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Lesson Tutor: Major and Minor Keys and Signatures

  /  Lesson Tutor: Major and Minor Keys and Signatures

Elements of Music Notation: Keys and Key Signatures
by Elaine Ernst Schneider and Joanne Mikola

Major (+) Key
Minor (-) Key
 Indicators or signs
Key Signature
A –
no sharps, no flats
No sharps and no flats in the key signature can mean either the key of C major or A minor.
E minor
one sharp (F)
Keys of G major and A minor both show one sharp on F for the key signature.
two sharps (F, C )
Two sharps on the key signature, on F and C notes, could mean either D major or B minor .
F sharp minor
three sharps
(F, C, G)
Keys of A major and F sharp minor both carry 3 sharps in the key signature - F, C, and G.
C # –
four sharps
(F, C, G, D)
E major or C sharp minor keys both have 4 sharps - F, C, G, and D.
G # minor 
five sharps
(F, C, G, D, A)
A staff with F, C, G, D, and A sharps on it would mean either B major or G sharp minor key.
Fsharp(#) +
D sharp –
six sharps
(F, C, G, D, A, E)
6 sharps on the key signature of a score would be either F sharp major or D sharp minor and include F, C, G, D, A, and E sharps.
D minor
one flat (B)
The scale of F major and D minor both carry a single flat (B) in the key signature.
B flat major
G –
two flats (B, E)
B flat major and G minor both have 2 flats (B and E) in the key signature.
flat +
C minor
three flats (B, E, A)
Three flats in the key signature would indicate either E Flat Major scale or C Minor.
A flat +
four flats
(B, E, A, D)
4 flats in the key signature could mean either A flat major or F minor key.
D flat +
B flat minor
five flats
(B, E, A, D, G)
5 flats drawn in the lines and spaces of B, E, A. D, and G both the treble and bass portions indicate D flat major or B flat minor scale.
G flat +
E flat minor
six flats
(B, E, A, D, G, C)
The six flats of G flat major or related E flat minor are always drawn in this order away from the clef - B, E, A, D, G, C.


1. Listen to each of the following links one at a time.
2. Write down if you think the melody is in a major or minor key. Hint: Major keys tend to sound sweet, calm, happy, e.g. The Minor keys can sound harsh, mysterious, sad…
3. Beside each answer, add one more feeling or impression you have that describes the sound or tone of the composition.


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