I'm having trouble understanding the 2nd bar of Nocturne Opus 9, No.2. I'm still learning sheet music so I'm finding a certain section confusing; maybe I don't understand the music correctly.

The image below has a red arrow pointing to the section I don't understand.

The bass clef tells me to play F D Flat followed by B Flat D E. You can clearly see that the accidental on the D note is a flat, followed by a natural accidental cancelling the previous flat. However it doesn't sound correct, and every video I watch its played F D Flat followed by B Flat D Flat E, which sounds correct. To make it worse I find other versions of the sheet that doesn't have the natural accidental, so maybe the sheet music I have is wrong. I'm really confused, can anyone help me out? Thanks.


  • Don't you mean e flat, not e? – margalo Dec 19 '16 at 23:32
  • No, the E Flat denoted in the key signature is cancelled out by the E at the start of that bar. – Andrew Berridge Dec 19 '16 at 23:35
  • The harmony repeats about 12 bars later. What do you have there? – JimM Dec 20 '16 at 9:02

The second chord is definitely B♭ D♭ E, functioning as an applied (or "secondary") chord to the Fm in the next beat.

Considering the program that was used to transcribe this piece, it's just an error by the person that input the music. It should be a courtesy accidental on the E, but the individual misread it and put the accidental on the D instead.

  • "Considering the program that was used" - looks like an old version of Lilypond, from the shape of the treble clef. In that case, the user forgot that the second D really was a flat when typing the input, and didn't bother didn't look too hard at the output. The engraving quality of whole of the OP's image is fairly atrocious, apart from the typo. I agree a courtesy E natural, to prevent the misreading of an Eb7 chord Bb Db Eb, might have been intended. – user19146 Dec 20 '16 at 1:10
  • Thanks, I'm guessing it was an error too. I'm new to sheet music, and self taught, so I thought I was interpreting the music wrong initially. Lesson learned, don't use free sheet music off the internet. – Andrew Berridge Dec 20 '16 at 8:45
  • It is definitely a mistake. Apart from the fact that a d natural here sounds bizarre, I own an Urtext edition which simply has the natural sign in front of the e instead of the d. – 11684 Dec 20 '16 at 23:40
  • @alephzero Precisely my thought process; it's almost definitely a LilyPond input error. – Richard Dec 21 '16 at 1:29

Difficult to say: the first edition (here) has what looks like a flat in front of the E, not a natural in front of the D, but there are signs that it was jammed in at the last moment, and there is a stroke that seems to indicate that an attempt was made to convert it into a natural sign on E. Mikuli's edition has no accidentals on that chord at all. Mikuli was Chopin's pupil and, later, assistant, so that is a fairly good indication.


I've looked a couple of websites and Paderewski's edition; all have no marking for that chord. Editions of Chopin's music are not as accurate as one would like. I did find a version arranged for clarinet and piano which has a Db.

I don't see (at a short glance, by a real amateur) any harmonic reason for a D there rather than a Db. I'm guessing the overall harmony in the second half of the measure is a Bb chord so a Db would be indicated. A D might have been meant if there were an ascending chromatic line; using a D would only give 3 notes C-Db-D and that's probably not enough to be important. There is a Bb-B-C-A pattern in the next bar. Had there been a Bb in the marked measure, there would be more of an argument for the D.

  • Thanks, its free sheet music I pulled offline. I have checked a few other versions too, some missing the accidental, I'm going to assume the sheet music is wrong and find another version. – Andrew Berridge Dec 20 '16 at 8:42
  • Schirmer's 1881 edition (ed. Th. Kullak) also has D flat, with a courtesy natural before the E. Same in b.6, 14, 22. Likewise Augener's and Peters's editions. – Rosie F Dec 20 '16 at 18:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.