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Accidentals: Sharps and Flats on the Guitar Fretboard

In every day life, accidental means the opposite of intentional. In music, accidental refers to an altered pitch. There are two basic alterations to a pitch. One is to raise the pitch to a point halfway between the original note and the next note. This is called a sharp. For example, if we play an A note, the next note in the musical alphabet is B. However, the guitar fretboard includes a note between A and B. Starting with an A note, if we move up to the next fret, this will be an A# (A sharp). If we move up another fret, this will be a B note. Starting again at A, if we slide one fret toward the tuning keys, this will be an A Flat or Ab.

You may have thought in this example that A# is the same sound as Bb. You are right! The point of reference will determine whether we call it an A# or a Bb. If we are playing in the key of A, then a raised A will be called an A#. If we are playing in the key of B, then we will call a lowered B note a Bb. It is the same sound.

Look back at the note diagrams of the fretboard. This will make more sense to you now. Also, notice that there are no sharps/flats between the B-C and E-F notes. Memorize this: No accidentals between B-C and E-F.

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