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Accidentals & Double-Accidentals

Are you confused about what accidentals and double-accidentals are?

Accidentals and double-accidentals started from before the time of Bach and even Montiverdi.

Composers from the Gregorian chant used these aspects to make it clear to the singer which notes to sing and can be very easily to explained. Accidentals can be divided into three categories, namely, sharps, flats, and naturals.

In music, we put a key signature at the top, before the notation to depict the key in which to play the piece or song.

For example: when we might see one sharp in the key signature, we will know with confidence that we’re supposed to play the piece in G Major, or E minor.


If we see no key signature, we can assume that the piece is written in C Major, or A minor, since these keys have no sharps or flats.

no key signatures


Now, all that are meant by accidentals is that the piece modulates “goes into another key” for a certain length of bars.

One sharp or flat changes the current note by one semitone. A sharp raises the note by one semitone, and the flat, lowers the note by one semitone.

And for that specific bar, when you see a note, let’s say an F, we can assume that it is an F sharp because of the sharp-sign a few notes back, places on an F.

Similarly, when you see a flat sign on an E, you would know to play, not a normal E, but an E flat. This will be same throughout every E note that you encounter in that bar measure, and/or octave.

Accidentals cancel each other out. This means that, if you see a “b” sign written within a bar in the key of C Major and in the next line, it is written with a natural sign, you will know that all future notes in that bar will be played normally again. The pitch of the note is always determined by the last accidental used.

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At this point, I could also just mention that, sometimes composers put a “courtesy/cautionary” accidental, to reinforce the current key signature or nature of the note. Courtesy accidentals are sometimes enclosed in parentheses to emphasize their nature as reminders.

Accidentals also only are applied to the current octave of the notes are situated in. So if the melody goes UP to the next octave, accidentals have to be renewed.

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Double Accidentals

Double-accidentals raise or lower the pitch of a note by two semitones “whole note”.

For example: a C, written with two sharps, is a normal D, enharmonically. Where a note already has a sharp, and a double sharp is written on it, it only goes UP one semitone, since it is already sharpened.

F sharp, with a double-accidental, will only raised a halftone to G “enharmonically”.

Note: Some people think the all the black keys on a piano are accidentals, and all white keys are naturals. Wrong!

All sharps and flats are not accidentals. But all naturals, double-sharps, and double-flats are always accidentals.

Ok, so now you can look at a score and when you see a sharp “square b” on a note which isn’t a sharp in its natural key, you will know that it is an accidental.

Now try to play the piece or song with these accidentals. You will soon find out that is isn’t too difficult to understand with proper practice and online piano lessons.

Listen over and over to a song or piece, until you know the melody by heart. Now, when you learn to play it, you won’t be surprised to hear that there is something missing if you don’t play the note with the accidental.

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