Accidental – A symbol that impacts a note to modify the resulting pitch.

Accidentals that can be used to modify pitch include:

• Flat
• Sharp
• Natural
• Double Flat
• Double Sharp

We will start by discussing the flat, natural and sharp.

Natural is the regular state of a note, so when we say that a note is an “E”, we actually mean that it is “E natural.” A flat alters the note by making it lower; a sharp alters the note by making it higher.

An accidental appears before the note on the staff that it alters; when we write the letter name using words, the accidental goes after the letter. Here are some examples:

The following note is written or spoken as B flat; notice that the flat symbol appears before the note on the staff even though we say the word flat after the note name when we write or talk about it.

Likewise, a sharp appears before the note on the staff, but after the note letter name when we write or talk about it. The note below is F sharp.

A natural is used to remove the impact of an accidental on a note. It also appears before the note on the staff, but we say and write it after the letter name.

Next we will look at each accidental in detail – flat, natural and sharp.