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Key Signatures

Before we get into the practical applications of the Chord Wheel, you should also be familiar with 'Key Signatures.' Simply put, a Key Signature is a representation as to the number of notes in a given scale (and thus the roots of its related key) that are sharps or flats. Without getting too much into the theory behind it, each key has a number of notes in it which are 'sharped' or 'flatted' and this is always represented after the cleft of any written musical score. While reading notation is not necessary to utilize chord theory, the Chord Wheel will supply you with Key Signature knowledge.

Turn the clear plastic disk on your Chord Wheel so that the 'KEY-I Chord' arrow is aligned with D (in green). When properly aligned, you'll notice that two of the chords in the key of D have sharps: the 'iii Chord' (F#m) and the 'vii Chord' (C#m). Because any given chord within a 'Key' is built from a note in a 'scale,' it can be said that the Key of D is the 'Key of Two Sharps' just as the 'D Major Scale' contains two sharps. (In fact, by using just the letter name of the chord, with the Chord Wheel you always have access to the notes in any major scale at your fingertips. In this regard, the D major scale can be read as: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#. Just go from 'I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii' in any key on the Chord Wheel.)

On the clear plastic disk, you will find a small box below the 'KEY' and above the word 'SIGNATURE.' In this box you can readily find the number of sharps or flats in any given key. Turn the disk until it rests on the key of C. The empty box indicates there are no sharps or flats and inspection of the chords outlined above confirm this. The key of E flat (Eb) however, contains three flats in its scale and thus in its family of chords as well as its key signature.