Accidentals are signs which indicate temporary chromatic alteration.
A sharp raises the pitch of a note by a semitone and a flat lowers the pitch by a semitone.
Similarly, a double-sharp raises the pitch by 2 semitones and a double-flat lowers the pitch by 2 semitones.
Table of Contents
- Horizontal Spacing
- Vertical Alignment
- Kallisti Press Tips
Spacing of accidentals may vary from score to score, depending on how many notes must fit into a measure, whether there are multiple accidentals, and whether they are alike or not alike.
- Single accidentals before a single note: measure 1.5 Spaces or 27 EVPU’s from the left side of the notehead to the left side of the accidental.
- Double accidentals: measure 1.5 spaces or 27 EVPU’s from the left side of the notehead to the left side of the accidental nearest to the note.
- Multiple alike accidentals have the same spacing as key signatures.
- Multiple unlike accidentals can be closer together but preferably not touching.
Vertical alignment of accidentals is determined by:
1. Intervals between notes in the chord
2. How many notes are in the chord: 2, 3 or 4+
3. Whether there are suspended notes in the chord, and which side of the stem they are on.
In any note combination without suspended notes, if the interval between notes with accidentals is more than a 7th, the accidentals are directly above each other.
Below are tables of rules of alignment for accidentals in the different possible note combinations.
Notes suspended on the right of the stem:
Notes suspended on the left of the stem:
4 or more Accidentals
(Examples are given to avoid wordy explanations)
|Interval Between Top & Bottom Notes||Are There Suspended Notes?||Example of Accidental Placement|
|7th or Greater||No|
|7th or Greater||Yes|
|Less than a 7th||Yes|
|2 intervals of a 7th or Greater||No|
In pre-20th century music, if you have a sharp following a flat in the same measure (or vice-versa) you have to cancel the first accidental before applying the second; that is, the second note will have a natural sign preceding the regular accidental. The same rule applies if you have a double-sharp followed by a single-sharp (or double flat to single flat). Since Finale’s accidental engine doesn’t provide this notation, it has to be entered as an articulation, which will position automatically with these settings:
- natural D note 0, -56 -12 -56 12
Tips compliments of Andrew Stiller and Kallisti Press.