12. C and F Major

We see that it's impossible to find the Keys of C and F Major using the Order of sharps and flats. These two Keys are exceptions to the rule. So we must Memorize their sharps and flats.

It's not hard, because the Key of C Major has NO sharps or flats:


And the Key of F Major has One flat:

F G A Bb C D E F
petercetera.png (peter cetera of chicago{transit authority})
peter cetera

Furthermore, the Scale Pattern of Steps for Major Keys remains the same:


So using these steps we can determine the Key Signatures for C and F Keys, even without knowing their flats or sharps. (Review Major Scale Steps.)

Also, since adding Keys' sharps or flats may become too numerous to remember, simply focus on those notes that are Natural (no sharps or flats).

The B Major Scale is:

B C# D# E F# G# A# B

It has 5 sharps! It's easier to remember that E and B notes are natural. Just play every note a half step up (sharp), except E and B.

We may wonder how it is possible to think this fast while playing? We must memorize the notes on our instrument, called fingerings. Though slow and challenging at first, we'll talk about practicing techniques. We'll understand what our instrument is doing in the Sound Waves page.

13. Sharps and Flats Order

Order of Sharps:

F# C# G# D# A# E# B#

An easy method to remember Sharps' order is:

Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Birds

Use the first letter of each word for the sharps' order.

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Order of Flats:

Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb

To remember Flats' order, use:


...(spelling bead + GCF). Also, the flats' letters are the sharps' letters, in reverse order (backwards).

If we are able to find the name of the Key from the number of flats or sharps, why can't we do the reverse, and find the number of sharps or flats from just the Key's Name?

Sharps Example: If we only know that we are playing in the Key of A Major, take the A note, then move it down one half step, to find G#. Next, count the Order of sharps up to G#, like this:

F# C# G# (Fat Cats Go...)
Therefore, 3 sharps are in the Key of A Major. Notice G# is the last sharp in that Order.

Sharps example2: We only know we are playing in the Key of B Major. To find the last sharp, we must move B down a half step to A#. Then we follow the order of the sharps until we reach A#:

F# C# G# D# A# (Fat Cats Go Down Alleys...)

Now we know we have 5 sharps in the Key of B Major. (Why not remember that only E and B are natural?) There are 7 notes, 5 being sharp, and 2 being natural. Double the root, B natural:

B C# D# E F# G# A# B

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A Flat Major

In the Key of Ab Major, which flats do I play? We know that Ab is the second-to-last flat in the order of flats, for the key of Ab. Ordering flats until we go 1 flat past Ab is:

Bb Eb Ab Db (bead...)
Therefore, 4 flats make up the Key of Ab Major. We had to add one more flat, Db, to finish finding the number of flats (as Ab was the second-to-last flat).

E Flat Major

In Eb Major, we take the Eb, which will be the second-to-last flat. Then we follow the order of the flats to Eb, adding one more flat:

Bb Eb Ab
If Eb was the second-to-last flat, then Ab must be the last flat in the order B E A D G C F. So the Key of Eb Major has 3 flats.

Some helpful reference points are the Sound of the scale and the order of the flats or sharps:

(#) F C G D A E B (Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Birds)


This is only the Order of flats and sharps, and not a Key.

The Sharp/Flat Rule page gives more in-depth information.

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14. Octaves

liz story.png (liz story/pianist)
liz story

Scales have 7 notes, and we can double the first (root) note, to make 8 notes in a scale.

Within the CMaj scale,


...there are 2 C notes. The first is called the Root, and the last C is also the root, just 8 notes higher (counting the first C).

Octo in Latin means eight, (8 arms of an octopus). The notation for Octave in music is 8va, which says, "don't play that C, play the C above it". This applies to any two letters that are the same root note.

Play any major scale, and we will end up an octave higher than where we started, landing on the root note again. This upper root is 8 scale steps from the bottom root, and has the same name (as in C to C, or F to F).

BUT, listen to the 1st and 8th notes... don't they sound like the same note when played together? This sound phenomena is one of the cornerstones of music. Most patterns in music revolve around two of the same notes, the higher and lower octaves. This Root grounds a song to a single tone, like a main idea.

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15. Triads

Wow, you've read this far? You're my favorite student! Fortunately, this is the part that's important, if we want to have the most freedom as a musician. We'll be able to create our own melodies, based on background chords (known as Improvisation).

So let's improve: The Major Scale has 8 notes, so use the C Major scale as an example:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Now, take the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes (C E G), to create a Triad (tri=3, like triangle). These 3 notes Sound pleasant to the ear, and make up a Chord when played together. A piano or keyboard might help to hear this.

We may play this 1,3,5 pattern from any scale. Also, play them out of order, like 3,5,1 or 5,1,3 (called inversions). They will have a different 'feeling' if we play them in another order, but the chord's root (1) will always be the same.

The root (chord's name) will tie the underlying sound together. We'll have to know the scales' key signatures to know which notes are in their triads.

Since we built our Triad upon the root of the scale, the chord will have the Key (proper number of sharps or flats) of the root, not the key of the 3rd or 5th notes. If we built a Triad upon either the 3rd or 5th notes, the Key would change to their root notes, and have sharps or flats that the C Triad does not have.

Another example, from the F Major Scale:

F G A Bb C D E F
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

What's the 1,3,5 pattern? FAC. Play them out of order (invert them), and we could have: ACF or CFA. But, we would still have the Key (#,b) of the Root(1), F.

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16. Staff Lines and Spaces

Let's change gears and learn the musical Staff! A staff is five horizontal Lines:


Staves are more than one Staff.

That's easy. Now, we'll start filling this staff with notes (letters, sharps, flats, naturals). Fill from the bottom line, starting with the letter 'E'. Notice that there are 4 Spaces in between the Lines; so, 5 Lines, 4 Spaces.

Now, starting with our 'E', begin the alphabet from there, and we can name the lines and spaces going up as:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
linespaces.png (efgabcdef on staff)

Nine letters are for the 5 lines and 4 spaces, alphabetically.


Staff Lines starting from lowest to highest are EGBDF:

linesonly.png (egbdf lines {every good boy does fine})

Easier to remember would be: Every Good Boy Does Fine.


Staff Spaces are FACE:

spaces.png (face spaces)

FACE is easy to remember, since it rhymes with 'space'. And remember, starting from 'E', the Lines and Spaces go up in alphabetical order, as simple as:


Someone may ask, 'Why are you showing us sheet music, when we just want to learn to play our instruments?' Putting Triads in order on the staff shows the lowest to highest tones. Playing the tones together makes it hard to pick out a single note.

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17. Triads Movement

To have a reference point, let's look at the E Major Scale:

E F# G# A B C# D# E

So, using the 1,3,5 pattern:

1 3 5
E G# B

These notes match the first 3 Lines on the staff, EGB (forget sharps and flats for now, use naturals). Next, move up to the last note in the triad, B, and 1,3,5 from it, then repeat. Starting over:

  • E G B
  • B D F
  • F A C
  • C E G
  • G B D
  • D F A
  • A C E
  • E G B

Or, we can look at it this way:


triadstaff.png (triad practice / chords)

michael_franks2.jpg (michael franks / jazz vocalist)
michael franks

This will help us to remember the pattern of the Triad. Run through it a couple of times out loud, and we'll soon get a feel for taking the last letter of the triad, to begin the new triad's root, in the staff's lines or spaces.

Reviewing the Staff section, we find that starting from 'E', the lines and spaces are alphabetical (ascending the staff). We can skip every other note to get a triad (1,3,5).

Don't try playing these triads this way, because we took out all of the sharps and flats, and it will sound bad. This is only a reference to remember the Triads' letters. After we've memorized the above triad pattern, our sharps and flats are easier to quickly add.

Main Triads Page

Recommended reading: Tools of Sound

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