I am learning piano and I am a music novice, so please respond adequately to this :) I have a question about naming notes.

If we have a D chord and in walking bass during this chord we follow these semitones:

D -> D# (or Eb) -> E -> etc.

should we name the second note D# or Eb?

On the one hand, we already have D reserved for the chord root, so if I think so, I would call it Eb.

But on the other hand, this chord is rather a chord denoted with sharps (it's one of the chords to the right of the fifth circle), so if I think so, I would call it D # - I think this option is better, right?

Thank you in advance for explanation

3 Answers 3


A typical convention for notating chromatic passages is to use sharps when going up and flats when going down. This typically allows to reduce number of accidentals (you don't need to write naturals) and yield a more readable score.

http://www.musiccrashcourses.com/lessons/chromatic.html chromatic scale notation

If D# is not just a passing note you may consider harmonic context. In terms of tension and resolution, it's rather D# resolving to E, than Eb to E. Raised pitches resolve upwards, flatted ones resolve downwards.


If you think about writing the notes out - D - X - E - F etc., then if you call X E♭, you're going to have to put a natural for the E. Call it D♯ and there's less 'mess'.

On the way down? The opposite applies, so F - E - X - D will be more simple using E♭ for X.

A (small) consideration may be if that X has a function - it may be a leading note to get to an E minor part, where E (tonic) is the very next note. Here, D♯ is 'correct', although I feel that making music easy to read wins over 'getting it correct according to theory'!


If you are using a heptatonic (seven-tone) scale like major or minor, then every "note letter" must be contained exactly once. That is simply a matter of readability, as using every line or space in your note system for exactly one note within a given piece of music is simpler than having Fb, F and F# (all in the same space) within one piece of music.

If you are playing a chromatic scale, which by definition bucks the heptatonic system - I don't think it really matters all that much, as you will end up with multiple notes on the same space or line regardless and is ultimately just a matter of how you notate things.

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