Learning the names of all the key signatures can be tricky for music theory
novices. Here now is your very own key signature Q and A
This one's easy. If the name of the key has "flat" in it, it's a flat key. Otherwise, it's a sharp key. The only exception to this is the key of F major
, which is flat—sorry, you just have to remember that one.
How many sharps in the key of (whatever)?
To find the sharps that are in a sharp key, take the name of the key (e.g., A major
) and find the note two half step
s down from that (in our example, that would be G). This is the last sharp in the key. If you know the order of sharps (what? You don't? Fine; it's FCGDAEB), then you can easily find the number of sharps in the key (in our example, there are three of them, since G is the last one). Ta-da
How many flats in the key of whatever?
After the last one, this should be a breeze
. The rule: The name of the key is the second-to-last flat in the key
. So for Bb major, we move along the order of flats (oh, fine; it's BEADGCF) and find that there are 2 flats in the key of Bb. (Note: Finding out the number of flats in F major is confusing this way; best to just remember that there's only one.)
I'm looking at this music, and I can count how many stupid sharps there are. But what's the name of the key?
All right, now let's do this all backwards
. If you're looking at a key signature with a bunch of sharps, and you don't know what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks
it's called, remember this: take whatever note the last sharp is on, and go up two semi-tone
s. So if there are four sharps, and the last one's on D (which it always is–order of sharps, remember?) then the name of the key is E major.
But now I've got a bunch of flats! Help!
Never fear. For any key with flats, just look at the second-to-last flat, and there's the name of the key. So if there are five flats, then the penultimate
flat is Db, which is the name of the major key.
But what's with this major and minor business?
For that, I recommend you check out the WU
s under relative minor
and parallel minor
–they've got the goods