Cyberfret.com: Theory for Guitar: Major Key Signatures
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Major Key Signatures

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A key signature at the beginning of a piece of music indicates the notes that are sharp or flat consistently throughout a whole song, or section of a song. The sharp or flat is placed so that a line or space of the altered note will go through the middle of the symbol. The sharp or flat symbol in a key signature will indicate that all of a particular note (in all octaves) will be altered.

Below are the major key signatures. Since the major scale is the constant to which all other elements are compared, start to learn to "spell" all major scales. Memorizing these key signatures will be a great help in achieving this, and to understanding all theory from this point on.

As you see the key signatures progressively add a symbol as you go from left to right. This is why memorizing the key signatures will help you learn to "spell" the major scales more quickly. The key of G major has an F#, while the key of D major has that F# plus a C#. Once the pattern of sharps(flats) is learned, you will be able to "spell" all major scales easily. Note that the order of the flats is exactly opposite to the order of the sharps. The placement of the symbol is a little different but the names are the same.

no sharps or flats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you see a key signature in a piece of music here are a couple of tricks to help you figure out what the major key is.

  • The name of the major keys that use sharps can be found by going up a half step (1 fret) higher than the last sharp in the key signature. For example look at the key of A. Going up a half step from G# (the last sharp in the key signature) will tell you that this is the key of A major.
  • Finding the name of the major keys that use flats is a little different. You can find the name by going to the next-to-last flat in the key signature and that will be the name of the major key. The next-to-last flat in the key of Eb major is, Eb. The key of F is the exception to this trick. Since there is only one flat, there is not a next-to-last flat. Just memorize that one flat is the key of F major.



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