Accidental Rules #3 – Writing Accidentals

Writing Accidentals

Writing Accidentals using the KISS Method

Writing accidentals using a computer program (or “drag and click” program) is simply not the same as learning the proper way of writing accidentals using pencil and paper.  Students who only learn theory using an online “click yes or no” theory course miss out on the absolute joy and satisfaction of theory – the hands on component!

A Computer or Music Writing Program uses a program that creates a special “look” to accidentals.  They are so fancy!

Unfortunately, I have found that it is really hard to recreate that fancy look when writing accidentals by hand.

When writing accidentals using a pencil (hand written), all that shading and fancy “stuff” is not required.  YAY!

Let’s Make Writing Accidentals Easy!

Just like a person should know how to write their name, a musician should know how to write music by hand, by actually putting pencil to paper and creating!

Here are examples of Computer Generated Accidentals, followed by what “hand written” accidentals look like.  (I used the pencil tool on my computer to draw these accidentals, so – if I can do it using my mouse, just think how easy it will be to recreate these using a real pencil and paper!)

Writing Accidentals by hand

It is not necessary to recreate all the shading when writing accidentals.

Do you notice how simple my accidentals look?  I like to follow the KISS method – Keep It Super Simple!

Writing Accidentals is Easy

Writing Accidentals is EASY!

A flat is simply a straight line with a half of a heart.  You do not have to shade in the “half heart” line either.

A natural is an L plus a 7.  But please draw the “7” with a vertical line down, and not the "slanted" number 7 that is produced using a computer.

A sharp sign is a “tic-tac-toe” board!  You do not "HAVE" to angle the lines either, nor do you have to “thicken” the horizontal lines.  It is quite acceptable to just draw 2 vertical lines and 2 horizontal lines.  See – KISS!

For older students or for students with good control of their fingers, angling the 2 horizontal lines upwards is the "goal".  However, if a student simply does not have the finger dexterity to add this upwards angle, it is acceptable to use the "KISS" sharp sign.

As you can see from the picture, Layla is in the Prep 1 Rudiments Workbook and is doing the PREP LEVEL Supplemental Workbook to add the 2016 RCM Theory Requirements.  Layla finds it super easy to write her accidentals.

The Double Flat (which is just 2 flats together) and the Double Sharp (which is just an “x”) are introduced in the Intermediate Rudiments Workbook which, with the LEVEL 6 Supplemental Workbook, prepares Students for the RCM Level 6 Theory Exam.

By completing the LEVEL 7 Supplemental Workbook, Students are ready for the RCM Level 7 Theory Exam.

Writing Accidentals Properly on the Staff

Writing Accidentals is Easy

Accidentals are always written before the note and after the letter name.

For the Flat:  Layla shows us how the “heart part” of the flat must go on the line when a note is a line note, and in the space when a note is a space note.

For the Natural:  The “box” part (the square created when you join the L with the 7) must go on the line when a note is a line note, and in the space when a note is a space note.

For the Sharp:  The “middle tic-tac-toe box” part of the sharp must go on the line when a note is a line note, and in the space when a note is a space note.

For the Double Sharp:  “x” marks the spot!  The middle of the “x” must go on the line when a note is a line note, and in the space when a note is a space note.

For the Double Flat:  The 2 flats are written one after the other, lined up.  Both "heart parts" must be on the same space for a space note, and on the same line for a line note.

When naming the notes, the accidentals can be written directly beside (to the right of) the note name, or slightly higher (and to the right of) the note name.  Either is acceptable.

Use your Ultimate Music Theory Whiteboard to practice writing accidentals. Remember to use the KISS Method - Keep It Super Simple and Have Fun!

Writing Accidentals Pop Quiz

Let’s have some fun!  I’ve used my computer pencil and my mouse to create the following Writing Accidentals examples.  Can you identify each example as Correct or Incorrect?

Writing Accidentals Pop Quiz

Writing Accidentals - If you answered that all my accidentals are “incorrect”, then you are correct!

Here are the reasons why:

a)  The flat is too big. The middle of the half heart is on the F line too, and must only be in the E space.

b)  The flat is too high. E is on a line, so the middle of the half heart must also be on the line.

c)  The sharp is too low.  A is a space note, so the middle of the “tic-tac-toe” board (the center of the sharp) must also be in the same space.

d)  The natural sign is misshapen.  This is a “literal L + 7” where the “7” line is not straight (vertical)

e)  The sharp is too big.  While the center of the sharp is in the E space, it is also on the lines above and below!

f)  The natural sign is written correctly, but it has been placed after the note instead of before the note!

Here are the Correct Answers to the Writing Accidentals Pop Quiz:

Writing Accidentals Answers

Notice how the accidentals “fit” nicely in the space or on the line before each of the notes, and that the accidentals are written after each note name!  If I can do this with my mouse, I know that you can do this with your pencils and papers (or on your Ultimate Music Theory Whiteboard!)

Help your students to practice writing accidentals properly and carefully.  It is so important that we teach our students how to read, write, play and understand their music – and theory is the foundation!

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Shelagh McKibbon-U'Ren


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