I got this passage where the first voice got a sharp on the F (top staff).

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It's written for Piano, so there are not really actual voices, it's basically just written in two voices for clarity. My question is, if it's written like this, does that sharp also count for the F in the second voice, or would I have to give it an extra sharp?

2 Answers 2


I have always seen accidentals as applying to the staff, not the part. Imagine you were writing for multiple voices and wanted to double the first F# with a quarter note sustaining until the half note. Simply doubling the F# with a downward pointing stem would be the correct notation:

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And nobody would argue that the lower voice is natural because it is not written like this:

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Good notation is all about clarity, and as written I would immediately assume the second F is also sharp. Conversely, if you DID want it to be natural, this would not be clear to most musicians and would likely be misinterpreted unless marked as a natural.

Side note: you should be able to hide the half rest in the virtual lower voice at the beginning. The downward half notes essentially indicate that the parts are split at that point and the half rest can be inferred (unless you are writing for multiple real voices and want to explicitly tell the lower voice musician to not double the first half of the measure).

  • 1
    If you are writing a part for two players on the same staff (e,g, 1st and 2nd Trumpet) then you do need to repeat the accidentals for the second player.
    – PiedPiper
    Aug 27, 2019 at 22:51
  • @PiedPiper Interesting. I don't think I've ever seen that before. Most of my experience is in piano and choral music though, so I have not spent a whole lot of time going over orchestral scores. Any chance you could find an example? I'm having trouble picturing it and would love to see how it has been used.
    – WillRoss1
    Aug 27, 2019 at 23:01
  • @PiedPiper, I see that nowhere in Elaine Gould's book, Behind Bars. The book addresses altered unisons (as in one part is plays E and the other Eb), but not two parts playing the same exact pitch. I have never seen two sharps or flats for an altered note that pertains to two voices (except of course for double-flatted notes.) Please share your resource where you found this rule.
    – Heather S.
    Aug 28, 2019 at 2:05
  • Yes, the accidental pertains to the staff, not the part. More specifically, it pertains to the line/space. The first-space F is sharped in this measure, but no other F. If another note was shown on the fifth-line F, it would need an additional sharp sign if it was to be sharped.
    – Heather S.
    Aug 28, 2019 at 2:08
  • @HeatherS. I don't think I made it clear that I'm referring to the half note in the RH which needs an extra sharp if the part is for two players (but of course not for a piano piece). Strangely enough Gould doesn't mention this at all, but if you've ever played this kind of part you'll see the necessity
    – PiedPiper
    Aug 28, 2019 at 8:54

In piano music at least, an accidental is in effect on the line or space on which it occurs, and for the entire measure. It is not in effect for the notes an octave (or more than one octave) higher or lower, or for the same note in the other staff. In your example, all the F's are played F#. So no, you don't have to (and shouldn't) put an extra sharp in there for the second F, just because it's written in a different voice.

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