Key signatures are a very important topic, but difficult for some to grasp. The key signature tells you what notes (sharps or flats) will be played consistently during the piece of music. The key signature is denoted by a group of sharps or a group of flats positioned after the clefs and before the time signature. Key signatures will never mix sharps or flats. Whats more, the sharps or flats in a key signature are always presented in the same order! That is, the first sharp is always F#, the second sharp is always C#.. and on and on. Never will you have a key signature with only a C#. F# ALWAYS has to precede it. These are the rules – take ’em or leave ’em. But if you leave them, you would be wrong. Actually, not wrong – just not conforming to the standards of Western music.
So how do you remember the order of sharps and flats in a key signature? Well, like we always do – with a little saying! The saying to remember the order of sharps is: Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle. Isn’t it nice? Well, the saying to remember flats is a little morbid, even though it is the same words but backwards: Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles’ Father . So when you write a flat key signature, B flat always come first, followed by E, A, and so on.
These are the basics of key signatures. Remember: the key signature is there to tell you to play certain sharps and flats every time you see the note in the piece of music. So if your key signature has an F# in it, every time you see an F in the piece of music, you should imagine that there is a sharp sign in front of it, and play it sharp.
I’ll be posting a key signature worksheet in the next little while. So check the worksheets section for some practice!