Easy Guide To Learning Key Signatures

key signatures

What is a key signature?

key signatures

A key signature is a set of sharp (#) or flat (b) symbols placed together on the music staff. You can find key signatures at the beginning of a piece of music- right between the clef sign and the time signature. The key signature tells you what key the piece of music is in and what notes are sharp or flat in that particular key.

How does knowing the key signatures help me as a singer?

Not every song you want to sing is going to be in your key (It might be too high or too low). Being able to transpose a song into a key that works for your voice is a great skill to have. You won’t have to depend on another musician to figure it out for you.

In order to transpose a song, you need to know what key the song is in and what key you want to move it to.

Learning the key signatures is the first step to being able to figure out your key for any song.

Major Key Signatures

Today we’ll tackle just the major keys.

key signatures

Learning the key signatures is really all about memorization. There are mnemonic devices to make memorization easy.

Let’s start with the sharp (#) keys.

The order of sharps is F#C#G#D#A#E#B# = Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Bacon

Look at the diagram above as you go through this information.

The key of C has no sharps. Notes in the C major scale- C-D-E-F-G-A-B

The key of G has one sharp- F# (Fat)  Notes in the G major scale- G-A-B-C-D-E-F#

The key of D has two sharps- F#, C# (Fat Cats) Notes in the D major scale- D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#

The key of A has three sharps- F#, C#,G# (Fat Cats Go) Notes in the A major scale- A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G#

The key of E has four sharps- F#,C#,G#, D# (Fat Cats Go Down) Notes in the E major scale- E-F#-G#-A-B-C#-D#

The key of B has 5 sharps- F#, C#,G#,D#,A# (Fat Cats Go Down Alleys) Notes in the B major scale- B-C#-D#-E-F#-G#-A#

The key of F# has 6 sharps- F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E# (Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating) Notes in the F# major scale F#-G#-A#-B-C#-D#-E#

The key of C# has 7 sharps (every note in the scale is sharped)- F#, C#, G#,D#,A#,E#,B# (Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Bacon) Notes in the C# major scale- C#-D#-E#-F#-G#-A#-B#

The best way to learn these key signatures is to memorize how many sharps are in each key and memorize the order of sharps (Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Bacon). When you look at a piece of music and see three sharps in the key signature, you should know (because you’ve memorized it) that you are in the key of A and that the sharps in the key of A are F#-C#-G# (Fat Cats Go)

Now let’s learn the flat (b) keys.

The order of flats is Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb = BEAD Girl Can’t Find  (Please- if you know a better mnemonic device for this one, share it!)

The key of F has one flat- Bb 

The key of Bb has two flats- Bb, Eb

The key of Eb has three flats- Bb, Eb, Ab

The key of Ab has four flats- Bb, Eb, Ab, Db (BEAD)

The key of Db has 5 flats- Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb (BEAD Girl)

The key of Gb has 6 flats- Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb (BEAD Girl Can’t)

The key of Cb has 7 flats (all notes are flat)- Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb (BEAD Girl Can’t Find)

Using flash cards is a fast and easy way to learn this information. Here are some free  key signature flashcards to help you out!

Have Questions? Feeling confused? Leave your question in the comments section and I’ll be sure to answer it!

Enjoy your practice!


  • herm stillman

    Reply Reply April 17, 2016

    Please resend lesson one. I somehow lost it and I like to save all lessons for review. They are excellent! Thanks!

    • Meghan Nixon

      Reply Reply April 25, 2016

      Hi Herm,
      Thanks for your comment! Which lesson are your referring to specifically?

  • Rick Greenwood

    Reply Reply May 23, 2016

    Mnemonic device suggestions for flats: B E A D G C F


    I don’t know how easily this could be memorized, but it flows.

    Rick Greenwood

  • Lizzie

    Reply Reply January 22, 2017

    The way I remember it is for the sharps it’s Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle and then that can be reversed for the flats so they’re Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles Father

    • Meghan Nixon

      Reply Reply February 17, 2017

      Very clever Lizzie! I never even realized that the order of flats was the reverse of the order of sharps. It makes perfect sense! Thanks 🙂

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