11. Accidentals and enharmonic notes

So what you’re saying is notes can have accidents now or what?

1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial we’ll be taking a look at the ways in which we can alter the pitch of a note, while also discussing the concept of enharmonic notes. So, let’s have some fun.

2. Accidentals

Accidentals are musical symbols which, when used on a note, alter its pitch by one semitone or one tone. There are 5 common accidentals in music. Here is what they look like:

accidentals

And here is what this sounds like:

So, what exactly do we have there? Well, let’s take them one by one:

  • the sharp (♯) accidental raises the pitch of a note by one semitone
  • the flat (♭) accidental lowers the pitch of a note by one semitone
  • the natural (♮) accidental returns a note to its original pitch
  • the double flat ( double-flat ) accidental lowers the pitch of a note by one tone (or two semitones)
  • the double sharp ( double-sharp ) accidental raises the pitch of a note by one tone (or two semitones)

3. Enharmonic notes

Now that we know what accidentals are, it’s time to take a look at enharmonic notes. Enharmonic notes are two notes with different notations that have the exact same pitch.

Think of it like this. What note do you obtain when you sharpen a C? The answer is C♯. What note do you obtain when you flatten a D? The answer is D♭. However, when you actually play these notes on an instrument, you will realize that they are one and the same, pitch wise.

So why are there two notations? The answer to that question is closely linked to the key (or scale) the song is written in. We will get a firm grasp of keys when we talk about scales and the circle of 5ths.

And that about covers it for this tutorial. Next time we’re going to discuss scales, with the main focus being major and minor scales. See you then.

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