Question is in the title,

assuming I'm writing say a f harmonic minor scale WITHOUT a key signature at the beginning. Is it more correct to emphasize that the E should be natural and not Eb by a natural sign, or is it best to leave it "blank"?


No, there is no automatic need for a courtesy accidental here. Use one if a previous E♭ triggers the usual rule for a courtesy accidental. But only if.


It's generally a bad practice to use accidentals redundantly, because they clutter up the music, and they can confuse musicians - if I'm sight reading a piece and see an accidental that's not needed, it causes a brief moment of panic (did I miss a key signature change??)

If you do want to use a redundant accidental for clarity, it's a good idea to enclose the accidental in parenthesis to show it's a "courtesy accidental".


If you write an unnecessary natural it's likely to confuse people. If there is any possibility that the note might be intended to be an E-flat (maybe there was an E-flat in the previous measure) then it helps to add the natural sign.


It is probably a bad or uncommon practice to write a scale without a key signature.

Only exception if you want to demonstrate how the flat scales are developed from the tetrachord of a scale with one flat less: c minor has c,d,eb,f. Now I think it is necessary to set a courtesy natural sign in parentheses to make clear that in f minor the upper tetrachord c,d,e,f has a natural e.

  • In music with no key signature it's still very common to find scale passages.
    – PiedPiper
    Feb 27 '21 at 13:56

The key signature for F♯ minor is the same as that for A major - 3♯s. So reflect that in the notes with accidentals.

Think about it. In key C, with no ♯ or ♭, it's only when you come across an accidental that you think 'out of key'. The default is therefore nothing. Obviously were there a previous accidental in that bar, and the next same name note needed to be natural, it would be signed. Otherwise no.

However, if it's the scale of F♯ melodic minor, with no barlines, and E♯ ascending,then you'll need that natural sign before the E descending. And, for the D notes similar. There will be a sharp for the E whatever in F♯ harmonic minor. You may want to write in cautionary signs (maybe in brackets), to remind beginners.

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