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About Key Signatures

How Do I Know What Key a Song Is In?

Figuring out key signatures can be tricky, but it doesn't have to be! Learn the rules for knowing which key signatures are which, and how to play a major scale beginning on any key by memorizing a few things about music theory.  


Sharp Keys:

Key signatures with a lot of sharps can be intimidating if you don't know the rules.  Here are a couple of things to know:

1. The sharps ALWAYS go in the same order. If there is one sharp, it is ALWAYS F.  If there are two sharps they are F and C.

The order is easily memorized with this phrase: Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Birds (so F, C, G, D, A, E, B).

2. The name of the key the song is written in is always one letter name higher than the last sharp in the key signature.  (Remember, the music alphabet is ABCDEFGABCDEFG on repeat).

If a song has four sharps, the sharps are F,C,G,D. The last sharp is D, so we go up one letter name to E.  That is the name of the key of the song and E is the "home" or "root" note.  Before playing in this key, I definitely recommend that you play a scale.  See more about scales below.


Flat Keys:

Here are a couple of things to know about flat key signatures:

1. The flats ALWAYS go in the same order. If there is one flat, it is ALWAYS B.  If there are two flats they are B and E.

The order is easily memorized: B, E, A, D, G, C, F well... at least the first four are easy to memorize by spelling the word BEAD.

2. The name of the key the song is written in is always the second to last flat.  

If a song has four flats, the flats are BEAD. The second to last flat is A flat.  That is the name of the key of the song and A flat is the "home" or "root" note.  Before playing in this key, I definitely recommend that you play a scale.  See more about scales below.