What Is A Sharp On The Piano
This is what a sharp sign looks like:
When the sharp sign appears after a note it means to play the note 1/2 step up. That means to play the note just to the right .
Sharps wont always indicate black keys. If you were to play B it would actually be a C , since C is 1/2 step up from B, or just to the right of B.
You may wonder why a note would be called B if its actually a C? Thats a good question! It will make sense when we move on to learning how to build major scales.
For now, the important thing is understanding that the sharp sign means to play the note 1/2 step up , whether white or black.
What Is The Saying For Remembering The Order Of Flats
Here is the mnemonic phrase Ive seen in many theory books for the order of flats:
BEAD Gum Candy Fruit
However, if you want the sharps and flats sayings to work together, you might want to go with this one:
Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles Father
Its actually pretty clever, because it is pretty much the same words as the order of sharps mnemonic, but backward.
What Is The Difference Between A Sharp And A Flat Note
What is a sharp? What is a flat? What do they look like in music? Read on to find out…
Sharp and flat notes are opposites, so the difference between them is very easy to understand: one goes up, the other down. When a notes pitch is sharpened, it is raised by a semitone . Similarly, when a notes pitch is flattened, it is lowered by a semitone.
The easiest thing to understand different pitches is to look at a standard piano keyboard. Each key represents a semitone, with the lowest notes on the left of the piano and the highest on the right. So, when a note is sharpened, you move one key up to the right and when a note is flattened you move one key down to the left. Simple as that!
When reading music on the page, sharp or flat notes are shown by symbols that are known as accidentals. These tell you to change the pitch of the original note. A sharp symbol looks like this: . A flat symbol looks like this:.
Occasionally, notes can also be double-sharp or double-flat. The premise of these is the same but moves the pitch by two semitones . So, if you have a G double sharp, raising this by a tone would make it an A. If you have a G double flat, this would become an F. On a piano keyboard, you would move two keys to the right or left .
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Sharps And Flats In Minor Keys
Minor keys take their key signatures from the major keys they’re associated with. We call these minor keys “relative” minors, because they include the key signature and most of the notes from their related major keys.
For instance, A minor is relative to C Major. That means that the key signature for A Minor will be the same as it is for C Majorin other words, no sharps or flats. But that’s not the end of the story.
Most of the music you hear will use the harmonic form of the minor scale. That means that the scale will be used to provide harmony as well as melody. In major scales the seventh degree of the scale is called the leading tone, such as B in the scale of C Major. The leading tone is just a semitone below Cthere are no other black or white notes between them. To make music in minor keys work in the same way, it’s necessary to raise the leading tone so that it creates a semitone between the seventh and eighth degrees of the scale.
So, in the key of A Minor, the leading tone is G. That’s why when you play piano music in the key of A minor you’ll more than likely find lots of G sharps written into the music. It gives certain points in the music a more final sound, which is especially useful at the end of sections and the end of the song.
To see and hear the difference, try playing the two examples below.
One of these sounds final, while the other sounds incomplete and disappointing.
Image by JohnMello
Learn The Corresponding Scale Inside Out
Another thing Im pretty diligent about with my students is getting them familiar with the scales their pieces are based on. So if were learning a piece in the key of G, I want them to be able to play a G scale easily, from memory.
It doesnt have to be a complicated hands-together four-octave scale being able to play a one-octave scale is enough.
This is especially useful once you start getting into more complicated key signatures, with 4+ sharps or flats. You want to be able to play that scale in your sleep. You should know it so well that you can visualize playing it in your head easily, without being near a piano.
So if youre playing a piece in the key of Ab, which has 4 flats, you want to be a pro at an Ab major scale. It helps some people to remember the individual notes that are flat , but I think it ultimately works better to have a strong intuitive grasp of the key instead of trying to memorize a formula.
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Piano Basics: Learn The Black Keys On The Piano
Get acquainted with the world of flats and sharps right here
The black keys on the piano are known as the flat and sharp keys.
In technical terms this means they make a note half a step lower and higher respectively in pitch from their corresponding white key.
You will notice that the black notes are grouped in twos and threes, and taking the time to remember which is which is also a useful way to remember the white keys names.
Each black key acts as both a sharp and a flat. A sharp is a note thats half a step higher than the corresponding white key, and the flats are half a step lower.
Tones and semitonesTones and semitones are common terms to define distance between notes. A semitone is the distance between each key on the keyboard. Each sharp or flat will be a semitone away from its corresponding white key. The distance between E & F and B & C is also a semitone as there are no black keys between them.
First, lets focus on moving to the right from Middle C. The black key immediately to the right is C sharp . This is half a step up from C. Take another half step and youll be at D. Working in order from Middle C to the right the sharps are C#, D#, F#, G# and A#. B# and E# are C and F respectively, although they are rarely referred to in the former manner. Always remember that sharps are to the right of a note.
Memorizing The Order Of Flats And Sharps
All you need to remember is the order of flats as the word BEAD plus three letters GCF. The order of sharps is the same, but reversed FCG DAEB.
If you’ve memorized the notes on the circle of 5ths and 4ths, you will notice flats go in 4ths starting on B and sharps go in 5ths starting on F.
Sometimes people like to make sentences to remember the notes. The classic memory aid works both directions:
Battle Ends And Down Goes CharlesFather
Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle
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How To Remember The Sharps And Flats In Piano Music
JohnMello is a writer, composer, musician, and author of books for children and adults.
Do you get confused by sharps and flats?
Image by JohnMello
If you have any experience reading music, youll know that most music is in one key or another. And unless that key is C major, the key will include a certain number of sharps, flats or both. These are written at the beginning of the piece of music in what we call the key signature.
Youd think that would be enough to help us on our way. But in reality, its not that easy. The way the key signature is written can make it somewhat difficult to interpret. Some people find the treble clef easy to read but struggle with the bass or alto clef. Those of us who play a bass clef instrument like the tuba or cello might have the reverse problem.
Its possible to get around these issues by knowing a few simple tricks of the trade. Once you do, sharps and flats will never puzzle you again.
Order Of Sharps & Flats Worksheet
If you want to practice what youve learned about the order of flats and sharps, I have made a quick little printable worksheet! This is especially great for kids.
Theres a cool little maze of unscrambling the sharps and flats, and youll be able to practice writing out the order of flats and sharps and matching them with key signatures.
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Why Is It Important To Know What The Key Signature Is For A Song
Not only does the key signature help you understand which sharps and flats to use in a song, it can also help you to understand what chords you might encounter while playing the song. Since each key or scale has certain sharps or flats associated with it, there are certain chords that are also associated with each scale. For example, C major scale doesnt have any sharps or flats in it. So when you are playing chords for a song in C major, the chords wont have any sharps or flats either.
These are the chords that are most commonly seen when playing a song in the key of C major. As you can see, there are no sharps or flats in any of these chords. They are labeled by a number based on what note of the C major scale they start on. When playing pop songs, we often will see these chords labeled like this: C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim. In other words, if you are playing a song in C major and you see a chord labeled Dm, you can easily figure out how to play it on the piano by building a chord with D on the bottom and simply playing only the white notes on the piano. This is one of the reasons why knowing your key signatures is so important.
What Is A Flat
A flat is a sign used to lower the pitch of a note by one semitone. The picture below shows you what a flat looks like.
Notice in the piano keyboard above that note C# and note Db are the same note . Likewise, the black key between notes D and E is called D# or Eb. It too, is the same note/key. The same can also be said for the remaining black notes. That is, they each have 2 names but are the same note. Musical notes that have two different names but are the same note are called enharmonic notes.
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What Is The Rhyme That Helps You Remember The Order Of Sharps
There are actually quite a few sayings out there for both the sharps and the flats. Ill start by showing you my favorite, and then a few others Ive seen.
Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Bananas is my personal favorite. My dad taught it to me as a kid. And as a piano teacher, I know that kids usually get a kick out of this one.
Some other options are:
Sharps And Flats Are Opposites
Sharps raise the notes by a half tone, and flats lower the notes by a half tone. They do similar jobs but working in the opposite direction. Likewise, when you try to learn the order of the sharps and flats, youll discover that they too are the opposite of each other.
Lets take a look at the order of the sharps and flats first before we discover some simple ways to remember them.
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How To Understand Double Sharps And Flats
Most of us know about double endings, double scoop ice cream cones, or doubles on the tennis courts, but did you know that we also have some very special “doubles” in our piano music that you are bound to run into sooner or later.
These particular doubles are called double sharps and/or double flats.
We start learning our sharps in our piano playing pretty much from the beginning, as soon as we’ve learned the Key of C major, and then we learn our flat keys.
As we continue to progress in our knowledge of scales and all of our keys, we start playing chords and music that contain a variety of key signatures and even mix some up, right in the middle of the piece.
Double sharps and flats are more common in advanced music and are found in many different pieces and exercises.
Many students wonder why we would play a double flat or sharp instead of just playing/calling it the “real” note?!
We’re going to answer that question in this lesson and in the video at the end of the lesson and you will be able to play them a lot easier after going through it with me at your own keyboard.
Let’s first find out what double sharps and flats look like in our music.
How To Determine The Flats & Sharps In Minor Keys
Okay, so you learned how to apply this above to Major keys, heres how you do it for minor keys. Lets start simple.
To figure out the sharps or flats in a minor key, we will take the minor key i chord and go up 3 notes. For example: if you go up 3 notes from a, you land on C. This means that C major is the relative major of a minor. In other words, theyre the same key signature, which has no sharps or flats.
If youre in C major and you want to figure out what the relative minor is, you simply go down 3 notes. Go to the left of C on your piano 3 notes and you end at a.
Lets take d minor now. Go up 3 notes from d and you land on f. F contains one flat, which is B flat. This means that the notes in d minor would be: D E F G A Bflat C D.
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A Note On Writing The Order Of Sharps & Flats
When you practice writing the sharps and flats, there is an important pattern to keep in mind.
First of all, remember that treble clef starts with the high F# on the top line, while bass clef starts on the second highest line . For flats, youll start on the middle line for treble clef and second line for bass clef .
After you get that first sharp on the staff, youll write in a pattern. Youll go down to C#, then up to G#. The up-down pattern continues consistently with the exception of one note: A#. For A#, youll go down even though you just went down to G#. .
All this ensures that were never writing sharps and flats above or below the staff itself.
With the flats, there are no exceptions. The up-down pattern continues the whole time!
Help Captain Sharpbeard Find His Treasure
Get ready to pump up the enjoyment in your studio with Captain Sharpbeard! In this fun activity youll use a fortune teller manipulative to bring learning to life. You can here. If you remember using Fortune Tellers as a child, then youll know exactly what to do. If not, weve included folding instructions on the printable.
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Learn The Black Keys On The Piano
Step 1: The first thing to get right is your technique. You dont really want to use your thumb on the black keys. Instead, try to only use your middle three fingers. This makes it easier to transition between white and black. There will be times when this is unavoidable, but until this is the case, try to keep your thumb away.
Step 2: When playing the black keys you might need to tuck your thumb under your fingers to hit a white key. Try this now – play Middle C with your right index finger, C# with your middle finger and then D with your thumb. Later on, you will find this technique useful when performing scales.
Step 3: Lets try the same technique with the left hand. Place your left thumb on Middle C. Now play B with your index finger, Bb with your middle finger and then A with your thumb. Practise until it feels natural. Now your thumb is on A, it frees up the rest of your fingers to play lower notes, both black and white.
Step 4: Lets attempt a scale. Starting with your index finger on your right hand and, working from C to F, see if you can play the white and black keys in a fluid motion. Use your thumb for D, and end with your fourth finger on F. Once youve mastered that, go back down again using the same fingers.
How Do You Remember The Key Signature Order
The key signatures get much easier to remember if you have a few tricks up your sleeve: the order of sharps & flats, AND the circle of fifths.
With the circle of fifths, you start on C major . Then, you go down a fifth from that key to get G major. G major has 1 sharp.
Basically, everytime you go down a fifth, you find yourself at the key with an additional sharp.
It is easier to understand when you see the visual representation. Take a look at a circle of fifths chart right here.
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