F minor key signature

The Solution below shows the F natural minor key signature on the treble clef and bass clef.

The Lesson steps then explain how to write the key signature using both clefs, including the display order and line / space staff positions of the notes, and the sharp / flat accidentals.

For a quick summary of this topic, have a look at Key signature.

Natural minor key signature keys
KeyCC#DbDD#EbEE#Fb[F]F#GbGG#AbAA#BbBB#CbAll On 1 page

Solution

1. F minor key signature

This step shows the F natural minor scale key signature on the treble clef and bass clef.

The F minor scale has 4 flats.

This minor scale key is on the Circle of 5ths - F minor on circle of 5ths, which means that it is a commonly used minor scale key.

F minor scale has 4 flats
No.12345678
NoteFGAbBbCDbEbF

These note names are shown below on the treble clef followed by the bass clef.

F minor key signature

F minor key signature

Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

Lesson steps

1. Piano key note names

This step shows the white and black note names on a piano keyboard so that the note names are familiar for later steps, and to show that the note names start repeating themselves after 12 notes.

The white keys are named using the alphabetic letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, which is a pattern that repeats up the piano keyboard.

Every white or black key could have a flat(b) or sharp(#) accidental name, depending on how that note is used. In a later step, if sharp or flat notes are used, the exact accidental names will be chosen.

Sharp and flat note names

The audio files below play every note shown on the piano above, so middle C (marked with an orange line at the bottom) is the 2nd note heard.

Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

2. F minor notes

This step shows the number of sharps or flats in the scale so that the number of symbols needed for the key signature can be identified.

The F natural minor scale has 4 flats.

F minor scale has 4 flats
No.12345678
NoteFGAbBbCDbEbF

F minor scale

To understand why the F minor scale has 4 flats, have a look at the F natural minor scale page, which shows how to identify the note positions and names for this scale.

Since this is a flat-based key signature, the music theory rules for constructing key signatures containing flats are covered in the next step.

Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

3. Writing a flat-based key signature

This step shows the order in which the symbols of a flat key signature must be placed next to the treble and bass clef.

Flat key signature symbol order

The key signature is set of sharps or flats (never mixed) shown after the treble or bass clef on the musical staff.

The key signature symbols are always shown in the same order, no matter what the order of the actual notes on the staff .

For a flat-based key signature (like this scale), the order is easily remembered using the following phrase, whose first letters indicate the note name to be flattened:

Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles Father

So if the scale contains note Bb, this is always the first flat key signature symbol shown next to the treble or bass clef in the note B staff position(middle line).

Then the same for Eb in the second position, and so on for all the words in the phrase.

Flat key signature order explanation

The Battle Ends.. order for key signature symbol placement is not accidental, and follows a variation of the Circle of fifths music theory pattern called the Circle of fourths.

Taking the 1st letter of the 1st word in the phrase - B, the 4th note of the major scale with its name as the tonic - B major scale is note E (the 2nd word of the phrase).

Now take the 4th note of the major scale whose tonic is E - the E major scale - this is note A (the 3rd word of the phrase).

Now take the 4th note of the major scale whose tonic is A - the A major scale - this is note D (the 4th word of the phrase), and so on.

Flat key signature relationships

The other interesting thing about this phrase / pattern is that given any flat symbol in the key signature, the symbols before that symbol will always exist.

For example, if a key signature has note Fb (last phrase word / symbol), then it will always have the other 6 symbols before it.

Another example - if a key signature has a Db (4th word / symbol), then it will always have the first 3 symbols before it.

Put another way, if you see a key signature with 1 flat symbol, that flat will always be Bb (the first phrase word).

Or if a key signature with 2 flats, those flats will always be Bb and Eb.

To learn more about these patterns, have a look at Learn the circle of fifths.

The above rules apply to flat-based key signatures - sharp based key signatures have a similar set of rules, with the above phrase reversed. Have a look at the C# major key signature.

Flat Order-Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles Father

Flat Order-Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles Father

The staff above is to demonstrate all possible flat symbol positions in a key signature. In the next step, only those sharp positions in this particular scale will be used.

Difference between treble and bass clef key signature

For both the treble and bass clef, all key signature rules on this page are identical.

The only difference between them is that the bass clef symbols are shifted down to the next line or space (and of course the note pitches are lower on the bass clef).

This is to reflect the fact that all note positions on the bass clef are one line or space lower than the treble clef.

For example, on the treble clef, note E (2nd note shown) occupies the first space from the top, whereas on the bass clef, the same note is the 2nd space from the top.

Equally, on the treble clef, note D (4th note shown) occupies the second line from the top, whereas on the bass clef, the same note is the 3rd line from the top.

The bass clef symbols are dropped to the next position for sharp-based key signatures in exactly the same way. Have a look at C# major key signature for details.

A Key signature symbol covers the note on many octaves

The above staff diagrams show only one possible staff position for each note letter A to G, on each clef.

The specific note positions used to identify each note A..G above are just a convention used to group the key signature symbols neatly around the centre of the staff, but any symbol actually applies to that note in all octaves on a given clef.

This means that for the first sumbol, Bb, although the note and symbol are on the middle line of the treble clef, the symbol really means 'Flatten any B-Flat note supplied on any octave in this clef, not just the B-Flat pitch on this line'.

In reality, any note could occur in multiple octaves ie. appear more than once on the treble or bass clef, with a higher or lower pitch.

For example, in the final step below, you will see that the scale tonic / starting note appears twice on the both treble and bass clef.

4. F minor key signature has 4 flats

This step shows the key signature next to the treble clef and bass clef containing the correct number of sharps and flats for this scale.

The key signature for this scale is shown below, with the key signature symbols in the correct order as per the phrase in the above step, and the note names in the same order as shown in Step 2.

F minor scale has 4 flats
No.12345678
NoteFGAbBbCDbEbF

F minor key signature

F minor key signature