Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths and Fourths

The magical, mysterious, and mystical Cycle of Fifths.

Published: 05 Sep 2011 Updated: 09 Jun 2023Visits: 390Code: ML-basic-12

INSTRUMENTS: Charts Main: Music Others: Ukulele ANY Music Guitar
Subjects: Theory • Reading • Beginner • Intermediate • Songwriting • Repertoire • Progressions

All 2 sample page(s) are viewable on-line.

If you are a registered site member, have verified your email address, and have the correct permissions you can view ALL the pages of this PDF or Samples pages at a larger size using the LearningUkulele.com Online PDF Viewer .

This Download is NOT part of your LearningUkulele.com membership level.

Sign-up for Premium Site Access or Upgrade Your Plan your current access level to download this PDF or your can purchase a copy for download.

After purchasing a PDF , a download link > will be sent to you within 24hrs.

Contact LearningUkulele.com if there are any issues.

Each PDF file is a formatted, high resolution file that prints out great. You'll need a PDF Reader or application capable of viewing PDF files to view the PDF.

Download the PDF file for the latest, complete, and most up-to-date version. As well as additional information not presented on-line.

Members and Active Students need to sign-in to download this lesson's PDF for the complete lesson.

Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths and Fourths


Traditional Key Signatures provide a wealth of information that can enhance our understanding of music and its underlying principles.

Additional Content
Available for Premium Site Access Plans Only

Sorry, can't give it ALL away!

This content requires a Premium / Gold Access Plan or enrolled in the Study with Curt - On-line or Private Lesson Program.

To view additional content for this page you'll need to either Sign In or Register for or Upgrade to a Premium Site Access Plan.

Login or SignUp to View Content

A Key Signature consists of a set of sharp( ♯) or flat (♭) symbols placed on the staff, indicating the specific notes that are consistently played higher or lower than the natural notes. Key signatures are typically positioned right after the clef at the beginning of a musical notation line. Each major and minor key is associated with a unique key signature that alters certain notes within its scale.

By recognizing and interpreting key signatures, musicians can quickly identify the tonal center and harmonic framework of a piece of music. The key signature helps establish the set of notes and intervals that form the foundation of melodies, chords, and progressions within a given key. Understanding key signatures allows musicians to anticipate and navigate the altered pitches in a musical composition, enabling them to play with accuracy and confidence.

A Few Observations

  • 15 Diatonic Keys • NOT 12 • If considering the Relative Minor keys of the Major Keys—the total is 30.
  • Key of C Major / A Natural Minor contains only all natural notes: C D E F G A B C'
  • Seven Sharp Keys: G D A B F♯ C♯
  • Seven Flat Keys: F B♭ E♭ A♭ D♭ G♭ C♭
  • Key of C♯; has ALL sharps: C♯ D♯ E♯ F♯ G♯ A♯ B♯ C♯'
  • Key of C♭ has ALL flats: C♭ D♭ E♭ F♭ G♭ A♭ B♭ C♭'
  • Flats (♭) and Sharps (♯) are not mixed in Major and Relative Minor keys Key Signatures
  • Each successive Key Signatures includes the previous key signature's accidentals.
  • The last sharp (♯) in a key signature is the letter right before the name of the major key. Example: The last sharp in G major is F♯. A B C D E F♯ G. The last sharp in E major is D♯ • A B C D♯ E F G A.
  • The second to last flat (♭) in a key signature is the name of the major key. Example: The second to last flat in D♭ major is D♭. B♭ E♭ A♭ D♭ G♭. There is only one flat in F major and no second to last works —you just have to memorize that one.
  • The order of Sharps move in fifths (clockwise F♯ C♯ G♯ D♯ A♯ B♯ ). The order of Flats move in fourths (counter-clockwise B♭ E♭ A♭ D♭ G♭ C♭ F♭).

Sign-IN — it's FREE — to view, un-blur any additional content for this lesson.

Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths and Fourths…

  • Memorize the cycle of fourths at first. FOURTHS: C F B♭ E♭ A♭ D♭ F♯ B E A D G C. The word BEAD is in there twice, first with flats( B♭ E♭ A♭ D♭ ) then with no flats or sharps ( B E A D ). Making it a little easier to memorize. Then fifths is the other direction, with BEAD in there backwards ( D A E B ).
  • The Primary Chords for a Major Key are: to left (the IV chord) and the right (the V chord) of the root of the key (the I chord). This ONLY works for major keys and not their Relative Minor keys.

Fourths: C F B♭ E♭ A♭ D♭ F♯ B E A D G C
Fifths: C G D A E B F♯ D♭ E♭ A♭ ♭b F C

  • A sharp () and flat () are two of the three accidentals with a natural sign () being the other. Other than the Key of C Major/Am the cycle is full of either sharps or flats and not any mixed with sharps and flats.
  • Common Rock, Pop, Country, and Folk keys are: C, G, D, A, and E. These are typical keys for guitar.
  • Common Jazz keys are: C, F, B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, and the lone sharp key of G. There is a some overlap with F and Bb as common keys for ukulele.
  • For each key there is a corresponding lesson covering the primary, secondary, and diminished chords in each major key. See the Key Signatures Lessons Series .
  • The answer the the questions? How many traditional major and minor keys are there? Is 30 — the 15 major and 15 relative minor keys.

The Circle of Fifths Made Clear by Mark Newman

Great video explaining the history and significance of learning this mystical, musical key.

Memorize IT!

I actually memorized the sequence C F Bb Eb Ab Db F# B E A D G (C), With out resorting to any mnemonics by seeing that there is the word BEAD in there twice. Once with flats and once natural notes.

In this order it is actually in the counter-clockwise order and a cycle of fourths - not fifths.

First: As a Cycle of Fourths

  • Memorize C and F
  • BEAD with flats for Bb Eb Ab Db
  • The transition F# or Gb it's Enharmonic Equivalent then
  • BEAD and finally
  • G C

for: C F Bb Eb Ab Db F# B E A D G C

Second: As a Cycle of Fifths

Then backwards as the Circle of Fifths.

Additional Resources & Links

Download the PDF file for the latest, complete, and most up-to-date version. As well as additional information not presented on-line.

End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!

Related Lessons, Videos, Lesson Series, Songs, Books & Reference Charts, Resources & Assets, Workshops are below.

Related Lessons

Related Lessons for Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths and Fourths.

UL09

Major & Relative Minor Key Signatures

Updated: 13 Feb 2020

A "Key Signature" is a series of sharp or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating the notes that are to be consistently played higher or lower than the equivalent natural notes. Key signatures are generally written immediately after the clef at the beginning of a line of musical notation. Each major and minor key has an associated key signature that sharpens or flattens the notes which are used in its scale.

Related Lesson Series

Related Lessons Series for Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths and Fourths.

Key Signatures - A Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of A Major and its relative minor key, F#, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - Ab Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of Ab Major and its relative minor key, Fm, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - Bb Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of Bb Major and its relative minor key, Gm, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - C Major

Updated: 08 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of A Major and its relative minor key, Am, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - D Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of D Major and its relative minor key, Bm, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - Db Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of Db Major and its relative minor key, Bbm, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - E Major

Updated: 01 Jan 2003

In this lesson series, we explore the key of E Major and its relative minor key, C#, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - Eb Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of Eb Major and its relative minor key, Cm, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - F Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of F Major and its relative minor key, Dm, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - G Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of G Major and its relative minor key, Em, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures

Updated: 01 Jan 2003

In this comprehensive Series of Lesson (Series), we delve into all 15 major and relative minor keys, exploring their primary and secondary chords, along with sample common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - B Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of B Major and its relative minor key, G#, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - C# Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of C# Major and its relative minor key, A#, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - Cb Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of Cb Major and its relative minor key, Abm, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - F# Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of F# Major and its relative minor key, D#, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - Gb Major

Updated: 09 Jun 2023

In this lesson series, we explore the key of Gb Major and its relative minor key, Ebm, including their primary and secondary chords, as well as a selection of common chord progressions.

Related Books & Charts

Related Books for Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths and Fourths.

RMA1

Harmonic Analysis for Scale Selection and Chord Substitution

Updated: 08 Jun 2024

Harmonic Analysis is the understanding of the functional sequence of chords. It is the process used to analyze the harmonic structure of a progression, song or composition. This analysis is then used to make scale selections for improvisation and chord substitution.

A Selection of Books & Reference Charts that are recommended for creating a solid foundation with your chosen instrument and music in general.

Books

Learning the Ukulele Fingerboard – C Tuning

Finally, learn the names of the notes of the fingerboard.

Six Secrets of Ukulele Fingering

Learn the six fingering principles to navigating the ukulele fingerboard. Fingering is one of the most universal topics.

Harmonic Analysis for Scale Selection and Chord Substitution

Harmonic Analysis is the understanding of the functional sequence of chords. It is the process used to analyze the harmonic structure of a progression, song or composition.

Ukulele – Reading Music Series – Primer

Learn to read single note melodies in the first/open position is a lot easier than you might think.

Daily Practice Material for the Contemporary Ukulele

An organized collection of daily practice and reference material for the contemporary ukulele player for developing the vocabulary and knowledge necessary for single note playing.

Checkout the Books for ALL available books.

Reference Charts

Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for C Tuning, Low or High G - G C E A

Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for C Tuning, Low or High G – G C E A

Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for G Tuning, Low or High A – D G B E

Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for G Tuning, Low or High A – D G B E

Key Signatures — Circle of Fourths and Fifths – ANSI A & A4 sizes

A handy reference chart of all 15 major and relative minor key signatures. US Letter 8.5 x 11 sized (ANSI-A) , A4

Checkout the Books for additional Handy, Dandy Reference Charts.

Related Lesson Files, Resources and Assets

Related Assets for Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths and Fourths.

WEB_CONTENT_ONLY

Key Signatures - Cycle of Fourths and Fifths

Updated: 14 Oct 2019

A handy reference chart of all 15 major and relative minor key signatues. US Letter 8.5 x 11 sized.

ML-basic-12-A4

Key Signatures - Cycle of Fourths and Fifths - A4 Sized

Updated: 14 Oct 2019

A handy reference chart of all 15 major and relative minor key signatues. A4 sized.

Site Access Plans for LearningUkulele.com

Forever Access - With Forever Premium Access, you get ALL the benefits of a Premium Access Subscription such as Unlimited 24/7 access to ALL lessons, downloads, songs, play-along jam tracks, videos, email access to Curt, resources, related assets, and ALL books by Curt as FREE downloads. Pretty much everything on the site, and NEVER worry about a subscription or surprise payment again. And jump the queue for responding to any questions.

If you're anything like me (Curt) and getting Subscription overloaded with everything and everybody on-line wanting money from you once a month — I'm with you. For like-minded individuals, this forever plan is a pay once, and you're done.

The price for Unlimited Forever access is right around the cost of a few months of private lessons. I can guarantee there is more than enough material on-line to keep you busy for a long, long time. And, you get all of my books for FREE. That alone is more than the cost of this plan.

Premium Access - This premium gives you Unlimited 24/7 access to ALL lessons, downloads, songs, play-along jam tracks, videos, email access to Curt, resources and related assets. As well as ALL books by Curt Sheller as FREE downloads.

Basic Access - A limited selection of basic lessons — ( currently over 140 ) and 100+ songs for ukulele as well as basic general music reference material — Completely FREE — Simply Register/Signup. HOWEVER - I've been doing ukulele and LearningUkulele.com since 2003 and probably have given too much away already - as reflected in my income from the site in relationship to the time spent on the site. So help support this site and its continued development by signing up for one of the below Premium Access Plans or buy a few of my books. - Thanks, Curt

NOTE: Each higher access level includes ALL the benefits of the lower levels. Private Lessons include all the benefits of a Premium Access Plans as long as you remain a student on the schedule.

Just browsing over both books, they look fantastic! I'm a guitarist and uke player for over 25 years and was thinking about writing a ukulele book but you've already written what I think are the best, most comprehensive and thorough books I've ever seen for the instrument. I just might end up buying every book you've written and I'll be giving my highest recommendation for your books to my friends and students. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such great books!Peter Rhee

Aloha, Curt, All I can say is WOW! What you have accomplished is simply incredible! All the bestGlen Hirabayashi, The Aloha Boys

Folks, if you haven't stopped by Curt's site, do so right now! ..And get his books, they are fantastic. This guy knows his stuff and is able to pass it along too.Alan Johnson Proprietor, The 4th Peg

I can highly recommend Curt's Uke books — I have four of them and they are excellent.fatveg — Portland

Want to leave a nice comment for LearningUkulele.com & Learning Ukulele with Curt? We'd love to hear how we're doing and how you are too. We'll share your comments and quotes throughout the site, helping to spread the word.

Thanks for visiting and checking out the site!

curtieAnim.gif rw.vg.gif

Original Curtie Animation from 1987 for my first web site on a Macintosh II, 37 years ago. Man, does time fly.

“Built for myself (Curt), and sharing with the `Ukulele community!”

LearningUkulele.com has one of the largest collections of lessons, songs, and TABS, Luthiers, ukulele builders, ukulele festival and club information, and, ukulele links on the web. Curt has been on the ®Internet since the early 1990's and This site just never stops growing!!!

Content is added and updated daily — so check back often. I really do need to get out more ;-)

Love LearningUkulele.com? • Show your support!
Support development via a monthly membership or a one-time forever membership!