Key Signatures

Key signatures define the prevailing key of the music that follows, thus avoiding the use of accidentals for many notes. If no key signature appears, the key is assumed to be C major/A minor, but can also signify a neutral key, employing individual accidentals as required for each note. The key signature examples shown here are described as they would appear on a treble staff.

C-flat-major a-flat-minor.svg Flat key signature
Lowers by a semitone the pitch of notes on the corresponding line or space, and all octaves thereof, thus defining the prevailing major or minor key. Different keys are defined by the number of flats in the key signature, starting with the leftmost, i.e., B, and proceeding to the right; for example, if only the first two flats are used, the key is B major/G minor, and all B’s and E’s are “flatted” (US) or “flattened” (UK), i.e., lowered to B and E.
C-sharp-major a-sharp-minor.svg Sharp key signature
Raises by a semitone the pitch of notes on the corresponding line or space, and all octaves thereof, thus defining the prevailing major or minor key. Different keys are defined by the number of sharps in the key signature, also proceeding from left to right; for example, if only the first four sharps are used, the key is E major/C minor, and the corresponding pitches are raised.
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