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Sharps, Flats & Naturals

sharp note A sharp set before a note raises the pitch of the note a half-step, and remains in effect for the rest of the measure.
flat note A flat set before a note lowers the pitch of the note a half-step, and remains in effect for the rest of the measure.
natural note A natural set before a note restores the natural pitch of a note, and is often used after a flat or sharp.
enharmonic note Enharmonic notes are two notes that sound the same, but are spelled differently (e.g. A# and Bb).

Key Signatures

sharp Sharps or flats placed at the beginning of each staff are called key signatures. This key signature with an F# indicates that all F notes in this piece should be played as F#.
This key signature with a B and E flat indicates that all B's and E's should be played as B flat and E flat.

Keys are used to organize a piece of music. For example, music written in the key of C would center around the tone of C, and would use notes from the C scale (no sharps or flats).

There are 15 Major & Minor Key Signatures. As illustrated below, each major key signature has a corresponding minor key signature (e.g. both C Major and a minor do not have any sharps or flats).

C Major G Major D Major A Major E Major B Major F# Major C# Major
a minor e minor b minor f# minor c# minor g# minor d# minor a# minor

F Major Bb Major Eb Major Ab Major Db Major Gb Major Cb Major
flat key signature
d minor g minor c minor f minor Bb minor Eb minor Ab minor

Circle of Fifths

A circle of fifths is an arrangement of keys by ascending fifths. It displays how many sharps or flats are in each key. Major keys are noted in capital letters and are found on the outer part of the circle (C,G etc.), and minor keys are in lower case letters on the inner part of the circle (a, e etc.).

circle of fifths