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How can I learn all the key signatures effectively?
Perhaps you're studying for your music theory exam, perhaps you're just curious. Either way I hope to inform you in a simple yet effective way of how to learn all your key signatures (or at least be able to work them out very quickly!).
There are 3 types of scale played on the piano (other instruments too of course, but I'll stick to my instrument for simplicity)
The major scale
The minor scale which can be harmonic or melodic. (The key signature is the same)
For ABRSM Grade 5 music theory you need to know the key signatures for every key. This may seem daunting, bearing in mind that each note can have two different names eg D# or Eb
Therefore instead of trying to learn each and every key signature, the best thing is to look for a pattern.
The circle of fifths.
I'm sure you'll agree that it is much easier to do a quick diagram in the margin of your exam paper than to try writing out every key signature in sequence until you get the right one. Rather than trying to explain it to you, it is better just to take a look at it.
Some key conclusions can be drawn from looking at this diagram.
- Each scale begins on the 5th degree of the previous scale. C to G(1#) to D(2#s) to A(3#s) to E(4#s) etc,
- Each scale adds one more sharp to its predeccesor until you get to the seventh degree of the scale
- The added sharp is exactly a fifth above the last sharp (F# to C# to G# to D# etc)
The same rules apply to scales with flats.
- Each scale begins on the 5th degree below the key note of the previous scale. (or to put it more simply) It begins on the 4th degree of the previous scale. C to F(1b) to Bb(2bs) to Eb (3bs) to Ab (4bs)
- Each scale adds one more flat to its predeccessor until you get to the seventh degree of the scale.
- The added flat is exactly a fifth below the last flat (Bb to Eb to Ab to Db to Gb etc)
We arrive at a crossover point at which we encroach into enharmonics (Gb is the enharmonic of F#)
This results in the clock like circle which is so aesthetically pleasing that even a slightly dim person such as me can get my head around it. Hooray!
The good news is that the same can be applied to the minor keys,
Therefore you can easily walk into your exam armed with 2 little clocks which will guarantee you key signature success............. now as to the rest of the exam, that's a separate hub!