Music Notation: Accidentals (Sharps, Flats, & Naturals)

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Let’s explore the way accidentals work by applying them to the note G above middle C…

The first thing to know is this: Any note that falls on the line named “G” will be a “G something”. Let’s take a look at the four most common types of “somethings”…

Something #1: No Accidental

If there are no sharps of flats on the note G in the key signature and no additional symbols are placed before the note head on the line named G, then “G” is just a plain old “G”…

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piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-no-accidental-keyboard

Something #2: Sharp

A sharp symbol (#) placed before a note tells you to play the very next note up. The very next note up may be either a black or white key. Here “G something” is “G sharp” and you play the very next note up on the keyboard…

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-sharp-notation
piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-sharp-keyboard

Something #3: Flat

A flat symbol (b) placed before a note tells you to play the very next note down. The very next note down may be either a black or white key. Here “G something” is “G flat” and you play the very next note down on the keyboard…

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-flat-notation
piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-flat-keyboard

Something #4: Natural

A natural symbol cancels any prior sharps or flats on that particular note, including any sharps or flats in the key signature…

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piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-natural-keyboard

For completeness sake, be advised that it sometimes makes theoretical sense to spell certain notes using a double sharp

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or a double flat

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Don’t worry about why for now. We will discuss such things as they arise in our later studies of scales and chords.

learn more… Music Notation: Note & Rest Durations