Key Signature Names and Translations
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Key Signature Names and Translations

When a musical key or key signature is referred to in a language other than English, that language may use the usual notation used in English (namely the letters A to G, along with translations of the words sharp, flat, major and minor in that language): languages which use the English system include Irish, Welsh, Azeri[], Hindi, Japanese (based on katakana in iroha order), Korean (based on hangul in ganada order), Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Filipino, Swahili, Esperanto.

Or it may use some different notation. Two notation systems are most commonly found besides the English system, the Fixed Do key notation and the German key notation

  1. Fixed Do key notation - used (among others) in Italian, French, Dutch (in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium), Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Occitan, Breton, Basque, Russian (along with the German system), Ukrainian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Latvian, Lithuanian (along with the English system[]), Romanian, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, Turkish (along with the English system) and Vietnamese. Most countries (though not all, e.g. Serbia) where Fixed Do solmization is used also use the Fixed Do key notation. Instead of the letters C, D, E, F, G, A, B, seven syllables (derived from solfege) are used to refer to the seven diatonic tones of C major: Do (in French Do or Ut), Re, Mi, Fa, Sol (never So), La, Si (never Ti), with some variations and adaptations according to country, language and alphabet, followed by the accidental (natural is clearly most often omitted) and then the major/minor qualifier as needed.
  2. German key notation - used (among others) in German, Dutch (in the Netherlands, where it is used along with the English system), Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Finnish, Estonian, Serbian (along with the English system), Croatian, Bosnian, Slovene, Hungarian, Polish, Czech and Slovak. The German key notation differs from the English system in two respects, namely that B is referred to by the letter H and B by the letter B by itself, and that sharp and flat designations do not use words but suffix is for sharps and suffix es (reduced to s if the tone letter is a vowel) for flats, except that (as already mentioned) in the German system the letter B by itself already means B flat. However in some places where the German system is in use one may encounter the use of B for B and Bes for B. This is especially common in the Netherlands.

There has been a tendency in some countries which historically used the Fixed Do key notation or the German key notation to switch to the English system, especially among musicians working in popular music genres or jazz[]. The only case where this can lead to some confusion is when the letter B is used: should it be understood as B (English system) or B (German system)? Another tendency has been to use the English system in writing but to read it out according to either the Fixed Do or the German system if those are the systems used locally. For example recent French scores or books may use the English system (this is especially common for chord symbols), but French users would read out that notation according to the Fixed Do system. Similarly a Dutch musician may refer to a written F orally as Fis. This article is concerned with written usage.

To form a key designation, locate the note name in the pitch translation table and add the major/minor qualifier from the lower table as needed.

Pitch translation table
alphabetic systems solmization systems
English German Dutch (Netherlands,
Japanese Chinese Korean Arabic Italian French Spanish Portuguese Russian Romanian Dutch (Belgium) Greek
C flat Ces Ces (hen-ha) ?C (jiàng-C) ? (naerim da) - (Do-bemol) Do bemolle Do bémol Do bemol Dó bemol - (Do-bemol) Do bemol Do mol (Do hyphesis)
C C C ? (ha) C ? (da) (Do) Do Do (Ut) Do (Do) Do Do (Do)
C sharp Cis Cis (ei-ha) ?C (sh?ng-C) ? (ollim da) -? (Do-diez) Do diesis Do dièse Do sostenido Dó sustenido -? (Do-diez) Do diez Do kruis (Do diesis)
D flat Des Des (hen-ni) ?D (jiàng-D) ? (naerim ra) - (Re-bemol) Re bemolle Ré bémol Re bemol Ré bemol - (Re-bemol) Re bemol Re mol (Re hyphesis)
D D D ? (ni) D ? (ra) (Re) Re Re (Re) Re Re (Re)
D sharp Dis Dis (ei-ni) ?D (sh?ng-D) ? (ollim ra) -? (Re-diez) Re diesis Ré dièse Re sostenido Ré sustenido -? (Re-diez) Re diez Re kruis (Re diesis)
E flat Es Es (hen-ho) ?E (jiàng-E) ? (naerim ma) - (Mi-bemol) Mi bemolle Mi bémol Mi bemol Mi bemol - (Mi-bemol) Mi bemol Mi mol (Mi hyphesis)
E E E ? (ho) E ? (ma) (Mi) Mi Mi Mi Mi (Mi) Mi Mi (Mi)
E sharp Eis Eis (ei-ho) ?E (sh?ng-E) ? (ollim ma) -? (Mi-diez) Mi diesis Mi dièse Mi sostenido Mi sustenido -? (M-diez) Mi diez Mi kruis (Mi diesis)
F flat Fes Fes (hen-he) ?F (jiàng-F) ? (naerim ba) - (Fa-bemol) Fa bemolle Fa bémol Fa bemol Fá bemol - (Fa-bemol) Fa bemol Fa mol (Fa hyphesis)
F F F ? (he) F ? (ba) (Fa) Fa Fa Fa (Fa) Fa Fa (Fa)
F sharp Fis Fis (ei-he) ?F (sh?ng-F) ? (ollim ba) -? (Fa-diez) Fa diesis Fa dièse Fa sostenido Fá sustenido -? (Fa diez) Fa diez Fa kruis (Fa diesis)
G flat Ges Ges (hen-to) ?G (jiàng-G) ? (naerim sa) - (Sol-bemol) Sol bemolle Sol bémol Sol bemol Sol bemol ?- (Sol-bemol) Sol bemol Sol mol (Sol hyphesis)
G G G ? (to) G ? (sa) (Sol) Sol Sol Sol Sol ? (Sol) Sol Sol (Sol)
G sharp Gis Gis (ei-to) ?G (sh?ng-G) ? (ollim sa) -? (Sol-diez) Sol diesis Sol dièse Sol sostenido Sol sustenido ?-? (Sol-diez) Sol diez Sol kruis (Sol diesis)
A flat As As (hen-i) ?A (jiàng-A) ? (naerim ga) - (la-bemol) La bemolle La bémol La bemol Lá bemol - (Lja-bemol) La bemol La mol (La hyphesis)
A A A ? (i) A ? (ga) (La) La La La (Lja) La La (La)
A sharp Ais Ais (ei-i) ?A (sh?ng-A) ? (ollim ga) -? (La-diez) La diesis La dièse La sostenido Lá sustenido -? (Lja-diez) La diez La kruis (La diesis)
B flat B Bes (hen-ro) ?B (jiàng-B) ? (naerim na) - (Si-bemol) Si bemolle Si bémol Si bemol Si bemol - (Si-bemol) Si bemol Si mol (Si hyphesis)
B H B ? (ro) B ? (na) (Si) Si Si Si Si (Si) Si Si (Si)
B sharp His Bis (ei-ro) ?B (sh?ng-B) ? (ollim na) -? (Si-diez) Si diesis Si dièse Si sostenido Si sustenido -? (Si-diez) Si diez Si kruis (Si diesis)
Major/minor alteration
English Arabic German Dutch[1] Japanese Chinese Korean Italian French Spanish Portuguese Russian Romanian Greek
major (alkabeer) Dur groot, grote terts (ch?ch?) (dà diào) (jangjo) maggiore majeur mayor maior major ?
minor (alsagheer) Moll klein, kleine terts (tanch?) (xi?o diào) (danjo) minore mineur menor menor minor

Note that the 'major' alteration is usually superfluous, as a key description missing an alteration is invariably assumed to be major.

In the German notation scheme, a hyphen is added between the pitch and the alteration (D-Dur).

In German and Dutch the minor key signatures are written with a lower case letter (d-Moll, d klein, d kleine terts). Furthermore -Dur and -Moll can be missed out as e.g. Cis is short for Cis-Dur and cis is short for cis-Moll.

For example, to describe Party Monster by the R&B singer The Weeknd, which was composed in a key of E-flat minor could use:

  • E-flat minor (English)
  • Mi-bemol minor (Arabic)
  • es-Moll (German)
  • es (klein) (Dutch)
  • ? (hen-ho tanch?) (Japanese)
  • ? (naerim ma danjo) (Korean)
  • Mi bimolle minore (Italian)
  • Mi bémol mineur (French)
  • Mi bemol menor (Spanish)
  • Mi bemol menor (Portuguese)
  • - (Russian)
  • Mi bemol minor (Romanian)
  • (Greek)


  1. ^ The French words majeur and mineur are also used

External links

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