Scales and the stave

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When a scale has a sharp or a flat, it's indicated on the stave with the relevant sign on the relevant line.

But what about when there's another note on a different part of the stave? 

For example, on the upper stave of piano music, the bottom space is an F. So is the top line.

So how come, on a particular piece of music that I've been trying to learn, there's a sharp on the F on the top line of the stave, but not on the bottom space F?

I know it's only for the two notes (bottom line E, top space E as well as the two Fs) on the top stave, and the bottom stave (bottom line G, top space G and bottom space A, top line A), but it's confusing my poor aged brain.
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Comments

  • That's just how you indicate it by convention...you wouldn't want redundant sharps/flats in your key signature: it would be hard to read. When your F is sharpened, it applies to all Fs, whatever the octave.
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  • vizviz Frets: 8002
    edited February 25
    ^ Yep. The piece is possibly in G minor, which has 2 flats in the key signature (it’s a relative of Bb major). And on the V7 chord (the D7) the composer has chosen to write a MAJOR V chord (this is incredibly common in minor pieces). 

    (I’m guessing - am I right?)

    If so, for the D7 to be major, the F must be sharpened, temporarily. It’s not in the key sig so it must be done as an ‘accidental’ in the music, on the first occasion of the F# in the bar. An accidental only lasts for the whole bar, so doesn’t need to be done twice within the bar, but must be done again in the next bar, if still relevant. If the next bar just requires a normal F again, nothing needs to be done, but some editors put a natural sign in just to confirm it. In French music there’s a different tradition where if it’s done on one staff it applies to the others too, but in most other cultures, that sharpened F has to be written in every staff (but not every octave within a staff - as you have observed).
    Anything that isn’t pentatonic is pretentious wank -  LastMantra
    more on the strength of my ability to own a PA than to play a guitar” - ICBM
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  • There are a couple of things to consider.

    First, the Key Signature at the start of each line of the music. It's clearer and easier to read (as is the convention) to have just any of the notes that are sharp, or flat, indicated once. Additionally, you will notice that they are marked on the Stave in a set sequence - this has the advantage that, after a while, you do not need to read each note of 3 sharps, or 4 flats, separately. Once you know the sequence, then, for example, you know what notes are sharp in a piece with a Key Signature of 3 sharps simply by noting that there are 3 in the Key Signature. This is the proverbial "Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle" sequence. If the Key Signature has F and C Sharps, then all the F's and C's are to be played as Sharps.

    Then there are added Accidentals within the Bars. When an Accidental is added to a note, then the note marked, and any further notes of the same pitch that come after the note with the Accidental are altered for the remainder of the Bar.  For example, if there's a G on the first beat of a Bar followed by a G with a Sharp added on the second beat, plus G notes (without Accidentals) on Beats 3 and the "and' after 4. For this sequence, you will play a G Natural on Beat 1, and G Sharps on Beats 2, 3, and the "and" after 4. If there's a G in the next, or subsequent Bars, then they will be G Natural's, unless further Accidentals are added.

    One further convention to note is in regard to Blues. Blues does not conform to standard western music theory, so whilst a piece of Blues music may have a Key Signature, it is also perfectly acceptable for it to be written with no Key Signature, and simply add Accidentals to the notes as needed within the piece of music, as you're likely to have to do this even if there is a Key Signature. So, just because a Blues is written without any Sharps or Flats in the Key Signature, you cannot assume it's in C Major, or A Minor.
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  • @viz Sorry, I wasn't clear, I was taking about key signatures at the start of the stave, not about when it's for a single note halfway through a piece. Apologies.

    And yes, I should have used the word octave somewhere to explain what I was wittering on about, which could only really affect a key with an E flat or an F sharp on the top stave, and a sharp or flat G or A on the bass stave.

    The answer would appear to be "because it's tidier that way" and I just have to learn to deal with it (which I knew anyway, really, I was just wondering if there was a particular reason why, that's all).

    Thank you for your help, gentlemen.
    If you must have sex with a frog, wear a condom. If you want the frog to have fun, rib it.
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  • vizviz Frets: 8002
    edited February 25
    Ohhhh well that’s so you can instantly know the key. 

    One sharp = G major or E minor. 

    It’s the ‘signature of the key’. And yes, every F will be sharpened throughout the piece so it’s more convenient to show it ar thhe beginning of the line and you only need to show one of the Fs.  

    And if it’s a single sharp, it will always be the F#. 

    If it were two sharps (to denote D major or B minor) they’d be F# and C#. Like Archtop Dave’s Father Charles comment. And so on as you cycle round the circle of 5ths, clockwise. 

    Anything that isn’t pentatonic is pretentious wank -  LastMantra
    more on the strength of my ability to own a PA than to play a guitar” - ICBM
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  • ...
    So how come, on a particular piece of music that I've been trying to learn, there's a sharp on the F on the top line of the stave, but not on the bottom space F?

    I know it's only for the two notes (bottom line E, top space E as well as the two Fs) on the top stave, and the bottom stave (bottom line G, top space G and bottom space A, top line A), but it's confusing my poor aged brain.
    I was just re-reading this because of the replies and I thought it was worth picking up on the above.

    I was confused by you mentioning "bottom line E, top space E as well as the two Fs".

    Sounds like you're looking at two staves...the upper with a treble clef and the lower with a bass clef...standard stuff.
    If your treble clef key signature sharpens the F, it will be mirrored in the bass clef...it's just that bass clef is offset by a third + an octave or two (you're talking about "bottom line G" so you know this).

    So, taking the key of G as an example, you'll see your sharpened F in the key signature...that's all it means: all Fs are sharpened...both staves...nothing more, nothing less (exceptions have been covered by the other chaps).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clef
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  • I'm clearly not explaining myself properly. I do know that the flats and sharps are only indicated at the start of the stave, I get that and understand that. Here's what I mean by upper and lower.

    For example, if the upper stave - as has been said, the treble clef - was written out and not shown, and numbered from bottom to top, it would look like this:

    Line 5 -     F
    Space 4 - E
    Line 4 -     D
    Space 3 - C
    Line 3 -    B
    Space 2 - A
    Line 2 -    G
    Space 1 - F
    Line 1 -    E

    What I meant by my question was if the F on Line 5 is sharp, then why isn't there a sharp sign on the F an octave below in space 1, too? Similarly, if the E in space 4 is flat, why isn't there a flat on the E an octave below on Line 1?

    The answer would appear to be because they don't need them, and it's neater/tidier/looks better if the sharp/flat signs are only on the upper line/space, because a proper musician and not an eejit like me would know that they're all the same throughout.

    I promise I'll go away now.

    If you must have sex with a frog, wear a condom. If you want the frog to have fun, rib it.
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  • vizviz Frets: 8002
    edited February 25



    I promise I'll go away now.



    Haha, and I think we got you, and as you correctly say, it’s because you only need to tell the reader that the F is sharpened once. Convention is that you use the upper line for F#. And for the 3rd sharp, G#, the choice is to put the sharp above the upper ledger line, not over the 2nd-from-bottom ledger line. After that you’d need a floating ledger line for the 5th sharp, A#, so the lower space is chosen instead. 

    The convention is a bit arbitrary but it’s to do with the fact that we tend to think of sharps as going up in 5ths, and flats of going up in 4ths / down in 5ths. 


    C# and Cb have the most sharps and flats and look like this. All other keys have fewer, but they all start with F# or Bb and accumulate sharps or flats in the same order. 


    Anything that isn’t pentatonic is pretentious wank -  LastMantra
    more on the strength of my ability to own a PA than to play a guitar” - ICBM
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  • CrankyCranky Frets: 897
    I'm clearly not explaining myself properly. I do know that the flats and sharps are only indicated at the start of the stave, I get that and understand that. Here's what I mean by upper and lower.

    For example, if the upper stave - as has been said, the treble clef - was written out and not shown, and numbered from bottom to top, it would look like this:

    Line 5 -     F
    Space 4 - E
    Line 4 -     D
    Space 3 - C
    Line 3 -    B
    Space 2 - A
    Line 2 -    G
    Space 1 - F
    Line 1 -    E

    What I meant by my question was if the F on Line 5 is sharp, then why isn't there a sharp sign on the F an octave below in space 1, too? Similarly, if the E in space 4 is flat, why isn't there a flat on the E an octave below on Line 1?

    The answer would appear to be because they don't need them, and it's neater/tidier/looks better if the sharp/flat signs are only on the upper line/space, because a proper musician and not an eejit like me would know that they're all the same throughout.

    I promise I'll go away now.

    As the others have said, it's a matter of both convention and of visual and mental convenience.  The sharp on the F simply means "all Fs are sharp in this song" -- that's the conventional way.  Putting a sharp on all Fs in the key signature is thus redundant.

    As a matter of convenience, any player would readily see that, there being one sharp, the song is in the key of G major (or E minor, but stick with major for simplicity's sake).  If there were two sharps in the key signature, we would know that it was in the key of D major, three sharps would be A major, so on and so forth according to the Circle of Fifths.

    So as you can see, putting a sharp on both F notes in the key signature would undermine the whole point of the key signature insofar as it clues the player in to what key the song is in and therefore what notes and chords can be expected.  The number of flats or sharps in the key signature is almost as important as which specific notes are flattened or sharpened.
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