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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