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Topic: time signatures
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AuthorTopic:   time signatures
Anonymous
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posted: 1/31/2007 at 1:47:09 PM ET
I'm in a introduction to music class. I have no music background whatsoever and despite studying all night I still made an eleven out of twenty five on my first quiz. I dont understand how you know which keys go on which line on a time signature. Can someone help me?

Anonymous
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posted: 2/7/2007 at 8:00:40 PM ET
Are you talking about time/meter signatures, which tell you how many beats per measure or key signatures, which tell you which notes are sharped or flatted?

A key signature uses sharps, which look like the number sign (or a tic-tac-toe board) and the flats, which look something like a lower case "b". There is a pattern to how the sharps or flats are written on the staff.

Whatever the last sharp is, you go up a half step and that is the key. For instance, if the last sharp listed is a C#, it is the key of D.

When using flats, you go to the second-to-last flat written on the staff and that is the key. For instance, if you see two flats, they will be a Bb and an Eb, in that order. That would represent the key of Bb. When there is only one flat, you just need to know that it is the key of F.

Anonymous
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posted: 2/7/2007 at 8:19:25 PM ET
Of course, no sharps or flats is the key of C.

Flats lower a pitch by 1/2 step. Sharps raise a pitch by 1/2 step.

The first sharp to be written on the staff is the F#, key of G.
To add the next one, you go down four (including the F#) to the C#, key of D.
To add the third one, you go up five (including the C#). This would put you above the staff on the G#, key of A.
To add the fourth one, you go down four again (including the G#) to the D#, key of E.
If you added a fifth, which is done, but not commonly, it would take you to the A# above the staff. But since that would require you use a line that is not on the five line staff, you write it on the second space A, which is the key of B.
Even more rarely used is the sixth, which is tricky. You need to remember that the A# you previously wrote is technically above the staff and you need to come down five (including the A#) to the E#, key of F# (remember E# is also known as F, so up 1/2 step from there is F#).

Flats follow a similiar pattern, but their key is determined differently. As stated earlier, the first flat is a Bb and you just need to know it is the key of F.
The second flat's position is determined by going UP five (including the Bb) to the Eb. Go back to the previous flat and this is the key of Bb.
The third flat is determined by going DOWN four (including the Eb) to the Ab, key of Eb.
For the fourth flat, again go up five to the Db (including the Ab), key of Ab.
For the fifth flat, gown down four to the Gb (including the Db), key of Db.

In short:
When writing sharps, up four, down five. First sharp is F# (fifth line). Go up 1/2 step from the last sharp to determine the key.
When writing flats, up five, down four. First flat is Bb. Go to the second-to-last flat to determine the key. One flat - key of F.
No sharps or flats, key of C.

Hope this is what you were looking for.

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