Accidentals (music)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Example of a preliminary drawing in treble clef and bass clef:
Three sharps accidentals stand for A major or F sharp minor

The accidentals are indications in the notation that indicate the key . They are placed immediately after the clef in front of the time signature and apply either to a whole piece of music or from a specific measure within it . The totality of the accidentals of a piece of music is also referred to as its preliminary drawing .

The signs are as note sign of the alteration of a strain tone identical to the accidentals (accident, plural accidents or accidents) but from which they differ by a different use: accidentals are each directly in front of a certain grade and only for a particular clock Validity. The accidentals also apply to all octave ranges , but accidentals only apply to the designated pitch.

The number and type of sign can be out of the circle of fifths read: Based on C major (the relative key a- minor ) have the keys clockwise each a cross ( ) as a sign of more, counter-clockwise one each Be ( ) more. The arrangement of the accidentals is standardized: starting from the F sharp or B, a cross or ♭ is added every fifth . Crosses and Be are never used mixed as a sign.

Up to seven accidentals can theoretically occur, since the scale has seven different root tones. For reasons of legibility, only keys up to six accidentals are used in music practice, in exceptional cases seven accidentals. Keys with eight or more accidentals would only be theoretically possible using double sharps and double flat , but the use of these accidentals as key signatures is not common.

Rationale and history

The use of accidentals is essentially a convention that serves to make the score clear. In principle, every piece of music can also only be notated with accidentals, which would then have to be repeated once per measure before the respective note. For example, here the B major scale is notated with accidentals only:

The B major scale is notated with accidentals

Here is the same scale with a preliminary drawing of B major:

The B major scale is notated with accidentals

Preliminary drawings with a single , the oldest accidentals, have been known since the Middle Ages. Preliminary drawings with more than one first appeared in the 16th century, preliminary drawings with crosses from the 17th century. The order of the signs was initially not standardized. There could also be contradicting preliminary drawings in scores , i.e. the individual parts could be notated with different preliminary drawings.

Keys and altered tones

Note image Major key Minor key sign
C major C major A minor No sign
Sharp keys
Note image Major key Minor key sign
G major G major E minor 1  : F sharp
D major D major B minor 2  : F sharp - C sharp
A major A major F sharp minor 3  : F sharp - C sharp - G sharp
E major E major c sharp minor 4  : F sharp - C sharp - G sharp - Dis
B major B major G sharp minor 5  : F sharp - C sharp - G sharp - D sharp - A sharp (pronounced: A-sharp)
F sharp major F sharp major D flat minor 6  : F sharp - C sharp - G sharp - D sharp - A sharp - ice (pronounced: E-sharp)
C sharp major C sharp major a sharp minor 7  : F sharp - C sharp - G sharp - D sharp - A sharp - ice - His
flat keys
Note image Major key Minor key sign
F major F major D minor 1  : B
B flat major B flat major G minor 2  : B - Es
E flat major E flat major C minor 3  : B - Eb - Ace
A flat major A flat major F minor 4  : B - Es - As - Des
D flat major D flat major B flat minor 5  : B - Es - As - Des - Ges
G flat major G flat major E flat minor 6  : B - Eb - As - Db - Ges - Ces
C flat major C flat major a flat minor 7  : B - Eb - Ace - Db - Ges - Ces - Fes

Parallel keys (such as D major and B minor) have the same accidentals, identical or variant keys (such as C major and C minor) differ by 3 accidentals.

Relationship between signature and key

The preliminary drawing of a piece of music should not be confused with its key. Usually they are closely related, but not necessarily identical.

Baroque music that is in a minor key was often notated in the past with a preliminary drawing that managed with less than is common today. For example, pieces in C minor were often notated with just two , because the A flat in the ascending melodic minor scale would have to be resolved to an A anyway .

A temporary change of key ( modulation ) during a piece of music can be characterized by a change of sign , but does not have to be. It is also possible to keep the basic key signature and to notate the pitches of the new key with accidentals only.

In any case, the key cannot be read off with certainty from the preliminary drawing alone. Whether the piece is in major or minor can only be seen from the musical context. As a rule, looking at the final note or chord provides the most important clue. Other tonal systems, such as the modes , which were originally used exclusively without a sign, can also be transposed using a preliminary drawing. Analogous to the major / minor keys, one speaks z. B. from C- Doric or D- Phrygian . Atonal music is often notated with accidentals only.

When using transposing musical instruments , the notated preliminary drawing must be related to the fundamental note of the instrument in order to obtain the key actually sounding.

Use of language

It is common in parlance to call the temporary accidentals "accidentals" as well.

Change of sign

Example of a change in sign: E major follows E major

If the key changes within a piece of music, this can be shown in the score by changing the accidentals. Traditionally, existing prefixes were dissolved . In modern music notation, however, this is mostly no longer common.

See also


  • Christoph Hempel: New general music theory. Schott, Mainz 1997, ISBN 3-254-08200-1 .
  • Wieland Ziegenrücker: ABC music. General music theory. 6th edition. Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-7651-0309-4 .