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Key Signatures: Major and Minor

Click to view a PDF work­sheet out­lin­ing Major Key Sig­na­tures

Click to view a PDF work­sheets out­lin­ing Minor Key Sig­na­tures 

All musi­cians must learn to iden­tify key sig­na­tures and play within them. In par­tic­u­lar, sight singing requires a clear under­stand­ing of key sig­na­tures. This is because the solfege scale is move­able and stu­dents must learn to find “do.” This is done by iden­ti­fy­ing the key of the song. If a song is in the Key of C Major (no sharps or flats) then “do” is on “C.”

Keys with Sharps

Mem­o­riz­ing the order of the sharps can eas­ily be done by using the fol­low­ing mnemonic device:

Fat Cats Go Down Allies Eat­ing Bananas. (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#)

The name of the key is 1/2 step higher than the last sharp.

For exam­ple, in major keys, if the last sharp is F#, the name of the key is G Major. That means that “do” is “G.”

If the last sharp is C#, the name of the key is D Major. That means that “do” is on “D.”

If the last sharp is G#, the name of the key is A Major. That means that “do” is on “A.”

If the last sharp is D#, the name of the key is E Major. That means that “do” is on “E.”

Keys with flats

Mem­o­riz­ing the order of the flats may be done by using the fol­low­ing mnemonic device:

But Even A Dumb Goat Can Fly. (B flat, E flat, A flat, D flat, G flat, C flat, and F flat)

The key with 1 flat (B flat) must be mem­o­rized. It is the Key of F Major. In the Key of F Major, “do” is “F.”

Sub­se­quent flat keys may be iden­ti­fied by nam­ing the sec­ond to the last flat.

For exam­ple, if I have a key with 2 flats (B flat & E Flat) the sec­ond to the last flat is “B flat.” The name of the key is B Flat Major. That means that “do” is “B flat.”

If I have a key with 3 flats (B flat, E flat, & A flat) the sec­ond to the last flat is “E flat.” The name of the key is E Flat Major. That means that “do” is “E flat.”

If I have a key with 4 flats (B flat, E flat, A flat, & D flat) the sec­ond to the last flat is “A flat.” The name of the key is A Flat Major. That means that “do” is “A flat.”

 

Minor Keys share key sig­na­tures with their rel­a­tive Major Key.

Sharps

0 Sharps and 0 Flats: C Major or A Minor

1 Sharp: G Major or E Minor

2 Sharps: D Major or B Minor

3 Sharps: A Major or F# Minor

4 Sharps: E Major or C# Minor

5 Sharps: B Major or G# Minor

6 Sharps: F# Major or D# Minor

Flats

1 Flat: F Major or D Minor

2 Flats: B Flat Major or G Minor

3 Flats: E Flat Major or C Minor

4 Flats: A Flat Major or F Minor

5 Flats: D Flat Major or B Flat Minor

6 Flats: G Flat Major or E Flat Minor

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