You should already know the keys with 4 sharps/flats. In this lesson we will learn about the four keys that have five sharps or flats in the key signature. They are:
- B major (5 sharps)
- G# minor (5 sharps)
- Db major (5 flats)
- Bb minor (5 flats)
The sharps, in order, are F#, C#, G#, D# and A#. Here are the key signatures in treble and bass clef:
The flats, in order, are Bb, Eb, Ab, Db and Gb:
Don’t forget that to write a key signature correctly, the flats/sharps have to be in right order and also in the right position on the stave.
- Notice that the sharps start high up on the stave. The second sharp is lower, and the third sharp is higher. The last three sharps are one below the other.
Flats are written starting on the middle line (treble clef) or low on the stave (bass clef). They make a simple up/down pattern.
Remember that key signature sharps and flats always appear on the stave itself – never on a ledger line!
- Remember that a quick way to identify sharp key signatures is to look at the final sharp in the signature – this will be the leading note of the major key. So if the last sharp is A#, the key will be B major, because A# is the 7th degree of the scale of B major.
- A quick way to identify flat key signatures is to look at the last-but-one flat in the key signature – this will be the major key. So if the last-but-one flat in the key signature is Db, then the key is Db major.
- The relative minor key for each key signature can be found by working out the submediant note of the major key (6th degree of the scale). So if the major key is B major, the 6th note is G#, which means the relative minor is G# minor. If the major key is Db major, the 6th note is Bb, so the relative minor key is Bb minor.
Here are the major scales of B and Db for you, written with accidentals. Don’t forget that the pattern of tones and semitones (whole and half steps) in a major scale is always T-T-S-T-T-T-S. You can use this pattern for reference if you forget which notes need accidentals.
The scale of G# minor uses a double sharp – the leading note (7th degree of the scale) is F##.
The enharmonic equivalent of this note is G natural, but you must not use G natural in the scale of G# minor – remember that each letter name can only be used once!
Don’t forget that in a harmonic minor scale, the leading note (7th degree of the scale) is always raised by a semitone (half step) by using an accidental, even if you use a key signature for the scale.
In a melodic minor ascending scale, both the 6th and 7th degrees of the scale (submediant and leading note) are raised by a semitone (half step). But in a melodic minor descending scale, none of the notes need to be raised.
Here are the minor scales of G# and Bb.
G# minor harmonic:
G# minor melodic:
Bb minor harmonic:
Bb minor melodic:
For a complete list of all scales, see the Table of Scales.
Hover your mouse over the questions (tap on mobiles) to reveal the answers.
1. Complete the following table:
|Number of sharps/flats:||0||1||2||3||4||5|
|Major key with sharps:||C||G||D||A||E||B|
|Minor key with sharps:||A||E||B||F#||C#||G#|
|Major key with flats:||C||F||Bb||Eb||Ab||Db|
|Minor key with flats:||A||D||G||C||F||Bb|
2. Name the major and minor scales which use these key signatures:
3. Write out one octave of the following scales in semibreves (whole notes), using a key signature and accidentals where necessary:
a) B minor harmonic ascending
b) B major descending
c) C minor melodic descending
d) G# minor harmonic descending
e) Db major ascending
f) Bb minor melodic ascending
g) F# minor harmonic ascending