Natural Notes, Natural Signs and Accidentals in Music

Learn the Difference Between the Musical Terms

Natural sign
Natural sign. Public Domain, Link

In music, just like a lot of other languages, there are language rules that you need to know and terms that will help you understand what you are reading. It is important to understand what a natural note is, what the "natural symbol" tells of a musician when it is written in notation, and exactly what an accidental sign is.

Music as a Language

Music has an alphabet as the basis of its language. Once you learn the alphabet of a language and the sound that each letter represents, then you can read. Just like there are grammar rules in spoken languages, there are music rules, terms you need to know, and marks similar to punctuation marks that help you become fluent in reading, writing, and playing music.

Natural Tones

In the musical alphabet, each note has a name based on the Latin alphabet (same as the English alphabet). There are seven letters used in a musical alphabet namely: A - B - C - D - E - F - G. The best way to illustrate what a natural tone, or natural note, is by looking at a piano keyboard. All the white keys are considered natural notes. A natural tone has no sharps or flats. The black keys on a keyboard indicate a sharp or flat note.

The scale of C major, all eight notes of the octave from one C to the next, is sometimes regarded as a natural major scale because all of its notes are natural notes. Every other major scale has at least one sharp or flat in it.


Sharps and flats are two types of accidentals. The symbol for a flat looks like a lower case "b," while the symbol for a sharp looks like a pound sign "#." To flat a note means to lower it by one-half step; to sharp a note means to raise it one-half step. All the black keys on a piano keyboard are considered accidentals.

In music notation, accidentals are placed in front of the note they alter. The effect of accidentals lasts for the entire measure from the point in the measure it starts, overriding existing sharps or flats and the key signature. Its effect is canceled by a bar line.

There are occasionally double sharps or flats, which raise or lower the indicated note by a whole tone. If a note has an accidental and the note is repeated in a different octave within the same measure, the accidental does not apply to the same note of the different octave.

A Natural Sign

A natural sign is another type of accidental that is used to cancel out any key that is sharped or flatted. It can cancel a flat or sharp from the same measure, or it can cancel it out from the key signature that is noted at the beginning of the sheet music. For an example, if a note is C sharp, then a natural sign would bring the note back to its natural tone which is C. In the same way, if a note is in F flat, a natural sign will bring back that note to its natural tone which is F.

A natural sign looks like a square that has a stick going up from the top left quadrant of the square (like a "b") and another stick going down from the bottom right quadrant of the square (like a "q").