A Tip with Key Signatures

Fig 5 key sigs for book
Many young musicians are comfortable with a knowledge of key signatures up to a couple of sharps and flats only, and struggle to recall more difficult key signatures. Observing a simple connection between the sharp and flat keys of the same alphabetic letter name provides an almost instantaneous solution to remembering the more complex key signatures. Perhaps you can see this connection. Look at the sharp key and the flat key for the letter G. G-major has one sharp. G-flat major has how many flats? Repeat the exercise with another pair of alphabetic letter names such as B major and B-flat major. You will find that the sum of the sharp and flat keys for the same letter name is seven.

Noticing this simple connection provides a solution to recalling key signatures. Chunking is the secret ingredient for memory feats. Experts are great chunkers; they discover patterns to simplify their learning.

from ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin

“A must buy for every music teacher and music student” – William Bruce, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, UK.

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Public speaker, music education trainer, conductor and pianist. Author of 'Learning Strategies for Musical Success', 'Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs', and 'Modern Harmony Method'.

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One comment on “A Tip with Key Signatures
  1. Elizabeth Salmon says:

    I teach recognition of key signatures by this very simple method, having explained the process of building key signatures first: the second to last sharp is the seventh note of that key (the new sharp in the key signature). The second to last flat is the name of that key (except for F major, of course, which has only one flat).
    As an aide memoire in remembering the Cycle of Fifths and working key signatures out at the keyboard, the English language gives us a gift: SHARP has five letters and FLAT has four.

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