Musical Terms and Symbols: Sharps

Sharps and double-sharps

Brandy Kraemer

A sharp is an accidental that indicates a slight increase in pitch. It’s seen as a noun, a verb, and an adjective.


  1. (n) A sharp is a symbol (♯, also ‘#’ in type) placed in front of a note, increasing its pitch by a half step. D# is a half step higher in pitch than D; and D is a half step higher than C#.
  2. (v) To “sharpen” a note means to raise its pitch by a half step (see double-sharp).
  3. (adj.) The word sharp can describe a pitch that is slightly higher than desired (or “off-pitch”), even if the pitch does not match an actual sharp note. For example, when tuning a piano, a particular string might sound “a bit sharp,” and would need to be “flattened” to match the correct pitch.

In Other Languages

  • diesis (It)
  • dièse (Fr)
  • Kreuz (Ger)

More Music Symbols to Know

  • marcato: informally referred to as simply an “accent,” a marcato makes a note slightly more pronounced than surrounding notes.
  • legato or slur: connects two or more different notes. In piano music, the individual notes must be struck, but there should be no audible spaces between them.
  • decrescendo: to gradually decrease the volume of the music. A decrescendo is seen in sheet music as a narrowing angle, and is often marked decresc.
  • delicato: “delicately”; to play with a light touch and an airy feel.