Music theory > Pitch of sounds > Accidentals

Accidentals

Different kinds of accidentals

An accidental is a sign to raise or to lower the pitch of a note.

Below are the most common accidentals:

Sharp

When added to a note, a sharp (♯) raises the note by a half step united states of america (semitone united kingdom).

Flat

When added to a note, a flat (♭) lowers the note by a half step united states of america (semitone united kingdom).

Natural

When added to a note, a natural (♮) cancels the previous accidentals.

Double sharp

When added to a note, a double sharp raises the note by two half steps united states of america (semitones united kingdom).

Double flat

When added to a note, a double flat lowers the note by two half steps united states of america (semitones united kingdom).

Recapitulation:

sharp+ 1 half step united states of america (semitone united kingdom)
flat- 1 half step united states of america (semitone united kingdom)
naturalcancel
double sharp+ 2 half steps united states of america (semitones united kingdom)
double flat- 2 half steps united states of america (semitones united kingdom)

Accidentals on a piano keyboard

To visualize accidentals, here are accidentals on a piano keyboard:

Sharps on a piano keyboard:
sharps on a keyboard

Flats on a piano keyboard:
Flats on a keyboard


With this piano keyboard you can notice that:

- C♯ has the same key as D♭
- D♯ has the same key as E♭
- F♯ has the same key as G♭
- G♯ has the same key as A♭
- A♯ has the same key as B♭

As there is only 1 half step united states of america (semitone united kingdom) between E and F:

- E♯ has the same key as F
- F♭ has the same key as E

As there is only 1 half step united states of america (semitone united kingdom) between B and C:

- B♯ has the same key as C
- C♭ has the same key as B


And notice some examples with double sharps and double flats:

- C♯♯ has the same key as D
- A♭♭ has the same key as G
- E♯♯ has the same key as F♯ or G♭

Accidentals in music score

Accidentals are always written before the note

Accidentals are always written before the note, here is an example:

Accidentals are always written before the note

Accidentals only affect on the current bar

After an accidental has been written, every same note is also affected for the remainder of the measure in which they occur, unless explicitly changed by another accidental. The note on next bars or measures will not be affected by the accidental from the previous bar.

Example #1:


Example #2:

Accidentals and ties

As ties connect notes, two notes tied have the same pitch, even cross a bar line:


Courtesy accidentals

A courtesy accidental, also called a cautionary accidental or reminder accidental, are accidentals that are not necessary, but that are used to remind the musician of the correct pitch.

Example #1 of a courtesy accidental:


Example #2 of a courtesy accidental:


Accidentals affect key signature

Accidentals affect the key signature.

In this example (below), This key signature means that all E notes are in face E flat (E♭) and that all B notes are B flat (B♭). But the accidentals affect the key signature:


Accidentals and octaves

With the key signature, all notified notes are affected:

key signature and octaves

With accidentals, only the notes on his position on the staff united states of america (stave united kingdom) is affected:

accidentals and octaves

Accidentals do not accumulate

Accidentals do not accumulate, example:

Accidentals do not accumulate

Here, the note is a C sharp (C♯) and it is not a C double sharp...

Flats order

The flats order is: B♭ E♭ A♭ D♭ G♭ C♭ F♭

Read more about flats order.

Sharps order

The sharp order is: F♯ C♯ G♯ D♯ A♯ E♯ B♯

Read more about sharps order.


Others articles from this category:

Flats order

Flats order

Learn flats order B♭ E♭ A♭ D♭ G♭ C♭ F♭ and find a trick to memorize the order of flats. With the order of flats always in mind you will be able to know all Altered notes in your score and to finding the key of the piece. Read more about...

Sharps order

Sharps order

Learn sharps order F♯ C♯ G♯ D♯ A♯ E♯ B♯ and find a trick to memorize the order of flats. With the order of sharps always in mind you will be able to know all Altered notes in your score and to finding the key of the piece. Read more about...

Quarter tones

Quarter tones

Quarter tones: learn all about Quarter flat, Quarter sharp, Three quarter flat and Three quarter sharp. Learn why to use quarter tone in music. Read more about...


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