Here is a picture of the sheet music (Eine Klein Nachtmusik, movement 1). The odd accidental has a red freehand circle around it.

enter image description here

What does this natural sign mean? As you can see, the key is G Major and the C is left natural in G Major. There is no C sharp in the previous measures anywhere near (the last was in measure 54, in the previous section), so I doubt it's a grace note. This is also found in the fourth movement, measures 86. enter image description here.

Again, here, there are no accidentals on B's or C's for quite a few measures. Any ideas what these accidentals could mean?


Don't want to spoil the fun, but this could be some sort of error (not saying it is, but it could be). This arrangement was dated May 2008 and I just found a revised version (Feb 2012) by the same guy. It drops the accidentals in both spots and corrects the measure numbers (in case you didn't notice they are off). This doesn't necessarily mean that it was a mistake, but it is a possibility. Either way, if you can make sense of it, go ahead and answer the original question. I just wanted to let you know that the problem is not necessarily you, but it could be the score. If the natural signs do make sense to you, go ahead and answer the question. :)

  • 1
    Also note that there is a natural sign in the usual place before a C. Bar 60, third staff. The possible reason for that is that there is a D# in the previous bar. This could be the leading tone of E harmonic minor. This D# isn't canceled in the next measure. So the natural on the C looks like an reminder that this is harmonic minor, not melodic. Or something like that, in any case: a reminder not to play in the wrong scale.
    – Kaz
    Dec 14, 2012 at 0:04
  • Any idea why the B has a natural on it also? I can provide the preceding measures there to give more context if it helps.
    – Luke_0
    Dec 14, 2012 at 0:13
  • My guess is it's like a 'tenuto'. It's in the same position as the trill notations, so I think it might mean "not trilled", emphatically so, somehow. Dec 15, 2012 at 23:47
  • I don't see why it should mean that. Th trill is always on the first beat here, not the third. I don't see who would confuse it. The fourth movement doesn't even have any trills.
    – Luke_0
    Dec 16, 2012 at 0:06
  • 2
    If this were earlier music, I'd suggest it was en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musica_ficta, but that doesn't make sense here. They could be signals that the accidentals are editorial, but I'm not sure there was another way of performing this that needed correcting editorially. Dec 16, 2012 at 18:03

4 Answers 4


Generally accidentals above notes refer to accidentals that are missing in the original but were likely mistakes in the original or were not notated originally but are necessary in modern scores (for instance, in a piece with no key signature, a low F# might be followed by an F# in a higher octave. In the 18th c. the higher F# would not need a sharp sign, but it would today). Such accidentals ("musica ficta": http://www.ccarh.org/publications/reprints/ieee/TYPE54.HTM for instance) are common in Medieval and Renaissance music where many of the accidentals were not notated but were just expected to be sung. Think of the 7th scale degree in minor leading to a cadence on the tonic; you generally know that it will be raised. In the Renaissance it didn't need to be explicitly marked. Modern editions put these notes above the staff so that performers can distinguish between notes in the original and notes in the edition.

That's the general answer since, after the edit, you said the editor later removed them. They don't seem to make sense here, and there are other errors besides these notes: the 2nd and 3rd staves are an octave too high at least from the "p" onwards and the 1st part is an octave too low. The measure numbers are right though: this passage begins at m. 56 in the score. In the 4th movement, the accidentals almost make sense since they were preceded by a B-flat and C# the last times a B and C appeared. In my score though the naturals appear in the normal place, but they are, strictly speaking, unnecessary.

  • 1
    The octaves are changed here because this is an arrangement for the recorder and to keep the original octaves would place some portions out of the instruments' ranges.
    – Luke_0
    Apr 18, 2013 at 13:39
  • In the 18th century, key signatures didn't necessarily apply in multiple octaves. For example, D major in the soprano clef with three sharps on C4, F4, and C5, and in bass clef with three sharps on F2, C3, and F3. While F5 then doesn't need an accidental because it's implicit in the key signature, I find it difficult to believe that there is a source that depends on a true accidental in one octave also applying implicitly to a note an octave higher or lower. Are you aware of any?
    – phoog
    Jul 6, 2023 at 7:51

It's a misprint or scribal error. You're starting on bar 56, then in bar 60 the C is made natural which implies that sometime before it was sharped. The error could even be the absence of a sharp on the C in bar 62.


Probably a typo. Naturals in front of a note could be there for all the reasons mentioned by previous commenters. Naturals above a note refer to ornaments (turns, trills) and mean "when you play this ornament, put a natural on the upper note." These notes have no ornaments so the mark doesn't make sense.


It may mean that the performer has the option of playing that note either way.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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