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



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.


ANSWER: Sterling:
   (so sorry for the delay, -i've been sick for 1 1/2 weeks)
 If you are locked on using the notes you have (instead of raising the 'pitch'' up or down a bit, then first thing to do to determine the ''key'' (no. of sharps/flats) is to arrange all the notes you are mostly using in a ''diatonic'' scale..
   Next, you need to find a ''major'' scale pattern to the notes used.. (whole , whole, half, whole, whole , whole, half.. )
   Another way to determine the KEY IS TO take note of the last chord (or melody note) oof the piece and it most likely is the KEY NOTE.
   Another way to determine the Key is to count how many notes in your ''diatonic scale'' use a sharp/flat.. (thenn look at the KEY CHART)
   Another way to determine the key is to just find the ''melody note that is the highest of the two 1/2 step notes (as either the Key note or ''fa'' note of the key)
   IF you know a Musician that is savvy on all this theory of music, just ask that person...

hope this helps, i know it can be frustrating, but you need to have the ''tools'' to do this yourself, the answer is something you can figure out yourself... good luck


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for replying back Chuck. Sorry you haven't been feeling well. Hope you've been getting better. Do you know if a music composition software will tell an Pianist who many sharps or flats are in their song when they play it plugged into their labtop computer? If so what program do you recommend?


Hi Sterling;

   Im not a computer wiz, so I do NOT know of any program that identifies what
key a song is in merely by the notes played in it.
   Partly because many songs utilize an INTERNAL key change, FOR VARIETY, or
they use modulational devices of dominant fifths as a temp. key sense, so that
can throw off a mechanically driven key determination, much like writing
    ''their"  and not knowing if ''there'' ''they're'' is intended..
so the different ways I sent you are key in that determination...
if you can't figure it out on your own,
send ME a list of each note in the song, and i'll give you some options, ok?
eg.  d  e   f# G# a  b  C#  (eg  KEY OF A)
 eg.   a  Bb  c  d  e  f  g  (key of F)
(USE all sharps or all flats, )
    let's give it a shot, ok?
didn't anyone give you info. that could also help you?

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I am a professional musician, I can play by ear, I arrange music write music, teach music in the public school system, and teach privately. My father was a school music teacher, and I have written three volumes for teaching beginning string players, taking them from scratch to high school level. I have performed in a local production of Music Man (musical) with celebrities John Davidson/Susan Watson and have my masters degree in education. I retired from the classroom in 2004 with 38 yrs. experience-now still substituting for music- and writing arr. for my cello trio(with two audio cd's and one dvd of a performance) I have directed church choirs and am principal cellist in our local community orchestra. I really love to arrange music for the groups I perform in and sing and have music in my life every day. A day without music, is a mistake, like having a day without sunshine.


Employment history: I have been employed by our local school district since 1967 as a music teacher from grades 1-12 Organizations: I play cello principal chair in the local community orchestra, and sing in a chorus,and perfom in a barbershop quartet

Education: My early life in high school and college was summer workshops in choral conducting with founder of Westminster Choir College (N.J.) Dr. John F.Williamson (in Who`s Who in Music) and summer workshops with Robert Shaw in San Diego Grad. of Sacramento STate Univ.and masters from Univ. of La VErne, ca

Awards: awarded the Bank of America award in my high school senior year for music

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