Music Theory

Here is a preview of some of the lessons included in Musicopoulos

Key Signatures

Identifying Scales with Key Signatures

So far, we have constructed the 15 major scales and explored the relationships between them. Each of the major scales we have explored is identified by a unique combination of sharp or flat notes. This identifier is referred to as the key signature. It is important to understand and memorize these key signatures as they help to quickly identify which notes are sharpened or flattened in a given major scale.

First, lets define the key signature for each of the major scales and see how they relate to each other.

C major is a neutral key and contains no sharps or flats.

Now, lets look at all the major scales that contain sharps. If we follow the pattern we have already explored with the Circle of Fifths, we get the following result:

As you can see in the pattern above, each time we move through the Circle of Fifths, we add a sharp note. This makes the task of memorizing key signatures easy if we are already familiar with the Circle of Fifths. The first thing we need to do is determine the position of the major scale relative the C major. For example, A major is the 3rd scale and has 3 sharp notes, F#, C# and G#.

Key Signatures Example 1

In order to memorize the order in which the sharps are added, the following phrase is helpful:

Key Signatures Example 2

Now, lets look at all the major scales that contain flats. If we follow the pattern we have already explored with the Circle of Fourths, we get the following result:

As you can see in the pattern above, each time we move through the Circle of Fourths, we add a flat note. Again, in order to determine the key signature for a major scale that contains flat notes, the first thing we need to do is determine the position of the major scale relative the C major. For example, Bb major is the 2nd scale and has 2 flat notes, Bb and Eb.

Key Signatures Example 3

It is important to note that the order in which the flat notes are added is the reverse order in which the sharp notes are added. This makes the task of memorizing the flat key signatures easier. The following phrase also makes this task easier:

Battle Ends And Down Goes Charlie’s Father

Key Signatures Example 4

Lets revise our image of the Circle of Fifths/Fourths to include the key signatures. Take the time to study this diagram before moving on to the exercise.

Key Signatures Example 5