Key Signatures

Published: Apr 7, 2013 Updated: Apr 7, 2013 • Visitors: 3 • Page Views: 1

ANY ukulele guitar harmonica Subjects: beginnertheory

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Key Signatures

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.

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UL09

Major & Relative Minor Key Signatures

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.

In principle, any piece can be written with any key signature, using accidentals to correct any notes where it shouldn't apply. The purpose of the key signature is to minimize the number of such accidentals required to notate the music. The sequence of sharps or flats in key signatures is generally rigid in modern music notation. For example, if a key signature has only one sharp, it must be an F sharp.

The effect of a key signature continues throughout a piece or movement, unless explicitly canceled by another key signature. For example, if a five-sharp key signature is placed at the beginning of a piece, every A in the piece in any octave will be played as A sharp, unless preceded by an accidental.

  • This Key Signature circle is sometimes called the circle or cycle of fifths or fourths.
  • A sharp or flat is called an accidental.
  • Accidentals are not mixed in the major or minor key signatures.
  • Each successive key signature around the circle 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 key signature is F. (A B C D E F G A)

    The last sharp in E major key signature is D. (A B C D E F G A B)

  • The order of Sharps move in perfect fifths. The order of Flats in move in perfect fourths.
  • The primary chords, the I, IV, and V chords of major keys are the chords to the left and right of the key signature. The IV chord is to the left along the circle and the V chord is to the right along the circle.

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Related Lessons

Related Lessons for Key Signatures at this time.

Key Signatures and the Circle of Fifths and Fourths

There is a load of information in traditional Key Signatures.

The Major Scale

Not called the learning scale for a reason.

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Harmonic Analysis for Scale Selection and Chord Substitution

Harmonic Analysis is the understanding of the functional sequence of chords.

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