# What is a natural sharp? [duplicate]

I'm looking the allstate music (as my class is required to pass it off) the piece is in concert c minor. I play flute and on my f(which is already sharp) there is a natural sign and then another sharp sign. I haven't seen this before so I'm hoping someone will know

• A pic with all of the previous bar would make it better to understand. And what do you mean - my F is already sharp?
– Tim
Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 15:37
• Are you sure it's not in C sharp minor? C minor has a key signature of three flats; C sharp minor has four sharps. Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 15:46
• @PiedPiper that question is about a note that is raised two semitones above the diatonic; this one is about cancelling an accidental to restore a note back to the diatonic from being raised one semitone. In other words, I think the fact that we're differentiating from a double sharp here vs. from a single flat there makes the similarities rather abstract, perhaps too much so for many who are at the point in their studies where they are encountering this for the first time. Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 17:46
• @phoog The reasons for the double accidental are different, but otherwise the questions is exactly the same: it's a (imho unnecessary) courtesy accidental in either case. Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 18:54

The natural is there as a cautionary - in the previous bar there may well have been an accidental for that same F note (guess it's treble clef), most likely an Fx, so it's just saying 'this F is an F♯ now'. Followed by an Fx (F double sharp, same pitch as G).

It's just a reminder - you play that F as an F♯.

• Right, it's as if the natural "cancels out one of the sharps" of a double sharp. (I suppose it's even possible that it's using it as a courtesy gesture since the following note is double-sharp, though to my mind that would confuse more than clarify...) Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 15:21
• @AndyBonner at the left edge of the image is the right half of a notehead on the F line. That is surely an F double sharp. Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 15:26
• @phoog - if it is, the the G must be sharp, too. But those notes in key C minor..?
– Tim
Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 15:40
• So do you believe the natural is supposed to make the score easier to read? I'd say it doesn't fulfill this task well... Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 16:10
• @user1079505 - it's not really about what I believe, it's about what is sometimes deemed 'a good thing'. Personally, I'm o.k. either way. But - it makes it very clear what note gets played. Not so good sight-reading, maybe, but for reassurance.
– Tim
Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 16:15

It's the old notation for a normal sharp when double-sharps (as on the following note) are in the vicinity. Possibly the F in the preceding bar (which you have just avoided showing us!) was a double-sharp? In that case, the 'natural-sharp' notation, though not strictly necessary, could be a useful cautionary.

The more modern style is just to write the sharp, even after a double-sharp in the same bar. The natural is not used. But you'll find plenty of older music that does it this way. We could compare it with the old style of cancelling a key signature with naturals before writing the new one. Now we just write the new one - naturals are only needed when moving into the open key with no sharps or flats!

Gould (2011) refers to 'traditional' and 'contemporary' practice. "When a double flat is cancelled by a single flat, and a double sharp by a single sharp, the traditional practice of placing a natural sign before these is redundant, since a single flat or sharp sign cannot mean anything else." Garner Read (1969) concurs. "To cancel a double sharp, one now merely writes a single sharp-sign."

Are you SURE this piece is in C minor? I'd expect a key signature of at least three sharps in this context! Perhaps C♯ minor?

• Old notation? When did this change? Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 17:36
• I can't give an exact date! Gould (2011) just refers to 'traditional' and 'contemporary' practice. "When a double flat is cancelled by a single flat, and a double sharp by a single sharp, the traditional practice of placing a natural sign before these is redundant, since a single flat or sharp sign cannot mean anything else." Garner Read (1969) concurs. "To cancel a double sharp, one now merely writes a single sharp-sign." Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 23:49