Identify Music Keys With This Simple Mnemonic

One aspect of music that has mystified novices is the identification of a song’s key when looking at the sheet music. We see a bunch of sharps or flats, but figuring out which key it all means is a code that isn’t broken intuitively. With a simple mnemonic, however, one can easily decipher this code.

Good Deeds Are Ever Bearing Fruit

When there are no sharps or flats, things are simple. It’s the key of C. However the introduction of sharps can throw people. Simply count the number of sharps, move that many words to the right, and take the first letter of the target word.

Consider this key, for example:

There are two sharps, so if we go to the second word in our mnemonic, we land on Deeds. Therefore this is the Key of D.

How about this one?


There are four sharps, so we go four words to the right to the word Ever, telling us this is the Key of E.

So, for sharps we proceed to the right through our mnemonic. For flats, we simply start on the right, and proceed to the left in the same manner as before.

For example:


There are two flats, so when we move to the left two words from the end, we land on “Bearing”, so this is the Key of B Flat (It’s the “flat” when more than one flat is shown. One flat is the Key of F).

How about this example?


There are three flats, which puts us on the word “Ever”, so it is the Key of E Flat.

Here is a fun one:


With five flats, we land on “Deeds”, so this is the Key of D Flat.

So there it is. Now you can look at any piece of sheet music and identify the key by just remembering that Good Deeds Are Ever Bearing Fruit!

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