Sharp or Flat?

A “augmented” note can be called either sharp or flat. So how do we know which one it should be?

Whether a note is called sharp or flat is dependent on the key you are in. You can’t have two notes with similar names in the same key. So for instance you can’t have G and G♭, or G and G#. So if there is G in the scale/key the note G will always be called F#.

On top of that, you can’t have both sharps and flats in the same key. A key may include up to six sharp notes (the key of F# Major) or five flat notes (The Key of D Major). But never both.

For this reason, keys with sharps are sometimes known as sharp keys, and keys with flats are sometimes known as flat keys.

One final point. In the diagram below you may notice that in the keys of F# Major and D# Minor there’s a note called E#. This is the note we usually call F, but because there’s already an F note (F#) in the key, it’s called E#. This is the only time this ever occurs.

All Major Scales

Scale (Read down from root note)
Root C D♭ D E♭ E F F# G A♭ A B♭ B
2nd D E♭ E F F# G G# A B♭ B C C#
3rd E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D#
4th F G♭ G A♭ A B♭ B C D♭ D E♭ E
5th G A♭ A B♭ B C C# D E♭ E F F#
6th A B♭ B C C# D D# E F F# G G#
7th B C C# D D# E E# F# G G# A A#