Cycle 5 The Key to Musical Success

Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo Pitch Class Set Improvisation Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-18 sight reading recommendation Applying Rhythm Ideas Cycle 5

Practicing Cycle 5

Today I am presenting a discussion about the importance of Cycle 5 practice when learning music.  For those of you who don’t know what Cycle 5 is, here is a brief description.  Playing a musical exercise Cycle 5 means you play the exercise in all 12 keys.  You organize these 12 keys by moving up or down a 5th – which is 7 half steps – each time you play the exercise.    

Example of Cycle Five

For example if you move up a 5th from the key of “C” you would have the key of “G.”  You would then play your exercise in the key of “G.”  If you continue this process you get the following sequence of key centers C, G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#, Ab, Eb, Bb, F.  Working through ascending 5ths is more of a classically based way of approaching Cycle 5.  This is mostly because of the sonata allegro form which arose in the early classical period.

Contemporary Approach to Cycle 5

Many of these innovations such as Cycle 5 were codified from that time on.   Jazz and any contemporary music tends to move down a 5th.  Think of a blues in “C.” it starts on “C” then goes down a 5th to “F.”  So contemporary musicians tend to think of Cycle 5 as C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D, G.  You will find many Muse Eek Publishing Courses organized in this descending 5th order.    

How I Learned Cycle Five

When I attending Berklee College of Music some courses and ideas were organized via descending cycle 5 but it wasn’t till I started studying with Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos that everything I learned had to be played Cycle 5, period.  If you can’t play it in Cycle 5 you don’t know it.  It makes sense; you don’t know what key you will be presented with in every new piece of music you learn, so to be prepared you need to know everything in every key.    

History of Cycle 5

You may wonder where Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos came up with this idea of playing everything Cycle Five.  To grasp this particular music education history you need to look at the music genealogy of Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos studied with Madame Chaloff who studied with I. Vengerova who studied with Czerny who studied with L. van Beethoven etc… To see the complete list go here.  My point is you are studying various courses that I’ve created based on the teachings of my teachers.  But really you are studying the same way and the same things as L. van Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart – the list goes on and on.    


So one of the things that all of these musicians/teachers recommended was to apply the things you learn to all keys and to use the information in a real musical situation either through improvising or writing music. Some of Bach’s most famous music is written in all keys…and surely he knew something about music!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-Cycle 5

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

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