Why are there sharps/flats in super Mario theme played on piano as the song is written in C major key. I was reading this sheet music. I have seen many others and they all use sharps but write C major as key.

Aren't the chords used in chord progression part of C major scale, if so there shouldn't be any sharps.

  • 7
    What makes you believe that a composition in C major must only use notes from the C major scale? Jan 11 at 5:47
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? How to make songs with chords that don't belong in a scale?
    – Aaron
    Jan 11 at 6:05
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    That F sharp in measures 7 and 9 and so on ought to be a G flat. The accidentals in this video appear to be much better (though I didn't look very closely, so there could be some errors I missed): youtu.be/SvHf8jbmAUY
    – phoog
    Jan 11 at 9:48
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    @phoog I think the reason that the transcriber chose to spell it as an F# rather than as a Gb there, is because there is a G (natural) in the bass at that moment. Jan 11 at 11:36
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    @haxor789 It's usually better to spell a chromatic descent with flats, and a chromatic ascent the sharps. Jan 11 at 18:41

3 Answers 3


You are right, this piece is in the key of C major. There are countless songs written in C major, or any other major key that don’t use any notes outside the major scale or any chords outside the 7 chords constructed from the major scale of the chosen key.

This piece is not one of them. The key of C major, or any other key is just that, a key. It is a tonal center that a piece of music revolves around. It is not a 7 note members only club. There are 12 notes available to us and any of the 5 notes that are not in the given key can be used at liberty by any composer for the desired effect they are trying to achieve in their compositions. There are no rules against composing with notes or chords outside a given key.

The reason the accidentals are there are because they were necessary for the composer to use to create the melodies and chords he came up with that you now hear when you listen to this theme. Those sounds could not exist without them. The accidentals create the interesting and intricate lines and chords you hear that are not available to us within a single major scale. Despite that that this piece does use the notes and chords of the key of C major a majority of the time.

  • 1
    @Usercomingsoon If you want to play this piece you will probably have to practice it quite a bit depending on your skill level. If you are reading the music you don’t have to memorize the chords, they are really only for reference. The only thing you hear is the two lines playing together. Jan 11 at 9:22
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    @Usercomingsoon You can formulate a strategy for learning to play it. For example, learn one section and one hand at a time. Don’t move on to the next section till you can play both hands together…or any other strategy that works for you. Jan 11 at 9:27
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    @Usercomingsoon what do you mean by "formulate it"?
    – phoog
    Jan 11 at 9:39
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    There are some patterns of usage, that's the main focus of most of "Western Music Theory", but it's more similar to the "rules" of a spoken language, particularly as applied to poetry, than any engineering subject - the rules are more to help you figure out the right times to break them, and the "right" ways to interpret existing music, rather than being physical laws that all compositions must follow.
    – Tin Wizard
    Jan 12 at 17:00
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    @Usercomingsoon Pretty much every phenomenon in music theory has a relationship to some kind of mathematical pattern, and those mathematical patterns are related to the physics of real-world oscillators. The Wikipedia article Otonality and Utonality might be a good starting point. But, as Tin Wizard observed, these things are the "grammar" of music: you still need to add the meaning, or you'll end up with some rather boring music that doesn't say anything. Music isn't about instruments: it's about people.
    – wizzwizz4
    Jan 12 at 21:45

Adding to John Belzaguy’s answer: The piece is pretty much straight C major, but it is using something we call chromatic approaches. This means that when playing a note you approach it from a half step below or above. This thus introduces harmony foreign notes that spice up the melody.

In the linked score you see this for example in measure 4 (B to A over Bb), measure 7,9,11 (G→F over F# and (D# before E), m8,12 (g# before a).

Then measure 13 uses some chords borrowed from c minor (Ab major, Bb major). Again, this just add a little bit of spice to the progression.

The part after that uses this contrast of this altered mediant Ab major and C major repeatedly.

Then again we get a section that is harmonically very clear C major, but again uses many chromatic approaches.


A particular key is defined far more by its 'home', 'place of rest', than which notes are included in the tune involved.

It's a partial truth that most melodies will mostly use diatonic (belonging to the key) notes, as they are all 'part of the specific set'.

However, what about when the composer wants to use one of the five other notes that 'don't belong'? What are they supposed to do then? There is a very, very small percentage of songs/pieces that don't have those chromatic notes in them, a lot of children's songs, for example. To keep them simple, but often on the edge of boring after a while!

So, including those extra notes is a necessity, but - if one in particular keeps on cropping up, and coincides with a different home place, then it's time to ask whether in fact the tune has been written in the correct key after all.

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