Dealing With Music Sharp And Flat Notes

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A question come to my attention that hangs up the beginner and newer students to music.

I observed the question even with my daughter who has been playing for a couple of years. It has to do with how sharp and flat symbols are used in the staff lines and between measures.

We cover the note symbols in the notes lesson at music theory sharps and flats. However, there is a basic issue with understanding the use of these symbols that create problems for the beginning student.

There are 3 items that I want to cover in that the musician must understand in order to play the correct notes shown on sheet music.

First Rule – Key Signature Sharps or Flats

The key signature defines all the sharps and flats that are used in the song. These sharps or flats will be used for all these notes. They will be consistent through out the song.

key-sig-eb Here is an example of 3 flats at the beginning of the song. For the notes that show up anywhere in the song  ( B, E, and A) they will always be played as a B flat (Bb), E flat (Eb), and A flat (Ab). That is unless modified within the song by a natural sign or a sharp sign.

Therefore you will always play the key signature as shown. This becomes second nature when you fully understand the key signature and scales.

Second Rule of Applied Sharps and Flat Symbols

When a note has been modified by a sharp or flat symbol, it will last for all of that measure, but only for that measure. It changes back to a natural note or the original key signature note when moving into the next measure.

Remember that another symbol can modify it again. This picture shows this concept so you can see the changes that are typical when they take place.


Third Rule About Notation Of Note Symbols

When lots of sharps and flats are used you may find that it's hard to follow the music and the note changes. Often times you will see that every chord change will show the sharp, flat, or natural symbol to make it a bit easier to read.

note-reminder-symbolOften times you will see a symbol like this (#) or (b) before the note reminding you that the note is a sharp or flat when there are a lot of modifiers in the measure of music.

Hope that helps to clear up the confusion. If not post a comment and I'll try and explain more.