An odd but useful phrase for remembering the Circle of Fifths.
It’s funny how some things can stick in one’s memory. I’ve recently started coming back to music after a 20 year hiatus. It’s been a Rip van Winkle experience, seeing how much has improved in 20 years (more on that later). But this mnemonic above helped me memorize the Circle of Fifths, which is really helpful in identifying key signatures and the order of sharps/flats.
There are other mnemonics, but this one stuck with me.
C major has no sharps or flats.
The sharps are added from left to right: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E# (aka F natural), B# (aka c natural)
The flats are added from right to left: B flat, E flat, A flat, D flat, G flat, C flat (aka B natural), F flat (aka E natural)
Given a staff with some number of sharps, it’s really easy to identify the key. You first identify the last (right-most) sharp. If in doubt, consult the circle of fifths. For example, if there are 3 sharps, the 3rd sharp must be G sharp (“Fried Chicken Good”). Then you go up a half step to the next note which is A, and hence A Major. 3 sharps = A major
Given a staff with some number of flats, you need to remember that one flat is F major. Otherwise, the key name matches the 2nd to last flat. If you think of the circle of fifths as a circle that wraps around, you’ll notice that the first flat is B flat, since flats start from the right (“Fried Chicken…. Every Bite”). Also notice that F is just to the left of C. So to find the connection between flats and keys, work by moving left in the circle of fifths. Examples: 2 flats: “Fried Chicken…Every Bite“, so the last 2 words indicate B flat and E flat. (Note I list B before E since the flats go from right to left). The key is B flat major
3 flats: “Fried Chicken… Ate Every Bite”, so B flat, E flat, and A flat. The key is E flat major.
4 flats: “Friend Chicken Good Dinner Ate Every Bite” so B flat, E flat, A flat, and D flat. The key is the 2nd to last flat, so A flat major.