#1
A long time ago someone told me that you should only use sharps when ascending and flats when descending. What is the general rule of using sharps and flats when writing music?
#2
You use them where you want. There really is no rule... but I don't like going D, Db, D, so I'll go D, C#, D. Also, the second way would fit with my chords better.

It all depends on context I guess. There are no real rules. Just a lot of personal preference.
#3
It depends on what key you're in too.

If it's for example G Sharp, they'd be sharps. If it was A Flat, it'd be flats. (Same notes, they'd just use the enharmonics).
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#4
Generally each scale has only one kind of accidental, sharps OR flats.
Bb Minor would be Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, this way each letter is only used once.
#5
Quote by druggietoad2k5
It depends on what key you're in too.

If it's for example G Sharp, they'd be sharps. If it was A Flat, it'd be flats. (Same notes, they'd just use the enharmonics).

That has nothing to do with it. At all.

EDIT: ^ If we're talking about scalar then C# minor you'll have #'s on C, F, and G, because that keeps there being one note. But typically in pieces you'll see flats, sharps and naturals regardless of the key sig.
Last edited by DiminishedFifth at Jun 12, 2010,
#6
Quote by DiminishedFifth
That has nothing to do with it. At all.

EDIT: ^ If we're talking about scalar then C# minor you'll have #'s on C, F, and G, because that keeps there being one note. But typically in pieces you'll see flats, sharps and naturals regardless of the key sig.


I was taught at a professional music college that it matters, so blame them, not me.
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On slapping on a bass:
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#10
Quote by DiminishedFifth
That has nothing to do with it. At all.

EDIT: ^ If we're talking about scalar then C# minor you'll have #'s on C, F, and G, because that keeps there being one note. But typically in pieces you'll see flats, sharps and naturals regardless of the key sig.



It has everything to do with it. Db is not likely to be an accidental in G major. C#, however, is much more likely.

It doesn't really matter which you use, but it's advisable, just for the sake of easy reading, to use accidentals that fit best into the key: seeing Bb in E major can be a little bit awkward sometimes (but not always wrong). Also, using an accidental that you then have to "naturalise" again is generally not advisable. Generally, the accidental that best fits the key you're in will also be the one that is easiest to read, and will result in the fewest overall accidentals.
Thus, the rule of sharps leading up and flats leading down works a lot of the time, as it results in the fewest accidentals (C# to D instead of Db D or Bb A instead of A# A). It's far from foolproof, though.
#11
Quote by National_Anthem
It has everything to do with it. Db is not likely to be an accidental in G major. C#, however, is much more likely.

It doesn't really matter which you use, but it's advisable, just for the sake of easy reading, to use accidentals that fit best into the key: seeing Bb in E major can be a little bit awkward sometimes (but not always wrong). Also, using an accidental that you then have to "naturalise" again is generally not advisable. Generally, the accidental that best fits the key you're in will also be the one that is easiest to read, and will result in the fewest overall accidentals.
Thus, the rule of sharps leading up and flats leading down works a lot of the time, as it results in the fewest accidentals (C# to D instead of Db D or Bb A instead of A# A). It's far from foolproof, though.

I guess that's the reason I'm not a performer haha

I think of it in the terms of what chord I'm using, rather than ease of reading... I also write in/for computers so listen to this guy ^. I guess he knows more than me!
#12
I thought the general rule was that in your key, you can only have one of each note. Like in D Minor you would use Bb instead of A# because if you used A#, your scale would have two A's in it.

Right: D, F, G, A, Bb, C, D

Wrong: D, F, G, A, A#, C, D

But really, I don't think it matters too much as long as you know what notes you're talking about, because A# and Bb are the same pitch.

And like someone else said, if you're in the key of A#, you're going to have sharps, not flats. Same goes if it was the key of Ab, you would have flats, not sharps. However, all the notes wouldn't be sharps or flats though, only the notes that don't fall on a natural need to be sharped or flatted, depending on your key.
Last edited by aCloudConnected at Jun 12, 2010,
#13
Quote by DiminishedFifth
I guess that's the reason I'm not a performer haha

I think of it in the terms of what chord I'm using, rather than ease of reading... I also write in/for computers so listen to this guy ^. I guess he knows more than me!


I think we're basically singing from the same hymn sheet. Because, like I was saying, the accidental that best fits the harmony and tonality is almost always the one which is easiest to read.
#14
Quote by National_Anthem
It has everything to do with it. Db is not likely to be an accidental in G major. C#, however, is much more likely.


i disagree - what if the composer wanted to take a Gº chord? writing C# for that would just be ridiculous. i did something like that very recently. when working with chromatics, though, i generally go with the flats-descending/sharps-ascending rule. but what accidental i use highly depends on what's going on around it.

i guess in terms of melody, yeah, C# would be more common. but again, it depends on what else is going on before and after it.
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#15
Quote by AeolianWolf
i disagree - what if the composer wanted to take a Gº chord? writing C# for that would just be ridiculous. i did something like that very recently. when working with chromatics, though, i generally go with the flats-descending/sharps-ascending rule. but what accidental i use highly depends on what's going on around it.

i guess in terms of melody, yeah, C# would be more common. but again, it depends on what else is going on before and after it.


I did say it was unlikely, not impossible. Of course there will be situations where Db is correct. But C# is "borrowed" from much more closely related keys than Db, and is therefore more likely to appear.
#16
Quote by National_Anthem
I did say it was unlikely, not impossible. Of course there will be situations where Db is correct. But C# is "borrowed" from much more closely related keys than Db, and is therefore more likely to appear.


true, i suppose A major is closer to G than Ab major. that makes sense.
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#17
Quote by AeolianWolf
true, i suppose A major is closer to G than Ab major. that makes sense.


It was a bad example, though. Db is part of the blues scale for G major, should have thought about that! I tend to think very classically about things. Really, any note and its enharmonic equivalents can be a part of any key: it's entirely context that will define what is "wrong".
And back to the OP, it also depends which way you're going: C-C#-D makes perfect sense, as does D-Db-C, or any multitude of other enharmonic equivalents. It's all dependant of context.
#18
Quote by National_Anthem
It's all dependant of context.


my thoughts exactly. all i was saying is that i tend to write accidentals with deference to context, as opposed to solely ease of reading.

it's okay, i tend to think classically, too.
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#19
i dont think if there are any rules ...
i use sharps ...
but ive heard that sometimes a scale wont let you place a # or flat because of i dont know what .
#20
Circle of fifths + common sense for accidentals.
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#21
Quote by spiderjump
A long time ago someone told me that you should only use sharps when ascending and flats when descending. What is the general rule of using sharps and flats when writing music?



I dont know who told you that. Its not true. Every sharp has an equal flat. Basically what I mean is like A flat is the same note as G#. Sharp just means 1 semi-tone up from that note like G# is a semi-tone up from G. Flat is a semi tone down so A flat is a semi-tone down from A. So Ab/G#.

So basically if you did a scale that had sharps and flats going down and up its stil lthe same notes just depends what you call it.
#22
Quote by kian89
i dont think if there are any rules ...
i use sharps ...
but ive heard that sometimes a scale wont let you place a # or flat because of i dont know what .


i hope you don't write for a professional orchestra then (particularly for a brass section or any woodwinds in a flat key). i'm guessing you probably notate your music through guitar pro, which, by default, only uses sharps. but it can (and sometimes does) make a big difference on how the music is read and how the structure is analyzed.
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#23
Essentially, it depends on the context the note is placed in musically. In the E Major Scale for example, we have the notes;

E F# G# A B C# D# E.

It contains the major second and third, perfect fourth and fifth, major sixth and seventh, and the octave from E, as a major scale should. If we were to write it as;

E Gb Ab A B Db Eb E

We'd have the minor third, diminished fourth, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, minor seventh, diminshed octave, and the perfect octave from E. This doesn't fit with the formula of the major scale, and as such, wouldn't be considered correct. It'll all make sense eventually!
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#24
Quote by AeolianWolf
i hope you don't write for a professional orchestra then (particularly for a brass section or any woodwinds in a flat key). i'm guessing you probably notate your music through guitar pro, which, by default, only uses sharps. but it can (and sometimes does) make a big difference on how the music is read and how the structure is analyzed.

yes i dont write pro .
Yes i notate music through guitar pro only,
but i dont prefer sharps because of guitar pro, i just like it with sharps.
And i dont know about the structure because i dont know about scales and their relation with each other . . .
#25
Quote by kian89
yes i dont write pro .
Yes i notate music through guitar pro only,
but i dont prefer sharps because of guitar pro, i just like it with sharps.
And i dont know about the structure because i dont know about scales and their relation with each other . . .

So would you write a song in E# rather than F?

TS, I learnt that if you're moving chromatically, you do the whole "sharps ascending, flats descending" routine, eg. C C# D D# E... or A Ab G Gb F...
#26
There is only 1 rule I can think of.
You're either using sharps or flats.
You don't say "Gb" and "A#" in the same sentence.

Pretty much don't double up on a single letter either.
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#27
Quote by Declan87
So would you write a song in E# rather than F?

TS, I learnt that if you're moving chromatically, you do the whole "sharps ascending, flats descending" routine, eg. C C# D D# E... or A Ab G Gb F...


Lol i dont think if there is any E# ....
#28
Quote by Raven*
There is only 1 rule I can think of.
You're either using sharps or flats.
You don't say "Gb" and "A#" in the same sentence.

Pretty much don't double up on a single letter either.


i think this condition can occur in pentatonic scale ???
#29
Quote by kian89
i think this condition can occur in pentatonic scale ???


Nope. It never occurs in any diatonic scale aside from the Chromatic ;]

Quote by kian89
Lol i dont think if there is any E# ....

But there is ;]


Quote by Raven*
There is only 1 rule I can think of.
You're either using sharps or flats.
You don't say "Gb" and "A#" in the same sentence.

Pretty much don't double up on a single letter either.

I think you mean G# and Ab

I would though. What if I wanted a C# and then an Fm? I'm not gonna write it | C# - E# - G# | F - G# - C | . I'll write it | C# - E# - G# | F - Ab - C |.
#30
Quote by DiminishedFifth
I would though. What if I wanted a C# and then an Fm? I'm not gonna write it | C# - E# - G# | F - G# - C | . I'll write it | C# - E# - G# | F - Ab - C |.


this. context (not preference) dictates how the note is to be written. in a case where context really isn't relevant and there's no clear decision, then it comes down to ease of reading for the performers. if all possible ways of notation are equal (which i think is pretty rare), then let preference lead the way.

of course, if you're not going to publish the music or anything, and it's just for you, then use your own rules -- who cares but you?
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