Teach Yourself Music Theory – 4.) Accidentals (Which Are No Accident)

Sometimes when looking at a score, you might have noticed an odd looking symbol next on the left side of the note head, which is the oval part of a note. These symbols are called accidentals, and they modify the notated pitch.

The first is the sharp, which looks like a (#) and tells the performer to raise the pitch up to the next closest pitch. Remember those black keys on the keyboard? Well, we can finally give them names as such:

After that is the flat, which looks like a (b) and tells the performer to lower the pitch down to the next closest pitch. So those black keys would also have these names in place, too:

But wait. The G# is in the same spot as an Ab, and a B# is where C already is? Is this possible?? Indeed it is, and we call this an enharmonic, when there are two or more names for a pitch.

Now in some extreme cases, you might see a double-sharp, which looks like an (x) and tells to raise up two consecutive pitches; and a double-flat, which looks like a (bb) and likewise tells to lower down two consecutive pitches. So Ebb is an enharmonic of a D.

To wipe the slate clean and tell that a letter name should be back in the original white key space, use a natural sign as seen last in the first picture above.


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Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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