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Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/Determining the # of sharps or flats in a song


Hi Phil

How do I know how many sharps or flats are in a song Iím writing on the piano when I write it out by hand on sheet music? I'm getting confused because some notes I'm writing are accidentals. Meaning there a part of the song but are not mainly repeated sharp or flat notes like the others through out.


Hi Sterling:

There is a simple tool to help you remember the key signatures of both major and minor songs called the "cycle of fifths"

Imagine a clock face with C at the noon position. As you move clockwise, you add a sharp i.e.  

!o clock _ 1 sharp = G major
2          2 sharps  = D major
3          3 sharps = A major

and so on: 4# = E ma, 5# = B ma 6# =F# major

Starting with C@ noon, you can go COUNTERCLKWISE to do the same with the flat keys

12  =Cma = O
11 = Fma - 1 flat
10 = Bb ma = 2 flats
9=   3B = Eb ma
8  = 4b =Ab major
7 =-5b = Db major
6 = 6b =Gb ma ( the enharmonic equivalent of F# major )

You can find out the relative minor keys by starting with  A @ noon and following the same procedure. Here are some diagrams of this :

hope this  helps

Phil Kelly

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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Phil Kelly


I`m a semi-retired professional music arranger with over thirty five years in all phases of the commercial music production business. I can try to answer questions regarding music arranging, theory, orchestration , and/or composition for most acoustic ensembles .( jazz band or orchestral ) I can try to offer suggestions about studio music recording procedures and some basic MIDI applications , too. In the course of my career I`ve worked with such artists as Doc Severinsen and the old Tonight Show Band, Bill Watrous, Buddy Greco, John Gary, Mel Torme, Julius LaRosa, as well as the Pop programs of the Fort Worth, Dallas, North Carolina, and Houston Symphonies, as well as library music material for ABC, ESPN, and NFL Films.

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