Flats and Sharps
Flats and sharps are symbols which are written on the staff before a note to designate that the note should be played:
a half step lower, in the case of a flat
a half step higher, in the case of a sharp
On a keyboard, to move by a half step, play the very next key whether black or white.
Usually, a sharp or flat names a black key. In fact, every black key has two names. For example, "F sharp" and "G flat" are two names for the same key.
An F is a half step higher than an F, and a G is a half step lower than a G. Notice how they are written on the staff below with the symbol in front of the note head.
If a sharp or flat is placed within a measure of a piece of music, it alters all notes of the same pitch until the next measure bar, which erases it. See below, an F has been sharped, so the following F is also sharped. The measure bar erases the sharp, so the first F after the bar is not sharp.
A natural is often used to erase a sharp or flat within a measure. It tells a musician to:
play a note normally without flatting or sharping
A natural will only occur if a note is currantly flat or sharp and the composer wants to remove that instruction.
A key signature can mark a particular note or notes to be sharp or flat though out a whole piece of music. Since that instruction is only marked at the beginning of the piece, the musician will have to remember.
If the key signature, at the beginning of the piece of music, marks all of the F's sharped, the composer can use a natural sign to remove that sharp, but it will only last until the next measure bar, which erases the natural. So, in the next measure the F will be sharp again.
When writing flats, sharps, and naturals, the open part of the sign must land on the exact same space or line of the notehead it is altering; this makes it clear which note is to be altered, especially when many notes are stacked up.
F sharp G flat
F is still sharp
measure bar erases sharp
F (not sharp)
key signature instruction: play all F's as F sharp
natural erases sharp
F sharp G flat
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