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For example, let's say the key signature has an f sharp and then also an individual f note has a sharp next to it. Are they just emphasizing the f sharp or does that actually become a g?

Same question with a double sharp. If the key signature has an f sharp, and then there is an individual f with an x infront of it - is that supposed to be a g or a g sharp?

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When you add a sharp to a Fis you geht a Fisis, no G, Although there are instruments like the piano where you would play this with the G key. – harper Dec 29 '12 at 7:19
up vote 15 down vote accepted

It is just for emphasis. It is usually just an instance where, in a recent measure in the piece, the F note had a natural attached to it. The F-Sharp would be included in the following measure as a reminder that F is no longer natural, that it is back to the F-Sharp that it is in the key signature.

If there is an X next to a note, it is just a double sharp (F## or G natural). I actually had trouble with that when I started studying music. Basically the # from the key signature is included with the other # that is added to make a double sharp. This is to add clarity for the person playing or studying the piece of music.

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Accidentals are nulled after the end of the measure they appear, but yeah, this is done. (According to Wikipedia, sometimes these courtesy accidental marks appear in parentheses, although I don't recall ever seeing this.) – neilfein Nov 22 '11 at 20:41
@neilfein Indeed! I have seen those in parentheses now that you mention it! – Stephen Nov 22 '11 at 21:02
Take a look at this question about courtesy accidentals: – American Luke Feb 24 '12 at 16:29
Two cases at least have not been mentioned: 1) an F-sharp might be there to cancel an F double sharp. 2) When there are several staves (as in piano sheet music), an F-sharp might be indicated on one of them to enforce it despite the (temporary) use of a F-natural on another. – ogerard Dec 12 '13 at 6:13

As well as a reminder that the F is sharp again, an F-sharp mid-bar might also be cancelling an F-natural earlier in the bar.

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