I've composed the following figured bass example:

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It modulates from E to F and therefore needs several chromatic alterations. But my question is on the final beat of the third measure: if I want a B♭-minor chord here, is this the correct figured bass? As I see it, there are at least three possibilities for how to handle this chord:

  1. Write it as I have; the ♮5 lowers F♯ to F♮ and the ♭♭3 lowers the D♯ to D♭.
  2. Use a system where the figured bass shows the literal accidentals, not the adjustments from the key signature; in this system, ♮5 would give me F♮ and ♭3 would be enough to suggest D♭.
  3. Use ♮♭3 to indicate first a change from the key signature's D♯ to D♮ and then a move from D♮ to D♭.

What would be the correct approach here? Ideally I would have a citation from a published figured bass manual (perhaps Heinichen?).

I've never seen a double accidental in a published figured bass before, likely because that repertoire doesn't often get this chromatic. As such, I'm uncertain how best to notate this.

  • You start off in E major. Why aren't you using an A sharp minor chord in that position?
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 19, 2019 at 6:54
  • I think you have added one too many flats on the 3. Shouldn't it just be a 'b' to make it a Db note?
    – Jomiddnz
    Feb 19, 2019 at 7:05
  • @Dekkadeci It's functioning as iv in the new key.
    – Richard
    Feb 19, 2019 at 8:11
  • @Jomiddnz That's basically my question!
    – Richard
    Feb 19, 2019 at 8:12
  • 2
    It looks like you're already in the new key in bar 3, why not change keysigs there? Or is it just a temporary modulation?
    – LSM07
    Feb 19, 2019 at 14:55

1 Answer 1


This is a cut and paste answer so please consider double checking my source, I could have taken this paragraph out of context. The frustrating thing is there are no musical illustrations regarding figures with double sharps/flats to go with the rule! I scanned the other pages but could not find an example. Anyhow, your first choice matches up with Albrechtsberger.

enter image description here

enter image description here

...page 35 or 36 in the Google book.

  • 1
    I literally couldn't have asked for a more clear citation. Great detective work!
    – Richard
    Mar 6, 2019 at 5:06
  • So you suggest that writing ♮5 indicates lowering F# by a semitone to F, while ♭♭ lowers D# by a whole tone to D♭ (@Richard first choice)?! I don't believe the quoted paragraph supports this! Nov 16, 2021 at 16:15

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