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Music Theory Education

 

11. Accidentals

11. Accidentals

Grade 1. lesson 11 accidentals

What is meant by Accidentals, what are they, and why do we need them?

Accidentals are music symbols, Sharps, Flats, and Naturals. The symbols can be placed in front of a note, if we did this with a sharp sign it would be called a sharp accidental and would raise the pitch of sound of the note which the accidental is being used with, raise it by the value of a semitone. The Natural sign is used to restore the pitch back to normal. When a flat sign is used it lowers the pitch of sound by a semitone, again a natural accidental will restore it back to normal pitch.

When the sharps or flats are going to be used often within the piece of music, like in the key of D major, the sharps are gathered together inplace of using them for accidentals they are placed at the beginning of each set of staff lines and called a key signature.

Howerver, in some music, the composer wants an extra symbol, so he uses accidentals.

Accidentals, Sharps, Flats, and Naturals

 

Accidentals written on lines

 

Accidentals in spaces

 

What do these music symbols do to the notes?

The Sharp raises the note by a semitone
The Flat lowers the note by a semitone
The Natural restores the note to its original pitch.

 

Notes showing D sharp and D natural

 

When we use an accidental, it is placed just in front of the Note Head. Like the two signs you see in the example above., they are both on the D line, so we need the centre of the accidentals to show the line through the middle of the sign.

The first accidental (the sharp) raises the note up by a semitone, the second accidential (the natural) cancels the sharp and puts the note back to its normal pitch.

Take a look at the piano keys below:


 

Piano Keys image showing D sharp and D natural

 

The sharp sign seen placed in front of the D note head, would tell the musician to play the first key to the right of the namtural D key.
The natural sign placed in front of the D note head, would tell the musician to revert back to the normal white D key.

 

B flat note and B natural note

 

 

This time we are looking at the Flat Sign, it is placed just in front of the note head. These notes and accidentals are on the B line.
Notice how once again the middle part of the flat sign shows the line through the middle. The same applies for the natural sign.

It is very important the accidentals are written exactly in front of the notes they are intended to change.
The first accidental (the flat) lowers the note down by a semitone, the second accidental (the natural) puts it back to normal pitch.


The piano keys below show how this changes the note.


Piano keys B flat to B natural

 

 

The flat sign seen placed in front of the B note head, would tell the musician to play the first key to the left of the B key. The natural sign placed in front of the second B note head, would tell the musician to revert back to the normal B key, cancelling the previous flat sign.


When we say draw your accidentals in front of the note head, we mean before the note.
Sometimes one gets confused about this, and I have often seen sharps and flats drawn after the note. Also many times not written on the correct line, or in the correct space.


So, let's take a look at some good, and some bad ones.

 

Good and badly placed accidentals

 

Counting from the left, the first note with the green tick is good. We also have numbers 3. 7. 8. and 10. all good
Each sharp sign is placed in the correct position, when on a line you can see clearly the line through
the middle. The sharps for the notes in spaces, again the centre of the sign is showing in the space.

Numbers  2.  4.  5.  6.  and number 9. are wrongly placed.

With number 2 the sharp looks like it is more above the line. number 4. the sharp is placed too low, almost on line 3.  Number 5 the sharp is way out of place, looks like there ought to be a note above
line five.

With number 6 the sharp looks like it is in the third space. and number 9. again the sharp is too high, with the note head being below the first line, and the sharp being on the line.

 


   Here are some good, and some bad Flat's and Naturals. See if you agree with the 'ticks and cross'

 

Flats and Naturals accidentals

 

 

Counting from the left. Numbers 1. 2. 5. and 6. are all correctly placed.

Now let's take a look at number 3, why is the flat sign written way below the line, it certainly does not look like it belongs to the note written on the line.

Number 4. looks more like it's in the space than on line 4.
Number 7. ought to be written in the second space, but where is it?

Whatever happened to number 8? That's right, the flat is written on the wrong side of the note head.


Oh dear! it's mistakes like these which lose marks on examination papers.

 

 

music theory lessons grade one

Music Theory Lessons Grade 1

containing 18 detailed lessons

This book contains all the information for accidentals
required for grade one examination, set in lesson 11 of this book

     This book along with the grades 1 to 5 is following closely with the syllabus of the ABRSM

Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music

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Accidentails and Bar lines

 

When an accidental has been written, it affects all the other notes which are at the same pitch, in other words on the same line, or in the same space. But only until the bar line.

The bar line cancels the power of the accidentals.

 

Look at the example with the F and F#'s

 

Example of using sharps and naturals

 

Number 1. the first note is natural, there is no accidental. Number 2. it sharpened because we have
used a sharp symbol.

Number 3. is also a sharp because of the sharp sign on note 2. Number 4. the bar line cancelled
out the sharp, so we had to replace it with another sharp symbol.

Number 5. this is F natural because the natural cancelled out the sharp. Number 6. is a sharp
because of the sharp symbol.

Number 7. is a natural because of the bar line. Number 8. is a sharp

Number 9. is F natural, because it is at a different pitch, and it does not have a sharp symbol.
The accidental sign on the note number 8 in the space, will not cover the F note on line 5.
Although they are both F notes they are at a different pitch.
Only when sharps or flats are used in a key signature do they cover any of the notes placed
at different pitch.



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