Kitchieboy's Music Tutor
Learning to Read Music
(But Not Enough to Hurt Your Playing)

Sharps and Flats 

So what were those cross hatches and "little bs"? The cross hatches are called "sharps" and the little bs are flats. A sharp before a note means it is a halftone (semitone) higher; a flat before a note means it is a halftone (semitone) lower. On a fretted instrument like a guitar, that's one fret up or one down. On a keyboard, one key up or one down (and that includes black and white keys). On "diatonic" instruments like Appalachian dulcimers, there may be no fret where the note sharp or flat belongs. On "chromatic" hammered dulcimers, some of the sharps and flats are off somewhere else on the instrument.

Being basically either lazy or tidy, if the same note is always going to be sharp or flat, music writers use key signatures to indicate once and for all - "This note will always be sharp", etc. It saves writing in the sharp sign (or flat sign) every time the note appears. And for printers, it is also cheaper. They didn't have to keep so many slugs of # or b type.

Here are some examples of sharps and flats written in front of individual notes. When you see a sharp or flat this way, it is only good to the end of the bar (the section of staff marked by the vertical "bar line"). Some people call "bars" by the word "measure" and they call "bar lines", "measure lines". Musicians who play in bars, and many who don't, call them "bars" and "bar lines".

Oh, No! I threw in another symbol. The natural sign, looking like a messed up sharp, undoes a sharp or flat.

The last section, with the boxes, is merely to show that you can write the same note two different ways - as a sharp or as a flat. F sharp and G flat would be the same note, and so on. Fiddlers, wind players and singers may point out that they can play them slightly differently, but don't worry about that for now.

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Kitchieboy's Music Tutor - Learning to Read Music
(But Not Enough to Hurt Your Playing)
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