# Standard Notation question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by LiquidMidnight, Jun 13, 2002.

1. ### LiquidMidnight

Dec 25, 2000
I've just got back into reading standard music and it's surprising on how you forget things.

My question is, if you have an accidental that is sharp, then the same note that is flatted, within the same measure does that mean, you flat the raised note back to a natural, or do you play the flatted version of that note.

An example would be a#D and then a bD in the same measure.

2. ### Chris AChemo sucks!

Feb 25, 2000
Manchester NH
Like that would ever happen.......

But no, it would be flatted, if it were supposed to be natural there would be a natural sign.

Chris A.
soon to be ex-tab moderator!!

3. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
The way I learned it, that shouldn't ever happen. If a D natural is meant, there would just be the natural sign to "undo" the sharp. If a D flat is meant, there would be *both* a natural (to undo the sharp) *and* a flat (to flat the note) right next to each other.

4. ### PhatBasstardSpector DissectorSupporting Member

Feb 3, 2002
Las Vegas, NV.
Wow! Thats a new one one me (I've read a lot of music, had a lot of theory and have never seen that).

The correct notation would somewhat depend on the key signature the piece is in. If you are in the key of D, a natural D would have no indicator, a D# would of course have the #, but a Db would actually be indicated with a C with no indicator because in the key of D there is a # (sharp) on C indicated in the key signature so even though it looks like a natural C on the staff it is played as C# (Db).
Also remember, everytime you pass a bar line (new measure) all notes revert (unless tied over) to the key signature. This means if you put a # on that D at the beginning of a measure, that D is automatically D# if it appears again in that measure (without the # being indicated). Once you pass a bar line that is a D natural again and must have the # indicated if you want a D#.

5. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
I was assuming (perhaps wrongly) that the piece was *not* in the key of D, precisely because, as you pointed out, in that key you would be more likely to use a C# instead of a Db.

Since harmonically, C# is not the same thing as Db (though they're enharmonic equivalents), there might be times when for the sake of correctness you'd have to use D# and Db (not C#) in the same measure. If you do, and the D# comes first, then I was always taught that you have to use BOTH the natural and the flat to indicate a Db.

6. ### PhatBasstardSpector DissectorSupporting Member

Feb 3, 2002
Las Vegas, NV.
The key of D was just used as the easiest example to explain. No offence intended.

Its just that if you've indicated D# and (for whatever reason) you suddenly want Db all you need to indicate is simply Db, not Dzb (I'm using z as a natural symbol) if I'm understanding what you mean correctly. Accidentals are not neccessarily incremental in succession. You do not need to indicate the extra (z) step. The exception is the very rare instance that you, for key signature correctness, would indicate a double flat (bb) or double sharp (##).

7. ### PacmanLayin' Down TimeStaff MemberGold Supporting Member

Apr 1, 2000
Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
That's incorrect. You just need to indicate the flat if you want a Db. There's no need for the natural sign.

8. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
No offense at all taken; I kinda enjoy hashing this stuff out, not to beat anybody over the head but just to get it right.

For now, I still think I'm right, 'cause we're all kinda operating on the basis of assertion here, and none of us seems to have any hard evidence. I can't put my hands on any theory books at the moment; any of you guys got any?

In practice, I bet all of us would know what to play anyway. In working situations you don't always have perfectly notated stuff in front of you.

9. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
I just did some searching to try to sort this natural-plus-accidental thing out, but I can't find anything easily available that clearly addresses the issue *either way*. So I'll just bow out for now.

This is gonna bug me until I see it clearly explained, though ...

Pretty minor in the great scheme of things, however.

{EDIT: A LITTLE LATER}

I did find this, FWIW:

"In pre-20th century music, if you have a sharp following a flat in the same measure (or vice-versa) you have to cancel the first accidental before applying the second; that is, the second note will have a natural sign preceding the regular accidental. The same rule applies if you have a double-sharp followed by a single-sharp (or double flat to single flat)." This, or something like it, is probably where my memory comes from.

I have seen it in 20th century music, though.

10. ### PhatBasstardSpector DissectorSupporting Member

Feb 3, 2002
Las Vegas, NV.
Wow, thats interesting. I do have some theory books laying around and none of them say to do this. I've read a lot of music in my 25 years as a professional (plus high school and college jazz bands and classical orchestras) and have never seen an example of the natural + sharp/flat double accidental. I think this may have been a pre-20th century practice that has simply fallen out of favor because it was found to be truely unneccessary although we may still see the occasional example of it because of literal translations of older works.

In my other post I used z to indicate a natural. Does anybody know if there is a way to find a actual natural symbol on the computer/keyboard?

11. ### Phil SmithMr Sumisu 2 U

May 30, 2000
Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
If you have the Simandl book I, on page 18 excercise 2, there's a F double sharp(x) followed by a F# which is notated by preceding the # with a natural symbol. There are examples of this throught the book both for double flat(bb) and double(x), additionally a double sharp or double flat note is made natural by including two natural symbols not one.

12. ### PhatBasstardSpector DissectorSupporting Member

Feb 3, 2002
Las Vegas, NV.
Considering the age of Simandl I am not surprised, however the double natural to correct a double sharp or flat is still used. I have seen this both on score and in the books. Technically Richard's point is correct, its just not really used anymore.

Simandl? Do people STILL use that???

13. ### PacmanLayin' Down TimeStaff MemberGold Supporting Member

Apr 1, 2000
Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
This is hardly definitive, but my only job for the last 15 years has been reading music, day in and day out. I've never heard of using a flat sign to cancel a sharp. Not once. I guess there's a possibility that you're correct, but I can tell you that nobody uses that in practice.

14. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
Not to get all Clintonesque on you, but that kinda depends on who "nobody" is! My experience isn't authoritative, certainly, but I can tell you that in my 35 years of reading music, both on guitar and on bass, I definitely have seen it, more than once, and I was definitely taught it. So somebody, at least, has used it in my lifetime, and often enough for me to remember it.

Could be this is more a classical thing; I studied classical guitar for years and took classical theory and harmony in college.

I can certainly say that I don't *ever* recall seeing this natural-plus-sharp/flat thing in the Real Book, or in any pop chart I've ever been given. Of course, the Real Book is sloppy and lazy in spots, so I dunno how definitive that would be.

I'll have to go home and look at my Chuck Sher books. I'm curious what their practcie is. I regard those books as much better done than the Real Book, and probably they'd be a better yardstick of modern jazz notation practice, at least, if not necessarily classical practice.

15. ### Nick GannTalkbass' Tubist in Residence

Mar 24, 2002
Silver Spring, MD
I asked my instructor how he learned it, and what he said he was taught about it...

A note on the middle line is a D (bass clef). The frequency is 147 Hz. If there is a D#, then it goes up one half step, to 156 Hz. If there is a Db (in the same measure), then the note goes down 2 half steps to 139 Hz. The flat isn't needed to cancel the sharp, it is just a flat. The same applies to double flat or double sharp. If there is a D## written, it isn't necessary to notate a Dbb to take it back to D natural.

I have been doing a lot of theory, and am taking a music theory class in school, and I have never seen music notated like that. Even in old music by Bach or Beethoven (for example), I have never seen music written like that.

BTW- what is the purpose of having a double flat or double sharp? Wouldn't it be easier to just place the note in a different place? I still don't get that...

16. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
The reason is to clarify the harmonic function of the note. You know, for example, that to create a minor triad you use (1) the root, or the 1, (2) a minor 3rd up from that root, and (3) a perfect 5th up from the root. Now suppose you want to spell out a Gb minor triad.

(1), of course, is Gb.
(2) has to be some kind of B, because if the root is a G--any kind of G--the 2nd has to be some flavor of an A, and the 3rd has to be some flavor of a B. (The different flavors determine what kind of chord it is.) Now, a minor 3rd up from Gb happens to be--you guessed it--Bbb. Enharmonically speaking, this is equivalent to A, but harmonically it isn't. The reason is that the distance from any kind of G to any kind of A can only be some kind of *2nd* interval, and what you need here is a 3rd (which can only be some flavor of B).
(3) the perfect 5th is Db.

So your Gbm chord is Gb, Bbb, and Db.

17. ### Phil SmithMr Sumisu 2 U

May 30, 2000
Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
It seems that natural signs are used to cancel both flats and sharps. I haven't seen a flat cancel a sharp or vice versa, I also haven't been reading music as long as you or Richard.

18. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
Oh no, I didn't say that a flat was ever used to cancel a sharp or vice versa. I think Jon may have misunderstood me. I said that you use a natural to cancel a sharp or flat, and further that if you're in C and have first a D# and then a Db in the same measure (with no intervening D natural), the way I was taught to render that Db was to use both a natural (to undo the #) and a flat (to flat the note 1/2 step from the newly naturaled note).

I agree that flats don't cancel sharps or vice versa.

19. ### PacmanLayin' Down TimeStaff MemberGold Supporting Member

Apr 1, 2000
Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
I didn't misunderstand you. That's just not the way it's done.

In fact, I just did the following notation in Finale. I couldn't even get the program to do what you describe as the way it's done, Richard. Additionally, the corresponding pitches were D# then Db (down one whole step). While again, this isn't proof, Finale is the industry standard for engravers of all types of music.

20. ### Richard Lindsey

Mar 25, 2000
SF Bay Area
Well, as for that not being the way it's done, all I can say is that I know, from direct personal experience, that sometimes, at least, it *is* done that way.

Yeah, I know about the Finale thing. In fact, the place where I got the quote above, the guy was actually talking about Finale. He said, this is the way it's supposed to be done, but Finale can't do it! If I can find that link again--it was about 40 pages deep in an Alta Vista search--I'll post it.

Finale is the best tool available AFAIK, but not perfect. Also, its purpose is not to decide notation standards but to reflect them.

{EDIT} here's the full quote:
KALLISTI PRESS TIPS

In pre-20th century music, if you have a sharp following a flat in the same measure (or vice-versa) you have to cancel the first accidental before applying the second; that is, the second note will have a natural sign preceding the regular accidental. The same rule applies if you have a double-sharp followed by a single-sharp (or double flat to single flat). Since Finale's accidental engine doesn't provide this notation, it has to be entered as an articulation, which will position automatically with these settings:

natural D note 0, -56 -12 -56 12