Reading Key Signatures
(Western Tonal System)
FOUR RULES for reading key signatures
- C major has no sharps and no flats
- F major has 1 flat – Bb
- Sharp Keys – go up a half step from the last sharp – that is the name of the major key
- Flat keys – the next to the last flat is the name of the major key
- Major and minor keys which share the same key signature are called “relative”.
- To find the relative minor, go down a minor third from the tonic of the major key. Let’s say we have a key signature of two sharps: F# and C#. According to rule number 3 above, we would go up a half step from C#, to the key of D major. To find the relative minor of D major, count back a third: D, C#, B. B is the relative minor of D major.