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Introduction to accidentals

An accidental changes the pitch of a note by one or more semitones, upward or downward, without changing the name of the note.

Five accidentals

There are five different accidentals: the sharp, the double-sharp, the flat, the double-flat and the natural. Accidentals can be placed at the beginning of the staff or within a measure. For more details on their use, refer to the courses devoted to accidentals and key signature.

The sharp

The sharp raises the note of a chromatic semitone. The "sharpened" note is therefore higher than the "natural" note.

KEYBOARD 1  - Sharps on the keyboard
C B D D C E E D F F E G G F A A G B B A C C D D E F G G A A B C B D

Be careful, on a keyboard, sharps are often compared to black keys, which is inaccurate. An E can be "sharpened" and played on the key corresponding to F. The same thing is possible for a B which is played on the C key.

The flat

The flat lowers the note of a chromatic semitone. The "flattened" note is therefore lower than the "natural" note.

KEYBOARD 2  - Flats on the keyboard
C B D D C E E D F F E G G F A A G B B A C C D D E F G G A A B C B D

As for sharps, flats are often compared to the keyboard black keys, which is inaccurate. An F can be "flattened" and played on the key corresponding to the E. The same thing is possible for a C which is played on the B key.

The natural

The natural cancels the effect of an accidental previously encountered and thus restores the note to its natural state.

The double-sharp

The double-sharp raises the note of two chromatic seminotes.

KEYBOARD 3  - Double-sharps on the keyboard
C B D D C E E D F F E G G F A A G B B A C C D D E F G G A A B C B D

Theoretically, we could find the E on the F key and the B on the C key, but in practice these two notes are never used.

The double-flat

The double-flat lowers the note of two chromatic seminotes.

KEYBOARD 4  - Double-flats on the keyboard
C B D D C E E D F F E G G F A A G B B A C C D D E F G G A A B C B D

Theoretically, we could find the F on the E key and the C on the B key, but in practice, these two notes are never used.

Last update on 2018/12/21

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