A major
{ \magnifyStaff #3/2 \omit Score.TimeSignature \key a \major s16 \clef F \key a \major s^"" }
Relative keyF-sharp minor
Parallel keyA minor
Dominant keyE major
SubdominantD major
Component pitches
A, B, C, D, E, F, G

A major (or the key of A) is a major scale based on A, with the pitches A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Its key signature has three sharps. Its relative minor is F-sharp minor and its parallel minor is A minor. The key of A major is the only key where the Neapolitan sixth chord on  (i.e. the flattened supertonic) requires both a flat and a natural accidental.

The A major scale is:

\omit Score.TimeSignature \relative c'' {
  \key a \major \time 7/4 a b cis d e fis gis a gis fis e d cis b a2
  \clef F \key a \major
} }

In the treble, alto, and bass clefs, the G in the key signature is placed higher than C. However, in the tenor clef, it would require a ledger line and so G is placed lower than C.

Scale degree chords


Although not as rare in the symphonic literature as sharper keys (those containing more than three sharps), symphonies in A major are less common than in keys with fewer sharps such as D major or G major. Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, Bruckner's Symphony No. 6 and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 comprise a nearly complete list of symphonies in this key in the Romantic era. Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quintet are both in A major, along with his 23rd Piano Concerto, and generally Mozart was more likely to use clarinets in A major than in any other key besides E-flat major.[1] Moreover, the climax part of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto is also in A major.

The key of A occurs frequently in chamber music and other music for strings, which favor sharp keys. Franz Schubert's Trout Quintet and Antonín Dvořák's Piano Quintet No. 2 are both in A major. Johannes Brahms, César Franck, and Gabriel Fauré wrote violin sonatas in A major. In connection to Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata, Peter Cropper said that A major "is the fullest sounding key for the violin."[2]

According to Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart, A major is a key suitable for "declarations of innocent love, ... hope of seeing one's beloved again when parting; youthful cheerfulness and trust in God."[3]

For orchestral works in A major, the timpani are typically set to A and E a fifth apart, rather than a fourth apart as for most other keys. Hector Berlioz complained about the custom of his day in which timpani tuned to A and E a fifth apart were notated C and G a fourth apart, a custom which survived as late as the music of Franz Berwald.[4]

Notable compositions in A major

See also: List of symphonies in A major

See also


  1. ^ Mark Anson-Cartwright (2000). "Chromatic Features of E-Major Works of the Classical Period". Music Theory Spectrum. 22 (2): 178. JSTOR 745959.
  2. ^ Peter Cropper, "Beethoven's Violin Sonata in A major, Op.47 'Kreutzer': First Movement", The Strad, March 2009, p. 64
  3. ^ Rita Steblin (1996) A History of Key Characteristics in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries, University of Rochester Press, p. 123, ISBN 0835714187.
  4. ^ Norman Del Mar (1981). Anatomy of the Orchestra, University of California Press, p. 349, ISBN 0520045009.