Order of Sharps and Flats on the Staff

Key signature in C-sharp-major and a-sharp-minorImage via Wikipedia The accidentals of the key signatures are placed on the staff in the same order of appearance as in the circle of fifths. For sharp keys the first sharp appears on the F line (5th line, counting from bottom to top line) of the treble clef and on 4th line (counting bottom to top) of the bass clef.

This sharp applies to any F in the musical composition whether on the same lines or on any other locations, and this same principle is observed for any other sharps (or flats) of the key signature. The sharps progress in an orderly arrangement from left to right. For quick identification of a major key in a signature of sharps, the keynote occupies that staff degree immediately above the last sharp.

C Major and Sharp Key Signatures

Key of C = no sharps and flats
Key of G = 1 sharp (F#)
Key of D = 2 sharps (F#, C#)
Key of A = 3 sharps (F#, C#, G#)
Key of E = 4 sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#)
Key of B = 5 sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#)
Key of F# = 6 sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, B#)

For quick identification of a major key in a signature of two or more flats, the keynote is identical with the penultimate (next-to-last) flat.

C Major and Flat Key Signatures

Key of C = no sharps or flats
Key of F = 1 flat (Bb)
Key of Bb = 2 flats (Bb, Eb)
Key of Eb = 3 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab)
Key of Ab = 4 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db)
Key of Db = 5 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb)
Key of Gb = 6 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb)
Key of Cb = 7 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb)

The key signature may now be used to identify the key. When it is known that the music is in a major key, the number of sharps or flats in the signature will indicate the name of that major key. For example, when the key is major, four sharps always indicates the key of E.

Exercise: Constructing the Circle of Fifths for Major Keys

Construct from memory the circle of fifths for major keys. You should be able to draw the circle on paper or at the board in one minute.

Exercise: Write the correct major key name according to the number of sharps or flats given.

Exercise: Write the correct number of sharps or flats for the given major key.

Much music commonly performed today (including most music of the 17th-19th centuries) is based on either one of two scale patterns: the major scale and the minor scale. Music is said to be in major when the pitches used can be arranged in alphabetical order with a resulting major scale pattern.

In Joy to the World, the first line of the melody already assumes the pattern of the D Major Scale.

Here's the melody line of the right hand:

(D, C#, B,A, G, F#, E, D)


Joy to the World in Bb Major Scale


(Bb, A, G, F, Eb, D, C, Bb)

So, the key signature is a group of accidentals found on the staff at the beginning of a composition. This group consists of the accidentals used in the scale of the composition and when the music uses a major or minor scale, the signature can be used to identify the key of the composition. the key signature is placed before the time signature.

By extracting the accidentals from each major scale in this way, we can find the number and names of sharps  or flats for each major key, and the key signature for each. Remember that including C (no sharps and no flats), there are fifteen major keys, just as there are fifteen locations of the major scale.

A common way of illustrating the order of key signatures, with the numbers of accidentals in each, is through the circle of fifths. (our previous lesson)


If you can read simple treble-clef melody notes,
you can play your favorite popular songs using
"Play Piano With Fake Book" system.

Master the following:
*Can't Help Falling In Love
*Smoke Gets In Your Eye
*Never on Sunday
*Edelweiss
*Chariots of Fire and more
Using "Play Piano With Fake Book"





Best,
-- LadyD




"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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