How to Read Music: Sharps, Flats, and Naturals

Consider the note G above middle C. Any note head that falls on the line named “G” will be a “G something”.  Let’s take a look at what those “somethings” can be…

If there are no sharps of flats on the note G in the key signature and no additional symbols are placed before the note head on the line named G, then “G” is just a plain old “G”…

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-notation

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-keyboard


A sharp symbol (#) placed before a note tells you to play the very next note up. The very next note up may be either a black or white key. Here “G something” is “G sharp” and you play the very next note up on the keyboard…

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-sharp-notation

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-sharp-keyboard


A flat symbol (b) placed before a note tells you to play the very next note down. The very next note down may be either a black or white key. Here “G something” is “G flat” and you play the very next note down on the keyboard…

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-flat-notation

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-flat-keyboard


A natural symbol cancels any prior sharps or flats on that particular note, including any sharps or flats in the key signature…

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-natural-notation

piano-ology-how-to-read-music-accidentals-g-natural-keyboard


For completeness sake, be advised that it sometimes makes theoretical sense to spell certain notes using a double sharp or double flat. Don’t worry about why for now. It will make all make sense when you study scales and chords.

About Frank J Peter

A uniquely burdened and blessed citizen of the world thinking and acting out loud!
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