MUST SEE: Key Signatures Made Easy

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by JRH, Nov 19, 2012.

  1. JRH


    Jul 2, 2012
    I know I am not the only one that has struggled to grasp the concept of Major/Minor relative key signatures and how many sharps or flats are in each key! The circle of fifths did not help me at all. Well, sort of, but I was still confused. So, I decided to dedicate some time to create a way for my logical brain to wrap itself around this info...and I am pleased to say that "It's finished!" Now that I am done, I wanted to share it with you.

    You will notice that I designed the chart with the relative keys either directly below (minor) or above (major) one another. I also intentionally inserted the sharp/flat row in between the major and minor charts so you can see how it relates? The scale names/degrees (numbers) run horizontally in the rows, and the key/chords/note (letters) are in the vertical columns.

    For example, look at the first key, which is GM. The 1(G), 2(Am), 3(Bm), 4(C), 5(D), 6(Em, the relative minor), and 7(F#dim) run vertically. Below that you will see that there is one # in the key, then below that you will see the Em scale, which not only is the relative minor of G, BUT it also has the same number of sharps (1) and all of the exact same notes in the scale. I also color coordinated the major (blue) and minor (red) key signatures. For me, when I viewed it all this way the light bulb came on and I thought, "Ah ha, now I get it."

    I hope the same happens for you. Good luck.

    P.S. 1) These are the same scales you would use for Nashville Numbering too. 2) The chart might display funky on your computer, but it will print perfectly. You can also email it to your iphone, then open and save it in ibooks. It look perfect on the phone. A great quick reference.

    Attached Files:

  2. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    This might get more reads in Instruction
  3. Wow, that's an eyeful.

    To remember key signatures, I use the following mnemonics:

    1 G ood
    2 D rummers
    3 A lways
    4 E at
    5 B assist's
    6 F# ried
    7 C# hicken

    1 F at
    2 Bb astard
    3 Eb ats
    4 Ab
    5 Db amn
    6 Gb ood
    7 Cb heesburger

    And of course C is all natural. To remember minor keys I just shift thinking by 3 frets.
  4. JRH


    Jul 2, 2012
    Thanks. Is there an easy way for me to forward it to 'instructions'?
  5. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Impressive work, JRH. Thanks for sharing! :smug:

    (This kind of thing is what I like best about TalkBass! :cool:)

  6. smperry

    smperry Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
  7. JRH


    Jul 2, 2012
    Me too. It's actually one of the motivating factors for me to complete/design the chart. I wanted to be able to give back to the community because I feel as though I am receiving much more than I contribute.
  8. JRH


    Jul 2, 2012
  9. thanx a ton!
  10. RandalPinkFloyd


    Jun 3, 2012
    yea, it took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on in it as well. Too busy imho. I have a nice graph I found online that's been helpful for me.
  11. Nice job.
  12. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    My trick is :

    Outside of Fmajor every other flat keys the before the last flat is the major key. Like if you have Bb and Eb ... the key is Bb ... if you have Bb,Eb,Ab,Db you are in Ab. You just need to know if you are in major or minor.

    For sharps, outside of Cmajor the key is always the a semi-tone above the last sharp ... so if you have F# you are in G ... if you have F#,C# and G# you are in A major.

    Now if you want to find the relative minor ... it is C major ... you go 2½tone down ... C(½)B(1)A ... the relative minor is A ... which is the 6th degree in a scale.

    Take Gmajor ... G(½)F#(1)E ... Emin is the relative minor of Gmajor ...

    It also works the other way around ... if you move from Eminor you go up 2½tone and you get your relative major.

    So with my trick you only need to spot the flat or sharp you really need to figure out the key. Then it is only a matter of finding if you are in a major or minor key.
  13. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    My trick:

    The last # is the major 7th of the key.
    The last b is the perfect 4th of the key.
    The relative minor root is the Major 6th of the key.

    (basically what Clef_de_fa said)

    That said, the exercise of charting things out to develop your understanding of the logic behind key sigs is worth the effort.
  14. colcifer

    colcifer Esteemed Nitpicker Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    A Galaxy Far, Far Away
    Correction: The fifth degree of a major scale is dominant, not major. I'd just put the names of the modes there instead as gernericising chords can be misleading. Good chart, otherwise.
  15. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    This is an important distinction. Many here suggest that diatonic chords, or chords in general, can be defined by three discrete pitches (some even suggest that two are sufficient!).

    In proper jazz harmonic analysis, a chord should, if at all possible, be defined by four discrete chordal notes: The 1, 3, 5, and 7 (extensions are not considered to be necessary to the basic chord function).

    You cannot properly describe something as simple as diatonic harmony with three notes, let alone two.
  16. Great thread with interesting replies and thx for the chart, a trick a used to help me learn the sharps and flats was to use the standard way the bass is tuned ie in fourth's, if the note names were key signatures then each string you move towards the G string you loose a sharp until C then add a flat, each string you move towards the E string you loose a flat until C then add a sharp. So E, A, D, G = 4# 3# 2# 1#, the notes from the third fret E string would be G, C, F, Bb = 1# 0#b 1b 2b, notes from sixth fret Bb, Eb, Ab, Db = 2b 3b 4b 5b. Going the other way G, D, A, E = 1# 2# 3# 4#, going from the fourth fret G string towards E string the notes are B, F#, C#, Ab = 5# 6# 7# then back down the flat keys from Ab. The bass is tuned in fourth's going from E string to G string and fifth's going from G string to E string.
    As was said relative minors are the sixth position of the scale, or three semi tones down from the root note on the same string ( octave of sixth ) if playing one finger per fret put your pinky on the root note say A 5th fret E string the relative minor F# will be under your index finger, from G third fret it will be the open E.
  17. JRH


    Jul 2, 2012
  18. JRH


    Jul 2, 2012
    Good tip! Thanks.
  19. JRH


    Jul 2, 2012
    Thank you. I'll make detailed modifications, the repost.
  20. JRH


    Jul 2, 2012
    Cool. Thanks!