An introduction to music theory
An introduction to music theory

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

An introduction to music theory

5.4 Major scales having key signatures with sharps

Example 44 shows the major scales starting on C, G, D, A and E.

Example 44

Download this audio clip.Audio player: a224_1_pm_mu044.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Notice, firstly, that:

If we compare two scales that lie next to each other in the list, for instance, C major and G major, the only different note in the lower scale is the seventh note.

Both scales contain Cs, Ds, Es and so on, but in G major, we have F (and not F as in C major) and this F is the seventh note up the G major scale. Similarly, the note in D major that is different from those in G major is C, also the seventh note, and so on.

Secondly, notice that:

In each scale, the number of notes prefaced by sharps increases by one each time. C major has none, G major has one note prefaced by a sharp, D major two, A major three and E major four.

In order to avoid writing a sharp before every F in, say, a piece in G major (that is, a piece based on the scale of G major), a key signature, as shown in Example 45, is supplied at the beginning of each staff. At the opening of a piece, the key signature comes after the clef but before the time signature. The patterning of the sharps in the key signatures is logical, at least as far as four sharps. However, only the F on the top line of the treble staff is shown, not the F in the bottom space, and, similarly, only the C in the third space from the bottom is written in, not the C on the first ledger line below the staff. Although this is far from logical, it at least simplifies the visual information being presented.

Example 45

Before leaving this section, have another look at Example 44, and confirm how each scale is generated by the T T S T T T S pattern. Also, identify which notes need sharps in the different scales. Then consider the key signatures in Example 45 and how these relate to the scales in Example 44.

Skip Your course resources

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371