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

5.6 Major scales having key signatures with flats

Example 47 shows the major scales starting on C, F, B, E and A.

Example 47

Download this audio clip.Audio player: a224_1_pm_mu047.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Again, as with the group of major scales with sharps in Example 44, there are two points worth noting.


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

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


In each scale, the number of different notes prefaced by flats increases by one each time. C major has none, F major has one note prefaced by a flat, B flat major two, E flat major three and A flat major four.

Example 48 shows the key signatures for these keys.

Example 48

Now that we have discussed the major scales with up to four sharp and four flat key signatures, have a look at the summary chart of these scales and their key signatures in Example 49. Work through this chart at a pace that allows you to pass quickly over those scales that you feel you know, but spend more time over those you are less sure of. Always bear in mind the overriding principle – T T S T T T S.

Example 49

Download this audio clip.Audio player: a224_1_pm_mu049.mp3
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Now try the following two activities that assess your knowledge of key signatures of up to four flats or four sharps, and of the major scales that have these key signatures.

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