Memorizing key signatures

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Glimpsed-AM, Oct 28, 2012.

  1. Glimpsed-AM

    Glimpsed-AM SS.org Regular

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    Alright, well I'm pretty sure I'm going to be tested on this in my music theory class. Can someone offer me some tips on memorizing key signatures? I dunno if I need to clarify that, but I will anyway: For example C Major has 0 sharps, G major - 1 and so on. I'm having some difficulty memorizing which key has which amount of sharps in it. Thanks!


    EDIT: Oh, and my teacher showed us some sort of pattern, but it didn't really stick with me... He was explaining the amount of spaces/lines between where each sharp or flat is placed, like: up 4 down 5, up 4 and whatnot.
     
  2. MrPepperoniNipples

    MrPepperoniNipples SS.org Regular

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    Have you memorized the circle of 5ths?
    As you go up a 5th, you add a sharp in the key signature.

    C has 0 sharps
    the 5th from C is G
    G has 1 sharp and so on

    [​IMG]

    For tests, you can always make acronyms!

    C G D A E B F# C#

    "Caroline Gave David And Earl Blowjobs For Cash"
     
    Lagtastic likes this.
  3. InfinityCollision

    InfinityCollision SS.org Regular

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    It's called the Circle of Fifths for a reason. You know that C Major has zero flats/sharps. Move up a (perfect) fifth to add one sharp, down a fifth to add one flat. That's all there is to it.

    Up: C-G-D-A-E-B-F#-C#

    Down: C-F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Cb

    Accidentals: 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7
     
  4. Glimpsed-AM

    Glimpsed-AM SS.org Regular

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    No, I haven't gotten the Circle of 5ths down yet unfortunately... It's in my book, but not until the next chapter or so.

    Does that mean my book is a little backwards then? If the Circle of 5ths makes it easier, why have the chapter on Key signatures before the circle of 5ths? EDIT: Why aren't they even in the same chapter... That makes no sense... wtf? :wallbash:

    And thanks for the acronym lol, I'm gonna use that one! :D
     
  5. InfinityCollision

    InfinityCollision SS.org Regular

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    That doesn't make any sense. The Circle of Fifths is key signatures.

    Ignoring accidentals, you have seven notes: A B C D E F G before looping back to A. If the note you're currently on is "one", counting up (or down) to "five" gives you the next key signature. Up for sharps, down for flats.

    So for sharps, I start at C, count up to (D-E-F-) G for one sharp, then (A-B-C-) D for two, then (E-F-G-) A for three, and so on. For flats, I start at C and move down (B-A-G-) F for one, (E-D-C-) B for two (Bb since B is one of the lowered notes), then Eb, etc. Will you need to know how to notate them as well?

    That's more about how you notate the key signature, not identifying it. That said, a quick trick for identifying key signatures with sharps is to take the farthest-right sharp and move up one note. Whatever note you get is your key signatures. For key signatures with flats, the key is whatever the second flat from the right is (F of course if it's just one flat).
     
  6. InfinityCollision

    InfinityCollision SS.org Regular

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    I'm starting to understand your confusion :lol: What book are you using?
     
  7. Overtone

    Overtone SS.org Regular

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    I guess they want you to understand the concept fundamentally before you get into tricks for remembering it. The app Karajan Pro might be helpful for you if you want to drill theory ideas. It has the key sigs as well as ear training for scales, intervals, chords, and pitch, including some advanced scales and many extended chords.

    Anyway, the circle of fifths has you covered, you just need one more piece... the ORDER of sharps and flats.

    this one shows it nicely:

    [​IMG]

    What you'll notice is that when you move around the circle of fifths, you are always adding one sharp or flat to the ones that were present before. So going up from C Major to G Major, you have F#. From G Major to D Major you still have F# but you also have C#, so F# C#. Moving up from D Major to A Major you now have F# C# and G#. They are always written in the same order in the staff. So you know that if you have moved up the circle 3 5ths, you'll have 3 sharps, and in that order. Morever, let's look at the actual sharp that gets added. For G it's F#. For D it's C#. For A it's G#. Always a half step below. If you shit the bed on the test, write out the sequence of sharps in order F# C# G# D# A# E# B#. Then, say you have to do it for E. Include everything up until D#. For the flat keys it's not as simple, but still simple. The last accidental (in sequence) is one fourth up from the root. So for F Major, you'll have a Bb (one 4th up). Bb has Bb and Eb and so on and so forth.
     
  8. Glimpsed-AM

    Glimpsed-AM SS.org Regular

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    I appreciate all the help! You have been very helpful, thank you all! :D
     
  9. Webmaestro

    Webmaestro Ibanez Fanatic Contributor

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    I gotta be honest... I just created flash cards for myself. If you mean you want to be able to instantly blurt out the key sig based on the number of sharps or flats you see, then just create flash cards. Seriously.

    Music school was a LONG time ago for me (and I only went for a year), but that's what I did, and after drilling myself for a few weeks I eventually had it down via simple memorization.
     
  10. Overtone

    Overtone SS.org Regular

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    One day I messed with that Karajan app on the plane and had everything down where I could recall it immediately. But I almost never read scores or lead sheets so I've forgotten all that and have to approach it using one of the tricks I mentioned.
     
  11. ROAR

    ROAR oaf tobar

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    musictheory.net

    you're welcome
     
  12. Pooluke41

    Pooluke41 H. Maddas

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    You can't do that.

    You're not SW. :squint:
     
  13. ROAR

    ROAR oaf tobar

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    what's SW?

    just to add: that site is amazing,
    my teacher told us about it at the beginning
    of this semester and I've picked up the language of music at great speed!
     
  14. Glimpsed-AM

    Glimpsed-AM SS.org Regular

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    I'm pretty sure he is referring to SchecterWhore lol
     
  15. Dayn

    Dayn silly person

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    You have a guitar, and you're on a forum with extended-range instruments. Just think of them, and it'll be easy. Fourths are just inverted fifths. Also, pretend it's tuned in full fourths.

    Start with C, then go down a string to G. That's one sharp. What are the other strings? D, A, E, B... two, three, four, and five sharps. Think of an eight- and nine-string guitar. What are those notes? F#, then C#; six, then seven sharps in those key signatures.

    Want flats? Then imagine a nine-string guitar tuned down a half-step and go up the strings instead. C, then you have F on the eighth string for one flat. Then Bb, Eb, Ab, Db for two, three, four and five flats. Keep going: Gb for six, then B (or Cb if it helps) for seven flats.

    That's the way I remember it. Think of guitars.
     
  16. joobiedoobiedoo

    joobiedoobiedoo MESHUGGAH

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    How is he going to test you? Is he going to show you the key signature, and ask what key it is? Or will he tell you a key signature and you have to figure out the number of sharps and flats? If he shows you a key signature, you can always use this little trick:

    For sharps: Look at the last sharp, then go up a half step. That's your major key.
    ex: 5 sharps, the last sharp is A#, up a half step is B. B Major.

    For Flats: Look at the 2nd to last flat. That's your major key.
    ex: 4 flats, last flat is Db, go back one to Ab. Ab Major.

    And for minor, I always just think of the major key and then find the 6th. Hope this helps.
     
  17. nkri

    nkri SS.org Regular

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    As some have already said, it's important to understand the concept of key signatures and why they are what they are before learning tricks and shortcuts. Having said that, here's the system of shortcuts I learned that really helped me to identify (major) key signatures quickly.

    If the key signature has sharps, raise the last sharp (the one farthest to the right) by a half-step and that's your key. For example, if the key signature has 2 sharps (F# and C#), the key is D major because C# raised half a step is D natural.

    If the key signature has flats, the second to last flat (second from the right) is the key. So if you have 2 flats (Bb and Eb), the key is Bb. If you have 4 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, and Db), the key is Ab.

    To learn minor keys once you have this down, it's a matter of learning intervals so you know what the 6th is in any given major key, because the 6th will give you the corresponding minor.
     
  18. Glimpsed-AM

    Glimpsed-AM SS.org Regular

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    Thank you all for the replies! You guys are all really helpful. I have another question though, so a small of my final will be identifying key signatures which I could use that acronym that MrPepperoniNipples gave me to help identify what key something is when the key signature is provided, but I'm sure you all know how tests like to switch things up, so what should I do if there's a part where it says write out the key signature, for example if it says "Write out the key signature for C# Major" Which would have 7 sharps. I know that you have to write it out in a certain way, but how do I know what notes to sharp for each one?

    EDIT: Never mind, I think I figured it out, each time you go up a sharp, you just go up 5 notes starting with the previous sharp right? Can someone confirm this for me?
     
  19. ROAR

    ROAR oaf tobar

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    I think you're over thinking this and making it harder that it needs to be.
    If you just have to write out Key Signatures,
    memorize them. It's easy and you'll have to do it eventually anyways if you
    continue to pursue music. Music is a language and the more time you spend
    on it the more natural it becomes.

    There is a certain way to write out Flats and Sharps,
    like for B major, there's 5 flats. F, C, G, D, and then the magical A.
    Where would that A go on the staff? Following the pattern already laid
    out if may look like you go above the G, but you don't. You go down the staff
    to the first A and that's that. Just take a look at every key signature
    and you'll get the hang of it

    Also, you're teacher doesn't sound too helpful if you're resorting
    to a forum
     
  20. Glimpsed-AM

    Glimpsed-AM SS.org Regular

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    Well, it's not that he isn't helpful. The way he taught it was by playing major/minor keys on the piano, showing us which notes are sharpened/flattened in each key. After that he just explained that up 4, down 5 pattern to us or whatever it was, and since I'm more of a visual learner I couldn't really grasp it very well.

    I think his reason for explaining it like that and not getting into it too much is because it gets covered more in depth during the next portion of the class, which is next quarter. I'm only in Intro to Music Theory, so we're just mainly focusing on reading notation, doing accidentals, scales and rhythm type stuff. We're just kind of brushing over the other stuff, so when we get into it later on we won't be totally lost. So that small portion of the final for identifying them is to make sure that we know that little bit in case we decide to take the next class. Honestly I think the music program here is a little whacky but since the quarters are only 10 weeks long, you can't really get into everything in depth.
     

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