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Shortcuts for Major Keys Learning

Updated on October 16, 2015

Mnemonic Memory Charts for Major Keys in Music

This is an article about music, which means we will talk about something serious.
Making music has taken on so much un-needed complexity as music writers have been forced to create more and more symbols to explain the tiny nuances of music to others so that a particular piece of music can be duplicated.

This article is the shortest way I can think of, to remember many details that seem so random that a person could never memorize them easily.
This is in no way a complete coverage of music theory. Nor a complete explanation of this particular aspect of music. It is just an attempt to convey a device to help to remember a large number of random-seeming facts when looking at a key signature at the beginning of a page of sheet music.

musical notes with alphabetic notations
musical notes with alphabetic notations | Source

Shortcuts to Remember the Musical Notes

When most of us were in grade school music class, we learned that the thing with five lines is called a staff. We learned that each of the lines had a letter-name corresponding to a note of music and then we learned that the spaces between the lines had letter-names of notes too.

I remember how it seemed back then to be so many things to remember. I was the young child that kept staring at the lines hoping somehow that if I stared long enough, it would become a part of my memory bank. In my young mind, it seemed too complex until someone said to me that there were two shortcuts to remembering the lines and spaces of music:

The spaces are F-A-C-E from the bottom up and those letters spelled FACE. (That was easy!)

The lines are E-G-B-D-F and I could remember them from the bottom of the staff to the top if I just remembered the sentence: Every Good Boy Does Fine.

These memory aids reduces a young child’s anxiety by so much, I always felt that other such memory aids should be made for more of the details of music that usually students are just expected to absorb without any memory aids at all. I am sure other music makers and teachers have had tricks to help them remember, but I have never read of any that were made public. So I created four sentences that, if remembered in order, will help the students to better know major key signatures in music.

Sentences to Remember Accidentals

Thus, there also had to be a fifth sentence to remember which of the sentences come first, second, etc. Remembering these five mnemonic sentences will come in real handy as you will see, even if your mother tongue is not English.

Here are the sentences:

The first two have to do with the order of the sharps/flats written in the key signature on the staff:

The first sentence is about the order of sharp marks on the staff:

Five Cocky Goats Die At Every Barbeque.”
It means that the first key will have a sharp F, the second will have a sharp F and C and so on.

The second sentence is about the order of flats:

Big Elephants Are Darn Good Cage Fighters.”

The next two sentences have to do with the number of sharp/flats written in the key signature:

The third is about the number of sharps contained in every Major Key:

Good Dogs All Eat Badly Shaped Food Cautiously.”
The progression of keys is G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#. This is the order of the keys from the one with less sharps to the one with the most sharps.

The fourth is about the number of flats contained in every Major Key:

Five Flattened Bodies Emit A Disgusting Green Cloud.”
This sentence is ment to help you remember the names of the Major keys that contains flats in their scale progression. They are ordered depending on how many flat notes are in their scales. The result will be: F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, and Cb .

Now to remember that the subjects (in order) of these seemingly nonsensical sentences deals with GOATS, then ELEPHANTS, then DOGS, and then DEAD: there is a sentence to remember this important order of the sentences and also to remember that the first two sentences have to do with the order of the sharps/flats (accidentals) and the next two with the number of accidentals. This is the additional sentence to remember that:

“By ORDER OF the GOATS and the ELEPHANTS, THE TOTAL NUMBER of DOGS DEAD were five.”

Order of Sharps and Flats on a Staff

In the beginning of each song is a number of symbols known as sharps “#” or flats "b" that look almost like an italicized letter “b.” Each one of the sharps or flats effect whether a particular note is supposed to be played normally or raised or lowered in pitch to make the song sound better. If a sharp or flat is found on a particular line or space that note must be raised or lowered a half-step. So the number of the sharps or flats and where they are is very important for the musician to see and understand to be able to play a song correctly.

The sharps or flats can number up to seven which would make the entire song be played with every note being altered by a half-step. If there are fewer accidentals (# or b) then more notes can be played without change (natural). The number of accidentals at the beginning of a song is known as the “key” of a song. Each key is given a letter name depending on how many accidentals there are.

For example, if there is one # written in the key signature it will be written on the top line of the staff, the F line. The first sharp in the key signature will always be written on the top line. If the song calls for a second sharp the next # symbol will be written on the third space from the bottom, which corresponds to C. If there are two sharps the first will always be written on the F, the second on the C. The first chart will show all of the sharps and which line they will be written on. It will show each note in the scale and which notes will be played normally and which will be played altered by one-half note higher.

sharps on sheet music
sharps on sheet music | Source

Order Of Sharps in a Major Key Signature and Which Are Sharped

(See the 1st shortcut sentence to remember the order of the accidentals).

The following is the list of Major scales and the corresponding minor scale with all the sharps that you will find in the specific key.

C Major : 0 # in Key Signature - All played unchanged : A minor;

G Major : 1# in Key Signature - # on F / natural C – G – D – A – E – B : E minor;

D Major : 2# in Key Signature - # on F – C / natural G – D – A – E – B : B minor;

A Major : 3# in Key Signature - # on F – C – G / natural D – A – E – B :F# minor;

E Major : 4# in Key Signature - # on F – C – G – D / natural A – E – B : C# minor;

B Major : 5# in Key Signature - # on F – C – G – D – A / natural E – B : G# minor;

F# Major : 6# in Key Signature - # on F – C – G – D – A – E / natural B : D# minor;

C# Major : 7# in Key Signature - All notes sharped : A# minor.

These can be summed up in the following table.

Maj Scale
N° of #
#ed Notes
min Scale
C
0
 
A
G
1
F
E
D
2
F, C
B
A
3
F, C, G
F#
E
4
F, C, G, D
C#
B
5
F, C, G, D, A
G#
F#
6
F, C, G, D, A, E
D#
C#
7
F, C, G, D, A, E, B
A#
flats on sheet music
flats on sheet music

Order of Flats in a Major Key Signature and Which Are Flattened

(See the 2nd shortcut sentence to remember the order of the accidentals).

The following is the list of Major scales and the corresponding minor scale with all the flats that you will find in the specific key.

F Major : 1 ♭ in Key signature - ♭ on B / natural E – A – D – G – C – F : D minor;

B♭ Major : 2 ♭ in Key signature - ♭ on B – E / natural A – D – G – C – F : G minor;

E♭ Major : 3 ♭ in Key signature - ♭ on B – E – A / natural D – G – C – F : C minor;

A♭ Major : 4 ♭ in Key signature - ♭ on B – E – A – D / natural G – C – F : F minor;

D♭ Major : 5 ♭ in Key signature - ♭ on B – E – A – D – G / natural C – F : Bb minor;

G♭ Major : 6 ♭ in Key signature - ♭ on B – E – A – D – G – C / natural F : Eb minor;

C♭ Major : 7 ♭ in Key signature - ♭ on B - E - A - D - G - C -F / no natural : A♭ minor.

These can be summed up in the following table.

Maj Scale
N° of ♭
♭ed Notes
min Scale
F
1
B
D
B♭
2
B, E
G
E♭
3
B, E, A
C
A♭
4
B, E, A, D
F
D♭
5
B, E, A, D, G
B♭
G♭
6
B, E, A, D, G, C
E♭
C♭
7
B, E, A, D, G, C, F
A♭

Number of Sharps in a Major Key Signature

(See the 3rd shortcut sentence to remember the number of the accidentals).

In the following you will find a list of keys in ascending order depending on the number of sharps that can be found and the resulting scale with all the sharps in it.

G Major : 1 sharp on F only - G, A, C, D. E, F#, G;

D Major : 2 sharps on F, C - D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D;

A Major : 3 sharps on F, C, G - A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A;

E Major : 4 sharps on F, C, G, D - E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E;

B Major : 5 sharps on F, C, G, D, A - B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, B;

F# Major : 6 sharps on F, C, G, D, A, E - F#, G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E#, F#;

C# Major : 7 sharps on F, C, G, D, A, E, B - C#, D#. E#, F#, G#, A#, B#, C#.

These can be also summed up in the following table.

N° of #
Key
Order of #
Scale
1
G Maj
F
G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G
2
D Maj
F, C
D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D
3
A Maj
F, C, G
A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A
4
E Maj
F, C, G, D
E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E
5
B Maj
F, C, G, D, A
B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, B
6
F# Maj
F, C, G, D, A, E
F#, G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E#, F#
7
C# Maj
F, C, G, D, A, E, B
C#, D#, E#, F#, G#, A#, B#, C#

Number of Flats in a Major Key Signature

(See the 4th shortcut sentence to remember the number of the accidentals).

In the following you will find a list of keys in ascending order depending on the number of flats that can be found in each and the resulting scale with all the accidentals.

F Major : 1 flat on B only - F, G, A, B♭, C, D, E, F;

B♭ Major : 2 flats on B, E - B♭, C, D, E♭, F, G, A, B♭;

E♭ Major : 3 flats on B, E, A - E♭, F, G, A♭, B♭, C, D, E♭;

A♭ Major : 4 flats on B, E, A, D - A♭, B♭, C, Db, E♭, F, G, A♭;

D♭ Major : 5 flats on B, E, A, D, G - D♭, E♭, F, G♭, A♭, B♭, C, D♭;

G♭ Major : 6 flats on B, E, A, D, G, C - G♭, A♭, B♭, C♭, D♭, E♭, F, G♭;

C♭ Major : 7 flats on B, E, A, D, G, C, F - C♭, D♭, E♭, F♭, G♭, A♭, B♭, C♭.

These can be also summed up in the following table.

N° of ♭
Key
Order of ♭
Scale
1
F
B
F, G, A, B♭, C, D, E, F
2
B♭
B, E
B♭, C, D, E♭, F, G, A, B♭
3
E♭
B, E, A
E♭, F, G, A♭, B♭, C, D, E♭
4
A♭
B, E, A, D
A♭, B♭, C, D, E♭, F, G, A♭
5
D♭
B, E, A, D, G
D♭, E♭, F, G♭, A♭, B♭, C, D♭
6
G♭
B, E, A, D, G, C
G♭, A♭, B♭, C♭, D♭, E♭, F, G♭
7
C♭
B, E, A, D, G, C, F
C♭, D♭, E♭, F♭, G♭, A♭, B♭, C♭

Thank You for Reading This Hub

I also invite you to tell me everything you are thinking about, because I wish to know feedbacks and opinions of every one ! ^^ .

© 2014 Mickji

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    • Mickji profile imageAUTHOR

      Mickji 

      4 years ago from between Italy and Switzerland, travelling around the world thanks to a little special object

      I thank you ! I hope that people will find it useful and will learn music more easily thanks to this article ! Let's see what the future will bring to us... I'm really happy that you found it useful, now I will think of other methods to learn music and I will write another article... Stay tuned for more! (^‿^)b

    • no body profile image

      Robert E Smith 

      4 years ago from Rochester, New York

      Hi Mickji. The article is great! Music is so complicated for me and information like this seem to take so much of the memory work out of it. I know there will be many people that do read and make use of this. Wonderful, voted up and Awesome!

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