Mark Cally
Mark Cally

Playing Around The Cycle of 5ths


We will be studying four simple motifs that can be used to move around the cycle of 5ths. Each motif starts on the 3rd of the chord and ends on the 7th.


When moving around the cycle of fifths a common movement is to resolve the 7th of one chord into the 3rd of the next chord. These lines show variations on how to do this.

The 4 Motifs

Learning Context

Notice how each example begins on the 3rd of G7 (B) and ends on the 7th of G7 (F). The F note then resolves to the 3rd of the C chord (E). These four variations give us different ways we can move through the G7 chord before resolving perfectly into the C chord.


Notice two of the examples move to the 7th higher than the 3rd, and two resolve lwer than the 3rd.


Practice these 4 motifs in different keys and in different places on the neck.

II-V-I Exercises

We can extend these motifs into II-V-I exercises. First lets use a dominant 7th as the II chord as well as the V chord.

Learning Context

These four examples use the four motifs both for the D7 and the G7 pairing them in ways that allow a smooth line. There are many more variations that are possible when pairing the motifs. The exercises above are only an example.


1. Play all four examples in various positions on the neck.

2. Play all four examples in different keys.

3. Explore more variations pairing the 4 motifs in different ways.

Going around the cycle

We can extend this example to move dominant 7th chords all the way around the cycle of 5ths. Below is an example of this.


Play through this exercise until it starts to flow smoothly. After you have mastered this, try inventing your own movement aroudn the cycle of 5thds using various combinations of the 4 motifs.

Altering the motifs

Once you have mastered the 4 motifs and feel comfortable moving them around the cycle of 5ths, we can now look at altering them to provide different chord types.

The minor 7th chord

We can change the motifs into minor 7th chords by lowering the 3rd (which is always the first note of the exercise). Below is the previous II-V-I exercise with the D7 changed to Dmi7.

The 7(-9) Chord

We can also change the 7th chord into a 7(b9) whenever the natural 9th appears in our line. This happens in two fo the four motifs.

Notice how the b9 gives a more minor sounding approach to the progression. This is very common in jazz improvisation.

The minor 7th(-5) chord

Finally we can flatten the 5th of our minor chord to providea minor version of the II-V-I. Notice the 9th is also flattened on the mi7(b5) chord in these examples.

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