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EMT Lesson Four  How to understand keys and key signatures

Lesson Objectives


Some pieces of music include a change of key to alter the mood of a particular passage.

What are keys?

Music is played in keys. A key is a collection of notes which come from the same scale, harmonise with each other and effectively "fit together".

There are seven notes in a key and a piece of music will usually be written in either a major or minor key.

It should be borne in mind that pieces of music often have notes that are not in the key of the music. These notes are called accidentals and will have either a sharp (#) flat (b) or natural ( natural sign ) sign written next to them. On a standard keyboard, sharps and flats are the raised black keys and natural notes are the white keys.

A natural symbol is used when turning a note, which is already a flat or sharp in a given key, back into a natural note (back to A, B, C, D, E, F or G).

Figure 1. Accidental to natural

Figure 1. Accidental to natural

Next: What are key signatures?