Fat Cats Do What? Memorizing the Order of Sharps and Flats
A student asked me recently, "what are all those hashtags?!?" LOL! I replied, "they're not hashtags but are sharps that are a part of a key signature." It tells us which sharps or flats that we need to play for a particular piece. It also clues us into what key a piece is in. Thankfully, memorizing the order of the sharps and flats is easy because it stays the same (except for some contemporary pieces). We just keep adding sharps or flats to the mix.
Major and Minor Keys and Their Sharps/Flats:
C Major/a minor: no sharps or flats
G Major/e minor: F#
D Major/b minor: F# and C#
A Major/f# minor: F#, C#, and G#
E Major/c# minor: F#, C#, G#, and D#
B Major/g# minor: F#, C#, G#, D#, and A#
F# Major/d# minor: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, and E#
C# Major/a# minor: F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, and B#
F Major/d minor: Bb
Bb Major/g minor: Bb and Eb
Eb Major/c minor: Bb, Eb, and Ab
Ab Major/f minor: Bb, Eb, Ab, and Db
Db Major/bb minor: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, and Gb
Gb Major/eb minor: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, and Cb
Cb Major/ab minor: Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, and Fb
Order of Sharps: FCGDAEB
If you need help, you can think:
Fat Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Birds
Fast Cars Go Dangerously Around Every Bend
Order of Flats: BEADGCF
Bead + GCF (Greatest Common Factor)
Big Elephants Drive Golf Carts Fast
OR, you can memorize your Circle of Fifths and notice that the orders of both the sharps and flats are in fifths! If you start at the teal star and go clockwise, there is your order of sharps. If you start at the beige star and go counterclockwise, there is your order of flats!
Note: On this Circle of Fifths, I did carry through with the enharmonic notes. So, Db Major has 5 flats, or C# Major has 7 sharps. B Major has 5 sharps, or Cb Major has 7 flats. I usually don't make my students memorize the enharmonic relationship until junior high.
Writing Key Signatures
The placement of the sharps and flats on the staff has to remain the same each time. For example, F# is always first and on the top line of the treble clef. So sorry, everyone has to memorize this too! I suggest grabbing some staff paper and just writing it out 10 times every day for a week. It should stick in your brain after that!