#1
I have a question about accidentals. I never use them much and that's partly due to the fact I don't know how to use them. Can someone give me a brief explanation and an example on how they would be used without sounding like crap?

I noticed a lot of people add accidentals to the major scale to play blues and I would like to understand this concept.
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#2
Accidentals are interesting, because they give you the ability to play notes that are not in the scale you are using.

So first off, When you start a piece of music, you choose a key(relatively speaking, not so much in 20th century classical music, but that is besides the point). Once you choose that key you usually use notes that are in that key. You can use accidentals to either sharpen or flatten a note. For instance, if you were in C major, and you wanted to throw in a Bb for a mixolydian sound, you would put down a B note and add a flat. and for the rest of that measure all Bs are Bb.

Im not sure what you are talking about in the second question. Sorry!

Hope this helps
#3
you can use them for a jazzier sounding bass line, usually chromatic lines sound good, such as the bass notes in Stairway to Heavens intro, it goes A - Ab-G - Gb- F. Sometimes in minor, you sharpen the third of the minor v chord to make it major, rather than making the entire key harmonic minor, you can just raise that note for the duration of that chord. hope those helped.
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#4
Well I mean I know what they are. I just don't understand how to use them.

Is there only certain pitches within a scale that work with accents on them? I've noticed it is very easy to make a bad sounding accidental.
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#5
Quote by RockGuitar92
Well I mean I know what they are. I just don't understand how to use them.

Is there only certain pitches within a scale that work with accents on them? I've noticed it is very easy to make a bad sounding accidental.

honestly you could use any of them any time you want. if you do it quick enough no one will really notice. its when you rest on them too long that people know its out.

a good way to do it is think of other scales. lots of people like to think of the modes. if you are playing in a major key, try throwing in some lydian or mixolydian licks as they are major modes. now, this isnt modal playing. dont confuse it with that. just use the modes as a guidline to the accidentals you want to use. another exmple would be the harmonic and melodic minor scales. technically, thats using accidentals too. they arent "real" scales.

that should get you started. another thing you can do is look at the chords. if some chords have a note out of the scale, use it. or you might even try changing the scale for one chord all together. so if the song is in C, and you go from a C to a D chord, you could try using the D major scale of the D chord to add a different sound than just playing the C major scale. if you organize your accidentals like this, i find it becomes a lot easier to grasp. once you have that down you can start using accidentals that dont apply to any mode or scale. there are a bunch of notes inbetween the notes you are supposed to use. just play around with them and find some phrases you like.
#6
Thanks. I think I understand a little better now.
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#7
A lot of what accidental sound "good" is to do with the chord progression that you are playing over.

For example if you have the chord progession C F Am G, then it's hard to find accidentals that don't sound odd apart from passing tones because the chord progression is totally diatonic.

But if you take the progression F C E7 Am, then over the E7 you can play a G# because the E7 has a G# in.

Another interesting thing you can do is to mix the major and minor scales, which gives quite a bluesy effect. This can be done when playing solo but you can also do it in chord progressions by borrowing chords from the tonic minor of a major key. For example take this progression:

F Ab Bb Db

The F and the Bb come from the key of F major but the Ab and the Db come from the key of F minor.

These are just suggestions though, there is really no limit to which accidentals you can use where, just experiment and find out what works for you.
Last edited by 12345abcd3 at Dec 5, 2009,
#8
One common use of accidentals is as leading notes to other scale degrees, usually on an unaccented beat. A very famous example is the beginning of Fur Elise.

In a minor key, these frequently occur on the 3rd and 4th scale degrees, leading to either the subdominant or dominant. Well, and obviously the 7th degree, leading to the tonic.


I put together a quick doodle to demonstrate this.

Note how the accidentals in question aren´t on accented beats. If they were, the effect would be much more dramatic.


EDIT: on further thought, depending on era/genre, I think both accented and unaccented are common.
Attachments:
Accidentals.mid
Accidentals.pdf
Last edited by descara at Dec 5, 2009,
#9
Wow. Thanks. I understand this a lot better now.
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#10
Go to 8:16 in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dalL5FpWR8

Howard talks about (in a way), the beginning of accidentals (even though the notes in the melodic minor scale aren't really considered accidentals, just part of the scale), and the purpose they serve.

This section is kind of taken out of context, so this isn't a video strictly about accidentals, it has a bit of a separate purpose, but it's still relevant.
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Last edited by food1010 at Dec 5, 2009,
#11
Yeah. Melodic and Harmonic Minor technically aren't real scales per say and they have accidentals. The accidentals that I have noticed are from their relative major scale.

EDIT:

What I mean is the scales are formed because of accidentals.
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It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.

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Last edited by RockGuitar92 at Dec 5, 2009,
#12
Quote by RockGuitar92
Yeah. Melodic and Harmonic Minor technically aren't real scales per say and they have accidentals. The accidentals that I have noticed are from their relative major scale.

EDIT:

What I mean is the scales are formed because of accidentals.
Right, and that's what Howard Goodall was pointing out: How the melodic minor "scale" was formed based on raising the intervals on the way up for a more earnest sound, and then lowering them back on the way down for a more solemn sound.
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#13
can someone explain to me what accidentals are!?

I was under the impression that accidentals were just notes that are sharp or flat. As opposed to naturals, which are notes that aren't sharp or flat.
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#14
Quote by flea's trumpet
can someone explain to me what accidentals are!?

I was under the impression that accidentals were just notes that are sharp or flat. As opposed to naturals, which are notes that aren't sharp or flat.

Accidentals are notes that are either sharpened, flattened, or made natural in a piece of music.

Ex.

C Major Scale

C D E F G A B


Melody

G C D#/Eb E C

Notice how the D#/Eb isn't in the C Major Scale? That is basically an accidental.
Quote by Tyler Durden
It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.

Erowid
#15
accidentals are dissonant, so you can use them to create tension and then resolve to a more stable note within your key.

the melodic minor scale is for the m/M7 chord
#16
Quote by flea's trumpet
can someone explain to me what accidentals are!?

I was under the impression that accidentals were just notes that are sharp or flat. As opposed to naturals, which are notes that aren't sharp or flat.



An accidental is simply a note that is not within the given key. There can be natural accidentals as well as sharp or flat ones. An example would be in the G major scale which has F#. You could play a G7 chord which has F natural. That F natural is an accidental, since F is sharped in the key. Another thing that should be noted is that if you're reading music and you see an accidental in the music, the accidental stays on that note until changed back or to another accidental or until the bar ends.


A good simple way to start with accidentals is to create a chromatic movement between notes.

This is an excerpt from one of my songs.



The key is in C major, but notice in bar 28 -29 it moves from G to G# to A (bass clef). G# is not in the key of C, but using it created a smooth transition to the next chord. I hope that helped a little.
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Last edited by StewieSwan at Dec 6, 2009,
#17
Quote by flea's trumpet
can someone explain to me what accidentals are!?

I was under the impression that accidentals were just notes that are sharp or flat. As opposed to naturals, which are notes that aren't sharp or flat.

There are a few uses of the word accidental.

The use that people have been talking about is this thread is that an accidental is a note that is not in the key of the piece. For example, in C major an F# is an accidental as it is not in key but in D major an F# is in key so it is not an accidental. An F natural, on the other hand, is not in the key of D major so in this case it would be an accidental.

However, the word accidental can also be used to describe the use of the sharp, flat or natural symbols themselves. Therefore, you can have cautionary accidentals which are accidentals that do not alter the pitch(for example writing out an F# when there is a sharp in the key signature) but are just their to remind the performer (for example, if there had been lots of F naturals in the bar before).

Similarly, if a composer modulates briefly but does not change the key signature then any note with an accidental sign would be considered an accidental, even if they are diatonic to the key.