# How common is the complete circle of fifths progression?

A complete circle of fifths progression would go (I)-IV-VII-III-VI-II-V-I, and it's taught that way in textbooks, but it seems to be rare in actual music. Could you give me any examples of songs that use a complete 4-7-3-6-2-5-1 progression consecutively (i.e. not 7-3-6 somewhere here and 2-5-1 somewhere over there and 1-4 some more bars after, but 7 chords straight). I heard gospel music uses this sometimes, but i was told that the "7" here is not always a diminished chord- they use an altered chord instead?

Edit: The purpose of this question is to learn patterns, including chord progressions from examples in existing songs and music, not for identifying any specific song.

• This is a very specific thing to be looking for! Can I ask why you're looking for this, and where this particular progression has come from? Maybe we can then generalise your question a little. – Chris Jan 23 '15 at 12:01
• I am learning to compose songs and i love to try out some theory that i have just learned. So when i learned the 2-5-1 chord progression for example, I'll try to write a song that would use it. i am also learning how to play the piano and always looking forward to practicing new licks/ chord progressions every time. – mey Jan 23 '15 at 13:08
• i have seen lots of songs with a 6-2-5-1 chord progression and some with 3-6-2-5-1, but not sure if there is one with a full circle progression. – mey Jan 23 '15 at 13:11
• This is called a descending circle-of-fifths progression. A good example is Chopin's Nocturne in C minor, Op. 41, No. 1, mm. 17-24. There is a complete circle-of-fifths progression ending in a deceptive cadence (to VI, A flat, instead of i, C minor). – musarithmia Jan 23 '15 at 16:24
• I would suggest rewording the question to be about circle of fifths progressions in general. Often times a good answer will include examples. I think the reason this question is currently on hold is due to the question specifically asking for an example instead of the progression itself and its uses/analysis. – Basstickler Jan 23 '15 at 16:54

I'm not sure if you're interested in classical examples, but this kind of thing happens all the time in Baroque music, almost to the point of being ubiquitous. One quick example that pops to mind is this section from Brandenburg Concerto #2. Start the passage right at (or slightly before) 2:00 (apparently SE doesn't honor t=### tags in youtube links). This section is in D minor, and the chord progression is:

Dm - Gm7 - C7 - FM7 - B♭M7 - Em7 - A7 - Dm

which is equivalent to: i - iv - VII - III - VI - ii - V - i.

The best way to see this is to look at the bass line (bottom two staves on the right side of the screen). The chord changes every half-measure, and the first bass note of each half-measure is the chord root. The left-hand side of the screen is the soloist instruments: a trumpet in F (you need to transpose the written pitch up a fourth), a recorder, an oboe, and a violin.

Especially in minor you'll find this progression quite often, actually so often that it has become a cliché which many people try to avoid. One example of this progression (in minor) is "Still Got The Blues" by Gary Moore (in A minor, so it starts on the D minor chord). The II chord (which would be the VII chord of the relative major key) is a half-diminished chord in this case: Bm7(b5)

EDIT: One more famous example (which I just remembered because I saw it on one of my setlists): "I will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor!

• Thanks Matt ☺ it seems funny to me how people are trying to avoid it because it comes out too often, while they keep on using the more ubiquitous 2-5-1 progression :) – mey Jan 23 '15 at 13:16
• The II-V-I progression is a basic way to harmonize a tonal center (the Jazz equivalent to a IV-V-I), while the full circle of fifths progression can create a sort of redundancy, which is likely why it gets avoided; it just keeps going. – Basstickler Jan 23 '15 at 16:52
• Seems that the full circle progression is more common in minor rather than major..does anyone have an explanation on this? – mey Jan 24 '15 at 2:40

The one that immediately comes to mind for me is the jazz tune "Autumn Leaves." It was originally written in Gm, but for analysis purposes it's easier to think of in, say, Em. In that case the chord progression goes Em7 - Am7 - D7 - Gmaj7 - Cmaj7 - F♯m7♭5 - B7 - Em7 (i7 - iv7 - VII7 - IIImaj7 - VImaj7 - ii7 - V7- i7) - and there's your diatonic 4-7-3-6-2-5-1 progression right there).

• While this is accurate, it makes a bit more sense to describe this chord progression as II-V-I in a major key, then VI-II-V-I in the parallel minor. Again, you are still correct but I think of it differently. – Basstickler Jan 23 '15 at 16:16
• Either way works. – Jeff Wright Jan 25 '15 at 15:58
• Yes, either way does work. The only reason I mention it is that this chord progression usually feels to me like it has two tonal centers, not just a long chord progression in one tonal center. – Basstickler Jan 26 '15 at 13:21

How about "Fly Me To The Moon" by Bart Howard? The verse is:

``````Am7 Dm7 G7 [CMaj7 C7] FMaj7 Bm7(b5) E7 Am7
``````

That's all the way round, `6 2 5 1 4 7 3 6`, all diatonic to C major, with the exceptions only of that final E7 and the C7, both of which can be considered secondary dominants, 5 of 4 and 5 of 6, respectively. Both strengthen the forward movement of the progression.

Of course, that's dropping a diminished fifth from F to Bm to stay in the key rather than go through all twelve steps in the cycle, but that looks like what was requested.

The raised 5th scale degree that forms the major third of the E7 chord is present in the melody, and the flat 7 degree to make C7 is only in the harmony.

Part of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain's is what they call Fly Me Off the Handel -- a medley of several tunes, some of which do a complete diatonic circle of fifths. The best examples I think are the first two and "I Will Survive".

• a melody above the chord sequence of the Passacaglia from Handel's keyboard suite in g minor HWV 432
• "Fly Me To The Moon" (neillb's example)
• "Where Do I Begin" from Love Story (though this doesn't fit the chord sequence so well)
• "Killing Me Softly"
• "Hotel California"
• "I Will Survive"

My friend... it is absolutely all over the place. It's actually my favourite sort of chord progression, which is a shame because, as one of the commenters already noted, it's kind of cliche'. I don't care though, I think it can still be used well if it's used sparingly after a build up. Here are some examples:

The Toccata and Fugue in D minor, from 2:49 until 3:01 and then again from 3:08 until 3:19 in this video

Another example is in Mozart's Symphony no. 25 in G minor. The progression starts at 1:03 and ends at 1:28 in this video, this time in a major key (B flat major).

Anyway, my girlfriend is annoying me so I have to leave you with that.

HALF of it is quite common - a piece in C major which jumps to a F# chord then cycles back home. Here's a very common variant - a cliche ending in fact - where every second chord is a b5 substitution.

You can even substitute the basic bass notes back! If you see what I mean...

it'so common that you hardly can't find a piece in baroque that doesn't contain the whole circle of fifths. Vivaldi, Concerti grossi of Händel, Bach (e.g. the Violin Concerto in am (the beginning of the soloist part)

as well in pop music, I was immediately thinking of the same songs already mentioned.

## ANSWER: It is incredibly common in tonal music.

(At least, to me...)

In major keys, the progression is I-IV-viio-iii-vi-ii-V-I. I've went through various examples of this progression in classical music.

For example, the first movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 25 contains the progression I-IV-viio-iii-vi-ii-V7-I in Bb major:

The scherzo of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Choral, also has a chord progression in C major that goes like I-IV-viio-iii-vi7-ii43-V-Group-I:

The first movement of Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 16 also has I6-IV-viio6-iii-vi6-ii-V6-I in G major:

I've also found circle of fifths progressions in other genres - for example, anime music. The ED theme of My Neighbor Totoro contains a progression of I-IV-viio-iii7-vi-ii7-V7-I in F major:

The OP theme of Blend S also contains I-IV-viio-iii7-vi-ii9-V-I in the same key:

In minor keys, the progression basically appears as i-iv-VII-III-VI-iio-V-i.

The first movement of Vivaldi's Winter contains F minor i-iv7-VII7-III7-VI7-iiø7-V7-i:

Schubert's Impromptu Op. 90 No. 2 also has an E-flat minor i-iv7-VII7-III7-VI7-iiø7-V7-i:

The Storm from Rossini's William Tell Overture also contains i-iv-VII-III-VI-iio-V-i in E minor:

The finale of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 in D minor has a chord progression of i-iv7-VII-III-VI-iio-V-i:

The first movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor also contains I65-iv-VII65-III-VI65-iio-V65-i progression:

My answer is getting too long, so I guess I'll have to stop here. Anyways, thanks for your question!

• Excellent examples in the minor would include Shakatak's Night Birds. – benwiggy Jun 19 '19 at 12:02

The circle of fifths is more common in minor mode works (I would guess) because the final three chords are ii0,V,i so the diminished chord is in a good place. In the major mode, the diminished chord occurs on the third chord. Sometimes composers just drop the vii0,iii part.

• The iio chord will want to go to III, not V. – Dom Sep 28 '15 at 6:24
• Dom, this is not true. It is `i - iv - VII - III - VI - ii° - V - i` or `I - IV - vii° - iii - vi - ii - V - I`. – user53472 Jan 20 '19 at 11:19