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Music Theory for Singers - Sharps and Flats

sharp and flat

Sharps and flats are variations on a note. In the image you see a normal looking note with a symbol next to it. The top symbol looks like a hashtag or the pound sign. This symbol is called a "sharp" in music. The bottom note in the image has a small b next to it. This symbol is called a "flat" in music.

When you play a note sharp, you actually play an entirely different note. On a guitar, a sharp would cause you to go up one fret while on a piano you would play the black note immediately adjacent to the right. With your voice you simply go up a half step or a minor 2nd, which is the distance in the Jaws theme song.

A flat is essentially the same thing as a sharp, but instead of going up a half step or minor 2nd, you go down a half step or minor second. In the image, you see two notes named "B." The top is B played up a half step and the bottom is B played down a half step. Neither sounds like a natural B as the natural B would be played without a symbol next to it for our current purposes.

You might wonder why we would even bother with writing sharps and flats instead of just making more notes. Why not have A through L be musical notes instead of A through G with sharps and flats thrown in. There are several reason, one is because they wanted to save paper when this was created because it was extremely expensive. A more musical reason, however, is because almost every scale or grouping of notes played in a song uses every letter once. In the key of C you use every letter one time with no sharps or flats, but with the key of D you use every letter with 2 sharps. It may be hard now, but this makes some of the more complicated musical concepts much easier down the line. If you need additional help, I'd be glad to teach you in a one on one or group lesson. Feel free to sign up now!

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