A Thing About Fifths

So while we’re thinking about fifths, the distance between doh and soh, here’s something that’s kind of neat.

Take a C-note and go up a fifth, that’d be a G-note

G up a fifth is D

D up a fifth is A

A up a fifth is E

E up a fifth is B

In each case we’re taking the first note and going up five notes of a scale.  It’s actually 3-and-a-half tones, but who’s counting.  Let’s keep going with the same pattern, we were at a B-note.

B up a fifth is F-sharp.  (If you like you can figure it out by first counting 5 letters up, and remembering that music always start on 1, not zero, from B that’d be B, C, D, E, F.  So you know it’s an F-something, you figure out whether it’s sharp or flat or just normal (actually they call it ‘natural’ when the note has no sharps or flats to go with it, you knew that, right) by counting up 3-and-a-half tones, in this case from B.  You remember that there is no sharp or flat between a B-note and the C-note just above it.  So from B to C is the smallest step we make, that’s a semi-tone.  C up to D is a tone (there’s a note in between them unlike B and C), and from D up to E is another tone.  So we’ve moved 2-and-a-half tones up from our original B so far.  The 5th (soh) is 3-and-a-half tones, so we’ve got another full tone to go.  We’re on E, and we remember that the only other place where there’s no sharp or flat in between is from E to F.  So if we need one more full tone that F-note is actually going to have to be a semi-tone higher.  That make it an F-sharp, 5 letter names up from B, and 3-and-a-half tones in measurement.  Actually the first five notes of a doh, re, mi starting on a B-note would be B, C-sharp, D-sharp, E, F-sharp, I’ll show you how you figure that later.  For now let’s just focus on how B up a 5th is F-sharp.

Okay, so let’s continue where we left off.  I’ll do the counting, but feel free to check my work.

B up a fifth is F-sharp

F-sharp up a fifth is C-sharp

C-sharp up a fifth is G-sharp

G-sharp up a fifth is D-sharp

D-sharp is the same note as E-flat, so let’s count up from there

E-flat up a fifth is B-flat

B-flat up a fifth is F

F up a fifth is a C-note

Which is where we started.  And part of what’s cool about that is not only did we end up where we started, with a C-note, but we went through every one of the notes, all the letter names and all the sharps and flats in between, exactly once each before we got back to the beginning.  Works the same no matter where you start, of course.

Part of what’s neat about music is there are patterns everywhere, patterns in time, patterns in pitch, patterns in the relationships between chords.  Patterns everywhere.  Look there’s one now.  This particular one has a name.  It’s called The Circle of Fifths.  I don’t think of it that way, myself.  It’s just that really cool pattern.  But what do I know.

Mess around with it.  See what it says to you.