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Key Signatures

Key signatures are used to facilitate reading and writing of notation in different keys. The key signature applies all the way to the end of the composition, an accidental only as far as the next bar line.

Relative keys share the key signatures.

During the Baroque period, it was common to include in the key signature only part of the chromatic alterations included in the composition (for example, music written in A sharp would include not more than two sharp signs in the key signature but indicate individual G sharps with an accidental). The reason for this was that melodies were often thought of as representing a church mode instead of a major or minor key.

Written in different clefs, key signatures with sharp signs can be perceived as showing a rising tendency whereas key signatures with flat signs show a falling tendency. For keys with sharp signs, the rising tendency can be seen only in the tenor clef since F sharp and G sharp were traditionally written in the upper part of the staff.

Key signatures and the most common clefs

Key signatures