What is a key signature?

Jan 30, 2021MUSIC THEORY

What is a key signature?

A key signature is the group of symbols, sharps or flats, that is notated at the beginning of the staff after the Clef that indicates what key are we going to play on a musical piece.

key signature example

As we learned on the major scales article, every scale has a particular set of notes with an amount of natural and altered notes.

So every scale has it´s own signature. There are 12 chromatic notes, therefore, 12 major scales; but there are 15 key signatures because of the enharmonic equivalence.

Now we are going to learn every key signature.

C major

As the C major scale has all natural notes, the C major key signature has no symbols at all. So every time we see a piece of music with no key signature, it means we are in C major.

Now we are going to learn al the key signatures containing sharps and then all the keys containing flats.

Key signatures with sharp notes

G major

The G major scales has one sharp note, F#, it´s the seventh degree of the scale.

Remember the scale is G – A – B – -C – D – E – F# – G

So every time we see a key signature with one sharp it means we are in G major.

D major

The D major scales has two sharp notes, F# and C#, the third degree and the seventh.

Remember the scale is D – E – F# – G – A – B – C# – D

So every time we see a key signature with two sharps it means we are in D major.

A major

The A major scales has three sharp notes, F#, C# and G#, the sixth, the third and the seventh degree.

Remember the scale is A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G# – A

So every time we see a key signature with three sharps it means we are in A major.

E major

The E major scales has four sharp notes, F#, C#, G# and D#, the second, the sixth, the third and the seventh degree.

Remember the scale is E – F# – G# – A – B – C# – D# – D

So every time we see a key signature with four sharps it means we are in E major.

B major

The B major scales has five sharp notes, F#, C#, G#,D# and A#, the fifth, the second, the sixth, the third and the seventh degree.

Remember the scale is B – C# – D# – E – F# – G# – A# – B

So every time we see a key signature with five sharps it means we are in B major.

F# major

The F# major scales has six sharp notes, F#, C#, G#,D#, A# and E# , the tonic, the fifth, the second, the sixth, the third and the seventh degree.

Remember the scale is F# – G# – A# – B – C# – D# – E# – F#

So every time we see a key signature with six sharps it means we are in F# major.

C# major

The C# major scales has seven sharp notes, F#, C#, G#,D#, A#,E# and B#, the fourth, the tonic, the fifth, the second, the sixth, the third and the seventh degree.

Remember the scale is C# – D# – E# – F# – G# – A# – B# – C#

So every time we see a key signature with seven sharps it means we are in C# major.

Key signatures with Flat notes

F major

The F major scales has one flat note, Bb, the fourth degree.

Remember the scale is F – G – A – Bb – C – D – E – F

So every time we see a key signature with one flat it means we are in F major.

Bb major

The Bb major scales has two flat notes, Bb, and Eb, the tonic and the fourth degree.

Remember the scale is Bb – C – D – Eb – F – G – A – B

So every time we see a key signature with two flats it means we are in Bb major.

Eb major

The Eb major scales has three flat notes, Bb, Eb and Ab, the fifth, the tonic and the fourth degree.

Remember the scale is Eb – F – G – Ab – Bb – C – D – D

So every time we see a key signature with three flats it means we are in Eb major.

Ab major

The Ab major scales has four flat notes, Bb, Eb, Ab and Db, the second, the fifth, the tonic and the fourth degree.

Remember the scale is Ab – Bb – C – Db – Eb – F – G – A

So every time we see a key signature with four flats it means we are in Ab major.

Db major

The Db major scales has five flat notes, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db and Gb, the sixth, the second, the fifth, the tonic and the fourth degree.

Remember the scale is Db – Eb – F – Gb – Ab – Bb – C – Db

So every time we see a key signature with five flats it means we are in Db major.

Gb major

The Gb major scales has six flat notes, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb and Cb, the trird, the sixth, the second, the fifth, the tonic and the fourth degree.

Remember the scale is Gb – Ab – Bb – Cb – Db – Eb – F – Gb

So every time we see a key signature with six flats it means we are in Gb major.

Cb major

The Cb major scales has seven flat notes, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb and Fb, the seventh, the third, the sixth, the second, the fifth, the tonic and the fourth degree.

Remember the scale is Cb – Db – Eb – Fb – Gb – Ab – Bb – Cb

So every time we see a key signature with seven flats it means we are in Cb major.

That´s all for today, try to memorize all the key signatures.

You can write them on this music sheet as an exercise. Do them on different orders and mix them too.

Written by Max Neil

I really hope this given information is a kickstart to introduce you into the world of the guitar and music, because it´s a long way and it will be with you your whole life. Whenever you feel stuck with the instrument, theory or any subject contact me so I can help you to keep going on your musical journey.
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Published On Jan 30, 2021