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Encyclopedia > Key signature
This key signature – A major or F# minor – consists of three sharps placed after the clef
This key signature – A major or F# minor – consists of three sharps placed after the clef

In musical notation, a key signature is a series of sharp symbols or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be consistently played one semitone higher or lower than the equivalent natural notes (for example, the white notes on a piano keyboard) unless otherwise altered with an accidental. Key signatures are generally written immediately after the clef at the beginning of a line of musical notation, although they can appear in other parts of a score, notably after a double bar. Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Figure 1. ... Figure 1. ... A semitone (also known in the USA as a half step) is a musical interval. ... In musical notation, a natural sign is a sign used to cancel a flat or sharp from either a preceding note or the key signature. ... On a keyboard instrument, a white note is one of the larger notes that lie below and around the black notes. ... An accidental is a musical notation symbol used to raise or lower the pitch of a note from that indicated by the key signature. ... A clef indicates the name of the notes on one line of the staff, in relation to which the notes of the other lines and spaces may be determined. ... Sheet music is written represenation of music. ... In musical notation, a bar or measure is a segment of time defined as a given number of beats of a given duration. ...

Contents

Applying key signatures

Here is a B major scale written with notes:


Image File history File links B major scale written with accidentals Created with Sibelius File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ...


and here is the same scale (played on the same notes) written using a key signature:


Image File history File links B major scale written with key signature Created with Sibelius File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ...


The purpose of the key signature is to minimize the number of accidentals required to notate the music. In principle, any piece can be written with any key signature, using accidentals to correct any notes where it shouldn't apply.


The effect of a key signature continues throughout a piece or movement, unless explicitly cancelled by another key signature. For example, if a five-sharp key signature is placed at the beginning of a piece, every A in the piece in any octave will be played as A sharp, unless preceded by an accidental (for instance, the A in the above scale — the penultimate note — is played as an A♯ even though the A♯ in the key signature is written an octave lower). In music, an octave (sometimes abbreviated 8ve) is the interval between one musical note and another with half or double its frequency. ... An accidental is a musical notation symbol used to raise or lower the pitch of a note from that indicated by the key signature. ...


Generally, if there is only one sharp, it must be F sharp; the sequence of sharps or flats in key signatures is rigid in music from the common practice period. The order is set out below. In the 20th century composers such as Bartók and Rzewski (see below) began experimenting with unusual key signatures that departed from the standard order. In music the common practice period is a long period in western musical history spanning from before the classical era proper to today, dated, on the outside, as 1600-1900. ... Béla Bartók in 1927 Béla Viktor János Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer, pianist and collector of Eastern European and Middle Eastern folk music. ... Frederic Anthony Rzewski (born April 13, 1938) is an American composer and virtuoso pianist. ... In music, a mode is an ordered series of musical intervals, which, along with the key or tonic, define the pitches. ...


In a score containing more than one instrument, all the instruments are usually written with the same key signature. Exceptions:

  • If an instrument is a transposing instrument
  • If an instrument is a percussion instrument with indeterminate pitch
  • As a convention, many composers omit the key signature for horn parts. This is perhaps reminiscent of the early days of brass instruments, when crooks would be added to horns, in order to increase the length of the tubing and thereby change the key of the instrument.
  • In 15th-century scores partial signatures are quite common, in which different voices will have different key signatures; however, this is derived from the different hexachords in which the parts were implicitly written, and the use of the term "key signature" can be misleading for music of this and earlier periods.

A transposing instrument is a musical instrument whose music is written at a pitch different from concert pitch. ... A percussion instrument is any object which produces a sound by being struck with an implement, shaken, rubbed, scraped, or by any other action which sets the object into vibration. ... The horn (popularly known also as the French horn) is a brass instrument decended from the natural horn that consists of tubing wrapped into a coiled form. ... Crook can refer to the following: Crooking is a verb to refer to the action of creating a bend or curve; for example, crooking a finger. ... In music, a hexachord is a collection of six tones. ...

Relation of signature to key

A key signature is not the same as a key; key signatures are merely notational devices. They are convenient principally for diatonic or tonal music. Some pieces that change key (modulate) insert a new key signature on the staff partway, while others use accidentals: natural signs to "neutralize" the key signature and other sharps or flats for the new key. In music theory, the key identifies the tonic triad, the chord, major or minor, which represents the final point of rest for a piece, or the focal point of a section. ... In Music theory, the diatonic major scale (also known as the Guido scale), from the Greek diatonikos or to stretch out, is a fundamental building block of the European-influenced musical tradition. ... Tonality is a system of writing music according to certain hierarchical pitch relationships around a key center or tonic. ... In music, modulation is most commonly the act or process of changing from one key (tonic, or tonal center) to another. ...


For a given musical mode the key signature defines the diatonic scale that a piece of music uses. Most scales require that some notes be consistently sharpened or flattened. For example, in the key of G major, the leading-note is F sharp. So the key signature associated with G major is the one-sharp key signature. However, there is no causal connection; a piece with a one-sharp key signature is not necessarily in the key of G major. Many other factors determine the key of a piece. This is particularly true of minor keys. The famous "Dorian" Toccata and Fugue by Bach is so named because, although it is in D minor, there is no key signature, implying that it is in the key of C. Instead, the B flats necessary for D minor are written as accidentals as and when necessary.
In music, a mode is an ordered series of musical intervals, which, along with the key or tonic, define the pitches. ... In music theory, a diatonic scale (from the Greek diatonikos, to stretch out; also known as the heptatonia prima; set form 7-35) is a seven-note musical scale comprising five whole-tone and two half-tone steps, in which the half tones are maximally separated. ... In music, a scale is a set of musical notes that provides material for part or all of a musical work. ... In music theory, the major scale is one of the diatonic scales. ... In music theory, a leading-tone (called the leading-note outside the US) is a note or pitch which is resolves or leads to a note one semitone higher or lower, being an lower and upper leading-tone, respectively. ... In music theory, the key identifies the tonic triad, the chord, major or minor, which represents the final point of rest for a piece, or the focal point of a section. ... The Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 538, is an organ piece by Johann Sebastian Bach. ... Bach in a 1748 portrait by Haussmann Places in which Bach resided throughout his life Johann Sebastian Bach (pronounced ) (21 March 1685 O.S. – 28 July 1750 N.S.) was a prolific German composer and organist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra and solo instruments drew together the...

Bach Cantata 106 is almost entirely in E-flat major, but has two flats in the key signature
Bach Cantata 106 is almost entirely in E-flat major, but has two flats in the key signature


Two keys which share the same key signature are called relative keys. Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 236 pixelsFull resolution (1374 × 406 pixel, file size: 31 KB, MIME type: image/png) Excerpt of Bachs Cantata 106, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit From a 19th-century (probably Breitkopf) edition The two-dimensional work of art depicted... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 236 pixelsFull resolution (1374 × 406 pixel, file size: 31 KB, MIME type: image/png) Excerpt of Bachs Cantata 106, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit From a 19th-century (probably Breitkopf) edition The two-dimensional work of art depicted... In music, the relative minor of a particular major key (or the relative major of a minor key) is the key which has the same key signature but a different tonic, as opposed to parallel minor or major, respectively. ...


When musical modes, such as Lydian or Dorian, are written using key signatures, they are called transposed modes. In music, a mode is an ordered series of musical intervals, which, along with the key or tonic, define the pitches. ... Due to historical confusion, Lydian mode can refer to two very different musical modes or diatonic scales. ... Due to historical confusion, Dorian mode can refer to two very different musical modes or diatonic scales. ...


History

Variant key signatures in a Victoria motet. In the Superius part the E-flat appears first, and in two other parts a flat occurs in two octaves.
Variant key signatures in a Victoria motet. In the Superius part the E-flat appears first, and in two other parts a flat occurs in two octaves.

The use of a one-flat signature developed in the Medieval period, but signatures with more than one flat did not appear until the 16th century, and signatures with sharps not until the mid-17th century. [1] Image File history File links Size of this preview: 133 × 599 pixel Image in higher resolution (330 × 1485 pixel, file size: 90 KB, MIME type: image/png) Scan of early music key signature variants This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired in the United States... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 133 × 599 pixel Image in higher resolution (330 × 1485 pixel, file size: 90 KB, MIME type: image/png) Scan of early music key signature variants This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired in the United States... Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548 – August 20, 1611) was a gifted Spanish composer of the late Renaissance. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... (15th century - 16th century - 17th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 16th century was that century which lasted from 1501 to 1600. ... (16th century - 17th century - 18th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 17th century was that century which lasted from 1601-1700. ...


When signatures with multiple flats first came in, the order of the flats was not standardized, and often a flat appeared in two different octaves, as shown at right. In the late 1400s and early 1500s it was common for different voice parts in the same composition to have different signatures, a situation called a partial signature or conflicting signature. This was actually more common than complete signatures in the 15th century. [2] The 16th-century motet "Absolon fili mi" attributed to Josquin Desprez features two voice parts with two flats, one part with three flats, and one part with four flats. Josquin Des Prez Josquin Des Prez (diminutive of Joseph; latinized Josquinus Pratensis) (c. ...


Baroque music written in minor keys often was written with a key signature with fewer flats than we now associate with their keys; for example, movements in C minor often had only two flats (because the A♭ would frequently have to be sharpened to A natural in the ascending melodic minor scale, as would the B♭). Baroque music describes an era and a set of styles of European classical music which were in widespread use between approximately 1600 and 1750 (see Dates of classical music eras for a discussion of the problems inherent in defining the beginning and end points). ... A minor scale in musical theory can be viewed as the sixth mode of the major scale. ... A minor scale in musical theory is a diatonic scale whose third scale degree is an interval of a minor third above the tonic. ...


Table of key signatures

The table below illustrates the number of sharps or flats for each key signature and the relative major key signatures for minor scales (see circle of fifths). Remembering all the key signatures is easily done when you apply four simple rules: In music, the relative minor of a particular major key (or the relative major of a minor key) is the key which has the same key signature but a different tonic, as opposed to parallel minor or major, respectively. ... In music theory, the circle of fifths (or cycle of fifths) is an imaginary geometrical space that depicts relationships among the 12 equal-tempered pitch classes comprising the familiar chromatic scale. ...

  • No sharps or flats is C major
  • One flat is F major
  • For more than one flat, the (major) key is the next-to-last flat.
  • For any number of sharps, take the last sharp and go up one semitone to get the (major) key.

Alternatively, starting from C major, each sharp raises the key by a fifth, and each flat lowers it by a fifth (or, equivalently, raises it by a fourth). See the "Major Key" columns in the table.


The relative minor is a minor third down from the major, regardless of whether it is a "flat" or a "sharp" key signature. A minor third is the smaller of two commonly occurring musical intervals that span three diatonic scale degrees. ...


For key signatures with sharps, the first sharp is placed on F line (for the key of G major/E minor). Subsequent additional sharps are added on C, G, D, A, E and B. For key signatures with flats, the first flat is placed on the B line, with subsequent flats on E, A, D, G, C and F. A common mnemonic for remembering this is Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle for key signatures with sharps, and vice versa for key signatures with flats: Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles' Father. There are 15 possible different key signatures, including the "empty" signature of C major/A minor. This sequence is rendered in the circle of fifths. In music theory, the circle of fifths (or cycle of fifths) is an imaginary geometrical space that depicts relationships among the 12 equal-tempered pitch classes comprising the familiar chromatic scale. ...


The key signatures with seven flats and seven sharps are very rarely used, not only because pieces in these "extreme" sharp or flat keys are more difficult to play on most instruments, but also because they have simpler enharmonic equivalents. For example, the key of C# major (seven sharps) is more simply represented as D♭ major (five flats). For modern practical purposes these keys are the same, because C# and Db are the same note. Pieces are written in these "extreme" sharp or flat keys, however: for example, Bach's Prelude and Fugue No. 3 from Book 1 of The Well-Tempered Clavier BWV 848 is in C♯ major. In music, an enharmonic is a note which is the equivalent of some other note, but spelled differently. ... Bach in a 1748 portrait by Haussmann Places in which Bach resided throughout his life Johann Sebastian Bach (pronounced ) (21 March 1685 O.S. – 28 July 1750 N.S.) was a prolific German composer and organist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra and solo instruments drew together the... Title-page of Das wohtemperierte Klavier A flat major (As-dur) fugue from the second part of Das wohtemperierte Klavier (manuscript) The Well-Tempered Clavier (Das wohltemperierte Klavier in German -- Klavier means piano, but the English word clavier (which means keyboard) looks more like the German title) consists of two... There are over 1000 known compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach. ...


However, the aforementioned 15 key signatures only express diatonic scales (and are therefore sometimes called "standard key signatures"). Other scales are written either with a standard key signature and use accidentals as required, or with a non-standard key signature, such as the Eb (right hand) and Fb & Gb (left hand) used for the Eb diminished (Eb octatonic) scale in Bartók's "Crossed Hands" (no. 99, vol. 4, Mikrokosmos), or the Bb, Eb & Fb used for the D Phrygian dominant scale in Frederic Rzewski's God to a Hungry Child. In music theory, a diatonic scale (from the Greek diatonikos, to stretch out; also known as the heptatonia prima; set form 7-35) is a seven-note musical scale comprising five whole-tone and two half-tone steps, in which the half tones are maximally separated. ... An accidental is a musical notation symbol used to raise or lower the pitch of a note from that indicated by the key signature. ... In music, a diminished scale (set 8-28) is a scale in which the notes of the scale ascend in alternating intervals of a whole step and a half step. ... Béla Bartók in 1927 Béla Viktor János Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer, pianist and collector of Eastern European and Middle Eastern folk music. ... Béla Bartóks composition for piano Mikrokosmos (Sz. ... The Phrygian dominant scale is constructed by raising the third of the Phrygian scale and is the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale, the fifth being the dominant. ... Frederic Anthony Rzewski (born April 13, 1938) is an American composer and virtuoso pianist. ...


Note that an absence of a key signature does not always mean that the music is in the key of C major or A minor: each accidental may be notated explicitly as required, or the piece may be modal, or the piece may be atonal. This article is about modes as used in music. ... Atonality describes music not conforming to the system of tonal hierarchies, which characterizes the sound of classical European music between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. ...

Key Sig. Major Key Minor Key

No sharps or flats
C major A minor
Key Sig. Major Key Minor Key
F Major key signature
1 flat
F major D minor

2 flats
B♭ major G minor
E-flat Major key signature
3 flats
E♭ major C minor
A-flat Major key signature
4 flats
A♭ major F minor
D-flat Major key signature
5 flats
D♭ major B♭ minor
G-flat Major key signature
6 flats
G♭ major E♭ minor

7 flats
C♭ major A♭ minor
Key Sig. Major Key Minor Key
G Major key signature
1 sharp
G major E minor
D Major key signature
2 sharps
D major B minor
A Major key signature
3 sharps
A major F♯ minor
E Major key signature
4 sharps
E major C♯ minor
B Major key signature
5 sharps
B major G♯ minor
F-sharp Major key signature
6 sharps
F♯ major D♯ minor
C-sharp Major key signature
7 sharps
C♯ major A♯ minor

Image File history File links created with GNU Lilypond File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... A one octave music scale in C major. ... A minor (abbreviated Am) is a minor scale based on A, consisting of the pitches A, B, C, D, E, F, G and A (natural minor scale - the harmonic minor scale contains a G♯ instead of a G natural). ... created with GNU Lilypond File links The following pages link to this file: Key signature Wikipedia:List of images/Music/Musical notation F major D minor Categories: Public domain images ineligible for copyright | Music images ... Also see: F minor, or F-sharp minor. ... D minor is a minor scale based on D, consisting of the pitches D, E, F, G, A, B-flat, C, and D (natural minor scale). ... Image File history File links File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... B flat major is a major scale based on B flat, consisting of the pitches B flat, C, D, E flat, F, G, A, and B flat. ... G minor is a minor scale based on G, consisting of the pitches G, A, B-flat, C, D, E-flat, F, and G (natural minor scale). ... Image File history File links created by GNU Lilypond File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... E flat major is a major scale consisting of the pitches E flat, F, G, A flat, B flat, C, D, and E flat. ... C minor (abbreviated Cm) is a minor scale based on C, consisting of the pitches C, D, E-flat, F, G, A-flat, B-flat (often raised to B natural to function as a leading tone) and C. Its key signature consists of three flats. ... Image File history File links created by GNU Lilypond File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... A flat major is a major scale based on A flat, consisting of the pitches A flat, B flat, C, D flat, E flat, F, G, and A flat. ... F minor is a minor scale based on F, consisting of the pitches F, G, A-flat, B-flat, C, D-flat, E-flat and F. (natural minor scale. ... created with GNU Lilypond File links The following pages link to this file: Key signature Wikipedia:List of images/Music/Musical notation D-flat major B-flat minor Categories: Public domain images ineligible for copyright | Music images ... D flat major is a major scale based on D flat, consisting of the pitches D flat, E flat, F, G flat, A flat, B flat, C, and D flat. ... B flat minor is a minor scale based on B flat, consisting of the pitches B flat, C, D flat, E flat, F, G flat, A flat and B flat (natural minor scale). ... created with GNU Lilypond This image is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain, because it consists entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship. ... G flat major is a major scale based on G flat, consisting of the pitches G flat, A flat, B flat, C flat (enharmonic to B natural,) D flat, E flat, F, and G flat. ... E flat minor is a minor scale based on E flat, consisting of the pitches E flat, F, G flat, A flat, B flat, C flat, D flat, and E flat (natural minor scale – the harmonic minor scale contains a D instead of a D flat). ... Image File history File links created with GNU Lilypond File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... C flat major is a major scale based on C flat, consisting of the pitches C flat, D flat, E flat, F flat, G flat, A flat, B flat and C flat. ... A flat minor is a minor scale based on A flat, consisting of the pitches A flat, B flat, C flat, D flat, E flat, F flat, G flat. ... Image File history File links created with GNU Lilypond File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... G major is a major scale based on G, consisting of the pitches G, A, B, C, D, E, F# and G. Its key signature consists of one sharp. ... E minor is a musical minor scale based on the note E, consisting of the pitches E, F#, G, A, B, C, D# and E . ... File links The following pages link to this file: Key signature Wikipedia:List of images/Music/Musical notation D major B minor Categories: Public domain images ineligible for copyright | Music images ... D major is a major scale based on D, consisting of the pitches D, E, F♯, G, A, B, C♯ and D. Its key signature consists of two sharps. ... B minor is a minor scale based on B, consisting of the pitches B, C#, D, E, F#, G, A and B. (natural minor scale - the harmonic minor scale contains a A# instead of a A). ... Image File history File links Created with GNU Lilypond File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... A major is a major scale based on A, consisting of the pitches A, B, C♯, D, E, F♯, G♯, and A. Its key signature consists of three sharps. ... F sharp minor is a minor scale based on F sharp, consisting of the pitches F sharp, G sharp, A, B, C sharp, D, E sharp and F sharp (harmonic minor scale). ... Image File history File links created with GNU Lilypond File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... E major is a major scale based on E, consisting of the pitches E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D# and E. Its key signature consists of four sharps. ... C sharp minor is a minor scale based on C sharp, consisting of the pitches C sharp, D sharp, E, F sharp, G sharp, A, B and C sharp (natural minor scale). ... Image File history File links created with GNU Lilypond File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... B major is a major scale based on B, consisting of the pitches B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, and B. Its key signature consists of five sharps. ... G sharp minor is a minor scale based on G sharp, consisting of the pitches G sharp, A sharp, B, C sharp, D sharp, E, F double sharp and G sharp (harmonic minor scale). ... Image File history File links Created with GNU Lilypond File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... F sharp major is a major scale based on F sharp, consisting of the pitches F sharp, G sharp, A sharp, B, C sharp, D sharp, E sharp (enharmonic to F natural) and F sharp. ... D sharp minor is a minor scale based on D sharp, consisting of the pitches D sharp, E sharp, F sharp, G sharp, A sharp, B, C double sharp and D sharp. ... Image File history File links created with GNU Lilypond File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... C sharp major is a major scale based on C sharp, consisting of the pitches C sharp, D sharp, E sharp (enharmonic to F natural), F sharp, G sharp, A sharp, B sharp (enharmonic to C natural) and C sharp. ... A sharp minor is a minor scale based on A sharp. ...

See also


  Results from FactBites:
 
Key signature - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (840 words)
Key signatures are generally written immediately after the clef at the beginning of a line of musical notation, although they can appear in other parts of a score, usually after a double bar.
A key signature is not the same as a key; key signatures are merely notational devices.
Note that an absence of a key signature does not always mean that the music is in the key of C major or A minor: each accidental may be notated explicitly, or the piece may be atonal.
key signature - definition of key signature in Encyclopedia (710 words)
Key signatures are generally written immediately after the clef at the beginning of a line of musical notation, although they can appear in other parts of a score.
Although key signatures can technically consist of any collection of sharps or flats, musical tradition dictates that they be arranged in a fixed order according to the key and mode of the piece.
In cryptography, a key signature is the result of applying a hash function on a key, for the purpose of simplifying operations on keys.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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