How to read key signatures

Reading music can be a scary task for anyone wanting to learn but like most things in life if you practice slowly and steady it is not hard and very rewarding.

Key signatures are very important when reading music.

What are Key Signatures?

Key signatures help us read the notes we are intended to play by a composer.  The key signature is a grouping of symbols which are either sharps or flats and tells you to play specific notes.  The key signature is always placed after the clef at the beginning of the piece of music.

To better understand how to read key signatures, take another look at the circle of fifths.

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The diagram above shows the major keys on the outside of the circle and the minor keys on the inside of the circle.

To figure out how many sharps are in each key signature, count clockwise on the Circle of Fifths from C major. The number of sharps in each successive key goes up by one in that key’s key signature. So, if there is one sharp in the key signature, then move one “stop” from C Major, which gets you to G major (or e minor) if there are two sharps in the key signature, move two stops away from C, landing you at D major (or b minor). Therefore, to play a song in the key of B major — five stops away from C major on the circle — you know there will be five sharps in that key.guitar lessons

 

The sharps are arranged on the key signature going “up.”
Therefore, to play a song in the key of B major — five stops away from C major on the circle of fifths — you know there will be five sharps in that key. Sharps appear in a specific order as you go around the Circle clockwise: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, and B#
Use this brilliant rhyme to help you remember the order FATHER CHARLES GOES DOWN AND ENDS BATTLE.  For the flats you just reverse this rhyme BATTLE ENDS AND DOWN GOES CHARLES FATHER.For major scales that have flats, you go counter-clockwise around the circle of fifths. The flats appear in a specific order in every key as you go around the circle counter-clockwise: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, and Fb.  Therefore, if the key signature shows one flat (Bb), you would move counter-clockwise one stop away from C major, landing you at F major (or d minor). 

So we hope this helps clear things up a bit.

see you next time

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