Key Signatures On Staves

This trick will let you know the key of a song straight away!

View the full lesson at Key Signatures On Staves | JustinGuitar

Sharps - Fat Cat Got Dead After Eating Burritos
Flats - Bob Evan Ate Donuts Got Crazy Fat

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I have a confusion regarding any key signature with an F# (which is basically all with any sharps).

We indicate a sharp for the key on the first line which makes sense. But why do we not do the same for the last Space which is also F? I know it would make the key signature confusing since it would seem there are two sharps in it but would it not make sense to do this from the point of view of reading a music sheet?

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Hi Nic,

It’s enough to add 1 sharp/flat for a given note as they apply across octaves. I.e. The sharp on the 5th line applies to the F note in the 1st space as well and any other F notes that may appear in the given piece.

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Was able to find the answer here - G major key signature

Basically sharpening one instance of F sharpens it in any and all octaves. You can easily see this on a software like Guitar Pro.


Thank you so much Jozsef! That helps clarify my doubt even more!

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Once the key signature is defined at the very start of the stave, the only instances where any additional indication is required are:

[for sharp keys]

  • If a note defined in the key as sharp is played as an out-of-key natural or flat, then the appropriate symbol for this is placed in front of that note (which applies to all subsequent recurrences of that note until / unless a new indication is given).
  • If a note, having been played and indicated as a natural or flat then recurs and is played as the ‘in key sharp’ once again, it has a sharp symbol placed in front of it (which applies to all subsequent recurrences of that note until / unless a new indication is given).

Cheers :blush:
| Richard_close2u | Mod, Official Guide & Approved Teacher

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Thank you Richard! That explanation makes complete sense.

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I like the sign for the “Natural” (♮) note notation. It looks like it has a little bit of the sharp symbol “#” and the flat symbol “b”.


So sorry, but this video has several mistakes. The most glaring one are Justin referring to flats as sharps when he is discussing flats.

Go Down And Eat Breakfast For Charlie. Sharps
Fat Boys Eat Apple Dumplings Girls Don’t. Flats
Easy peasy

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Ralph, Justin acknowledges a spoken error by writing the correction in the lesson content:

I’m not sure what other error you detect.

But what puzzled me was: why toss up this sharps and flats salad instead of simply printing the key name?

I don’t think the answer is in the video, but I may have got distracted and missed it.

Anyway, I did find the answer elsewhere: for those who do read and use sheet music, the sharps and flats are there to indicate all notes on a specific line are played as sharps or flats. Which means you don’t need to have sharps and flats printed in front of every note on that line across the sheet.

Obviously, us guitar people can’t expect the wider music community to change a well-working system just for our convenience so we’re happy to have nifty little tricks like the one Justin is showing us.


My personal favourite in a pneumonic for sharps and flats has the benefit of being reversible.
Order of sharps:
Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle (now reverse the pneumonic)
Order of Flats:
Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles Father

A further benefit with Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles Father is that the distance between each represented note in this pneumonic is a 4th (same as standard tuning), so it also gives you much of the layout of the actual notes on the fretboard for different strings.
Two rules to remember:
1 Moving from string 4 to 5 is a 3rd not a 4th, so move one fret higher to compensate.
2 On reaching the end of the pneumonic (Father) you need to move one fret higher before starting the pneumonic again.

Eg. Fret 2 on A String (string 2) is a B (Battle), next string down is E (Ends), next string down is A (And), next string is a third (g-b) so move up to fret 3 and continue the pneumonic, D (Down), next string is G (Goes).
Now you can easily find notes B E A D and G on frets 2 and 3.

Works all over the neck.

Fret 5 strings 6-1 A D G C (And Down Goes Charles). Charles is string 4 so F (Father) compensates up one fret on string 5. Strings 1 and 6 are the same note ie both A’s (And). Fret 5 string 5 ? Simple. It’s E (Ends And) or one semitone/fret up from F (Father). E comes before A (Ends And).
Don’t forget to double compensate at fret 10. Father is on string 4 . Down one fret for Father and one more to compensate for string 4 to 5.
Lay it out on a fretboard diagram to see how useful it can be.

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Yep, in classical music there’s much more going on harmonically and melodically than in your regular 3 chord campfire ditty. I’m not a sight reading genius by any means, but as I slowly get familiar with standard notation, the conventions start to make more sense.

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:small_red_triangle:Here is my “practical” strayegy to remember the order of flats or sharps when I want to write the key signature on a staff: you are supposed to know your notes on your fretboard for the thickest 2 strings at this point, and as long as you can visualize a fretboard in your head you re good to go :wink:
FGAB (low E)
_CDE (A string)
For the flats: B E - A D - G C - F
For the sharps (it’s reversed starting from the F): F - C G - D A - E B

:small_red_triangle:Another tip: if you want to get sure if you didn’t forget a sharp/flat while writing or practicing your scale in general, remember this:
For the major scale
C 0
D +2
E +4
F -1
G +1
A +3
B +5
A positive number = number of sharps➕️
A negative number = number of flats➖️

:black_small_square:If you want to move from a natural to a sharp in the major scale, you add 7
C contains 0 sharps, C# major scale (0+7=+7) contains 7 sharps
F contains 1 flat, F# major scale (-1+7=+6) contains 6 sharps

:black_small_square:From a natural to a flat in the major scale, you remove 7
Cb contains 7 flats since 0-7=-7
B contains 5 sharps, Bb major scale contains 2 flats because 5-7=-2

:exclamation:There are some cases, when the addition or the soustraction gives us more than 7 (sharps or flats) , it gets tricky because double flats and sharps are used in that major scale.
An example to illustrate this::low_brightness:
G major scale contains 1 sharp, but G# major scale contains 1+7 = 8 sharps (in reality there 6 sharps + 1 double sharp)
The scale in this key is theoretical, and it s better to use the enharmonic equivalent of G# which is Ab (3-7=-4 there are 4 flats in the Ab major scale)


It’s so cool when you discover patterns and regularities like that on your own.

Another tool that helps with the number and order of sharps and flats is the circle of fifths. Have you encountered it already?


Nooo not yet, but from the look of it on google image, it looks waaaay more easier for someone who is accustomed to the circle.
I have just started studying theory recently, and since I find it hard to memorize mnemonic sentences, I prefered to apply what was taught previously and use what I already know on new stuff.

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If those work for you then great, thanks for sharing some tips.
They are non conventional and look like they require a fair bit of memorisation or brain work.
@Jozsef mentions the circle of fifths.

It has all the information you need in one easy to view reference guide.
It takes a little time to become familiar with it.
Allow me to introduce you to it here: The Circle of Fifths Part 1 - where does it come from?

I hope that helps.

Cheers :smiley:

| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide, Approved Teacher & Moderator

Here’s a mnemonic for the order of sharps:

Four Children Gave Dad An English Breakfast (FCGDAEB)

:laughing: This is from an American who loves England

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I was doing just dandy right until here. “Huh?”

I don’t see where “The order of sharps” (or flats) tells me anything related to key?

If I look at this, I understand that certain keys have a specific number of sharps or flats.
But what does "The Order of (sharp / flat) tell me if I’ve memorized the what sharp and flat notes are in a key? Yeah - I’m now officially confused.

Bedtime - my head hurts.