I was wondering if there was an easy way to remember what notes are in each major key. Obviously you can apply the WWHWWWH formula and find out each one but how do you remember what notes are in the 12 keys. Is it just memorization. C for example is easy because it doesn't have any sharps or flats and is used alot. But what about something like F# major. Do you just have to spell it out on paper and commit it to memory?
sorta
there's a trick called the circle of fifths thats supposed 2 help but i got no idea no it works
can someone more theory knowledgable let me know if this is rite?

I usually just keep this bad boy handy. I've got all the common ones memorized and then look up the oddballs like F#Major (which isn't actually that hard to remember. It's just everything flat except F)
"There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die."-Duke
the circle of fifths.

there's some lessons on this website, and I'm sure there's other stuff on the internet somewhere.

be patient and learn it, it's really helpful.
Also, say the note names out loud when your playing the scale.
clock wise
From the key of C...circle to the fifth note
raise the 4th 1/2 step to create the next sharp note
5= G= key
4= F>F#
Therefore the key of G has F#

counter clock
cycle the the 4th note
lower the 7th to create the next flat note
4= F= Key
7=B<Bb

There is a method that easily determines the altered notes depending on the name of the keys...
Without being the circle of fifths, which need a little more memorization, since you have to memorize the fifths, and how they apply to the altered notes....

I personally prefer the other one...
Last edited by gonzaw at Jun 5, 2008,
Here's how I did it.

if you know the fretboard well:
play the basic major scale at each fret along the e string and say the notes aloud as you play them. A tip is to use flats for every non natural fret excepting c and f (ie. do not go a major a# major etc. instead use a major bb major. This greatly simplifies things.

if you do not:
A) learn the fretboard because your ability to remember the keys is almost useless if you don't know where the notes are

or

B) use the WWHWWWH formula to write out each one, and play at each fret of the e-string as above reading out what you've written. Even better is to write out each scale on ledger paper with a key signature. Which would help 3 areas at once.

How my teacher wanted me to do it (I feel my way worked better in the long run but this is helpful in case you ever forget one):

Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle

/\
Easy way to remember that thar circle of fifth's order. Also, handily, if you want to know what's sharp you just go back one note from the tonic (root) and count up to it

ie.

We want to find what's sharp in G major. Back one note from G (speaking in naturals) is F. So we stop at Father. Therefore F only F is sharp.

We want to find what's sharp in D. Back one note from D is C. So therefore we say Father Charles. So F and C are sharp.

To remember scales starting on a flat just remember that they're the exact same shape of intervals as the natural scale, therefore flatten every note by one. SO all sharp notes become natural and all natural notes become flat. Theres also a trick with the order of fourths to do this but personally I find that this way gives you a more realistic way to think about it than a magic trick!

Happy theorying.