It seems to me as if you could only have an A or an A#, but not both together as they both share the same spot and are only distinguished by the # symbol. Now you could of course write the A# as a Bb, but then what if you want A, A# and B to be played together or a complete octave? Is there maybe a special symbol that could be used in place of the # to signal that you're supposed to play the sharp and the non-sharp at the same time?


2 Answers 2


The three notes you mentioned (A/A#/B) could be written A/Bb/Cb. And, yes, music for piano that is harmonically adventurous has chords like that in it all the time. Every note can be written several ways.

C = B#, Dbb C# = Db, B## D = C##, Ebb etc.

When writing music that is not strictly tonal, the rules about how to show tonality are irrelevant. Use the spelling that is going to most clearly communicate the pitch that is to be played.

  • I don't see how this is an exception to anything I said. Perhaps most pitches can have three or more spellings, but that is just a disagreement on the meaning of "several", not a contradiction of my point.
    – Heather S.
    Oct 2, 2019 at 18:35

I’m not sure what instrument could possibly do this, perhaps a piano with five or more people sitting at it, but I would just put a rhythm slash with a note saying “play all the notes available over the range of the instrument.”

If you just want a very dense tone cluster, then two separate chord shapes with the appropriate accidental next to each other written as two voices might do it.

Perhaps a clearer way would be to put a vertical bar between the lowest and highest notes of the group with a guide at the beginning of the piece that indicates what that custom notation means, like Penderecki.

  • OP is asking how an A note and an A# note could be written so they are played simultaneously, but not written as A and Bb. Not certain this answers that point.
    – Tim
    Sep 30, 2019 at 16:08
  • 1
    @Tim Quoting the question: "but then what if you want A, A# and B to be played together or a complete octave?" I think the thrust of the question is, which dots do you use to put A, A#, B, C, C#, and D all at the same time? Do you put A, Bb, Cb, Dbb, and Ebb and then what for C#/Db? So maybe Gx, A#, B, C, Db, Ebb? At some point you'll need triple flats or triple sharps or something, and it's going to break down, so what do you do when there aren't enough dots for the notes? Sep 30, 2019 at 17:08
  • @Tim My point being, if the number of notes to be played outnumber the available lines and spaces, something has to give. It can't be notated in the traditional way. So I made some non-traditional suggestions. But because it can't be done the usual way, there is no single objective answer to the question. Sep 30, 2019 at 17:09

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