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Encyclopedia > Accidental (music)
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An accidental is a musical notation symbol used to raise or lower the pitch of a note from that indicated by the key signature. Music notation is a system of writing for music. ... Jump to: navigation, search In music, pitch is the perception of the frequency of a note. ... In musical notation, a key signature is a series of sharp symbols or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be played one semitone higher or lower unless otherwise noted with an accidental. ...

Contents


Standard use of accidentals

Accidentals: sharp, flat, natural
Accidentals: sharp, flat, natural

In most cases, a sharp raises the pitch of a note one semitone while a flat lowers it a semitone. A natural is used to cancel the effect of a flat or sharp. Examples of accidentals This image is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain, because it consists entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship. ... Jump to: navigation, search This article is about the musical notation. ... The musical interval of a half step, semitone, or minor second is the relationship between the leading tone and the first note (the root or tonic) in a major scale. ... Alternate uses: Flat (disambiguation) Figure 1. ... The musical interval of a half step, semitone, or minor second is the relationship between the leading tone and the first note (the root or tonic) in a major scale. ... Natural is defined as of or relating to nature; this applies to both definitions of nature: essence (ones true nature) and the untouched world (force of nature). Natural is often used meaning good, healthy, or belonging to human nature. This use can be questioned, as many freely growing plants...


Since about 1700, accidentals have been understood to continue for the remainder of the measure in which they occur, so that a subsequent note on the same staff position is still affected by that accidental, unless replaced by an accidental of its own. Notes on other staff positions, including those an octave away, are unaffected. Once a barline is passed, the effect of the accidental ends, except when a note affected by an accidental (either explicit or implied from earlier in the measure) is tied to the same note across a barline; see courtesy accidentals, below. In musical notation, a bar or measure is a segment of time defined as a given number of beats of a given duration. ... In musical notation, the staff or stave is a set of five horizontal lines on which note symbols are placed to indicate pitch and rhythm. ... In musical notation, the staff or stave is a set of five horizontal lines on which note symbols are placed to indicate pitch and rhythm. ... In music, an octave (sometimes abbreviated 8ve or 8va) is the interval between one musical note and another with half or double the frequency. ...


This use contrasts with the key signature, whose effect continues throughout an entire piece, unless cancelled by another key signature. An accidental can be used to cancel or reinstate the flats or sharps of the key signature as well for the duration of a measure. In musical notation, a key signature is a series of sharp symbols or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be played one semitone higher or lower unless otherwise noted with an accidental. ...


Note that in a few cases the accidental might change the note by more than a semitone: for example, if a G sharp is followed in the same measure by a G flat, the flat sign on the latter note means it will be two semitones lower than if no accidental were present. Thus, the effect of the accidental has to be understood in relation to the "natural" meaning of the note's staff position. The musical interval of a half step, semitone, or minor second is the relationship between the leading tone and the first note (the root or tonic) in a major scale. ... In musical notation, the staff or stave is a set of five horizontal lines on which note symbols are placed to indicate pitch and rhythm. ...

Double sharp, double flat
Double sharp, double flat

Double accidentals raise or lower the pitch of a note by two semitones, an innovation developed as early as 1615. An F with a double sharp applied raises it a whole step so it is enharmonic with a G. Usage varies on how to notate the situation in which a note with a double sharp is followed in the same measure by a note with a single sharp: some publications simply use the single accidental for the latter note, whereas others use a combination of a natural and a sharp, with the natural being understood to apply to the second sharp only. Examples of double accidentals This image is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain, because it consists entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship. ... The musical interval of a major second — also called a whole-tone — is the relationship between the first note (the root or tonic) and the second note in a major scale (and also a minor scale). ... In music, an enharmonic is a note which is the equivalent of some other note, but spelled differently. ...


Courtesy accidentals

Although a barline is always understood to cancel the effect of an accidental (except for a tied note), often publishers will use a courtesy accidental as a reminder if the note occurs in the following measure. This usage varies: whereas a few situations are construed to require a courtesy accidental, such as In musical notation, a bar or measure is a segment of time defined as a given number of beats of a given duration. ...

  • when the first note in a measure is one which had had an accidental applied in the previous measure
  • after a tie carries an accidental across a barline, when the same note appears again in the subsequent measure

other uses are inconsistently applied. Courtesy accidentals are sometimes enclosed in parentheses to emphasize their nature as reminders.


Occasionally, courtesy accidentals are called "cautionary accidentals" or "reminder accidentals."


Publishers of jazz music and some atonal music sometimes eschew all courtesy accidentals. Jump to: navigation, search Jazz master Louis Armstrong remains one of the most loved and best known of all jazz musicians. ... Atonality in a general sense describes music that departs from the system of tonal hierarchies that are said to characterized the sound of classical European music from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. ...


Microtonal notation

Quarter-tone accidentals: half-sharp, sharp, sharp-and-a-half;half-flat, flat, flat-and-a-half
Quarter-tone accidentals:
half-sharp, sharp, sharp-and-a-half;
half-flat, flat, flat-and-a-half

Composers of microtonal music have developed a number of notations for indicating the various pitches outside of standard notation. One such system for notating quarter tones, used by the Czech Alois Hába and other composers, is shown at right. Partial accidentals, used to notate quarter-tones This image is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain, because it consists entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship. ... Microtonal music is music using microtones -- intervals of less than a semitone, or as Charles Ives put it, the notes between the cracks of the piano. ... A quarter tone is an interval half as wide (aurally, or logarithmically) as a semitone, which is half a whole tone. ... Alois Hába (June 21, 1893 - November 18, 1973) was a Czech composer primarily known for his microtonal compositions, especially using the quarter tone scale, though he used others such as sixth-tones and twelfth-tones. ...


In the 19th and beginning 20th century when Turkish musicians switched from their traditional notation systems -- which were not staff based -- to the European staff based system, they created a refinement to the European accidental system in order to be able to notate Turkish scales which make use of intervals smaller than the tempered semitone. There are several such systems which vary as to the division of the octave they presuppose or merely the graphical shape of the accidentals. The most widely used system (created by Rauf Yekta Bey) uses a system of 4 sharps (roughly +25 cents, +75 cents, +125 cents and +175 cents) and 4 flats (roughly -25 cents, -75 cents, -125 cents and -175 cents), none of which correspond to the tempered sharp and flat. They presuppose a Pythagorean division of the octave taking the Pythagorean comma (about an 8th of the tempered tone, actually closer to 24 cents, defined as the difference between 7 octaves and 5 just-intonation 5ths) as the basic interval. The Turkish systems have also been adopted by some Arab musicians. Rauf Yekta Bey (1871-1935) Turkish musician, musicologist and writer on music. ... The cent is a unit in a logarithmic scale of relative pitch or intervals. ... The cent is a unit in a logarithmic scale of relative pitch or intervals. ... The cent is a unit in a logarithmic scale of relative pitch or intervals. ... The cent is a unit in a logarithmic scale of relative pitch or intervals. ... The cent is a unit in a logarithmic scale of relative pitch or intervals. ... The cent is a unit in a logarithmic scale of relative pitch or intervals. ... The cent is a unit in a logarithmic scale of relative pitch or intervals. ... The cent is a unit in a logarithmic scale of relative pitch or intervals. ... The cent is a unit in a logarithmic scale of relative pitch or intervals. ...


Ben Johnston created a system of notation for pieces in just intonation where the unmarked C, F, and G Major chords are just major chords (4:5:6) and accidentals are used to create just tuning in other keys. Benjamin Burwell Johnston, Junior (born March 15, 1926 in Macon, Georgia) is one of the best known composers writing in the just intonation system. ... The term notation can be used in several contexts. ... Jump to: navigation, search Just intonation is any musical tuning in which the frequencies of notes are related by whole number ratios. ...


History of accidental notation

All of the symbols are derived from variations of the letter B: the sharp and natural from the square "B quadratum," and the flat from the "B rotundum."


In the beginning of European music notation (4-line staff Gregorian chant manuscripts) only B could be altered (i.e. applied an accidental to: it could be flattened, thus moving from hexachordum durum (i.e. hard hexachord: G-A-B-C-D-E) where it is natural, to hexachordum molle (i.e. soft hexachord: F-G-A-Bb-C-D) where it is flat; B is not present in the third hexachord hexachordum naturale (i.e. natural hexachord: C-D-E-F-G-A)). Gregorian chant is also known as plainchant or plainsong, and is a form of monophonic, unaccompanied singing, which was developed in the Catholic church, mainly during the period 800-1000. ... In music, a hexachord is a collection of six tones. ... In music, a hexachord is a collection of six tones. ...


This long use of B as the only altered note incidentally helps explain some notational peculiarities: the flat sign actually derives from a round B, to signify the B of the soft hexachord, i.e. B flat (hence the name of the flat sign in French "bémol" from medieval French "bé mol" — modern French "bé mou" — or "soft b") and originally meant only Bb; the natural sign derives from a square B, to signify the B of the hard hexachord, i.e. B natural (hence the name of the natural sign in French "bécarre" from medieval French "bé carre", earlier "bé quarre" — modern French "bé carré" — or "square b") and originally meant only B natural. In the same way, in the German notation the letter B only designates the B flat while the letter H, which is actually a deformation of a square B designates the B natural.


As polyphony became more complex, other notes (than B) needed to be altered in order to avoid undesirable harmonic intervals (especially the augmented 4th that theory writers called "diabolus in musica", i.e. "the devil in music"). The first sharp in use was F#, then came the second flat Eb, then C#, etc.; by the 16th century Bb, Eb, Db, Ab, Gb and F#, C#, G#, D# and A# were all in use.


However, those accidentals were often not notated in vocal scores (but were always notated in tablatures). This notational practice of not marking implied accidentals, leaving them to be supplied by the performer instead, was called musica ficta (i.e. "feigned music"). In European music prior to about 1600, musica ficta (from Latin, false or feigned music) referred to chromatically altered pitches, not notated in the music, which were to be supplied by singers. ...


External links

Musical notation edit
Staff : Clef | Key signature | Time signature | Leger line | Barline
Notes : Note value | Dotted note | Accidental | Rest | Tie
Expression marks: Tempo | Dynamics | Articulation | Octaves

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