Something I haven't run across before. In an exercise, the beginning of the staff has A key signature. However, past a double bar, there's a natural on the G space and sharps on the F line and C space.

I'm assuming this is an indication of a key change to D. However, why use this notation instead of using the bass clef and normal D key signature notation?

3 Answers 3


This is a rather old-fashioned notation. The idea was to remind you that the G has changed from sharp to natural. But a lot of "classical" music that is still in print was actually engraved more than 100 years ago, even if it is now reproduced by modern technology which works more like a photocopier than a 19th-century printing press.

Sometimes, the first note after the key change was also marked with a natural, as a reminder.

The only place where this is still used is when the key signature changes to C major or A minor. If the naturals were not displayed, there would be nothing at all to show the key change.

  • I see plenty of new music that has this notation. Especially in Musicals, because it seems like there are more "active" key changes than I've seen elsewhere.
    – Greg
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 13:04
  • Musescore and Finale default to using naturals in key signature changes. This includes switching from key signatures with sharps to those with flats.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jun 28, 2017 at 13:11

It's a courtesy marking. There is a style that cancels the previous signature before making the new one. It's advantageous when the key changes across a page turn (or even before the next system.) It also helps in sight reading.


It is part of the key sig., but not the key sig. When a key changes - often accompanied by a double bar line, the natural/s are put in to cancel any previous # or b that were in the previous key, as a courtesy reminder only at the beginning of the new key.

Here, it's gone from A major (F#m) with 3# to D (Bm) with 2#. Thus, the writer shows that the G# is no longer needed, and puts a natural in its place. Note that it's only there for the beginning - at the start of the next line, there's the standard two sharps of the new key sig.

I've had several longish pieces that change key, and the new key sigs are only put in at the beginning of each section - not repeated in the traditional way at the start of each line. Unusual, but not really a problem, once it's got used to. After all, we don't expect to see the time sig. repeated at the start of each line, do we...

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