Piano Lesson Seven: Complete List of Key Signatures

Howdy Everyone, Bianca Te Tremelo extends a Warm and Hearty Welcome back to our Piano Lesson Site.

Here is Pianolesson Number Seven.


Today, I am going to give you a Complete List of All the Key Signatures. That is the gist of this lesson – The  Fantastical, Mathematical Logic Behind  Key Signatures.  The whole range of Major and Minor Key Signatures, inclusive of all the Flat Keys and the Sharp Keys will be given here.

My mentor, the extremely learned and expert piano teacher Sister Mary Fidelis from St Joseph’s Convent, New Zealand,  gave me this magic formula many years ago, when I was studying music full-time.

You just cannot go wrong with this formula. Once you see how it works, you can ascertain the key signature of any key at all.  It is a great formula for those who are sitting examinations in the theory of music, as it really doesn’t matter if you forget what the key signatures are:  Once you understand the sequence, you can draw up the table anywhere, at any time, even in the exam room, to give you a faultless result.  This  knowledge will not only help you in your understanding of the logic behind key signatures, but will be invaluable in helping  you pass those music exams with flying colours.

The Chart of Key Signatures has the Major keys on the left hand side, and the related Minor Key to the right of the chart. The related Minor Key is so called because it has exactly the same key signature as its companion Major Key.

The Complete List of Sharp Key Signatures. Note that the sharp keys move up by degrees of a 5th each time.

  • 0 Sharps        C Major  and  A Minor
  • 1 Sharp- F# -    G Major   E Minor
  • 2 Sharps F# C# –       D Major   B Minor
  • 3 Sharps F# C# G# –    A Major   F# Minor
  • 4 Sharps F# C# G# D# -    E Major   C# Minor
  • 5 Sharps F# C# G# D# A# –   B Major   G# Minor
  • 6 Sharps F# C# G# D# A# E# –   F# Major  D# Minor
  • 7 Sharps F# C# G# D# A# E# B# –   C# Major and A# Minor.

Note that the order of Sharps is always the same. This is:

F C G D A E B. If the Key has two sharps, then they will be F# and C#, and will be written in that order.  If the key signature has six sharps, then they will be F C G D A and E sharps, and will be written in that order.

You can see that there is another system to this Key Signature Table.  Beginning with NO sharps (or flats) with C Major, we move up that scale of C to the 5th degree of that scale to find the next Key Signature which ranks with ONE Sharp.  This will be G Major, which, as you can see from the chart, has ONE SHARP F.

In a Sharp Key:  We always move up a fifth to find the next ranking key signature in a Sharp Key. From G major, with one sharp, we move up another fifth to find the key signature which will have TWO sharps, which will be D Major,  with F and C sharps, and so on.  The same logic applies to the relative minor, which lies always a minor 3rd below its related major key.

Another amazing thing about this chart is that you can see how just one more sharp is added each time.  They are ALWAYS written in the way these sharps arrive in sequence. F# ALWAYS begins the written key signature, no matter how many sharps you have in the key, and no matter whether the key is Major or Minor.

It is a FLAWLESS system.

THE FLAT KEY system of Key Signatures:  The same methodology applies to the Flat Key Signatures, except that the flat keys move up by degrees of a 4th each time. Going up the scale of  C Major to the 4th degree, you arrive at the Key Signature which has ONE FLAT B.

Here is how the Chart of Flat Key Signatures Looks:

  • 0 Flats – C Major  and  A Minor
  • 1 Flat Bb- F Major and D Minor
  • 2 Flats Bb Eb- BbMajor and G Minor
  • 3 Flats Bb Eb Ab- Eb Major and C Minor
  • 4 Flats Bb Eb Ab Db- Ab Major and F Minor
  • 5 Flats Bb Eb Ab Db Gb- Db Major and Bb Minor
  • 6 Flats Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb- Gb Major and Eb Minor
  • 7 Flats Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb – Cb Major and Ab Minor

The key to the range of Flat Key Signatures is this:

B E A D G C F – Just seven Flats.  If the Key Signature has One Flat, that Flat will ALWAYS be Bb.  If it has TWO Flats, then those flats will ALWAYS be Bb and Eb, and will always be written in that order.  If the Key Signature has FIVE FLATS, then they will be the first FIVE flats of our list of flats - B E A D G, and will ALWAYS be written in that order in the Key Signature.

Note that the order of FLATS is EXACTLY the OPPOSITE to the list of Sharps, which goes F C G D A E B.

If you can remember BEADGCF for the FLAT keys, then you have the magic formula sussed for those theory exams.  Just reverse it to find the sharp keys.



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20 Responses to Piano Lesson Seven: Complete List of Key Signatures

  1. Greg says:

    thanks this really helped:) I appreciate it

  2. jordan sabey says:

    how do you tell if the key signature is minor or major is there a difference?

    • Dragon Seeker says:

      yes, there is a difference
      A] the spelling XD
      B] the sound
      C] the finger positions

    • Bianca Tremolo says:

      Hi Jordan – Sorry for the late reply. I have been away.
      To answer your question – EVERY key signature has a major key and a minor key. So – two different keys for every key signature, one a major, and one its relative minor.
      Your piece of music will be in one of these, either a major or a minor key. Sometimes, a piece might be using the major key, but then it might move into its relative minor for a bit. I usually ends in the key it began in.
      Hope this helps
      Regards,
      Bianca

  3. Pele says:

    how can i become a musician in the future?

  4. Imperfectly Awesam says:

    i liked it it really helped me in my quiz

  5. Dragon Seeker says:

    hey people, can you tell me where to put my fingers for a certain chord? I have a recital in 5 weeks, and I’m only on the first page [there's 7 pages] O_O the chord is:
    it has four flats. It would really help if someone responded

  6. person says:

    I remember the order of sharps by saying
    F at
    C ats
    G o
    D own
    A llies(is this spelled right?)
    E ating
    B ugs

    • Bianca Tremolo says:

      Hey – Thanks for that way to remember the order of sharps.
      Sorry I have been a while replying. I have been away for a little bit, but am now ready to write more on the piano lessons site, and to answer your comments.
      Thanks for taking the time to share.
      Regards,
      Bianca

  7. Tabby says:

    To remember the order of flats I was told to remember:-
    ‘Battle
    Ends
    And
    Down
    Goes
    Charles
    Father’. This has always been very helpful to me.

    • Bianca Tremolo says:

      Great little ditty, Tabby. The order of flats – I always remembered ‘BEAD’ in my exams, for the first four flats. Then I reversed the sharp end to find the last three flats: FCG are the first three SHARPS, and when you reverse these three notes, they give you GCF for the remaining three flats.
      But I think your solution is better: Battle, Ends, And, Down, Goes, Charles’, Father.
      Great rhyme to assist the memory for the order of flats.
      Thankyou.
      Regards,
      Bianca.

  8. Upma says:

    Can you pls. also put best method for fingering for all these scales, I am seeing lots of variation and getting confused which one is most appropriate.

    • Bianca Tremolo says:

      Sure. I will put up a post about fingering scales right away for you.
      There is a method for the fingering of scales. But there are a few scales which have exception to this rule.
      When I get the chance, I will put up photos of the fingering, but for now I will simply describe it as best I can.

  9. Upma says:

    Thanks a tonne Bianca. Your tutorial are really very helpful for me as a mother who hasn’t learned piano and trying to teach my child using these tutorial though I have just started classes for him but its very slow and I am thinking of equipping him with chord and scales meanwhile.

    • Bianca Tremolo says:

      Hope that this first outline is helpful.
      I will put more info up soon.

      All the Best.

    • Bianca Tremolo says:

      Dear Upma,
      If your child is very young, it is good to let him learn some easy songs from memory, rather than teaching him to read music too soon.
      Often when you begin teaching the theory to a child, when they are not ready to assimilate it, they lose interest very quickly, which is why it is best to let him learn some songs, or little tunes by rote to begin with.
      ‘Merrily we roll along’, which uses just the first three notes of the C major scale, C,D and E, is an excellent little starter. Then, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, or ‘Frere Jacques’.
      Begin with just the right hand melody. Then, when he can play that comfortably, introduce a simple left hand.
      I hope to put up more lessons for the child beginner, but I do not have the photographic equipment yet. As soon as I get that, these lessons will be a lot more useful.
      PS My youngest son is married to a German lady, and they have lived in Germany,near Frankfurt, which is why I asked about your name. I thought you might live in Germany.
      Best Wishes,
      Bianca.

  10. Upma says:

    Thanks Bianca, I am from India. My son had learned for almost 1 yr then he had a gap of 2.5 yrs and now we have started again. Eagerly waiting for more tutorial, especially scale fingering ones.

    • Bianca Tremolo says:

      Hi Upma,
      So you are from India. Lovely. I have friends from Kerala who live in New Zealand now. Interesting – I think that Upma is also a German name.
      It is great that your son has had a year of lessons already.
      Tomorrow, I will do some more posts on the scales for you.

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