85 votes
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Why are there both sharps and flats?

Pretty basic and simple. Each key has 7 notes, with a different letter name for each. A B C D E F G but not always starting on A!! Let's take Gmajor G A B C D E F G - except the F needs to be F#. So ...
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  • 174k
42 votes
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Does an accidental apply to all octaves?

Wikipedia has it right. An accidental that is written in, as shown in the example above, only applies to the note in that octave until the end of the measure. You may be confusing it with the sharps ...
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  • 46.2k
42 votes

Why are accidentals not just indicated next to the note in sheet music to make sight reading easier?

It is related to "chunking", once you are used to keys, it is easier to quickly understand the single chunk "This piece is in G major" instead of having to see and interpret each of the individual ...
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39 votes

Why are there both sharps and flats?

Historically, keyboards didn't always work that way. So an A# and a Bb used to actually have different pitches. Our musical notation is older than enharmonic equivalency that you get with "well-...
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  • 491
35 votes
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Why is music theory built so tightly around the C Major scale?

1. Bias against "unorthodox" notes Western music tradition (and some others) was, and to a large extent still is, based on heptatonic scales, that is, seven unequal divisions in an octave. So, in a ...
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35 votes
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If between E and F is a halftone, why can F not be an E♯

It can be depending on the context . If you were using the F♯ major scale, you would have the notes F♯, G♯, A♯, B, C♯, D♯, and E♯. Another common example is in a C♯ major chord you would have ...
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  • 46.2k
35 votes

How to play this double sharp note

Accidentals affect the basic note - if you like, the white key on the piano. So, regardless of the key signature - which permanently changes certain notes (here F, C, G and D♯), the double ...
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  • 174k
33 votes

Why are accidentals not additive?

Hmm. Lets take an example of how this would work in practice. Currently, when I see a sharp sign in front of a note (lets say F as an example) I know that the note required is an F sharp. It may be ...
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  • 4,821
30 votes

Why are there both sharps and flats?

When we are writing or playing a piece in a key, we are pretty much choosing a set of notes to play. Out of the 12 notes used in "Western" music, we want to mainly focus on 7. That means we are ...
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  • 51.5k
25 votes

What is this note?

This is just D doublesharp, which is enharmonic to E. The trick is that key signatures are not additive. In other words, any accidental added to a pitch is considered to be its own construct, not ...
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  • 78.8k
23 votes

Why are accidentals not just indicated next to the note in sheet music to make sight reading easier?

It wouldn't be easier to read. Firstly, most instruments are not tied into any particular key signature. A simple sequence like someone singing/playing a scale in E major and someone else singing a ...
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22 votes
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Are accidentals in the key signature and measure additive?

No, it is still a B♭ as the accidentals in the key signature and measure are never additive. The flat is just reminding you that the B is flat. This is known as a courtesy accidental and is typically ...
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22 votes

Scope of accidentals in measureless music

Your #2 thought is the convention. Yes, this means you'll need to write lots of accidentals. That's okay. Contemporary players, especially those who regularly perform new music are used to reading ...
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22 votes
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Basic Accidental Question

The answers so far seem to have missed the point. I think you're asking in a key where there is C♯ in the key sig., and you come across a C note with a flat sign just before it, what do you play....
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  • 174k
21 votes

Why is music theory built so tightly around the C Major scale?

TL;DR: Backwards compatibility, and the predominance of seven-note scales. We're going to take a musical walk through history... Let's say you're inventing music, and you start out with a single ...
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20 votes
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Reasoning for redundant "natural" (but not courtesy accidental)

The harmony of the given chord in the 1st 2 bars is in E (major chord), the accidental in front of g you consider (minor third!) is referring to this Chord of E.
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19 votes

How does a natural change flats and sharps?

A natural sign always completely cancels any accidental that may be or have been on a note, and the note is played natural. A G natural that comes after a G# is played as a G natural. A G natural ...
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  • 51.5k
19 votes

Why are the accidentals here written in a rather complex way, when there exists simpler notation?

Notating this in a flat minor requires fewer accidentals, but those that it requires are more obscure. A player might well prefer well-known notes to less well-known notes. Remember that woodwind ...
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18 votes
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How do I play this chord with an overlapping sharp and flat?

It's a mistake. It should be E# instead of D#. It's clearly audible in the recording: Possible reason for the mistake is that D# is much more commonly used than E#. ...
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18 votes

How do I play this chord with an overlapping sharp and flat?

As @user1079505 points out, recorded versions of the piece include an E#. This begs the question, though: how do they know to play E#? One way would be a more modern edition that contains the ...
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17 votes
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Do accidentals last for the entire measure?

The accidental will apply to following notes in the same measure / bar but not after that. If it is needed to cancel the effect before then another accidental (maybe a natural sign) will be required. ...
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  • 4,123
15 votes

Is it possible to have sharp/flat notes in a music piece composed in the key of "A minor"?

"A minor" is a key. A piece being in a particular key means that the harmony will tend to resolve towards that note/chord, and mostly use notes from the associated scale. But almost all ...
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14 votes
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Do accidentals earlier in the measure affect a trill?

You retain the accidental. In this case, it is pretty unambiguous since the lead note is immediately preceding the note (baroque trills would even start with the upper note). If there is more of a ...
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  • 166
14 votes
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How do I notate sharps in ABC notation?

Sharp - ^ Flat - _ Natural - = From The abc music standard 2.1 (Dec 2011) The symbols ^, = and _ are used (before a note) to notate respectively a sharp, natural or flat. Double sharps and flats ...
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14 votes

Why are there both sharps and flats?

Simplistically speaking, the concepts that the Western music notation system is based around include the following ideas: There is an underlying 12-note-per-octave set of notes - the chromatic scale -...
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14 votes

Scope of accidentals in measureless music

There are two basic conventions. The "second Viennese school" (Berg, Schoenberg, Webern, and their followers) chose to write every note with an accidental, including every note that has a natural. ...
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  • 281
14 votes

Alteration in a stave in a score: does it communicate with the other stave?

There are many other mistakes in this transcription. I wouldn’t use it! Db should be C# and then the 5th would be G#. Google for imperial march (images) Compare with these music sheets:
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14 votes
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Is it possible to have sharp/flat notes in a music piece composed in the key of "A minor"?

Music can, and often will, have notes in it that exist outside of the scale of the current key. We call these outside pitches chromatic, and it's these chromatic pitches in the Paganini that led to ...
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  • 78.8k
13 votes

If between E and F is a halftone, why can F not be an E♯

Sometimes indeed it HAS to be E#. It will depend on what key you're in as to what it is called. If a key has 6 sharps, the order is F#, C#, G#, D#, A# and E#.It's a technicality, but as far as writing ...
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