In the passage shown below (from Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, mm. 39–40), the C#s and C-natural in the right hand are all explicitly notated, but in the left hand, no indication is given either way for the C. Should it be a C#, following the usual rule of accidentals lasting through the measure, or should it be a C-natural, following the right hand in which all accidentals are explicit (or, if not indicated, then according to the key signature)?

BWV 565, mm. 39–40

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    Hi EmilyJ. I've substantially rewritten your post, because I believe it was being misunderstood. However, if my rewrite has misrepresented your question in any way, please roll it back, or let me know, and I'll take care of it.
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 20:14
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    @PiedPiper FYI, I've rewritten the question to better reflect what I think OP is trying to ask. Pending feedback from the OP, the question is specific to the manner in which the passage is notated, and not addressed by the general rule of accidental scope.
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 20:17
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    @Aaron I'm sure there's also a dupe (or several) of the reformulated question.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 20:28
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    @Dom Respectfully, I disagree. Restating the rule of how long accidentals are scoped, or the existence of courtesy accidentals, does not answer this specific question. The confusion is related to the specific manner in which these two bars are notated, not any ambiguity in understanding of the rules themselves. Were I the OP, none of the existing questions (so far as I'm aware of them) would sufficiently address my confusion. We commonly answer specific instances of general questions as separate from the general question. I think that allowance applies here.
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 21:18
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    @Aaron I have voted to reopen this question. The inconsistency in the application of the rule deserves special treatment. It would also be nice if someone could look at the source material and add an answer saying whether this inconsistency exists there or was added by the editor. That's unlikely to happen if the question is closed.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 8:11

1 Answer 1


It is a C#. The reason the second C# in the RH part is explicitly given is for clarity in light of the B-natural immediately preceding it.

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    As you note, this question regards a special case, so IMO it's worth calling out even more explicitly the inconsistency that has confused the OP. I.e. it's not a "convention in the right hand that all accidentals are explicit"; it's just a courtesy accidental. Besides the B natural, we might assume that they didn't use one in the bass because it's only been two notes since the first accidental. Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 21:25

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