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Is a circle of fifths that goes backward (eg. D G C F Bb) still considered a circle of fifths progression?

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    Whether it is written clockwise or anticlockwise it can be read either way. Circle (cycle?) of fifths and fourths.
    – Tim
    Sep 20, 2017 at 8:42

3 Answers 3

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Typically, a circle-of-fifths progression is a progression that moves by descending fifths. Thus, your progression is a standard circle-of-fifths progression!

The reason descending fifths are so common is due to the dominant-to-tonic relationship between two adjacent chords. In your example of D G C F, D is the dominant to G, G is then the dominant to C, C is then the dominant to F, and so on. One of the many reasons this dominant-to-tonic relationship is so convincing is that each chord contains the leading tone of the next chord. G contains the leading tone to C (B), C contains the leading tone to F (E), etc.

Ascending fifths are much harder to pull off convincingly because it lacks this dominant-to-tonic relationship, and consequently each chord lacks the leading tone of the next chord.

However, in the ascending-fifths progression, each chord has the leading tone of the chord before it! So if any fifth progression is "backwards," it is the ascending one.

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    Also, technically, descending fifths and ascending fifths are sequences, not progressions.
    – John Wu
    Sep 20, 2017 at 3:00
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    Hey Joe managed the backwards sequence well !
    – Tim
    Sep 20, 2017 at 7:41
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    @JohnWu It depends on who you ask, I think. "Sequence" and "progression" are some of those terms that mean slightly different things to everyone. My training has always been that "sequence" indicates a repeating harmonic and melodic pattern, which is why I chose not to use that term in this case.
    – Richard
    Sep 20, 2017 at 9:07
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The circle of fifths progression is I - IV - VII - III - VI - II - V - I.

The circle of fifths progression is commonly a succession through the seven diatonic chords of a diatonic scale by fifths downwards, including one progression by diminished fifth, (in C: between F and B) and one diminished chord (in C major, Bdim), returning at the end to the tonic.

In major keys, it will be I - IV - vii° - iii - vi - ii - V - I. In C major, it will be: C - F - Bdim - Em - Am - Dm - G - C.

In minor keys, it will be i - iv - VII - III - VI - ii° - V - i. In A minor, it will be: Am - Dm - G - C - F - Bdim - E - Am.

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Is a circle of fifths that goes backward (eg. D G C F Bb) still considered a circle of fifths progression?

The point is:

The circle of fifths IS going BACKWARD!

The symbolic representation of the circle like a clock is only accidentally, respectively to read it clockwisely has been your decision.

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