• Who Else Wants To Understand The Power Of Key Signature?

    in Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Scales,Theory

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    The goal of this lesson is to show you to the power of key signature.

    The concept of key signature is one of the concepts that a lot of musicians who play by the ear are not very familiar with and this is because they tend to focus only on the major scale and mastery of the tones in the key.

    Having a proper understanding of key-signature will help you in a variety of ways and I’ll open your eyes to some of the possibilities in this lesson. but before we do so, let’s do a quick review on the concept of key signature.

    A Quick Review On The Concept Of Key Signature

    Every key has a unique number of sharps and flats that distinguishes it from every other key.

    The number of sharps in the key of D major:

    …are two sharps and they are as follows:


    …and C#:

    So, the key signature of D major is two sharps because it’s the only key on the piano that has two sharps and I guarantee you that if you take your time to go through all the keys on the keyboard, you’ll NOT find any other “major key” that has two sharps.

    The concept of key signature is built around the use of the number of sharps and flats in a key to distinguish one key from every other key.

    Also, it’s very important to note that the key of C major:

    …neither has sharps nor flats and that’s its key signature. So, when it comes to the key of C major, it is described as “no sharp, no flat.

    Sharp Keys Vs Flat Keys

    Using the music clock (as a reference):

    …you can see how music keys are classified according to sharp keys and flat keys.

    While sharp keys  are the keys that have a certain number of sharp notes, flat keys are keys that have a certain number of flat notes.

    The first six keys in the clockwise direction:

    …which are as follows:

    G major:

    D major:

    A major:

    E major:

    B major:

    F# major:

    …are sharp keys because they have a certain number of sharp notes.

    The first six keys in the counter-clockwise direction:

    …which are as follows:

    F major:

    Bb major:

    Eb major:

    Ab major:

    Db major:

    Gb major:

    …are flat keys because they have a certain number of flat notes.

    The Power of Key Signature

    Having an understanding of the number of sharps and flats in every key can widen your scope and hep you to identify any key — no matter how it’s disguised.

    We’ll be using modal scales as our reference in this lesson.

    A Short Note On Modal Scales

    There are seven modal scales and starting from C:

    …here are the seven modal scales:

    C Ionian scale:

    C Dorian scale:

    C Phrygian scale:

    C Lydian scale:

    C Mixolydian scale:

    C Aeolian scale:

    C Locrian scale:

    Although these modal scales are derived from ancient modes used in classical music hundreds of years before now, they are used a lot in Jazz and other popular music styles.

    Unleashing The Power Of Key Signature

    Using the knowledge of key signature, you can easily identify the key that every modal scale is associated with. For example, the C Dorian scale:

    …has two flat notes — Eb and Bb:

    …and if you place the C Dorian scale:

    …and the Bb major scale:

    …side-by-side, you’ll see that both scales have exactly the same notes.

    In fact, starting and ending the Bb major scale:

    …on C:

    …produces the C Dorian scale:

    The knowledge of the Bb major scale:

    …as the only key that has two flats can help you identify the parent key of the C Dorian scale:

    Every other modal scale can be identified and connected to a major scale using the knowledge of key signature and I’ll want you to check it out.

    The C Phrygian scale:

    …has four flat notes and the only major key that has four flats is the key of Ab major:

    The C Lydian scale:

    …has only one sharp note and that’s pretty much like the key of G major:

    …which is the only key that has one sharp note.

    Final Thoughts

    So, what is the power of key signature?

    The power of key signature is simply the knowledge of key-signature and this is because knowledge is power. The knowledge of key signature puts enough information at your disposal, that you can associate modal scales with their parent keys.

    There are definitely other sides to the concept of key signature, however, we’re only getting started. In a subsequent lesson, we’ll explore other aspects of the concept of key signature.

    See you then.

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


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