Piano students can become Lords of the Keyboard by learning to command the Circle of Perfect 5ths. A perfect 5th is an interval of 7 half-steps. A half-step on the piano keyboard is from one key very next key. The Circle of 5ths begins on C. Ascending up the keyboard from Middle C in 5ths we find Major Key Signatures from 0 to 6 Sharps. Descending down the keyboard from Middle C we locate Major Key Signatures from 0 to 7 Flats. It is a circle because the consecutive order of perfect 5ths repeats itself. Each of the 12 Major (and Minor Keys) are built on a note that is in the Circle of 5ths.
In any Major or Minor Key Signature there is one Tonic note, one Dominant note, one Subdominant note and their corresponding chords. We call these primary chords I, V, and IV.
Take the simple melody, Deck the Halls, lots of kids enjoy playing this piece of the holidays, usually in the key of C. By the second year of piano many students are able to play in a number of hand positions and thus could probably transpose this melody others keys such as F Major and G Major. But the fun part of transposition is in creating a smooth transition from one key to the next without stopping the song and starting over.
Following the Circle of 5th students can learn to quickly identify the Dominant note in each key and the Dominant Chord. By walking the melody to the Dominant note of the new key and then to its Leading Tone and Tonic note, the melody quickly arrives in a new key that sounds like the same song, but in a new voice. This variation of the melody adds interest to compositions and gives students a fun and motivating reason to learn to play in new key signatures. The variation can return to the original key in the same way.
In this way piano students can Scale the heights of Piano Land fighting evil and seeking goodness in every key around the Circle of 5ths, and always find their way back home again!
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