Now that you know the pattern (WWH WWWH) for figuring out the scale for any major key...it's time to learn key signatures.
The key of C has no sharps or flats....it's totally natural.
Sharps are added to each key in a certain order: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B# Flats are added to each key in a certain order too: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb Notice that the order of sharps and the order of flats are exactly opposite each other!
The first 4 flats are B E A D they spell the word 'bead'...so that's a way of remembering that.....then memorize G, C, F for the rest of the flats. Then for sharps memorize F, C, G...and then remember 'bead' backwards: D A E B for the rest of the sharps.
Now, adding the sharps or flats always have to be done in that order.
If a key has 1 sharp....it has to be F#.
If a key has 2 sharps...it has to be F# and C#.
If a key has 3 sharps...it has to be F# C# and G# .
If a key has 1 flat....it has to be Bb.
If a key has 2 flats...it has to be Bb and Eb.
If a key has 3 flats...it has to be Bb, Eb, and Ab.
Here is a list of keys and how many flats/sharps and which notes are flat/sharp:
Key No. of flats Flats C 0 (none) F 1 Bb Bb 2 Bb, Eb Eb 3 Bb, Eb, Ab Ab 4 Bb, Eb, Ab, Db Db 5 Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb Gb 6 Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb Cb 7 Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb Key No. of sharps Sharps C 0 (none) G 1 F# D 2 F#, C# A 3 F#, C#, G# E 4 F#, C#, G#, D# B 5 F#, C#, G#, D#, A# F# 6 F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E# C# 7 F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#
Memorize the number of sharps or flats that each key has.
The order of sharps & the order of flats should also be memorized.
Memorizing these just makes things easier later...and then these keys are an excellent tool for figuring out chords. Once they are memorized, the rest is made easier.
But whenever you forget which key has how many flats or sharps, there is a way that I use for figuring this out too. It is based on the 'circle of fifths' that you may remember from your earlier lessons. I usually use my fingers...but here I'll just type it out.
For finding out how many flats a key has....I count the notes in 4s...and always begin at C:
1. C D E F so the key of F has 1 flat 2. F G A B so the key of Bb has 2 flats 3. B C D E so the key of Eb has 3 flats 4. E F G A so the key of Ab has 4 flats 5. A B C D so the key of Db has 5 flats 6. D E F G so the key of Gb has 6 flats 7. G A B C so the key of Cb has 7 flats
For finding out how many sharps a key has....I count the notes in 5s...and always begin at C:
1. C D E F G so the key of G has 1 sharp 2. G A B C D so the key of D has 2 sharps 3. D E F G A so the key of A has 3 sharps 4. A B C D E so the key of E has 4 sharps 5. E F G A B so the key of B has 5 sharps 6. B C D E F so the key of F# has 6 sharps 7. F G A B C so the key of C# has 7 sharps
Once you know the order of sharps....and the order of flats....all you have to do is figure out how many flats or sharps are in a key...then add the right number of sharps in the right order.
If a key needs 4 sharps...you know that they have to be F, C, G and D because they are the first 4 sharps in the order of sharps.
Here's something to analyze just to see things from a different angle to help memorization:
Sharp keys: G, D, A, E, B, F#, C# Flats keys: F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb
Notice that if there is a 'b' in the key name it's a flat key
Notice that if there is a '#' in the key name it's a sharp key.
But...if there is no sharp or flat sign in the key name...like the key of F....how do you know if it's a flat key? Because the other 'F' key is the key of F#....obviously a sharp key...therefore the key of F must be a flat key.
So notice that the key of F is the only flat key without a flat sign. Notice also that all the sharp keys have no sharp sign except for the last two...F# and C#. So that's how you can remember which keys are sharp keys and which keys are flat keys.
Notice also that there are 3 'C' keys.
The key of C has NO sharps or flats.
The key of C# has ALL sharps.
The key of Cb has ALL flats.
One more thing to cover in this lesson is transposing a melody to a different key. Once you have the different key signatures memorized, it's much easier to find the scale for that key. Instead of using the WWHWWWH formula to find out which notes are flat or which notes are sharp, you just have to know what key the melody is in, and you'll be able to figure out the number of sharps or flats much more easily.
For example, if you already know that the key of D has two sharps then you'll automatically know that the key of D is: d e f# g a b c# d. First write out the letter names, d e f g a b c d, then add the 2 sharp signs to f and c.
Now, remember back in lesson 1 I breifly mentioned degree numbers to refer to each note in a scale? Well, this comes in VERY handy when transposing a melody. Say you have this melody in the key of C which has no sharps or flats:
c d e g f e Put the corresponding degree numbers under them. 1 2 3 5 4 3
Now let's say you want to transpose it to the key of F. You know that the key of F has one flat...so that flat must be the B. F is 1....G is 2....A is 3...etc. This melody now becomes the following:
1 2 3 5 4 3 f g a c bb a (bb means B flat)
Your homework is to practice transposing, and to memorize the following:
the names of the sharp keys,
the names of the flat keys,
the order of sharps,
the order of flats,
which keys have how many sharps/flats and which sharps/flats they have, in order.
You can take this quiz to see how much you remember!
(more to come)