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Illustrated Tour of Sheet Music: Part One

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Musical Accidentals
Accidentals next to music notes.

An accidental is always written before a note.

Image © Brandy Kraemer

What Are Accidentals?

An accidental is a symbol that turns a note into a sharp, a flat, or a natural:


  • Sharp (♯): Makes a note higher in pitch by a half step.

  • Flat (♭): Makes a note lower in pitch by a half step.

  • Natural (♮): Returns a note to its original pitch after having been sharpened or flattened. Naturals also cancel out sharps or flats implied by a key signature.

Double-Accidentals

Double-sharps (x) and double-flats (♭♭) occur in certain chords and scales. Double-naturals (♮♮) cancel out a double-accidental in traditional sheet music, but a single natural sign may now be used.

See More Musical Symbols:
Staff & Barlines    ■Note Lengths     ■Articulation Marks    ■Repeat Signs
The Grand Staff      ■Dotted Notes      ■Dynamics & Volume      ■Segno & Coda Signs
Time Signatures       ■Accidentals        ■Key Signatures      ■Pedal Marks
Tempo Commands     ■Piano Chords         ■Music Rests          ■8va & Octave Commands


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