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I am a sophomore and play the Baritone in the SCHS (go wild cats!) marching band. I have been in band for four years. I honestly didn't do band originally for anything other than it would look good on a college résumé, but we are currently working on Pandora Reopened for our marching band show. We won at our first competition and the show is awesome.

My problem is that, up until now since I did not actually care about band, I did not put the effort into learning anything but the basics of my instrument. A major problem that is stumping me is how to interpret the key signature. I generally know what to do, but I do not know official terms for much.

My question:

Does the key signature affect which notes I will play? For example, does a B-flat key signature simply indicate that all notes I play are flat. This is how I have interpreted it up until now. I know that it is my responsibility to learn this, because it is my screw up, but I cannot find a good description in simple terms. Can someone give me a very brief description on how to understand the basic concepts of the key signature?

marked as duplicate by Todd Wilcox, Matthew Read Oct 7 '15 at 20:21

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    I use this comment to register my disappointment in your band director, who is supposedly in that position to educate you, not give you looks. – Todd Wilcox Oct 7 '15 at 19:41
  • Regarding this as a duplicate question: key signatures work the same way for all instruments - they do not work differently between the baritone and the flute, for example. They do indicate that you always play the sharpened or flattened notes in the signature sharpened or flattened (unless there is a natural sign to cancel it out for that note). I think you should ask your band director again - maybe not when the whole band is there, but see if you can get a few moments of his time. Regardless of when you should know it, you don't, and you need to. It's his job to help you with it. – Todd Wilcox Oct 7 '15 at 19:55
  • If you have two flats in a key signature, then those two flats are always B flat and E flat, and that means every time you see a B or an E in the music, you play B flat and E flat instead. You have to look at where the sharps or flats are for the key signature to see what lines or spaces they are on to know which notes should be sharp or flat. And the sharps or flats apply to all octaves. So if there's a B flat in the key signature, you always play all B notes as flat for the whole piece. Maybe you can work with a friend in the band on this? Another baritone player? – Todd Wilcox Oct 8 '15 at 14:49