I'm mostly self-taught, so I don't know much in the way of theory beyond the basics. I have heard of G sharp Major a few times. I believe a scale in the key goes as such: G♯, A♯, B♯, C♯, D♯, E♯, Fx, G♯. Is this key real (as in, has it ever been used in a notable piece)? Or, is it a "theoretical" thing? If it is real, does it have any significant relations to G major?


I'm not sure why you'd have any reason to question why it's real ... it's not really related to G Major though, no more than C# major is related to C Major. It's enharmonically equivalent to A♭ major, just like C# Major = D♭ Major or F# Major = G♭ Major.

As for pieces involving it, Wikipedia mentions some. In general, keys with double-sharps aren't used very commonly because their equivalents are easier to play. With just intonation, however, G# is not actually the same note as A♭, nor are the keys the same. For more information on that see my answer here and the answers on the question it links to.

  • 1
    With just intonation, G sharp isn't even the same pitch as G sharp (when the first G sharp is the third of an E major chord, and the second G sharp is the fifth of a C sharp chord). Because just intonation depends on tuning to a particular key, it's meaningless to say that the keys of G sharp major and A flat major aren't the same. No composer would write a piece in G sharp major and expect the performer to understand the reason for doing so. – phoog Feb 2 at 11:09

The larger question is why any composer would use a certain key signature rather than its enharmonic equivalent. For instance the choral music composer John Rutter is known for notating songs in C♭ major (with seven flats) rather than in B major (with five sharps). In the equal-tempered system, C♭ major and B major are the same key.

Despite the fact that this frustrates the heck out of piano accompanists, there is actually a good reason for it; C♭ major is the preferred notation for a harp player, due to the way that the harp is tuned and the pedals on the harp are used to transpose pitches. Rutter has written several pieces that may be performed by either harp or piano.

So in this example, the choice of key signature can be influenced by the instrument that the composer is primarily writing for.


Realize first that keys can be, and very often are, "temporary" within a piece. That is, the tonality may modulate to a new key without changing key signatures. Accidentals are used to indicate on notes that are in the tonality of that section.

With that in mind, I could imagine that G♯ Major would be used in a number of works, but not as a key signature. Try looking for works that might modulate to G♯ Major. c♯ minor could certainly do so, for instance, if the more "traditional" approach of modulating to the relative major were replaced by modulating to the dominant. Sometimes, as in Chopin op. 10, no. 4, the composer will choose to write in A♭ Major instead for notational convenience. Compositions in C♯ Major are fewer, but you may be even more likely to find the modulation in question in such a work.

  • 2
    Yes, this happens quite a lot especially when you are starting in keys with a lot of accidentals. There's a short bewildering section in the c-sharp major fugue from book 2 of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier where you land in the key of e-sharp minor (measure 22). There's a big cadence in a sea of double sharps from b-sharp 7 to e-sharp minor. I think he was just screwing with us. – user13034 Jan 20 '16 at 9:23

These unusual keys are more likely with transposing instruments. For example, if the non-transposing instruments are playing in F# major then the Bb instruments will have to play in G# major. Some instruments are pitched in Eb so if the non-transposing instruments are playing in B major (not so unusual) then the Eb instruments will have to play in G# major.

If the piece is intended for these instruments then these keys are unlikely. However, if you transpose on sight with these instruments then you need to be comfortable with some quite wild keys.

Addition suggested by phoog's comment. G# major is so crazy that it would be more practical to rewrite it as Ab major provided that you regard that as the same. However, this will be a surprising key for a saxophone player. Nonetheless, if you are playing music in concert pitch by sight then G# might be slightly better as transposing up a major 6th will be familiar to many Eb instrument players (I have done it many times) but transposing up a diminished 7th will be much less familiar (I have never done it). Fortunately, I have not been faced with a concert pitch piece in B major while playing the alto or baritone sax.

  • This answer is incorrect. When the concert instruments are playing in F sharp major, the B flat instruments will be playing in A flat major. The same is true for E flat instruments playing a piece in concert B major. – phoog Feb 2 at 11:15
  • @phoog Yes and no. Depends on your opinion of whether G# major and Ab major are the same. Ab major would probably be a surprise to a saxophone player. I'll add a comment. – badjohn Feb 2 at 12:08
  • Given how horrific the key signature of G# major is, I strongly doubt that saxophone players get sheet music in it. (I speak as a fomer clarinet and bass clarinet player, who admittedly has only seen a maximum of 3 flats in the key signature of bass clarinet sheet music I've been handed.) – Dekkadeci Feb 2 at 13:45
  • @Dekkadeci Indeed, I doubt that anyone would be mad enough to print music in G# major. I think that it is more an issue for transposing on sight. Although G# major is mad, it is a more familiar transposition than to Ab major. Orchestral clarinet players would have the option of an A clarinet. – badjohn Feb 2 at 14:05

Here's how it's related to G major: It's a semitone higher.

I don't know about pieces scored in G#, but any time a guitarist puts a capo on the first fret because the singer is finding G too low, that's G#.

  • So perhaps that guitarist actually wants to signify that they are raising the key signature by one semitone, is that what you were saying? – mey Jan 28 '15 at 18:14
  • 1
    That is Ab Major. – Neil Meyer Jul 19 '15 at 7:13

you can look at the "G# Maj." key in a couple of different ways, (1) as a disregarded, feared and denounced part of music and music theory, very much like the dreaded locrian and diminished modes - to be avoided at all cost. It's a theoretical problem much like arguing if there is such a key as B#/Cb Maj., E#/Fb Maj., in comparison to G# which is not at the same time enharmonically a whole tone note such as B#/Cb, E#/Fb are. (2) you can simply view the G# Maj. scale as such and follow the major scale formula (W-W-H-W-W-W-H) and substitute the double F# for it's whole tone name of G for convenience sake, so you would have 6 sharps instead of 6 + a double (actually a double sharp would count as 2, so you have 8 sharps). It doesn't matter how many sharps or flats a key has or if there is a theoretical complication, if you follow the simple formula it all works out automatically. (3) to make it even easier,(on guitar) it's both the 1st G major finger pattern and also the 3rd C Maj. finger pattern moved to the G#/Ab position- all major and natural minor keys are simply the C-major finger pattern transposed to a different tonic note. Of course this would also depend on if you have a chord progression or scale that is either ascending or descending in pitch, if the Maj.-chord progression/scale in this position descends it should be called an Ab Maj., but if it ascends it should be called a G# Maj. - as flat and sharp also show the direction of movement (higher to lower in pitch and vice-versa) for any and every musical structure.

  • Are you thinking that B# and Cb are actually the same sounding notes? Same with E# and Fb ? 'Cos they're not! – Tim Jan 20 '16 at 8:07
  • No of course not, you misunderstood what was written, it says "...is there such a key as B# or Cb Maj. , likewise with E# or Fb Maj...etc.", not that they are the same key or tone. – TheFernseher09 Jan 20 '16 at 11:20
  • It's just the way it was phrased. – Tim Jan 20 '16 at 12:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.