So I have this sheet music by Coldplay, the title of the song is called Clocks and I am trying to understand the notes. My question is how do I know when a flat or sharp is supposed to be played? I wrote down the notes and what I have is D A G D A G D A for the first set. However, when I watch tutorials on how it is played they use D# A# and G. How am I supposed to know that only certain notes are sharp (or flat) because when I look at the sheet and the key signature, only the F key is sharp, so how am I supposed to ascertain that the only certain keys are supposed to be sharp or flat or normal? To summarize, how am I supposed to know G is played normally (not flat or sharp) and D and A are supposed to be sharp.

Here is the sheet music:


Any help will be upvoted, thank you.

  • Maybe a link to the tutorials you are referring to could help? From the score you give D and A should be played naturals. Maybe the tutorial are playing a transposed version.
    – Tom
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 8:04
  • link link Here are the two that I watched
    – Ret
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 8:05
  • The first linked tutorial has a link to sheet music in the description, which you'll find is different than the sheet music you linked to in your own question: it has four flats in its key signatures (not sharps), hence the different notes (which would be E-flat, B-flat and G, not D-sharp, A-sharp and G).
    – 9769953
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 8:02

3 Answers 3


The issue is that the sheet music you have is a half step lower than the Coldplay recording and this tutorial:

In the sheet music you provided the chords are D, Am, Em but the actual chords are Eb, Bbm, Fm. It’s better to think of them as flats instead of sharps by the way, the notes Eb-Bb-G instead of D#-A#-G.

They chose to write the sheet music in the key of G, even though the song is in D (the sheet music version, the actual song is in Eb) maybe in order to not have to use natural signs on the Am chords But this is a bad practice in general, it leads to confusion.

  • @JohnBelzaguy Sorry! Yours is way more complete, I did not even bother looking for the actual key (or the correct score key for that matter…) (+1)
    – Tom
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 8:36
  • @Tom No worries, yours is on the money and +1 to you as well. We’re all here to help each other out, that’s the important thing, Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 8:45
  • 2
    @Tim, it’s in D but with a G key signature, saves ink writing natural signs on the C’s of the Am chords :) Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 8:48
  • 1
    That would put it into D Mixolydian, then?
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 9:07
  • 1
    @Tim Sounds reasonable, I didn’t think of it from a modal point of view. Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 9:28

The first link you provide in your comment is starting D# A# G but your score is not D A G but D A F#.

The score is thus transposed a semi-tone lower than the tutorial, maybe in order to simplify things ;).

  • So it's just the simplified version of the sheet music? Thank you
    – Ret
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 8:17
  • 2
    @Ret It's a transposed version, probably to get in a simpler key. Does not mean that the score is actually simplified. Note that in "popular" music the key is usually chosen to match the singer's voice (which you cannot change) not to simplify the playing ;)
    – Tom
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 8:24
  • 3
    Looking at the notes actually written by the piano keys - you'll see Eb, Bb. A far more usual way to write those two notes.
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 8:42
  • 1
    @Tim yes I know, that was just not to confuse the OP further by using the same notation.
    – Tom
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 8:43

If in doubt go by the sound. Listen to the official Coldplay version.

I think this tutorial may resolve it.

Coldplay - Clocks | Guitar Lesson (Tutorial) Chords & Intro

You will see that the guitar is played using D Am etc. in terms of chord shapes. However the guitarist has the capo on the first fret, thus raising the chords by a semitone to Eb.

There are many possibilities here, I'll mention three.

  1. Coldplay were tuned a semitone higher than standard pitch when they recorded this (unlikely)

  2. The song was originally written in the key of D but the singer in the band asked for the band to play it higher to make it easier for his voice.

  3. The sheet music gives you the easy version of the guitar chords and assumes you know to use a capo.

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