Author Topic: Something I just realized  (Read 521 times)

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    • The Music of Ronald J Brown
Something I just realized
« on: February 07, 2018, 03:22:07 PM »
You probably all know this already, but I have been writing key signatures for more than 60 years and never thought of this until I was answering a question on Quora and had a sudden insight.

Here's the question:"Is there an easy way to remember which notes are sharps/flats in each major or minor scale?"

My answer: " Start with C and go up a perfect 5th, adding a sharp each time to the note just below the target note and you’ll get all the “sharp” major keys. Eg. C major = no sharps; up a perfect 5th = G, add a sharp to the note below it, the F#, and you have the key signature for G major. Go up another 5th to D, add a sharp to the note just below the D, C#, and you have the key signature of D major….and so on.

[/size]For the flat keys, starting at C, add a flat to the note just below it (Bb) and go up a perfect 4th: you have F major; add a flat to the note just below that (Eb), go up a perfect 4th and you’ll have Bb major—and so on.For the minor keys, use the key signature of the major key a minor third higher. E minor, up a minor 3rd = G. Use G major, and so on."
« Last Edit: February 07, 2018, 04:16:45 PM by Ron »
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    • TerenceMartinSaxArranger
Re: Something I just realized
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2018, 09:55:23 AM »
For those of us who've worked with music most of our lives, it's a bit like asking "How do you remember how to spell the word 'cat'?" Answer: I've done it so long I don't even think about it. Of course, that's of zero value to the person asking the question!

Before it became rote, I memorized B-E-A-D-G-C-F, which is the order the flats are added. I did the flats because BEAD is a complete English word so I'm really only memorizing a list of 4 things. Sharps go in reverse order.

From there, since lots of my early schooling involved Solfege, so I always thought in those terms:
For Sharp keys, the last sharp is Ti, so add enough sharps until you get note before your key: Key of B: Add sharps until you get to A#, therefore, F, C, G, D, and A.
For Flat keys, the last flat is Fa, or once you get at least 2 flats, one flat before the end is your key: Four flats, the third one is Ab, so Ab is your key. If you know what key you want and don't know how many flats, add flats until you hit your key, then add one more: Aiming for Ab: Add Bb, Eb, and Ab, then one more Db.

Minor keys: find the major key and the minor scale starts on La.

Terence Martin

Tools: Finale 2003 on Windows XP
Day job: Actuary
Composing/Arranging output: mostly sax quartets
Goal: Improve quantity and quality of concert band compositions.
Play: Saxophones (all, but tenor primary), Bass Clarinet, Piano (poorly)