If you’re passionate about writing songs and learning music, studying the order of flats and sharps is essential. It is a significant part of music theory. You may already be aware that every key has a unique set of sharps and flats.
In this guide, we will show you the exact order and also present it easily.
The Order of Flats (♭)
The order of flats comprises seven flat notes. The order tells what notes are flat in a key
Let’s first learn the order of flats using a simple acronym. The order of the flats is B-E-A-D-G-C-F. You can also use a simple mnemonic for this:
Better Eat A Darn Good Chicken Fajita
The order of flats is shown like this:
B♭ – E♭ – A♭ – D♭ – G♭ – C♭ – F♭
If a key has one flat, it only contains the first flat from the order of the flats, the B♭ key. Assuming the key has two flats, it uses the first two flats from the given order of flats B♭ and E♭ . A key with five flats will contain the first five flats from the above order: B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭ , and G♭.
Taking another example of this, the A♭ major key contains four flats. So taking this into consideration, we use the first four flats from the order of flats that are B♭, E♭, A♭ , and D♭. Now, starting on the root A♭, the A♭ , a major key is spelled as A♭, B♭, C, D♭, E♭, F, and G. As you can see, it contains the four flats, and the rest of the notes are natural.
The Order of Sharps (#)
Let’s start with a way you can learn the order of sharps easily. The order goes F-C-G-D-A-E-B. You can use a mnemonic for this:
Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Birds
You can also make up your own mnemonics using the first letters of words to make up a memorable phrase.
The order of sharps in the sharp key is always shown like this:
F# – C# – G# – D# – A# – E# – B#
The order of sharps works the same way as the flat order. The G major key contains one sharp from the order of sharps, the F#. Spelling the G major scale looks like this: G, A, B, C, D, E, and F#.
Similarly, another example of this is the A major key. It contains three sharps which will be F#, C#, and G#. This way, the A major is spelled as A, B, C#, D, E, F#, and G#.
Memorizing the Order
The order of flats is the same as the order of sharps when writing them backward.
So taking the order of sharps:
F C G D A E B
Left to right is the order of sharps and going from right to left is the order of flats.
Use this nice trick to quickly learn the order of sharps and flats. This way, using the above methods, you can opt to use one of the mnemonics for either learning flats or sharps. Then you can just reverse the order to get the order of the latter.
Applying This Easily
So, if someone asks you how many sharps there are in the key of A Major. The best method to accomplish this if you don’t have sheet music in front of you is to think for a second. Begin at C Major and go fifth up. You’ll see that you hit G, D, and then A. Because you add them up, we know G has one sharp, D has two sharps, and A has three sharps.
Using the methods we discussed above, the sharps you get are F#, C#, and G#.
Why We Need Note Names
Most beginner musicians are often confused about learning new note names like E#, B#, F♭ , and D♭. Now, that may have seemed easy but isn’t C♭ and B the same thing? There is a reason for these note names.
We should avoid having two similar letters on the same scale, such as B and Bb, as it can cause confusion and just make the music sheet hard to read.
For example, the G♭ major key could be misspelled as G♭, A♭, B♭, B, D♭, E♭ , and F. Note that there are two B notes and lack a C note. Correcting this, it should be G♭, A♭, B♭, C♭, D♭, E♭ , and F.
Remember to never miss the sharps and the flats in a key spelling as it’s either one or the other.
Music theory can be a bit dry compared to actually practicing on your instrument, but it is an essential part of learning music. It’s all about repetition, and applying the order of sharps and flats will help you get better at it.
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Josh is the founder and main author of Songwriter Nation. He has played music for over twenty years and even studied music at university earning a minor in music.