Flat (music)

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In music, flat or bemolle (Italian: "soft B") means "lower in pitch". More specifically, in musical notation, flat means "lower in pitch by one semitone (half step)". Flat is the opposite of sharp, which is a raising of pitch.

In music notation, the flat symbol, , derived from a stylised lowercase "b", lowers a note by a half step (semitone).[1][2] For instance, the music below has a key signature with three flats (indicating either E major or C minor) and the note, D, has a flat accidental.

\relative c'' { 
  \clef treble \key es \major \time 4/4 \hide Staff.TimeSignature des1
}

The Unicode character ♭ (U+266D) can be found in the block Miscellaneous Symbols; its HTML entity is ♭.

Under twelve-tone equal temperament, C for instance is the same as (or enharmonically equivalent to) B, and G is equivalent to F. In any other tuning system, such enharmonic equivalences in general do not exist. To allow extended just intonation, composer Ben Johnston uses a sharp as an accidental to indicate a note is raised 70.6 cents (ratio 25:24), and a flat to indicate a note is lowered 70.6 cents.[3]

In intonation, flat can also mean "slightly lower in pitch" (by some unspecified amount). If two simultaneous notes are slightly out-of-tune, the lower-pitched one (assuming the higher one is properly pitched) is "flat" with respect to the other. Furthermore, the verb flatten means to lower the pitch of a note, typically by a small musical interval.

Key signatures[edit]

Flats are used in the key signatures of

The order of flats in the key signatures of music notation, following the circle of fifths, is B, E, A, D, G, C and F (mnemonics for which include Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles' Father and Before Eating A Doughnut Get Coffee First).

Related symbols[edit]

Double flats also exist, which look like double flat (similar to two flats, ) and lower a note by two semitones, or a whole step. The Unicode character 𝄫 (U+1D12B) in the Musical Symbols block represents the double-flat sign.

\relative c'' { 
  \clef treble \key c \major \time 4/4 \hide Staff.TimeSignature beses1
}

A quarter-tone flat or half flat, indicating the use of quarter tones, may be marked with various symbols including a flat with a slash (flat stroke) or a reversed flat sign (half flat). A three-quarter-tone flat, flat and a half or sesquiflat, is represented by a half flat and a regular flat (three quarter flat).

\relative c'' { 
  \clef treble \key c \major \time 4/4 \hide Staff.TimeSignature ceh1 deseh
}

Although very uncommon, a triple flat (triple flat) can sometimes be found.[4] It lowers a note three semitones.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Benward & Saker (2003). Music in Theory and Practice, Vol. 1, p. 6. McGraw-Hill, Seventh edition. "Flat ()—lowers the pitch a half step."
  2. ^ Flat, Glossary, Naxos Records
  3. ^ John Fonville. "Ben Johnston's Extended Just Intonation- A Guide for Interpreters", p. 109, Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Summer, 1991), pp. 106–137. "...the 25/24 ratio is the sharp () ratio...this raises a note approximately 70.6 cents."
  4. ^ Byrd, Donald (September 2016). "Extremes of Conventional Music Notation". Indiana University Bloomington. Retrieved 4 November 2016. 

External links[edit]