Lesson Twelve: The Order Of Sharps And Flats In Key Signatures

Easy Way To Remember The Order Of Sharps and Flats In Key Signatures:

I recently had a comment from a student which said it would be helpful to have a bit more on the business of sharps and flats in key-signatures.

If you can remember the order of sharps and flats in key signatures, then you have half the work already done for those theory exams you wish to sit.  You just cannot fail on any question regarding key signatures, as long as you remember the following easy recipe for the order of sharps and flats.

Writing out the order of Flats and Sharps gives you something tangible to do as soon as you arrive into the exam room.  This will help your mind to settle and become focussed, as well as provide you with the unfailing tool for recognizing Key Signatures given in your exam paper, and getting the order of Sharps and Flats in the right order for any Key Signatures you will have to write.

So – First Step in the Exam Room:  When you first sit down at your desk with your examination paper in front of you, write this simple code for the order of flats:

Order of Flats in any Key Signature:  I always remember the word BEAD.  Think of Rosary Beads, or Buddhist Beads, Hari Krishna Beads, Coloured Beads.  Any Beads.

These four letters of BEAD spell the first four flats in the CORRECT ORDER. Whether you are in a major or a minor key, the order will always be the same.

Then add to your four letters BEAD – G, C, F – Good, Cool, Flats.

Here you have the total amount of flats there can ever be – all seven of them. B,E,A,D,G,C,F.

Remember that this order of flats is the same always, no matter whether you are in a Major or a Minor key.

How Does This Work?

If you have only one flat, that flat will always be ‘B’.

If you have four flats, those flats will always be B, E, A, D, and written in that order.

If you have six flats, those flats, whether it is a Major or a Minor Key, will always be

B, E, A, D, G, C, and written in that order.

Order of Sharps in any Key Signature:

This is dead easy, because, if you have remembered your order of Flats, you already have the order of Sharps.  Simply reverse the order which you have for Flats, and you have the unchanging order for Sharps:

F, C, G, D, A, E, B.  This is the unchanging order of Sharps, no matter whether you are using a Major or a Minor Key.

How Does This Work?

If you have one Sharp, that Sharp will always be an ‘F’, no matter whether you are in a Major Key or a Minor one.

If you have four Sharps, those Sharps will always be F, C, G, D, and written in that order.

If you have five Sharps, they will always be F, C, G, D, A, and written in that order.

Remember that the order is ALWAYS the same, for either Major or Minor Keys.

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4 Responses to Lesson Twelve: The Order Of Sharps And Flats In Key Signatures

  1. paul says:

    Thanks, this information was perfect for me.

  2. Harper says:

    I appreciate the information. It was most informal. For years I have struggled with learning the order of flats. Honestly, every key that I played in (with the exception of C) sounded like a herd of goats being sacrificed to Allah. Thankfully I now have my music degree and will soon return to Iran to teach the young masses that music, not war, is the answer to all the problems in the middle-east. Blessings on you my children.

  3. Laura says:

    I started piano lessons for the first time in Sept. 2014, at the age of 69. I love learning how to play and to read music. Sometimes, I don’t “get” explanations my teacher gives me, and we have limited time, so I resort to you. I enjoy your explanations and also your reassurance about not “getting it” right off. Thanks so much for your help!

  4. Lebe says:

    I’ve been taking piano lessons for six months, and living my dream at 81. It’s a blessing to
    learn something new every day. Thank you so much.

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