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What does a "Natural" sign mean?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Bruce Sproston, Sep 25, 2005.


  1. My instrustor who is away for a week left me a sheet titled "Patterns With Quarter Notes For Developing Left Hand Positions On Each String". I've been practicing notes on the E String but came across a symbol that resembles a box with lines protruding from the top left and bottom right sides. I think it's called a "Natural" but have no idea how to play the note. For example, there is an F Sharpe followed by another F with what I think is a natural symbol in front of it. How is the 2nd F played on the E String? I've tried to find the symbol in my Bass Guitar For Dummies book but I couldn't find it. Any help appreciated. Tks!
     
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    It means that first you play an F sharp, then you play an F natural. The natural is cancelling out the F sharp and returning it to a natural. F natural is merely a plain old F. Sharps and flats are called "accidentals" and non-sharps and non-flats are "naturals."
     
  3. Thanks for the quick reply! Now I can get back to practicing.
     
  4. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Quite right about what Bruce has to play, but not quite right about the accidental business. It's not only sharps or flats that are accidentals; naturals can be accidentals too. An accidental is a sharp, flat, double sharp, double flat, *or* natural when it is applied directly before a note in the course of the music, rather than being specified in advance in the key signature. The key point about an accidental is not that it has to be a sharp or a flat, but that it is *any* pitch-lowering or pitch-raising symbol that is applied "on the fly." I don't know if Bruce has dealt with key signatures yet, so I'll leave that part alone.
     
  5. Correlli

    Correlli

    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Good example of the Natural note occuring in a series of pitches, is the C Harmonic Minor (Mode 7): C-Db-Eb-En-F#-G#-A-C.
    You could organise the same series of pitches as: C-Db-Eb-Fb-Gb-Ab-Bbb. But Fb is the same as E natural.

    n = natural

    Another example of a series of pitches which contain double flat notes is C Double Harmonic (Mode 7): C-Db-Ebb-F-Gb-Ab-Bbb-C.

    From what I can see, accidentials occur because of intervals larger than semitone and a wholetone, within the series of pitches. So when the note names are reorganised into these "odd" interval positions, Natural and Double flat/sharp accidential note names occur. Example: the interval between Ebb and F is semitone and a wholetone. It's the same with the Harmonic Minor scale, which contains an interval of semitone and a wholetone.
     
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Richard, all I have to say to that is "DOH!" Thinking cap isn't on too tight this week.
     
  7. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    The first way you wrote it is incorrect. The second way is the only actually correct way to write it. For harmonic purposes, Fb is *not* the same as E.
     
  8. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    We all have those weeks. Hope things get better with the band.
     
  9. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    That's not really why. It's simpler than that. It's simply because there is sometimes a need to specify tones that aren't in the key signature. Or, when there is no real key signature, as with some jazz tunes of hazy tonality, simply to specify the exact tones meant. If you look at a Real Book, for example, you'll find some tunes that are written with no sharps or flats in the key sig but are not at all in the key of C.
     
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    They already did. I quit ;)
     
  11. Correlli

    Correlli

    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Oh ;)

    Got
     
  12. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    placement of naturals is a bit of an art form... ultimately you need to make the piece of paper as easy to follow as possible, so sometimes you have to stick naturals in when they technically aren't needed but make things clearer for the person trying to play it

    for example, a barline cancels out accidentals from a previous measure... i.e. if you were in C major and the score had a bar with a bunch of Bb's... if the next bar had a B as the first note, with no flat sign, then you should play a B natural, and although the natural sign isn't needed, you'll nearly always see one anyway just because it makes things instantly obvious.. they call them 'courtesy accidentals' :)

    there's an example of this in bars 41-42 here:

    http://www.heymrbassman.co.uk/web/Frank Zappa - Alien Orifice_002.gif

    similarly with octaves... if you add or cancel out an accidental in one register, it's not a universal practice for that to be carried on to the other octaves on the score without it being explicitly shown, wheras in 'ye olden days' it was assumed that you would modify your notes in all octaves

    any score you come across nowadays should hold your hand all the way through
     
  13. Ray-man

    Ray-man Guest

    Sep 10, 2005
    It means you are NOT looking at a tab. Congratulations! It's real music for you!
     
  14. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    True point about the "courtesy accidentals." They're often helpful in keeping things clear.

    As a footnote, the one place where a bar line *doesn't* cancel out an accidental is when the same note is being held, or tied, across a bar line.
     
  15. slapnuts

    slapnuts

    Aug 9, 2005
    Marietta, GA
    A natural sign cancels out any flats or sharps. This applys also to the key signature.
     
  16. I often see courtesy accidentals in parentheses (which I believe are called brackets in some parts of the world -- either way, they surround this remark). I prefer to see them that way, because I tend to get confused when a natural sign (or a sharp or a flat) comes at me out of nowhere. "Wait, weren't Bs already flat? Did the key change on me?!"