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The magic number 7

There is one sharp in the diatonic scale of G. There are six flats in the diatonic scale of Gb. The number of sharps in G and flats in Gb adds to 7.

An easy way to remember your diatonic scales is by deduction. For each letter, the number of sharps and flats adds to seven.

#‘s 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
D’scale C G D A E B F# C#
D’scale Cb Gb Db Ab Eb Bb F C
b‘s 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0

Flat to natural to sharp

In the diatonic scale of G the only note to be sharp is F#. In the diatonic scale of Gb the only note to be natural is F.

G: G A B C D E F# G
Gb: Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb

This makes sense. Deduce Gb by lowering the notes in G a semitone. Now raise the notes in G a semitone. Natural notes change to sharp, sharp notes change to double sharp. That is why G# does not exist as a diatonic scale.

G#: G# A# B# C# D# E# Fx G#

C, C# and Cb all exist as diatonic scales. C is made of all natural notes. Natural notes can be raised a semitone without resorting to double sharps and lowered a semitone without resorting to double flats.

Patterns in the sharp notes

F# is very common.

Every diatonic scale with a sharp in it has an F# in it.

B# is rare.

C# is the only diatonic scale with B# in it.

D’scale #‘s            
G: F#            
D: F# C#          
A: F# C# G#        
E: F# C# G# D#      
B: F# C# G# D# A#    
F#: F# C# G# D# A# E#  
C#: F# C# G# D# A# E# B#

Sharp notes enter in order through the diatonic scales. The note F# is in every diatonic scale with a sharp note. C# is in every diatonic scale with two or more sharps. G# is in every diatonic scale with three or more sharps. D# is in every diatonic scale with four or more sharps. A# is in every diatonic scale with five or more sharps. E# is in every diatonic scale with six or more sharps. B# is in only one diatonic scale, the diatonic scale of seven sharps.

Patterns in the flat notes

Flat notes also follow a pattern, the direct mirror of the order of entry of sharp notes. Bb is as common as F#. Fb is as rare as B#.

D’Scale b‘s            
F:             Bb
Bb:           Eb Bb
Eb:         Ab Eb Bb
Ab:       Db Ab Eb Bb
Db:     Gb Db Ab Eb Bb
Gb:   Cb Gb Db Ab Eb Bb
Cb: Fb Cb Gb Db Ab Eb Bb

Remember

>>> Enter sharp notes
F C G D A E B
Enter flat notes <<


Music Theory


"Become an arranger first, then an orchestrator, and then a composer." - Joe Paparone

Joe Paparone is an Australian music arranger of the highest international calibre. Allow him to share 35 years of real world experiences with you.