Sharps and flats are always listed in the same order.  This is the same order in which they are added as a key gets sharper or flatter.  No sharps or flats is the key of C major or A minor.  The first sharp is F, this is the key of G major or E minor.  The second sharp is C, this is the key of D major or B minor.  The first flat is B, this is the key of F major or D minor.  The second flat is E which is the key of B flat major and G minor.  The order is as follows.  Sharps start with F, C,G,D,A,E,B.  Flats are in the reverse order starting with B,E,A,D,G,C,F.  the keys themselves follow the Circle of Fifths

order of sharps

Enharmonic Spelling:  Any note can be either a sharp, flat of natural.  An example of enharmonic spelling is a note that sounds the same and is the same note on a keyboard but is named and written differently like C# and Db.  Keys, scales and intervals can also be enharmonic as we will explore more in the section on Harmony.  A sharp symbol raises the pitch by one half step from natural, a flat lowers the pitch by one half step from natural and a natural symbol means the note is played as natural

The reason for using these symbols instead of just naming every pitch with a different letter is to make music easier to read.  By doing this we can keep all of the notes of a scale in any key mostly within the lines and spaces


Time:  As we have seen a single musical sound is represented by a note.  The most important things a written piece of music needs to tell you is the pitch and the duration, how long it lasts.  The pitch is determined by where it falls on the staff, the durations depends on the characteristics of the note itself.

note parts

All parts of the written note affect how long it lasts

Note length

note length

Half notes last half as long as a whole note.  Quarter notes are 1/4 as long, eighth notes 1/8 as long etc.

Note values are very much like fractions as is illustrated below

Whole and half note durations


So how long does the duration of each note last?  Well it depends on a couple of things.  a written note lasts for a certain amount of time measured in beats.  to find how many beats it takes you must know the time signature.  To find out how long a beats lasts you must know the tempo.


As you may have noticed the stems on each not can be either up or down.  There are general rules regarding the direction of the stems.

Stem direction


A rest stands for silence in music.  For every note duration there is a corresponding rest duration.


Time Signature: At the beginning of music right after the key signature is the time signature.  While the key signature will appear on every staff, the time signature only appears once unless the meter changes.  the meter of a piece of music is the basic rhythm; the time signature is the symbol that tells you the meter of the piece and how it is written

time signature

Because music is heard over a period of time, it is organized by dividing the time up into short periods called beats. In most music things tend to happen at the beginning of each beat making it easy to feel.  The down beat is usually the strongest but not always.  You have both strong and weak beats.  These beats a further organized into bars or measures. The time signature tells you how many beats are in a measure and what kind of note or rest gets a beat.

time signature

In four four there are 4 beats to a measure and a quarter note gets one beat.  Any combination of notes that equal four quarter notes can be a measure.

4 beats to the measure

If the time signature is 3/8 then any combination of 3 eight notes can make up a measure.

8 beats tot he measure

Some time signatures don't have to be written as numbers.  four four time is also called common time, and two two is called cut time.

common time