How and when was the Circle of Fifths invented, and who is responsible for the discovery of this musical godsend?


2 Answers 2


I‘ve found this picture:

enter image description here

I‘ve encountered this picture recently here:


It says:

Russian composer and music theorist Nikolay Diletsky set this whole wheel rolling in the late 1670’s. He intended his book Grammatika as a guide to composition, but with the rules of music theory in mind.


from the Wikipedia article

In the late 1670s a treatise called Grammatika was written by the Ukrainian composer and theorist Mykola Dylets'kiy. Diletskii’s Grammatika is a treatise on composition, the first of its kind, which targeted Western-style polyphonic compositions. It taught how to write kontserty, polyphonic a cappella, which were normally based on liturgical texts and were created by putting together musical sections that have contrasting rhythm, meters, melodic material and vocal groupings. Diletskii intended his treatise to be a guide to composition but pertaining to the rules of music theory. Within the Grammatika treatise is where the first circle of fifths appeared and was used for students as a composer's tool.

After further Wikipedia diving I found out that the first mention of the Circle of Fifths in Western musical literature was by Johann David Heinichen 50ish years later in his 1728 treatise Der Generalbass in der Composition.

  • Wiki tells actually the same as I‘ve found. Interesting informations about an unknown origin. Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 21:14
  • Additionally, although the first known graphical representation is in Heinichen, in 1697 Andreas Werckmeister mentions the "Circul der quinten oder quarten" in his Hypomnemata musica. The relation between the Germanic school and that of Dylets'kiy / Diletskii is quite interesting history.
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:18
  • Diletsky actually has the first image of the Circle. I can't actually find the Circle of Fifths in the Heinichen manuscript and searching for "Kreis" and "quinten" does not yield anything that seems relevant. Does anyone have a page number?
    – Legorhin
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 15:48

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