MUSICAL KEY SIGNATURES

29 September 2008

As much for my own reference (Internet searches really let me down for stuff like this), here are some tables about music notation/ theory.  From this you can find out the key a piece of music is in — look up the sharps and flats then decide if it’s major or minor by playing the major or minor chord.

The first is a table of all the major keys and relative minor keys for music. There are 24 varieties, but the minor share key signatures with major:

Minor Key Major Key b # Key Signature
rel F min Ab mjor 4 b b b b
rel F# min A mjor 3 # # #
A min rel C mjor 0 0
Bb mjor 2 b b
Bb min rel Db mjor 5 b b b b b
rel G# min B mjor 5 # # # # #
B min rel D mjor 2 # #
rel A min C mjor 0 0
C min rel Eb mjor 3 b b b
C# min rel E mjor 4 # # # #
rel Bb min Db mjor 5 b b b b b
rel B min D mjor 2 # #
D min rel F mjor 1 b
D# min rel F# mjor 6 # # # # # #
rel C# min Eb mjor 3 b b b
Eb min rel Gb mjor 6 b b b b b b
rel C# min E mjor 4 # # # #
E min rel G mjor 1 #
F mjor 1 b
F min rel Ab mjor 4 b b b b
rel D# min F# mjor 6 # # # # # #
F# min rel A mjor 3 # # #
rel Eb min Gb mjor 6 b b b b b b
rel E min G mjor 1 #
G min rel Bb mjor 2 b b
G# min rel B mjor 5 # # # # #

To get my files to organise themselves properly, I found that the more usual maj – min abbreviations were no good.  After a bit of experimentation I found that removing the “a” from major was best. This orders this properly and makes things easily identifiable: Bb min/ Bb mjor  as opposed to Bb maj/  Bb min.

Anyway, that’s all the keys, major and minor. In terms of key signatures (which indicate the notes you have to play), it simplifies down to just 12 varieties:

This is probably the one to try to learn, and then, later, learn associations to minor keys.

Major Key Key Signature
Ab b b b b
A # # #
Bb b b
B # # # # #
C
Db b b b b b
D # #
Eb b b b
E # # # #
F b
F# # # # # # #
Gb b b b b b b
G #

I have songs in every key in my MP3 collection, and I would rather play by key than by beats per minute.  MediaMonkey lets you customise, but I just use the “Mood” category to put in the key.  It’s then a cinch to organise by this column, and I get a list of songs from the lowest key to the highest!

CHORDS

Major Chords

Ab Ab C Eb
A A C# E
Bb Bb D F
B B D# F#
C C E G
Db Db F Ab
D D F# A
Eb Eb G Bb
E E G# B
F F A C
F# F# A# C#
Gb Gb Bb Db
G G B D

Of course, it is easy to make a major triad chord into a minor one — always just drop the third one semitone.  In other words, drop the middle note of the triad down by one fret…

The second last chord when the third is dropped, gives a Bbb result — that’s just a technicality. Dropping Bb one fret is obviously A. So play A for a flattened Bb/A# or Bbb.

Hope this is useful!

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3 Responses to “MUSICAL KEY SIGNATURES”


  1. […] Posts THE PRISONERS’ DILEMMASTEVE GADD PARADIDDLEMUSICAL KEY SIGNATURESTHE WONDER GIRLSTHE KISSGREGORY HOSKINSTHE VANITY OF HUMAN […]


  2. […] Posts THE PRISONERS’ DILEMMASTEVE GADD PARADIDDLEMUSICAL KEY SIGNATURESTHE WONDER GIRLSTHE KISSGREGORY HOSKINSTHE VANITY OF HUMAN […]


  3. […] like playing guitar along with my hifi.  It often means I have to figure out the key of the song or tune. That’s OK, and while I have done dozens of songs in my collection, I […]


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