you’ve played in the key of C major.

    Did they move from keynote to keynote like this: C D E F G A B C?

    Or did you see a lot of chords flowing like this: “D – G – C” or “C – F” or “G – C – F” or “A – D – G” or “E – A – D – G.”

    And notice, I got those all from the circular scale above.

    This is how music flows.

    So to understand the pattern, “7 – 3 – 6 – 2 – 5 – 1 – 4” is extremely important. In fact, there are entire songs that use this whole stretch of tones, all in a row.

    For now, just ponder this. Try to learn this order of things in all 12 keys.

    Hint: Soon you’ll find much overlap. In other words, the order you see here will NEVER change in another key. If the new key you’re learning has a “B” in it, for example, it will always be followed by an “E.”

    That is the cool thing… you don’t have to learn all 12 keys from scratch… as long as you start getting the pattern.

    This will be key to playing REAL chord progressions in ALL 12 keys… in REAL songs!

    Until next time —

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.



    { 20 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 michael

    Ive never noticed it that way before!!


    2 Laketa

    Thanks Again Jermaine… You have a gift of breaking down material where a kindergartener can comprehend it. This is real good stuff… I tell you it is..got me thinking outside the box… You Go Man!


    3 GospelSong

    The “circular” concept of the major scales is a very good method for learning chord progression. This is one of my challenges for 2009: Learn the “Circular” chord progression for all 12 keys. I can then realistically see my fears diminishing for those keys most difficult for me.

    Thanks, Jermaine, for your Blog Posts. They provide answers and solutions to a musician’s handicaps. God bless you and yours.


    4 DPT

    JG, you continue to outdo yourself. This is good stuff. Can’t wait to apply it. Thank you so very much.


    5 Lida

    Hi Jermaine. I do not understand how this work. Would you mind explaining this further. Thank you so much.


    6 chawk

    Let me see if I understand this.

    If I use the G major scale
    G=1, A=2, B=3, C=4, D=5, E=6, F#=7, G=1

    If I use the 7-3-6-2-5-1-4 that would be

    F#=7, B=3, E=6, A=2, D=5, G=1, C=4
    I do notice the B, and E together. (the acid test):)

    So the chord progression could be either of these, like the 736 chord progression, or the 251 chord progression, etc.

    Very good blog!


    7 Janice

    Finally, I’m beginning to appreciate the circle of fifths. Yes, it is making sense. Well worth learning!





    9 Eresmas

    Great lesson. I saw somewhere that BEADGCF is also the order in which flats appear in music. This is applied mostly in sheet music for those who can read sheet music and can help you to easily identify the key of a song if it has flats. For sharps, you just spell it backwards; FCGDAEB and you find the order in which the sharps fall.

    By the way, happy new year! I’ve been away for a long time and i am happy to be back. I missed the blog!


    10 Apkan

    I really love what you are doing, it really helps me a lot on my piano, now i can play for my church, thanks and God bless you.


    11 Musallio

    Nice & yet another simple, but revolutionary way of looking at them..

    I love it.


    12 Brian

    I really love how you’re demystifying music into patterns that we can use and hear everywhere…Many musicians seem to hold on to their knowledge but yours share it freely…Thank you!


    13 Laney

    Dear Jermaine
    Wow! I understand the concept, however, what is the practical application? I teach my students to play and practice their scales in the “7 – 3 – 6 – 2 – 5 – 1 – 4″ pattern or the cycle of 5ths pattern and the regular pattern? If so, any suggested fingering? How many octaves to practise? 2… ?


    14 Jermaine

    It’s not necessarily the scale that you’d practice but common chords associated with those notes. Once mastered, you take it to a new key.

    You could go from:

    Bdim to Emin to Amin to Dmin to Gmaj to Cmaj to Fmaj (using the inversions that require the least amount of movement between chords).

    Then when comfortable, add 7ths:

    Bhalfdim7 > Emin7 to Amin7 > to Dmin7 > to G7 > Cmaj7 > Fmaj7 (using same inversion requirement)

    Then when comfortable, add secondary dominants:

    Bhalfdim7 > E7 > A7 >D7 > G7 > Cmaj7 > Fmaj7

    Most importantly, the student is engraining this common movement in their head. An overwhelming amount of songs will flow in this same way. If they learn these movements in every key (which will start to overlap… example: these are the keynotes of F as well, if you remove the first “B” and add “Bb” to the end).

    All the best,


    15 tal

    dear Jermaine , please explain to me : why the order of the pattern numbers is :
    7,3,6,2,5,1,4 – – – if you were saying that music flows left on the circle ,
    and that brings me to the F first if we are in C scale , so : 4,7,3,6,2,5,1

    i must know this .
    thanks :-)


    16 Jermaine

    Hi Tal,

    Yes it flows COUNTER CLOCKWISE. That isn’t always left. Just think of it as the opposite from which a normal clock works.

    So when you look at it that way, B is going to E, E is going to A, A is going to D, D is going to G, G is goign to C (the key we’re in) and C goes to F. That is 7-3-6-2-5-1-4.


    17 tal

    thanks for the answer,but my point is that when i go counter clockwise the F is the first ,then i have the B going to E going to A and etc.
    so, if the pattern is a rule – im ok with that .
    i hope u get my point.


    18 Jabari

    Hello Sir,

    Thank you for explaining the Circle of Fifths to me, I needed clarification and no I have never seen the C Major Scale like that (B,E,A,D,G,C,F). I understand all of the different chords but I would like to know how to “connect” the chords into a melody and I am guessing the explanation is applicable for any chord progression. What are ways I could use individual keys and possibly chords to create a unique melody?


    19 Zedri

    You are an awesome teacher!! This video was very helpful. Thank you for sharing!!


    20 Cornell Fram

    Some really nice and useful information on this website, as well I think the style has got great features.


    Leave a Comment

    Previous post:

    Next post: