Key Signatures

What do flats, sharps and key signatures mean?

Sharps, Flats & Naturals
NotationName Definition
Sharp
sharp
sharp note A sharp set before a note raises the pitch of the note a half-step, and remains in effect for the rest of the measure.
Flat
flat
flat note A flat set before a note lowers the pitch of the note a half-step, and remains in effect for the rest of the measure.
Natural
natural
natural note A natural set before a note restores the natural pitch of a note, and is often used after a flat or sharp.
Enharmonic
Notes
enharmonic note Enharmonic notes are two notes that sound the same, but are spelled differently (e.g. A# and Bb).
Key Signatures
sharp
sharp

There are 15 Major & Minor Key Signatures. As illustrated above, each major key signature has a corresponding minor key signature (e.g. both "C Major" and "a minor" do not have any sharps or flats). Keys are used to organize a piece of music. For example, music written in the key of C centers around the tone of C, and uses notes from the C scale (no sharps or flats).

Circle of Fifths
sharp

A circle of fifths is an arrangement of keys by ascending fifths. It displays how many sharps or flats are in each key. Major keys are noted in capital letters and are found on the outer part of the circle (C,G etc.), and minor keys are in lower case letters on the inner part of the circle (a, e etc.).

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