Key Signature Flat Not Played
Dianna E., Minnesota
Having trouble wording an answer for a student. He’s perceptive and quick, and he asked me today why there’s a flat in the key signature for First Signs of Winter when there is never actually a B played in the song. How would you explain this seemingly “extra” bit of information?
Karen K., Oregon
The flat tells us which key we’re in, so F if in the major, or D minor in the relative minor (which is the case for this song).
Anna J., Canada
I like to say the key signature tells us what the family of notes is that the composer is using for this song. Whether or not he/she actually USES all the notes in the family is completely up to them (or the song, as it may be!), but those notes are still part of the family.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I always use Neil’s family analogy for most key signature questions. A few examples, including your question:
*There are always 7 ‘members’ in the family (A B C D E F G, with zero to 7 of them sharped or flatted).
*The key signature names the family members. The Key of the piece is the family address.
*Sometimes a cousin comes to visit, but they don’t ‘live’ there (accidentals).
*A family member may be away for a while, like at college (no Bb in First Signs of Winter) – still a member of the family, just not there all the time
*Major key = family at a wedding; Minor key = same family but at a funeral
Original discussion started May 20, 2020