I'm not sure about the marked C in the descending scale passage of Mateo Carcassi Op5 N 8. The piece is in G major but the few measures before we've moved to D major, and we are returning to G major. According to the notation, it should be a natural C but... do you think that's correct?

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Added: regarding comments about the C natural with a chromatism two measures after the marked one, I don't find that very conclusive, because I don't doubt that the first C in that measure (end of scale) is natural. I'm rather doubting between these two interpretations of the last measures (last staff line):

A7 | D | (D or A) | D | D7 | G | % | (modulation to G starts in 5th measure)


A7 | D | D7 | % | % | G | G | (modulation to G starts in 3rd measure)

I tend to prefer (contrary to the notation, and -it seems- to common music sense) the first one.

  • 6
    Now, THAT could be a perfect place to use a cautionary accidental!!
    – Tim
    Jan 11, 2021 at 16:19
  • Definitely C natural -- beginning in the measure previous and continuing until the p mark (four measures total), the scale passage is outlining the dominant chord in the key of G.
    – Aaron
    Jan 11, 2021 at 16:39
  • 1
    @Aaron - if it had been a C#, you'd have said yes, it's still in the modulated key of D. I guess!
    – Tim
    Jan 11, 2021 at 16:42
  • 1
    @Tim If it had been a C# the question wouldn't have come up in the first place.
    – Aaron
    Jan 11, 2021 at 16:47
  • 1
    I think the fact that this pitch resolves down to B is a clear indicator that it's a C-natural. Every other C-sharp resolves up to D, without exception.
    – Richard
    Jan 11, 2021 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


Yes, when a modulation is in progress, accidentals from the new (original, in this case) tonality are introduced (or reset).

We're going back to G major, and restoring the natural C is pretty normal in order to anticipate the "new" harmony, as it also leads to a better transition to the third, due to the chromatic interval.

I'd like to extend my answer, considering the one given by Tim.

I agree that it's not uncommon to have some doubts about written music (errors in the edition, tradition or performance practice, and even personal taste), and there is always room to some amount of interpretation (even extended, including note modification): we must always keep in mind the composition style and period as a context.
We should always keep in mind that, even in the "classical" period, interpretation also extended to customization of music to the musician needs, capabilities and taste, just like nowadays performing. Think about the changes in tonality of some well known Arias: even the composers were well aware about that.

In this specific case, which I'd say it's a "strict" classical form, there should be almost no doubt about the natural C, most importantly due to the presence of the chromatism at the end of the last bar in the modulation.
A classical modulation is usually done through two fundamental steps: introduction of the new tonality by destabilizing the previous one (normally by using the new accidentals) and confirmation (with a strong cadence); both those steps are important and must have enough "consistent importance" in order to have a smooth and correctly declared modulation. In this case, the new tonality is introduced by restoring the natural C, and keeping the C# - until that point - makes the modulation very short (almost unexisting) and somehow destabilizing; it wouldn't make a lot of sense to have a C# even at the beginning of the last bar and "clearing" it just before the end, considering the composition period.

Do note that, as always, these are no absolute rules, and harmonic and phrase contexts should also be always kept in mind.
For example, a continuous alternation of C# and natural C could be used, because the composer consciusly wanted to create an ambiguity for artistic purposes; or that alteration could be kept and even highlighted until the end, in order to create more harmonic tension: think about the infamous E-D# of Für Elise.


Tried it both ways - both ways sound fine! It's really down to Carcassi, as to whether he was still in modulated to key D, or actually back in original key G. Personally, it doesn't sound to me that it gets back to key G until a couple of bars later, with the chromatic C>C♯. In which case, the C in question could easily be C♯.

Whether everybody who plays it just does what it says - seems to be so from Youtube. But from a listener's point of view, it doesn't sound wrong, or is technically wrong, playing C♯.

So what I'm saying is that either would work, and either could be explained as 'correct'. Carcassi decided, and that's that.

I remember back in my classical piano playing days, there were several times when I questioned the dots, in similar situations such as this. The only real answer would be from Carcassi himself, but he's not composing any more...

  • Normally I'd agree, but there's an important point: the last bar at the end of the section has a chromatic passage exactly for that C. While it could be considered "not wrong" in the concept of harmony, having a C# at the beginning of that bar wouldn't make a lot of sense, especially considering the composition style: reintroducing the natural C (which is from the restored original key) only there, with a following chromatic passage note, is a bit "off", as modulations in such a classical manierism are usually strictly "academic", and the new (old) alteration are rarely introduced that late. Jan 11, 2021 at 15:46
  • @musicamante - yes, I know what you mean. Had it been written now, either would be acceptable. Then, most likely, the 'rules' were rules, and adhered to religiously. I'm listening to it with 21st Century ears - which is probably the wrong set...
    – Tim
    Jan 11, 2021 at 16:11
  • "he's not composing any more". How lazy of him! Compare with Beethoven! assets.classicfm.com/2017/45/… Other than that, I'd say C seems more likely to me, but the best would be to compare with other editions or performances... Jan 11, 2021 at 16:35
  • 3
    @user1079505 - the end of my sentence should have been - only de-composing. But that's in bad taste.
    – Tim
    Jan 11, 2021 at 16:40

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