Shortcut method to find Major and Natural Minor scale from Key Signature

I would like to share a shortcut method which I discovered while I was learning scales for my Music Theory course. I shared this method with my friends and they found it very helpful and fast. You can use this method if you are given the key signature and you have to find the corresponding Major/Minor scale.

So, the seven basic notes in Western Music theory are C, D, E, F, G, A, B which corresponds to do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti respectively.

The basic pattern to remember for this method is
F, C, G, D, A, E, B.

The sharps always start with F and then go to C, G,… i.e. in the same order as that of the pattern. So wherever its written 2 sharps it means sharps on F and C. The flats go in reverse order. So 3 flats means flats on B, E and A and so on.


Major Scale

Write the above pattern in your notebook. Let us start with an example. Suppose you are given 2 sharps.

2 — sharps (As explained above they are on F and C)

Keep your pen on C and go two steps forward i.e. to G then D and that is your answer — two sharps or sharp on F and C is D major scale. Similarly, 4 sharps means 4 steps ahead C which is E so 4 sharps is E major scale. 5 sharps is B Major scale but 6 sharps is F# major scale, why? because once you finish the series and then come back to C you put a sharp so 6 sharps is F# major scale and similarly 7 sharps is C# major scale.

Now lets see the case of flats. For flats you start with C again but this time you go backward so 1 flat means F major scale. Now we have reached the front end of the series so we jump to last i.e. B and we apply flats in front of the key just like we applied sharps in previous part. So 2 flats is Bb Major scale, 3 flats is Eb Major key and so on.

Writing all the major keys

Now using the trick we will write all the major scale.

Starting with C lets go forward(i.e. sharps)-

  1. No sharps — C major key
  2. 1 sharp — G major key
  3. 2 sharps — D major key
  4. 3 sharps — A major key
  5. 4 sharps — E major key
  6. 5 sharps — B major key
  7. 6 sharps — F# major key(sharp because we reached the end and then jumped to the start again)
  8. 7 sharps — C# major key

Now lets go backwards(i.e. flats)-

  1. No flats — C major key
  2. 1 flat — F major key
  3. 2 flats — Bb major key(again, flat because we reached the start of the list and then jumped to the end)
  4. 3 flats — Eb major key
  5. 4 flats — Ab major key
  6. 5 flats — Db major key
  7. 6 flats — Gb major key
  8. 7 flats — Cb major key

Natural Minor Scale

Method to find is totally similar to that of Major scales. Only difference is that here we start with A instead of C. Hence I’ll skip the explain and will just write all the natural minor scales.

Writing all the minor keys

Starting with A lets go forward(i.e. sharps)-

  1. No sharps — A minor key
  2. 1 sharp — E minor key
  3. 2 sharps — B minor key
  4. 3 sharps — F# minor key
  5. 4 sharps — C# minor key
  6. 5 sharps — G# minor key
  7. 6 sharps — D# major key
  8. 7 sharps — A# major key

Now lets go backward(i.e. flats)-

  1. No flats — A minor key
  2. 1 flat — D minor key
  3. 2 flats — G minor key
  4. 3 flats — C minor key
  5. 4 flats — F minor key
  6. 5 flats — Bb minor key
  7. 6 flats — Eb minor key
  8. 7 flats — Ab minor key

If you want to practise Key signature identification you can visit this link.

Thank you :)