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Appearance of Accidentals

Targa

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In my innocence and ignorance I would have thought it would be logical that when the key is flat the accidentals would be shown as flats and when the key is sharp they would be sharps.
This is obviously not right as they rather appear to be written at random.
Is there any rhyme or reason to when which is written?
 

c9off

Senior Member
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hope I'm correct but if not I'm sure it will be corrected...

If the note goes up it will be sharp, decending will be flat - once understood this will help with sight reading I found....
 

BigMartin

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In my innocence and ignorance I would have thought it would be logical that when the key is flat the accidentals would be shown as flats and when the key is sharp they would be sharps.
This is obviously not right as they rather appear to be written at random.
Is there any rhyme or reason to when which is written?

That's mostly the case, but there are exceptions. For instance, D minor (key sig 1 flat) has a C sharp in it which makes more sense harmonically than writing it as a D flat. And if you're throwing in chromatic notes (ie ones that really don't belong in the key you're playing in) then it's just a matter of preference and convenience which way to write them.
 

Pete Thomas

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I believe in a combination of using what's correct for the chord harmony and what is easiest to read.

So in Bb if you have a D7 chord there would usually be an F#. But if it is e.g. a descending chtomatic run it may well be easier for the person reading to see A Ab G Gb F etc.

If you wrote G F# F you would need to cancel the # by adding a natural in front of the F.

As to what is the correct note for the chord harmony, that is a whole big subject and best discussed after learning some basics of music theory, as to why there is an F# in D7 and not Gb.

There are one or two threads about that already, I'll see if I can find them.
 

Targa

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Thanks for your responses, I had noticed that sometimes it might be for clarity and music theory explains why one might be used rather than the other.
However why would a piece for example in C major have an accidental C# in one bar followed by a Db in the next?
Also there is one piece of music I have, (here you can play Name That Tune), the key of which is C#F# in which there is a bar
B A# G# F Fnat C followed four bars later by B Bb Ab Gb Fnat Eb.
Why would that be written other than out of cruelty or confusion?
 

c9off

Senior Member
Messages
604
Thanks for your responses, I had noticed that sometimes it might be for clarity and music theory explains why one might be used rather than the other.
However why would a piece for example in C major have an accidental C# in one bar followed by a Db in the next?
Also there is one piece of music I have, (here you can play Name That Tune), the key of which is C#F# in which there is a bar
B A# G# F Fnat C followed four bars later by B Bb Ab Gb Fnat Eb.
Why would that be written other than out of cruelty or confusion?

Guess you missed my answer?....
 

Targa

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I did see it, thanks, but in that first example the C# and Db are both preceded by a lower note, although in other instances it seems that it might apply.
 

Pete Thomas

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The "rules" are that you write the correct enharmonic note depending on the harmony, but that rule is often overruled by quick legibility, so it's hard to answer your question without know the specific context, including the harmony and ideally the exact notation.
 

Targa

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It's in the middle of Polka Dots and Moonbeams, I could send a scan but you have probably got a copy of it.
In fact you can probably 'play it' in your head.
 

Targa

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Pete,
After looking at various pieces and considering what, where, when and why, I realised the ones that seemed illogical were 'bare melody lines' which would have had the chords and harmony notation originally but not included when it was printed.
If I could trouble you with one more question, how do I tie my shoelaces?
 

kevgermany

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If I could trouble you with one more question, how do I tie my shoelaces?

Don't. Pull the laces out and replace with self adhesive Velcro. :mrcool


Then when the drummer's pushed, mic your shoes and open/close, keeping the rhythm tight. >:)
 
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