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Key Signatures

PUBLISHED: Apr 7, 2013 UPDATED: Feb 13, 2020 • VIEWS: 18 • LESSON CODE: UL09

Instruments: ANY ukulele guitar harmonica Subjects: beginnertheory

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Key Signatures

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.

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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 second to last flat for all flat keys except F is the key.
  • 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 • Updated: Nov 18, 2019

There is a load of information in traditional Key Signatures. Unlocking the principles in this circle leads to a better understanding of music and how things work.

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.

The Major Scale • Updated: Feb 11, 2016

Called the learning scale for a reason. The major scale is a great scale for learning how music and chords work. It’s a core scale from which a majority of your core, essential scales can be derived. There are 15 major scales.

Related Books

Related Books for Key Signatures at this time.

Harmonic Analysis for Scale Selection and Chord Substitution
Updated: Feb 7, 2019

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

Related Songs

Related Songs for Key Signatures at this time.

Any Song Will Do
Updated: Dec 7, 2015

When any song here can be used for the concepts in the lessons.

Related Lesson Series

Related Lessons Series for Key Signatures at this time.

Key Signatures - A Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of A major-F# minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - Ab Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of Ab major-F minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - B Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of B major-G# minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - Bb Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of Bb major-G minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - C Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

A key signature is a summary of the sharps or flats in a Major or it's relative Natural Minor scale. This series of lessons covers ALL 15 major and relative minor keys with their primary and secondary chords as well as sample common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - C# Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of C# major-A# minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - Cb Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of Cb major-Ab minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - D Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of D major-B minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - Db Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of Db major-Bb minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - E Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of E major-C# minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - Eb Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of Eb major-C minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - F Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The Key of F Major and its Relative Minor, D minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - F# Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of F major-D# minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - G Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of G major-E minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Key Signatures - Gb Major
Updated: Jan 1, 2003

The key of Gb major-Eb minor.

Cover the primary and secondary chords and common chord progressions.

Related Lesson Files, Resources and Assets

Related Assets for Key Signatures at this time.

Key Signatures - Cycle of Fourths and Fifths
Updated: Oct 14, 2019

Key Signatures - Cycle of Fourths and Fifths - A4 Sized
Updated: Oct 14, 2019

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