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Allen's Master Theory Help & Hints

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Lessons 31-36

Key Signatures

This section is a serious crash course and workout in both key signatures and the keys that they represent. The rules are pretty easy to follow, but you need to know the name of each key when you see the key signature.

Hopefully, you already know that there is not an infinite number of combinations of sharps and flats to put in key signatures. Key signatures are composed of groups of sharps and flats which combine to alter pitches on the staff so that a major scale can be written, without additional accidentals, no matter what note it's based on. The note on which the scale is based, also provides us with the name of the key that we're in.

Lessons 31 & 32 deal primarily with the rules governing key signatures.

Lessons 33 & 34 teach you the flat keys and Lessons 35 & 36 teach you the sharp keys. A terrific asset in learning your key signatures to learn the Order of Sharps and the Order of Flats.

Sharps are always in this order:  F, C, G, D, A, E, B. You can remember with the saying, "Fat Cats Get Drunk After Eating Beans."   Note that the farthest sharp to the right is always the 7th note of the major scale. Go up 1/2 step from that and you have the name of the key. For example, F# is the seventh note of the G scale. C# is the seventh note of the D scale. You get the picture...

Flats are always in the opposite order of sharps:  B, E, A, D, G, C, F.  We remember this with the inverse saying, "Beans Eaten After Drinking Get Cats Fat." Note that the farthest flat to the right is always the fourth note of the major scale. Go down a fourth (five half-steps), and you get the name of the key. For example, B-flat is the fourth note of the F scale. E-flat is the fourth note of the B-flat scale. This pattern is pretty straight-ahead, too.

Two more notes:

  1. Follow the instructions carefully and completely when doing lessons 32, 34 and 36.

  2. Also note that in Lessons 32, 34 and 36, each set of Exercise 4 & 5 is actually a rhythm review. If you've forgotten how to work them, look at the inside front cover of the book for a review of Master Theory's method of notating rhythm. If you need more help, consult Lessons 9-14 and 21-26 in Book 1.

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