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key signature

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Key signatures with a double barline.

The key signatures of E-flat major and A major.

Image © Brandy Kraemer
Definition: A key signature is a pattern of sharps or flats at the very beginning of a staff, which represents a song’s key. The key signature comes between the clef and the time signature.

A key signature has either sharps or flats, never both. The number of accidentals in a key signature ranges from 0 to 7; C-sharp and C-flat major have seven sharps and flats, respectively, while C major has none.


See keynote.


Key Signature Accidental Patterns

The order of the accidentals written in a key signature is as follows (notice the pattern is simply reversed):

  • Sharps: F#  C#  G#  D#  A#  E#  B#
  • Flats:  Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb

To memorize the pattern of accidentals, try these mnemonic devices:

#’sFine china gets dirty after eating beets

b’sBread eaten at dinner gets children full



Continue Learning About Key Signatures:

Also Known As:
  • armatura (It)
  • armure (Fr)
  • Vorzeichen (Ger)

Pronunciation: kee'  ssig-nə-tchər

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