86 votes
Accepted

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 ...
Tim's user avatar
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44 votes
Accepted

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 ...
Dom's user avatar
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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 ...
Dave's user avatar
  • 17.8k
41 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-...
Ilan's user avatar
  • 511
37 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 ...
JimM's user avatar
  • 5,051
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 ...
Tim's user avatar
  • 193k
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 ...
Todd Wilcox's user avatar
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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 ...
Richard's user avatar
  • 84.5k
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 ...
user34859's user avatar
  • 231
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 ...
jjmusicnotes's user avatar
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22 votes
Accepted

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....
Tim's user avatar
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21 votes
Accepted

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 ...
Todd Wilcox's user avatar
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21 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.
Albrecht Hügli's user avatar
20 votes

What does this sharp sign with an arrow mean?

It's an indication for a three-quarter-tone sharp. Another common symbol for the same thing is what looks like a regular sharp sign with three vertical strokes. (Image source: MuseScore 4) A single ...
Aaron's user avatar
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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 ...
Kilian Foth's user avatar
  • 7,563
19 votes

How to notate a non-standard hexatonic key

If you want it to be read and played, use an open key signature and accidentals. If you want it to be analysed and discussed, maybe concoct a non-standard key signature.
Laurence's user avatar
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18 votes
Accepted

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#. ...
user1079505's user avatar
  • 16.7k
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 ...
Aaron's user avatar
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17 votes
Accepted

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. ...
badjohn's user avatar
  • 4,243
16 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 ...
Richard's user avatar
  • 84.5k
16 votes

Notating accidentals in C major

Aaron's answer is correct if we assume that you are right to call the chord C♯º7. Are you? It could just as well be D♭º7. For that matter, it could also be Eº7, Gº7, A♯º7 or B♭º7, though the flat ...
phoog's user avatar
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15 votes
Accepted

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 ...
Shevliaskovic's user avatar
15 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 -...
Нет войне's user avatar
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 ...
MattPutnam's user avatar
  • 22.4k
14 votes

How to know whether to write accidentals as sharps or flats?

If it really IS a passing note, 'sharpen it going up, flatten it going down' is a good guideline. This has nothing to do with the key signature. A and B below involve a different set of decisions ...
Laurence's user avatar
  • 93k
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. ...
guest's user avatar
  • 291
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:
Albrecht Hügli's user avatar
14 votes
Accepted

Why does Musescore interpret Westergaard's A-flat as G? Seeking Clarification on Pitch Spelling

The key signature includes Ab. The first example doesn't use any barlines, so in order to notate Ab after the A natural, one needs to use the flat symbol. The second example notates one note per ...
user1079505's user avatar
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