How to Remember Key Signatures For Music Exams

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Did you know there are up to 30 key key signatures to memorize for music exams. Fortunately there is a way of calculating them all from knowing just seven. These are the major keys of the seven musical alphabet notes A-B-C-D-E-F-G and to help us do this we give these keys numeric values.

The order of the flats is: B, E, A, D, G, C, F. The first four flats spell BEAD. I used to remember British European Airways Do Good Continental Flights which used to be true but BEA no longer exist anymore.

British European Airways Do Good Continental Flights

F, C, G, D, A, E, B are the order of the sharps. Try and remember a phrase like this one for the order of the sharps: Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Birds.

Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Birds.

Even more useful tips!

Have you noticed that the order of the sharps is the same as the flats only backwards!

BEADGCF – FCGDAEB

Look at the piano keyboard and notice how the order of the flat keys (F-Bb-Eb-Ab etc.) move down from middle C in perfect 5th intervals whereas the sharp keys do the same but ascending (G-D-A-E etc.) This is the Circle of 5ths.

The sharps and flats do exactly the same.

MINOR KEYS

To work out the minor key signatures then first think of the tonic or parallel major and subtract 3. Say you need to know C minor. First think about C major. C major has a value of 0. Subtract 3. Your result is -3. Minus 3 means three flats. So C minor has three flats. Now remember the order B-E-A. So C minor has Bb, Eb and Ab.

If you need to work out a more difficult minor key say F# minor for instance, then start with F major. Add 7. -1 +7 = 6 so F# major has 6 sharps. Then subtract 3 (ending up with F# minor = 3 sharps)

Did you know there are up to 30 key key signatures to memorize for music exams. Fortunately there is a way of calculating them all from knowing just seven. These are the major keys of the seven musical alphabet notes A-B-C-D-E-F-G and to help us do this we give these keys numeric values.

A (major) has 3 sharps (sharps are positive) so the numeric value of A is [3] (or +3)

B has 5 sharps so we remember B as [5] (+5)

C has no sharps or flats so we will call C [0] (zero)

D has 2 sharps so remember D as [2] (plus 2)

E has 4 sharps so E becomes [4]

F has one flat and as flats are negative we call F [-1] (minus 1)

G contains 1 sharp so G will be [1]

Now, here’s the clever bit… So you know the key signature of C major but want to figure out Cb major. The trick is to subtract 7 from the number of the key you know. For example C major is 0 (zero) so take away 7 and we arrive at -7 (minus seven). The minus signifies flats so Cb major has 7 flats. GET IT!

If you want to know C# (major) then because C# is higher than C major (sharper) then we add 7 to arrive at seven sharps (which is the key signature of C# major)

If you want to know Eb then work it out from the next nearest key signature you know with the same letter name. That’s E major which has 4 sharps. Now because Eb is lower (flatter) than E then we subtract 7 giving a result of -3. So Eb has three flats.

Isn’t that a diddy doddle!

I’ll need to have a rest now… I think I’ve worn my brain out! SORRY!

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Source by Mel Stallwood

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