I've composed the following figured bass example:

enter image description here

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
    Commented 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
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 7:05
  • @Dekkadeci It's functioning as iv in the new key.
    – Richard
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 8:11
  • @Jomiddnz That's basically my question!
    – Richard
    Commented 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
    Commented 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.

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


I was able to find a double sharp figure further into the book. The illustration shows both the accidental in the figured bass and in a full notated chord. The figure and notation accidentals match...

enter image description here

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I think this makes Albrechtsberger's meaning clear, and it is the meaning I original thought he meant. Whatever accidental would be used in notation, that will be the accidental to use on a figure for a 3 interval.

enter image description here

That example from p.56 isn't a double flat/double sharp, but it shows a flat in the key signature being raised. In notation that change is achieved with a natural sign. In the bass figure it is not a case of using sharp to mean "raise by a half step" but instead it matches the accidental of the staff notation.

I didn't find a double flat example, but I imagine it would follow the same course and that Richard's 𝄫3 would seem to follow Albrechtsberger.

  • 1
    I literally couldn't have asked for a more clear citation. Great detective work!
    – Richard
    Commented 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! Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 16:15
  • @Richard but this quotation doesn't answer the question. For all we know, Albrechtsberger is thinking of, for example, figuring a minor third above G flat when the key signature is G flat major. The figure that Albrechtsberger would have chosen for this example isn't at all clear.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 27 at 9:09
  • @phoog, I went back searching in that Google book and I think I found a clarifying example. It is with a double sharp, not flat, but it included the bass figure and the chord fully notated. I added the examples to my answer. Commented Mar 27 at 20:40

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