Music Theory

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Music Theory - Accidentals

    

 

accidentalsWhen you look at the staff full of notes, you will see that all the notes start at from A and go to G. Using the piano as a visual example, these notes are all the white keys. So how do we identify the black keys? We do this by using a set of symbols called accidentals. 

The three most commonly used accidental symbols are the sharp, the flat, and the natural. 

Normally an accidental symbol is indicated in the key signature to indicate that all the notes falling on that line or space in that measure will follow that symbol. For instance, if there is a sharp sign in the F space in the key signature, all the F notes following will be sharp until the next barline, unless the F is tied to another F across the barline. This makes it easier to read music by eliminating the need to have accidental symbols on many notes throughout the music. 

In the above case, if there is an F note that should not be sharp in the piece, then a natural symbol will appear beside it to cancel out the key signature for that instance only. This note is called an accidental note, as it is isolated from the instructions of the key signature. 

accidentals2Most of the notes A through G are actually considered to be two semi-notes apart because of the sharps and flats. A flat symbol with a note indicates that the pitch is lowered by one semi-note. In the case of the piano keys, a B flat is the black key between the B and A notes. If there is a sharp symbol with a note, the pitch is raised by one semi-note. 

accidentals3There are four notes that are the exception to this rule. On the piano, you can see that there are no black keys between the B and C. In this case, a B sharp is the same as a C. Similarly, an E sharp is the same as an F. Therefore, there is only 1 semi-tone between the B and C notes, and the E and F notes. 


Double accidentals in a piece of music are meant to raise or lower a note’s pitch by two semi-tones. For instance, an A with a double flat will have the same tone as a G. Similarly, an D with a double sharp will sound the same as an E. 

 

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