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[0.1] The principal research question that this paper addresses can be parsed as “Is the circle of fifths relevant to elementary music education today?” Elementary is defined as the commencement of tuition to approaching Grade Three standard.
To satisfy this research question the following arguments will be considered.

Why, when, where and how did the relevance of the interval of the fifth first appear?

What input did Pythagoras, and his contemporaries, have with the fifths?

When, where and how did the current circular format appear?

What items found in the circle of fifths are of value to an elementary student?
How can it be used to teach a standard elementary item of music?

[0.2] Chapter One will begin by briefly presenting the historic relevance of the importance of the perfect fifth interval. The discovery of the earliest references to it can be found in the ancient civilisations of Egypt, China, and India. This is followed in Chapter Two by a consideration of the movement from Pythagoras to the commencement of the twelve-tone equal temperament tuning system. Chapter Three analyses the first four musical circles located in the works of Diletski, Hienichen, Matteson, and Kellner each of whom published a form of the musical circle within sixty years. Chapter Four presents selected uses of the circle for an elementary student including illustrations detailing these functions. In Chapter Five the educational benefits of using the chordal concepts from the circle of fifths in the initial four bars of Soldier’s March by Robert Schumann are demonstrated with sample worksheets. This is followed in Chapter Six by a potential scheme of work to introduce the circle concept and a summary of unsubmittable research. A conclusion is forecast to show that a teaching system, based on the ancient knowledge of the progression of fifths, with the integral knowledge of chords, compositional and exploration skills, selected to cater for the students’ varying needs, will be of greater benefit to the next generation of musicians than a one size fits all book-based methodology.

[0.3] This paper will use a historical qualitative analysis to research the documentation required to fulfil the previously presented plan. The purpose of these analyses is to examine the past evidence and to provide information to corroborate the answers to the arguments. The information comes from primary source documents and scholarly papers that have been written which cite primary sources and oral accounts. The limitation of this study is the dependence on source material and triangulation is, at times, not possible due to lack of documentation (Librarians, 2022).

(Librarians, 2022)


Librarians, H.L. (2022). LibGuides: Qualitative Study Design: Historical. [online] Available at:

Librarians 2022

Chris Caton-Greasley LLCM(TD) MA (Mus)(Open)

Ethnographic Musicologist, Teacher, Researcher

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