Flats and Sharps in Greensleeves

by DN


I have a quick question regarding flats and sharps. Due to the coronavirus, I am stuck at home and re-learning the piano :)

Yesterday I was printing out sheet music and I printed out Greensleeves. I know how to read flats and sharps but there are some notes where they don't have the sharp or flat at the beginning of the sheet music but you still somehow have to know that you have to add a sharp or flat to that note.

For example in Greensleeves, it never specifies that there has to be an F#. How do I know when to play a note that needs to have a sharp or flat when it is not specified?


I hope I was able to ask this clearly :)

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Greensleeves Tonality
by: Maria

Hi there! Yes, we're all stuck... Time for more piano indeed!

Greensleeves is a beautiful English song from the 16th century. It is not in a major or minor tonality, so the key signature is actually not required here. The song is in a modal tonality, you'll find it both in the Aeolian and the Dorian mode.

When a song is modal, the key signature used for major and minor keys is not needed. Instead, the changes are written in the song, usually. However, it's a long-loved song, and you'll find various versions.

Let's say the melody starts from A. Sometimes you'll then see F# on the 5th note from the start. This is the Dorian mode version. Other times you'll see just an F, this is the Aeolian mode version. Both are very beautiful.

I have written more about modes here:
The 7 Scale Modes

So, if there is no key signature, you will not have any other sharps or flats other than those written for individual notes. And sometimes, as in this case, it indicates a modal key (not major or minor).

Happy practicing!

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