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#1
01-25-2008, 08:23 AM
 Registered User Join Date: Sep 2007 Location: Metro Manila Philippines
What are your tricks for memorizing key signatures?

Hi guys, I recently got a teacher to work on my bass playing. My first assignment was to memorize key signatures to facilitate note reading. So I'm wondering if you have tips on how to do that well.

One thing I came up with myself is that for:
1. Sharp keys - the position of the rightmost sharp plus a half step will be the key. Like the one with only a single sharp, which is key of G. That sharp is placed on the F line.
2. Flat keys - the position of the rightmost flat will be the key flatted. So for two flats, which is the key of Bb, the rightmost flat on the key signature is on the E line. NOTE: all of them keys are in flat, except for that with just one flat on its signature, F. The 'fifth flat' rule also does not apply to the key signature of F.

I'm not sure how sound those were but I guess I can use them to spot right on the key signature without counting. Although I would tend to think that it's easier in the long run to just count the number of sharps/flats on the key signature and come up with the key. Any ideas?
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Last edited by phektus : 01-25-2008 at 08:24 AM. Reason: typo
#2
01-25-2008, 08:47 AM
 Registered User Join Date: Nov 2005 Location: Cincinnati
Quote:
 Originally Posted by phektus 2. Flat keys - the position of the rightmost flat will be the key flatted. So for two flats, which is the key of Bb, the rightmost flat on the key signature is on the E line.
That might be a little mangled. The rule I use for flats is the NEXT TO THE RIGHTMOST flat is the key. So, for two flats, the last flat on the right in on the E space, and the one next to it is Bb... the key. (for 3 flats, the last flat is Ab, and the one next to that is Eb, the key...etc. etc.)

These kind of rules and games are good for learning. Eventually you'll just know the keys (Major and Minor) and won't have to think about it.
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#3
01-25-2008, 09:57 AM
 Registered User Join Date: Nov 2007 Location: Jersey City, NJ
What about when the alterations are not positioned correctly such as in a handwritten chart by a not so knowledgeable musician?

The easiest way is to go through the circle of 5ths/4ths. You don't even have to memorize it. All you need to remember is that sharps go with 5ths and flats go with 4ths. Three flats means that the key is three 4ths away from C (C->F->Bb->Eb), 5 sharps means that the key is five 5ths away from C (C->G->D->A->E->B) with C being zero. If it's a minor key it would be the relative minor of the major key you come up with.

If you can play a 5th or a 4th on your instrument you can figure out the key in no time without having to look at the actual alterations.

Last edited by Agilulfo : 01-25-2008 at 10:01 AM.
#4
01-25-2008, 11:06 AM
 Registered User Join Date: Feb 2006 Location: New York City
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Agilulfo What about when the alterations are not positioned correctly such as in a handwritten chart by a not so knowledgeable musician? The easiest way is to go through the circle of 5ths/4ths. You don't even have to memorize it. All you need to remember is that sharps go with 5ths and flats go with 4ths. Three flats means that the key is three 4ths away from C (C->F->Bb->Eb), 5 sharps means that the key is five 5ths away from C (C->G->D->A->E->B) with C being zero. If it's a minor key it would be the relative minor of the major key you come up with. If you can play a 5th or a 4th on your instrument you can figure out the key in no time without having to look at the actual alterations.
+1, I was going to say, the circle of fifths is really key to this.
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#5
01-25-2008, 11:11 AM
 Registered User Join Date: Feb 2007 Location: Los Angeles, CA
For me the key is having ways to figure out the key sig' so I don't have to rely on memorizing a table of data.

First I learned the order of sharp keys since that is what I was playing a lot in at the time. So F C G D A E B. Then I started working on Flat keys and realized it is the Sharp key in reverse B E A D G C F. So know one and only have to reverse to get the other.

For me I look for thing to simplify or help recreate the data so I spotted the word "BEAD" followed by GCF in the order of Flat keys. So another trick to recreate the proper order BEAD GCF. For Sharp key just reverse FCG then "bead" spelled backwards DAEB. So if I have a brain fart by remembering "bead" I have most of the lists of keys.

Now the trick that solves all key issues for me when combined with the data above. Sharp keys the LAST sharp of the key signature is the 7th degree of the key. Key of G Major the letter name of the 7th degree is F. Order of Sharps F is the first, so only sharp is F#. Take is another Key of E Major. The letter name of 7th degree of E Major D. Order of Sharps F C G D so Key of E has 4 sharps F# C# G# D#. Okay i hear someone say but I don't know how to spell the scale yet, I don't know the 7th degree. Simple 7th is alway one letter name lower than the Key so key of D major, one letter lower C. It's all math, music is math.

Okay similar type rule for Flat key like sharps. Flat keys the letter name of the 4th degree of the scale is the last flat. So key of Bb how many flats in the key sig'? Well the 4th letter name of Bb is E. So order of Flats is B E, aw two flats in the key sig'. Key of Bb major is 2 flats Bb and Eb. Another key of Ab major. 4th letter name of Ab is D. Order of flats B E A D. So key of Ab major is four flats Bb Ab Eb Db. I hear the same guy from before saying I don't know the scales yet. Well for this one instead of the math I just use the bass in my head. The fourth letter name will be the note on same fret up one string. So for Key of Ab I see my bass in my head and Ab is on the E-string, fourth fret. One string up is A-string and note on 4th fret is Db.

So in writing all this sounds complex or weird, but in real life once used to it these tricks are done in mili-seconds. One trick can be used to check the results of the other trick. So even as I memorize common keys signature I still lean on these tricks for a key I'm not used to. I have the order of Flats and Sharps memorized now at light speed and still rely on it for sightreading. I'll have a brain fart while reading and forget if a note needs an accidental. I can think of the key and zip thru the list and know if I need an accidental in milliseconds. So having tricks and most important doing lots of drill of scales and stuff in time that would normally be wasted pays off. As I've mentioned in threads before I used to drill myself on all sorts of things while driving, or in lines waiting, part of the drill is how I came up with tricks to check myself, or figure out an answer. Can't pull out a book while on the freeway, but can use one of the trick to find an answer. The brain is a computer and needs data, but also rules/tricks to apply to the data to use it.

This craziness works for me, maybe one of you it will help.
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#6
01-25-2008, 12:45 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Nov 2007 Location: Jersey City, NJ
This is an additional piece of information which is still based on the circle of 5ths. Once again, sharps go with 5ths and flats with 4ths. To know exactly what notes are altered in any key the only thing that one needs to remember is F is the first alteration for sharp keys and B is the first for flat keys.

So, the key of A is three 5ths away from C (C->G->D->A) and thus it has three sharps. The altered notes are F->C->G (F plus the following 2 notes in the circle of 5ths) thus F#-C#-G#.
#7
01-25-2008, 12:50 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Aug 2006 Location: Coeur d'Alene
I can't even remember how I learned it anymore, it's automatic now.

I think I had an instructor who was constantly pushing me to memorize.
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#8
01-25-2008, 01:05 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Nov 2007 Location: Jersey City, NJ
There are only 14 keys so one will memorize them eventually. But at first, at least for me, it was very useful to visualize the circle (5ths or 4ths) on the fretboard.
#9
01-25-2008, 01:35 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Sep 2005 Location: New Hampshire
F C G D A E B = Four Chickens Go Destroy An Egg Beater
#10
01-25-2008, 02:01 PM
 Musical Anarchist Join Date: Apr 2005 Location: Sutton, MA
This might help.

#11
01-25-2008, 02:10 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Jan 2006 Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Here's a trick I use to teach for remembering how many sharps are in a key.

1st string on the bass is a G there is 1 sharp in the key of G
2nd string is D there are 2 sharps in key of D
3rd string is A 3 sharps in A
4th string E has 4 sharps
5th string B has 5 sharps

You'll just have to remember F# and C#..but this system is really easy for help in remembering the first 5 sharp keys.
#12
01-25-2008, 02:10 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Oct 2007
Cant Guys Do Anything Else But Flirt? found this one in a book somewhere.

Since key signatures assume a base key of C you shouldn't really be starting at F since the key of F# is 6 sharps and F is 1 flat.
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#13
01-25-2008, 03:40 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Sep 2007 Location: Toronto, Canada
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Freddels This might help.
+1
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#14
01-25-2008, 04:05 PM
 I'm with Franklin. Join Date: Aug 2005 Location: College Station, Texas
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Freddels This might help.
nice!
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#15
01-25-2008, 07:53 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Dec 2004 Location: Sydney, Australia
I use the circle of 5ths/4ths also. 5ths when counting with sharps, 4ths when counting with flats.
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#16
01-25-2008, 07:58 PM
 Registered User Join Date: Sep 2007 Location: Metro Manila Philippines
Lotsa inputs... Thanks!
Sometimes I just resort to my fretboard position in memory to come up with the notes in the scales. Hopefully I can memorize the notes on every given scale in any key soon, as I see it also helps in this area.
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