# Sharp or Flat?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by slapcracklepop, Feb 25, 2006.

1. ### slapcracklepop

Jun 28, 2005
Boston, MA
Say I'm trying to find the key signature of a song.. How do I know whether to count a note as a sharp or a flat?

2. ### Bryan R. TylerTalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002Staff MemberAdministratorGold Supporting Member

May 3, 2002
Connecticut
The idea is to keep from using a note and the same note with a # or b in any key. That's why, for example, instead of playing in the key of G#, you play in Ab, because playing in G# would give you a G and a G#.

You can look at a circle of fifths to see the keys that avoid this potential issue.

3. ### spc

Apr 10, 2004
South of Boston
Not sure I get the question...the key signature tells you, and knowing how scales are constructed. So if the key signature is Db, you would likely be counting flats, yeah?
Db has 5 flats, so:
Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C...

4. ### Bryan R. TylerTalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002Staff MemberAdministratorGold Supporting Member

May 3, 2002
Connecticut
I think he was asking how he should decide if a song's key was in, for example, Eb or D#.

Knowing that D# isn't used as a key because it would contain two Ds will tell him that he would use Eb.

5. ### lemur821

May 4, 2004
St. Louis, MO, U.S.
D# doesn't have two Ds. It just has a couple double sharps. It's not used because it's awkward, not because it's impossible.

A key signature can't mix sharps and flats, and it can't have more than kind of each note. In the case of D#, that means that you have to make F and C double sharps to make a major scale.

What you need to do when deciding whether a note is sharp or flat is to look at the other notes a piece uses. If you have the notes C D E F G and A, and you run across a note that could be either Bb or A#, then you have to choose Bb to avoid duplicating the A.

If you went with A# then you'd have to use A's enharmonic equivalent (G##) to remove the duplication. Since there are now two Gs, you'd have to use G's equivalent (F##), and then E#, D##, C##, and B# putting you in the key of E#. Since three sharps and four double sharps are a little hard to read, writing it in the key of F with one flat is a better choice. If you ever find that you need to sharp or flat a bunch of notes to avoid duplication, then try the enharmonically equivalent key.

You've also got to figure out which notes are accidentals so you don't misinterpret one as a note which is in key. That will make you end up with either the wrong scale or a scale which can't be a key signature (i.e. it has more than seven notes).

6. ### Red Wonder

If your ever encountered with a song in D#, tell them to go &#@\$ themselves. Nobody needs horse\$@!* bogus key signatures. Tell them "if you don't know what E flat is you need to brush up on some theory!"

D sharp..BWAHAHHAHAHAHAHA

7. ### slapcracklepop

Jun 28, 2005
Boston, MA

Thank you that post helped alot. Thanks to the others also

8. ### lemur821

May 4, 2004
St. Louis, MO, U.S.
Glad to help. I would have posted sooner, but it took a while to get my thoughts in order.

9. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
You *might* conceivably see something in D# minor sometime, though that would still be pretty rare. D# minor is that rare case where it's not clear whether it's easier to go with that key or its enharmonic equivalent. Eb minor is six flats, D# minor is six sharps. For me, either one would be an equal PITA. (Same goes for their respective major keys, F# and Gb.)

10. ### ToR-Tu-Ra

Oct 15, 2005
Mexico City
D# minor would have the same key signature as a B Major.

D# Major is not a bogus key. If you think it is, maybe it's you who needs to brush up on some theory.

11. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
No, it would not. D# minor is the relative minor of F# major, not B major.

12. ### spc

Apr 10, 2004
South of Boston

Wrong. D# Min is not the same key sig as B.
The key of B has 5 #'s

The key of D# min has 6 #'s, also known as the key of F#.

13. ### spc

Apr 10, 2004
South of Boston
Beat me to it Richard!

14. ### Red Wonder

Ummmmmm....whatever.

:scowl: :scowl:

15. ### spc

Apr 10, 2004
South of Boston
And the II chord in the key of D# min would be ????

May 3, 2002
Connecticut
O positive?

17. ### spc

Apr 10, 2004
South of Boston
No...
E# -7 b5......but you knew that...

18. ### cowsgomoogone to Longstanton Spice Museum

Feb 8, 2003
UK
D# isn't a bogus key but in the real world there are very few situations where it wouldn't be easier for all concerned to notate the thing in Eb...

sometimes to make something easier to read after a modulation it can be easier to notate in a non-standard way, but most of the time your duty is to make the piece as easy to read & understand as possible... double sharps and double flats are usually to be avoided unless absolutely necessary

regarding the original question, usually the easiest way to work out whether you're in a flat key or a sharp key is to use your ear to find the root... if you know what the key signatures are for the 7 major keys ABCDEFG, it becomes obvious whether that note is a D# or an Eb...

if the root itself is one of the other 5 notes (the black notes on a piano), 99% of the time your best advice is to choose the option with the least accidentals in the key signature eg B major instead of Cb major

if you're in F# major/Gb major, your key signatures have an equal number of accidentals (6) either way... so my very general advice would be, if it's something with horns, treat it as Gb, if it's guitars, treat it as F#

19. ### ToR-Tu-Ra

Oct 15, 2005
Mexico City

You're right, sorry... Don't know what I's thinking 'bout while typing that. \$h¡t happens

20. ### Paulb7664

Sep 30, 2004
Kent UK
Hi
If you want wind up your guitarist!
He\She will call it F# you call it Gb then we go to Cmaj You call it B# etc you can do this with all notes.
After all we are ONLY BASS PLAYERS what would we know!

Paul