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”…


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…


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…


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…


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

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

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