When first learning to read music, you may be confused about accidentals and double accidentals. The beautiful thing about music is its endless combination of sounds. Single notes and combinations of notes are pieced together to make up harmonious masterpieces. When looking at sheet music, however, these notes may seem almost frightening in their symbols. Do not be alarmed, there is a simple explanation for these keys.
There are seven natural notes on a music scale and five accidentals. The pitch will vary in pitch depending on their location on the keyboard. These naturals and their accidentals are the makeup of all musical chords and melodies.
When you are reading sheet music, you may see a symbol beside the note. Possible symbols are what look like a lower case letter b or (b) which is the symbol for “flat” and the symbol which looks like a number sign (#), which is the symbol for “sharp”. These are the symbols which tell you what the accidental is.
An accidental is most often used when a musical score calls for a natural mostly throughout, however, needs the note to be an accidental for certain chords or pieces of the music. For instance, if you have a musical composition which relies on a natural C throughout, then it needs to be altered to a sharp for one specific measure of the music, you would write a C# accidental.
An accidental can be used throughout an entire composition. Bb is a common accidental in music scores. If you notice the ebony keys on the piano always fall between two ivory keys. All ebony keys are two possible accidentals. It is the same note, however, it can be either a sharp or a flat, depending on how it is written. An A# accidental id the same as a Bb accidental. Accidental C# is the same as Db.
A double accidental is somewhat different, however, A regular accidental changes the pitch of the not by one half. A double accidental changes the pitch by an entire note. Double accidentals are written with two of the accidental symbols beside the note.
Accidental Bb is written as Bbb and accidental C# is written as C## when using double accidentals. If you are reading a musical score and it asks you to change your note to a double accidental, you will move two half steps, or one entire pitch. For instance, A Bb double accidental changes the note to an A natural.
You may be wondering why a double accidental is needed at all when you can just change the written note. That is an excellent question. Musical composition can be tricky and complicated. If you have a written composition which already uses mostly sharps and flats on the scale, using a double accidental will catch the eye faster than using the note for the natural it is enharmony with.
It can actually be more advantageous to use a double accidental when writing a musical score because you may overlook a natural note thinking it to be the same sharp or flat note which has been used in the previous measures.
Whatever musical score you are reading, do not be frightened by the symbols. Remember, there are only seven natural notes and five accidentals, so accidentals and double accidentals only sound more complicated than they really are.
JamPlay has thousands of video lessons that are conveniently arranged in structured lesson sets. With high quality instructions from world renowned bassists, Jamplay is an unparalleled learning resource. Whatever your genre preferences, you’ll find something here to help you improve your current level of playing.