#1
As the title says, what is the theory behind accidentals? Like why are they there? I know how they work, but why are they in the music in the first place?
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#2
because sometimes you need a note out of a certain key or scale to make a different sound or chord, make an exception to the rules of music.
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#3
Just to make it more interesting pretty much. They aren't technically correct in the traditional sense (not that clasical composeres didn't use them).
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#4
As far as I understand it (limited knowledge...) it's typically because of chromatically altered chords, pitch-axis stuff, and passing tones.
#5
i'm assuming since they're called accidentals. somebody was transcribing a live performance and they had messed up. simple enough
#6
i use them in arpeggios in my solos to sort of superimpose the sound of the melodic minor into the harmonic minor.
#7
Standard use of accidentals
Accidentals: sharp, flat, natural
Accidentals: sharp, flat, natural

In most cases, a sharp raises the pitch of a note one semitone while a flat lowers it a semitone. A natural is used to cancel the effect of a flat or sharp.

Since about 1700, accidentals have been understood to continue for the remainder of the measure in which they occur, so that a subsequent note on the same staff position is still affected by that accidental, unless replaced by an accidental of its own. Notes on other staff positions, including those an octave away, are unaffected. Once a barline is passed, the effect of the accidental ends, except when a note affected by an accidental (either explicit or implied from earlier in the measure) is tied to the same note across a barline; see Courtesy accidentals, below.

This use contrasts with the key signature, whose effect continues throughout an entire piece, unless cancelled by another key signature. An accidental can be used to cancel or reinstate the flats or sharps of the key signature as well for the duration of a measure.

Note that in a few cases the accidental might change the note by more than a semitone: for example, if a G sharp is followed in the same measure by a G flat, the flat sign on the latter note means it will be two semitones lower than if no accidental were present. Thus, the effect of the accidental has to be understood in relation to the "natural" meaning of the note's staff position. For the sake of clarity, some composers put a natural in front of the accidental. Thus, if in this example the composer actually wanted the note a semitone lower than G-natural, he might put first a natural sign to cancel the previous G-sharp, then the flat.
Double sharp, double flat
Double sharp, double flat

Double accidentals raise or lower the pitch of a note by two semitones, an innovation developed as early as 1615. An F with a double sharp applied raises it a whole step so it is enharmonically equivalent to a G. Usage varies on how to notate the situation in which a note with a double sharp is followed in the same measure by a note with a single sharp: some publications simply use the single accidental for the latter note, whereas others use a combination of a natural and a sharp, with the natural being understood to apply to the second sharp only.
#8
yeah, accidentals are notes that are out side of a key signature, say your in the key of C major and you put in a g# in your playing, this would be an accidental, because g# is not part of the C major key signature which has no sharps or flats
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#9
Well...thanks for all your replys but it didn't really help me much...so theres no more theory behind which accidentals and why they're used then to make the music more interesting?
Quote by Dan Steinman
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#10
Well I think the earliest western accidental I've learned about was used in Gregorian chant. This was done mostly using the modes of C major except for B Locrian. To avoid problems with singing, they avoided certain dissonant intervals, like a tritone. From B to F is a tritone, so the B would sometimes be flatted to make the interval a perfect fourth or fifth... giving you an accidental.

Obviously they are used for other things in classical music, but that's the earliest reason that I know of.
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#11
F*** yeah, I got sigged! Hail to the threadstarter!
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#12
Most people are answering "what" not "why".

Accidentals most commonly ocurr as a matter of a voice leading. Very frequently, it sounds best if one 'voice' travels in nothing bigger than a step or half step. This keeps things from sounding like they came from the great beyond, for no reason.

Case and point:

Play a G major chord for 2 beats, or however long. Then play an Ab diminished chord, then play an A minor chord. Isn't it beautiful? Yes, much better than just playing a G then an A minor all of the time.

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#13
Quote by Thin Ears
Well...thanks for all your replys but it didn't really help me much...so theres no more theory behind which accidentals and why they're used then to make the music more interesting?
Accidentals have everything to do with the evolution of tuning theory and practice and the resulting Circle of Fifths. Accidentals allow us to play in any one of 30 different keys (15 major and 15 minor) without resorting to horribly messy and ultimately incomprehensible notation.
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#14
Quote by gpb0216
Accidentals have everything to do with the evolution of tuning theory and practice and the resulting Circle of Fifths. Accidentals allow us to play in any one of 30 different keys (15 major and 15 minor) without resorting to horribly messy and ultimately incomprehensible notation.


this makes sense to me well done
#15
Quote by batman123
because sometimes you need a note out of a certain key or scale to make a different sound or chord, make an exception to the rules of music.

rules? no rules, just theories.
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#16
While gpb and nightwind are pretty accurate, I'd like to elaborate a bit on the idea.

Western music is built on a diatonic system. "Diatonic" literally translated means "two tone." This refers to the major scale's system of having two half steps in the scale, namely those between the 3rd and 4th, and the 7th and the root. Speaking melodically, once a tonal center is established, I mean once you've fully set up the key, the 4th and the 7th have a strong pull to the notes that neighbor them; the 4th wants to move down, the 7th wants to move up. These are diatonic tendency tones -- their tendency is to move in the direction of their "resolution".

There's some history to how the major system came out of ancient modality, but ultimately we derived the major scale, and applied it to all twelve notes. In that much gpb's post is dead on, and I won't go any further; a history lesson doesn't apply here.

Chromatic accidentals, ie. those that aren't part of the key signature, serve a similar purpose. They create a system of artificial tendency tones (or conversely, in the case of melodic minor, for instance, remove one). This is why accidentals (not considering those of the key sig) tend to resolve in the direction of their alteration. The basic theory behind accidentals is adding, or removing depending on your perspective, such tendency tones.
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#17
Excellent Cor. Taught me some nice trinkets.
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